14 July 2009

Beginning in Trinidad

At the Morning After House, where I have been staying since my release from Mount San Rafael Hospital, manager Carol Cometto keeps a guestbook. Here is my entry in it:

I was born in Georgia.

I have lived most of my life in New York.

But I have come to Trinidad, to begin.

Even though I had been living as a woman for nearly six years before coming here, I feel that my life as the person I am is starting just now.

Of course, it is not the surgery itself that changes one's life. However, it is one of our rites of passage from what we were expected to be to what our souls yearn to be. And Marci Bowers is exactly the right person to "deliver" me through that passage.

Not only is she an extremely skilled surgeon and fine doctor; she has the empathy and compassion to understand what we feel and need, and the vision, artistry and commitment to make it real.

Another person who has that passion, commitment and empathy is Carol Cometto. The Morning After House--her "baby"--is a dynamic testament to those qualities.

It hasn't been around for very long, so it has its kinks. But Carol got the most important part right: You walk in and you feel loved, not just "the love."

When I came in last week, I said to Carol--only half-jokingly--"You really don't expect me to leave, do you? She placed me in the "Sabrina" room. It's beautiful, and I could spend days, months, years basking in the light of it.

But it's not just the wood tones or the sunlight and views of Trinidad mountain in the window that make the place so inviting. It, like no other room I've ever been in, was crafted by someone who knows exactly what you want and need to feel the day before and the day after one of the most important events in your life.

Most important of all, what Carol has done is to make a space in which a real community is possible.

I am fortunate in that when I return to New York, I will be seeing a doctor and gynecologist who treat other transgender women. I also have friends and colleagues who have stood by and behind me. However, even in New York, I don't where else it's possible to find a place in which everyone understands just how you feel. It's like having your own native language and finally meeting the people who speak it in the land in which it is spoken.

While my stay at the Morning After House, like those of most guests, is short-lived (two days before and four days after my stay in the hospital), I feel that it will be a kind of "moveable feast" that I will always take with me, and which will always nourish me.

I will have, not only the house and Marci and Carol; I will also have Marilynne, who so steadfastly supported her daughter in her surgery; Danny, with his humor and overall enjoyable presence; Becky, whose spouse Joyce was my roommate for my last two days at Mount San Rafael Hospital. And of course, the nurses--especially Martha Martinez--in the hospital.

Because of them, I am beginning in Trinidad.

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