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Tuesday, October 25, 2005

The waiting game

Nobody's happy with me lately.

I keep trying to talk to people other people won't really talk to anymore, and I find myself getting tarred with both brushes.

Sigh.

In the past when things got like this, I used to take to my kayak, so I found time for it this weekend, and went away, paddling among the coots and herons for hours at a time, and it did me a lot of good, I think.

:::

My hearing aid gave out, and I took it to the nonprofit that I've used for hearing aid purchases and repairs for thirty years.

We had the usual back-and-forth about name and address, and we experienced the confusion that the person on the records is who I used to be. They were charmed by it all, though, which I find really is the usual response, and the desk ladies gathered around and oo-ed and ahh-ed over my driver's license picture (nobody else seems to have a good one). Also, for good measure, my granddaughters.

I picked up the hearing aid the next day and got it from a different desk.

And the lady there didn't have a copy of the new records, I guess, because as I was leaving, she said (and I quote):

"If your husband has any trouble with it, tell him to just bring it straight back..."

This sort of thing is very comforting, but underneath my satisfaction I detect a current of sadness. This is all taking so long. I have been going to counselors for three years, and I still don't have a surgeon letter.

Which means the Social Security Agency knows my name but not my gender. And my birth certificate knows neither.

Now that we have a Real ID Act the clock is ticking ... those of us who have operations before 2008 can (except in two states) change our birth certificates. After 2008, all states are to only use photo IDs that have a record number embedded in the strip that links every swipe to a single database in the hands of the Homeland Security Department. In that database you may amend your gender but you may not change it. This is expected among transpeople to have a significant effect on their treatment by police, hospitals, etc. and their ability to get and keep decent employment and housing.

It's very surreal, because other than when I'm asked a question by a curious friend, or writing this journal, I actually don't think about this stuff that much. I get up, have breakfast, put my face on, take out my rollers, brush my bangs, grab my purse, check that the coffeepot is turned off, check that the cats are out, and go.

As in I'm really all done, I'm me, I can think about other things again.

Except there's this one thing hanging over me.

As a friend said, sitting with me on a park bench:

"Umm, uh, have you, you know, done it yet?"

And, having had the same exact thing the day before from someone else, I'm afraid I got a little cross with him.

Beloved, on the other hand, is more directly involved, so she asked last night for a scenario.

"Well," I said, "I go off hormones for a couple of dreadful weeks -- cold turkey -- We get reservations, we pack, we drive to the airport, we park long-term, we go to Miami, we check into the motel, I see Dr. Reed -- his clinic is next door -- he checks me out, and gives me a gallon of really vile stuff to drink, and it reams me out overnight, and I present myself to Anne and Ivan the next morning and they prep me and roll me in for the anesthesiologist. Then I wake up in the recovery room stuffed with packing and feeling like hell, and Anne tells me I did fine, and when they're ready they send me back to the motel. Then I watch TV and cry and moan a lot for the next few days, and Dr. Reed comes in once a day to change my dressing and check out my progress. You get DVDs and chicken sandwiches for me and hold my hand a lot. Then he says we're free to go and we fly back here and I hobble out to the car and we drive carefully home and you build me a nest in the living room and you go back to work. If we're lucky, I'm also back at work -- in three weeks. But I'm not as young as most of the others doing this, so let's say six weeks. No more spironolactone. Way less estrogen. Then there's this bit about dilators."

"Ouch."

"Yes, ouch. But so important. Sometimes I can't even tell why, it just is. Even at my age."

And I began weeping, and she comforted me.

It is a very powerful thing, this need to become one's self.

Even without Homeland Security sniffing around my crotch, I'd be in a hurry to make this happen.

:::

At the counselors' (there have been two of them lately; Dr. Reed will want two letters), there have been questions about what I might be afraid of.

Oddly enough, not surgery.

I've been through a lot of that sort of thing. Sometimes life-threatening, including the recent infection.

I seem to have a fatalistic streak that stands me in good stead at these times, and I go under the knife with relative equanimity.

So I try to think of what might be worrisome to me. Not much ...

Oh, there's this. I'm on a lot of anti-androgen. I've become, artificially, a person I like very much more than my former self. Quieter, happier, in a calm and unassuming way.

For me, the unknown quantity in all this is: what will it be like for my libido to return (albeit in feminine form)? I have no idea. And I find I'm actually loath to have to learn how to be me yet again.

I would prefer, in other words, to be post-menopausal in that, umm, not-interested way.

But I suppose we all get what we get, huh?

:::

I dried my eyes, went into the bathroom to unbuild my face and put my hair up in my curlers (mine are pink, as it happens, and hers are blue) and slipped into my nightgown and went to bed.

Gracie, our grey tabby, was waiting.

Gracie hasn't had all that much to do with me in her twelve years, but in the last month she has begun her decline, a fast one. And she knows it. For some reason she's chosen me to "talk" to about it, and as soon as I'm under the blanket, she's on my chest, looking into my eyes. I give her a deep rub, and I'm painfully aware of the disappearing musculature and the startling prominence of her spine and shoulder blades. Gracie was a huge cat in her prime and now, when she lies down and curls up, it looks like she's almost able to tuck her entire body up under her massive, still-dignified head.

She looks and looks into my eyes.

"What's coming? What is this?" she seems to ask.

I can't tell her. But I can sort of relate. She and I are both facing things we can't see from here.

-- risa b

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