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Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Tired of waiting

My main laptop, which was supposed to show me dvd's and keep me connected during my convalescence, had total hard drive failure this week.

Then my mini-DV camera lost touch with its CCD.

So they're both in the shop.

So am I, so to speak -- and they are running out of veins to punch.

I made an appointment with a doctor whom I have never met, to get the surgery release letter. With three days left in which to get it to all come together. And then emails and phone calls began coming in to my in-boxes asking me to testify -- again -- at city hall.

And there's getting the job to the point where it can let me go for three weeks (maybe -- ouch -- more) -- and packing -- and, and ....

I spent the morning working -- frantically -- then drove over to my daughter's place and we had a quiet little birthday party for her -- she's going to turn twenty while we're away. Then I drove out to the little country hospital and had yet another blood draw, then waited for the doctor.

His intake nurse is one of the good ones. She had read all of my doctors notes without ever raising an eyebrow and was welcoming, gracious, and solicitous. While waiting for her to get the blood pressure cuff, I had an unexpected panic attack, and was weeping before she could get her numbers.

"This one isn't going to look very nice," I blubbered.

"You're right -- yep -- 140/81." She sat down and chatted me up a bit, handing me the tissues. Without exactly ordering me to breathe deep, she found a gentle way on to the topic of breathing exercises, and when I looked a little more centered, she hopped up and rechecked me before I could start whining again.

"See? 120/70. That's the real you, and you are going to be fine."

She looked up. "So -- nervous? Excited?"

"No, tired of waiting and afraid something will prevent it."

"I know just what you mean. You're going to like the doctor, he's a good man. We'll do everything we can."

The doctor, a stooped, mustachioed gentleman who might look elderly but for an ageless twinkle in his eye, came in after a while and took quiet -- gentlemanly -- command of my life.

"Hello, my dear; you're looking lovely today. My colleague has told me all about you. Say 'Ahh' -- thank you, tonsils out, I see."


"A very good year. Gall bladder out, too?" He was looking at an arthroscopic surgery scar.

I told him my complete list -- the strep surgery, the pancreatitis, the kidney stones, the family coronary history. He listened to my chest, thumped my intestines, and felt my wrists and ankles.

"You exercise a great deal, don't you?"

"Stair climbing, hiking mostly. Kayaking in season."

He glanced at the wicked rains outside. "Yes, it's not been very seasonable for that, I would imagine."

He sat down and gave me a piercing gaze.

"You are headed into a very serious surgery. I've no doubt that your body is as up to this as it can be."

He paused for maximum attention.

"Do you feel ready? This is what you want to do?"

My eyes filled with tears again.

"There's nowhere else I can go that I'll be me."

"Fair enough." He turned to the clipboard on the counter. "Do we have your surgeon's address? Ah, a card. Yes, we can fax. Ask the nurse for her extension and you can harass us all you like until you're sure we have done what he needs from us."

I thanked him, and walked away, feeling like -- what?

Someone whose dignity is not only intact but confirmed. I felt empowered. I felt strong, I felt beautiful -- there aren't any really good words, only clich├ęs. I felt that, should my heart burst in that moment, it would shower everyone within five miles with the most gorgeous blossoms they had ever seen.

The nurse stopped me on the way out and handed me a voluminous sheaf of papers.

"Here's all the lab results we have up to this point. In case they're a help."


It was now already dark out. I drove back to Eugene and parked near a pizza place, where I expected to meet my daughter. She had agreed to keep me company at the dreaded Human Right Commission meeting.

Her boyfriend, a gentle young man with impeccable manners, was there also, as was her best friend, a slim blonde who had played, against much opposition, for their high school football team and who was now a student at the University. They would come as well.

We fortified ourselves with cheese, olives, garlic, spinach, and crust.

I went to the ladies' room, and on my way back, caught the eye of the waitress, who knows me.

Drying a glass with a towel, she leaned across the counter a bit, to be heard over the four large television monitors blaring basketball commentary.

"When are you leaving?"


"Wow. When's the operation?"

"Tuesday! If all goes as planned."

"Nervous? Excited?"

"No, afraid, of getting a flat on the way to the airport."

"I'm predicting that won't happen. And I'll light a candle for you on Tuesday."

"Thank you, dear?"

As I rejoined the young people, Daughter's young man turned to me.

"So -- nervous? Excited?"


The meeting room, at City Hall, seemed to have about fifty people in it. I looked around. The dear faces of the long-suffering, heroic rights commissioners, the dour faces of the mean-spirited Pharisees, the fresh and almost happy faces of the young and idealistic trans-kids. In all this row there seemed be consistently from five to eight transsexuals and genderqueers, out of, in my opinion, a population close to two hundred, who willingly testify.

The fear in the trans community here is huge. And it's justified. We still have nowhere to turn if we are are fired or evicted. And we do get fired and we do get evicted. And coming to the microphone to speak puts us right in the cross hairs of those who would do us harm.

The man whose turn it was to speak before me spouted dreadful McHughian nonsense about the nonexistence of transpeople and the "charade of special rights". He even sneered, and damned if a shock of his black hair didn't fall across his forehead in the very place that Hitler's had done.

When it was my turn to speak, I walked to the microphone in front of the television camera, more angry than frightened, yet weak-kneed, seeing the evangelical scribbler in the far corner who never testified or identified herself, but simply misquoted and misrepresented trans people in the pages of hate-promoting national "family centered" media.

"Hi," I said.

"I'm Risa Stephanie Bear."

And I looked across the room at my loving and supportive family.

-- risa b


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