27 June 2009

No Gesture is Necessary, Only a Message

Now it's one week until I leave for Colorado; ten days till my surgery. Talk about "blink-of-an-eye" time frames!

I am thinking now of something Jennifer Boylan talked about in She's Not There. It was the day before, or a couple of days before, her gender-reassignment surgery. She wondered, in essence, how she should say "good-bye" to being male. If I recall correctly, she even thought about pissing against a tree one last time.

I can't remember the last time I pissed against a tree--or anything else that couldn't help but to stand erect in front of me. I also don't recall the last time I used a urinal or a men's room. Or a men's fitting room or locker room.

And I don't remember the last time I sat with a bunch of guys in a bar or cafe, celebrating some physical conquest, whether of a mountain or in bed. I haven't wanted to do any of those things again, so it wouldn't make any sense to "leave" maleness by doing any of them again.

Then again, it has been so long since I have lived as male that I couldn't do anything to "leave" it now, even if I wanted to. It's been nearly seven years since I last introduced myself as "Nick" to anyone: The last times I can recall doing that were with colleagues at LaGuardia Community College.

Although I started to live full-time as a woman on 8 September 2003--the first day I taught as Justine--I feel that my "exit" from maledom, my loss of citizenship in that gender, came two years earlier.

I may have told this story before, so you can skip over it or bear with me if you've already read it in one of my previous posts:

It was the summer of 2001. Tammy gave me the sort of birthday present she thought I would love: a bike trip in the Alps. Four years earlier, I ventured into those mountains, from France into Switzerland and back, and loved it. I knew that I could take an entirely different ride from that one. And, instead of starting in Paris and cycling through the Burgundy, Champagne and Franche-Comte regions before reaching the mountains, I would be flying into Lyon, with the Alps only a day's ride away.

Still, I was not eager to go on that trip. I had a premonition that it would change me and destroy the life I had at that time. I could not explain what that meant; Tammy, then in law school, dismissed it as an irrational fear.

So I went, and climbed as many mountains as I could. It gave me some bragging rights, I suppose, especially because I made those climbs on a bike loaded with my clothing and day-to-day essentials for a month. And, my ride intersected with the Tour de France at several stages: I got to see the peloton starting one stage and ending two others, and a time-trial up a mountain at Chamrousse.

Well, near the end of my trip, I pedalled up le Col du Galibier, one of the most famed Tour climbs. More than one Tour was decided wholly or in part on that mountain.

I was feeling good: The air was as clear as the nearly-cloudless sky; flowers turned into fields, trees multiplied into forests and mountains spread into ranges as I pumped my way up that road.

Finally, I reached the peak and munched on a crepe--still suprisingly warm and fresh--I'd brought with me from the inn where I'd stayed the night before. I took a few gulps from my water bottle, which I'd laced with jus d'abricot, and filled myself with the pristine sunlight that would become a field full of wildflowers shortly after I began my descent.

Just after that field passed behind me, something--not a physical sensation, not even an inner voice--told me "You will never have to do this again!" Of course, that did not make any sense to me at that moment, though, for some reason I couldn't explain, I felt a not-so-vague sense of relief.

As that mountain receded behind me, I took a route departmental that hugged the curves of a river valley to a town where I stopped, ostensibly to cash a traveller's check, but really to spend time in a cafe seemingly for no particular reason. I ordered a cafe au lait, then another, then a mineral water with some sort of non-alcoholic blackcurrant extract, and a few other non-alcoholic drinks. I couldn't say that I was trying to sort out what I'd expereienced because, well, it didn't even make enough sense to me to sort out, even though at the most intuitive level I knew exactly what it was. I knew it wasn't just about climbing that mountain, or any other, again.

About an hour later, I would learn the answer when I came into the town of Saint Jean de Maurienne. That is where I would stop at a traffic light and see the woman who, merely by walking home from work, would show me by the way she negotiated time and space, spiritually as well as physically, that I could no longer take another step in this world as male.

So I guess you could say that, unlike Jenny Boylan, I did not have the choice of making, nor did I need to make, some voluntary final gesture to leave the male race. For that matter, she didn't need to make such a gesture, either: Neither of us actually belonged to the world of men.

But both of us had to leave the trappings of maleness in which we'd clothed ourselves. And she needed to do what she did, and I need to do what I'm doing, so that we can more easily and readily move about in this world as the women we are.

Tonight I talked to my mother again. "Can you do something for me?," she asked.

"Of course."

"Could you ask Dr. Bowers to call me when the operation is done, to let me know you're fine."

"I'll call Monday and ask her."

"Do you think she will?"

"I don't see why not. I'm sure other people have asked her to do that."


Of course Mom always wants to know that I'm safe. Any time I've travelled, I've called her when I've arrived at my destination, and at least once during the trip.

"I've arrived and I'm safe." That's what she wants to know. That's what I'd want to know, too. For that, one doesn't need grand gestures. Only a message is necessary.

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