07 January 2009

Six Months: Deja Vu, A Venir

Today's the day. Well, the halfway day, anyway.

Six months...since I started counting down this year. Six months--181 days--until the date of my surgery.

Yes, only six months to go. When's the day gonna come?

For the last few weeks, I've had the sense that this would be a major milestone. I wasn't sure of whether I'd plow full-speed-ahead, or whether I'd start to panic. You might say I'm doing a bit of both.

Actually, this day has been neither as exhiliarating nor as foreboding as I might've expected it to be. About the biggest event of this day was resuming my electrolysis after a layoff of three weeks. Tonight, I had another class session with the students I'll be teaching for the next two weeks. They're very nice, and I haven't told them anything about my impending surgery, this blog or my life as the "before" picture. However, I'm sure they've heard something about them, for most of my students these days are friends of students who've taken my classes before.

Tonight they were very energetic, asking lots of questions and adding a lot to the discussion and doing really good work. And I felt hyper and giddy. Were they feeding off my energy, or was I running on theirs? Or was it some sort of spontaneous synchronicity? What in the world did I just ask?

Anyway, I enjoyed it and will continue to do so, or so I hope. Maybe if the next six months could be like this, I would be in really good condition, both physically and emotionally, when I go into the surgery. Or I may just be so exhausted that I'll collapse onto the operating table and Dr. Bowers can give her anaesthesiologist the day off. Does that mean I would get a discount on the cost of the surgery? Anaesthesiologist sent home, not paid...Hmm, How would the anaesthesiologists' union feel about that? Or do they have one?

But back to this day, and the six months gone and six months to come. At the beginning, I wanted this to be an uneventful and uncomplicated year. Somehow I had the idea that I needed to save my energy, to save myself, for the surgery. That was one of the reasons why, just after I started this full-time faculty position, I was upset: I started to feel as if whatever right to privacy I had was taken away from me. But then again, practically everyone on campus knew about me, or had at least heard about me and thought "that's the one" when they saw me walking down the halls.

Or maybe they said, "She's that prof," or "He's that prof." If they said either of those things, I shouldn't be happy. After all, I am an English teacher and I'd hope they'd know that any living thing, whatever his or her gender, should never be referred to as "that." Not even if he or she is an ex or an in-law!

I must say, though, that the more imminent the surgery becomes, the more I sense my in-between-ness. (I'm sorry for the inelegance of that locution.) Previously, I was seeing myself if, not as a corporeal woman, then at least as someone who was living more or less as one. In public, strangers who've heard nothing about me call me "ma'am" or, if I'm being a really good girl, "miss." There was the other side, too: People who assumed I was less knowledgable or competent than I actually am. I've found them in the halls of academia as well as in hardware stores. And then, of course, there have been the dangers: I don't venture as freely, solitarily or as late as night as I once did. I'd been warned not to do those things, and I think now of the guy who tried to pull of my skirt, whom I tried to lose in a maze of ancient streets just behind the Hotel de Ville in Paris. I know those streets better than most non-Parisians, but he knew them at least as well. Finally, I leapt into a taxi and blurted "Republique" to the driver. I know the arrondisements around la Place de la Republique pretty well, he wouldn't be there, and from there I knew I could get on the Metro to Janine's apartment.

That was near the end of my first year of living full-time as Justine. A couple of more incidents with randy, raunchy guys followed during the ensuing years.

Most women in similar situations would be thinking about a sexual assault. I thought of that, too, and of other kinds of assault (which usually accompany the sexual kind). But biological women in those situations are in danger, or are at least concerned because of their woman-ness. On the other hand, I was in danger because I was, in some senses, not yet completely a woman.

Of course the operation won't take that danger away. But I'm doing it so that at least I will come closer to being the person, the woman, I am and want to be.

So, if I've been living between genders, or as one who entered her ancestral home-gender (Sorry for another clumsy phrasing!) but who wasn't yet fluent in the language or entangled with the culture, there are still aspects of living fully (or as fully as I can) as a woman that I can only imagine. And aspects I can't imagine.

And there are the things I've always imagined. Will they be as I envisioned them? Among other things, I'm thinking, of course, about my body without a penis, and with a vagina and clitoris. Will I see it the same way as I see other things I've always imagined, like my breasts (such as they are)? I'd always wanted them, although I'm now glad they're not as big as I would've wanted them when I was younger. The truth is, I see them when I dress and undress, but I don't think about them. They're just kinda there: I like them, but they're nothing to make a fuss over. Then again, they don't have as great an effect on how I function as a woman as I expect my vagina and clitoris will.

Now I'm thinking again of that first year of living full-time. I was teaching at LaGuardia Community College. The school's drama society and women's center were staging Eve Ensler's The Vagina Monologues. (See what happens when one of your school's faculty members "changes" genders!) A few of the actresses, women from the center and I were talking about it. Then they began to talk about their vaginas and what they meant to them. Finally, they all looked to me. "Mine's within me," I said. "Hopefully, one day it will be on the outside, too."

"It will," said the Center's director.

Yes...As long as all goes according to plan and design, it will. In another six months.

Deja vu; a venir. Another 181 days to go.

Time flies. Are we there yet?