07 July 2008

Welcome to Transwoman Times

I have one year left.

When I say that, you're probably thinking retirement or--death.

Rest assured that neither is the case. I'm nowhere near old--or, for that matter, rich--enough to quit working. And, as far as I know, I'm not going to die, at least not in the immediate future.

You see, one year from today--on 7 July 2009--I will undergo gender-reassignment surgery. I plan to share my thoughts and feelings about my impending surgery every day, or at least every chance I get.

Sometimes people ask me whether I'm nervous about the surgery. I'm not, really: I'll be full of drugs and knocked out while the doctor does her work. I've been warned about the pain I'll feel afterward. That doesn't worry me, at least not yet: I'm anticipating it, but I can't imagine how or whether it will be similar to, or different from, other pain I've experienced.

Tonight I am writing after a day at work that was no different from others at this time of year. This day was another Monday after a long weekend: It's always difficult to return under those circumstances. But this weekend was different: It began with a Friday, the Fourth of July--which just happens to be my birthday. My fiftieth. That doesn't disturb me nearly as much as turning forty, thirty or twenty, possibly because of what I'm looking forward to.

Not long ago, a friend said that what I'm doing is as close as I can come to giving birth because I am, in a very real sense, giving birth to myself. She is mostly right: Since taking the first steps toward this transition some seven years ago, I have been in the process of being born. And during the forty years before that, I carried within me the person I am becoming. There were times when that girl, that woman, seemed dormant or even dead. And, believe me, I spent more time and energy than I can measure in trying to kill her.

She has cost me a lot, but she is making me a wealthier (and healthier) person now that I'm giving her--me--what she needs. I may not be a pretty woman, but the woman I am fills me with her light--which is still, at times, brighter than anything to which my eyes are accustomed--when I see her--me--in the mirror.

Nothing could have prepared me for becoming her, for her becoming me. And I don't know what, if anything, can prepare me for that day one year from today. I can plan, I can anticipate, and fortunately for me, my parents have offered to accompany me to the hospital when I go for my surgery. They were no more prepared--or surprised, really--than I was for the day when, for the first time in my entire life, I was entirely honest with them about who I am. And, although my therapist, former social worker (and current friend), and various other friends and friendly acquaintances have offered advice and various kinds of support, none of us can really anticipate what will come next. It's as if I've researched the country, learned its language and packed my bags for my trip. But, for all of my planning, will I be ready?

But then again, how much of my success or failure, memory and forgetting, tears and joys, were really the results of mine, or anyone else's preparation?

At least I know one moment, one year from now, won't be a continuation of the past, which is what most people mean when they talk about the present. There is tomorrow; there will be dying, and we will be born, all of us.

But we're different after we give birth. I know that much. The question is, how will I be different? If I pick an outfit to wear that first day after I leave the hospital, will I still want to wear it? Will I be like those mothers who, during their pregnancies, binge on foods they'll never touch again after their babies are born?

I know I'm getting ahead of myself. But this is the first time in my life that I know where I'll be and what I'll be doing on some specific date in the future. It's hard, for me anyway, not to speculate.

For now there is the journey. And there will be a birth: mine, and whatever else that brings.