28 December 2009

From The First Meeting To Lunch Next Week

Dwayne and I had planned on having lunch tomorrow. Alas, he cancelled. He'd suffered from double pneumonia last month and his partner is forbidding him from going out tomorrow, when it's expected to be about 25 degrees colder than today.

I was very much looking forward to our lunch date. We've rescheduled for next week.

So why am I talking about him and our lunch date? Well, he is one of the people who has made possible the life I'm now leading.

Around the time Tammy and I broke up, I made an appointment with the counseling services at the LGBT Community Center of New York. I'd previously been to two other therapists for other reasons, but I still didn't know where to begin or how to get over the fear I had in looking for someone else who might've been able to help me.

The day I went to the Center was the sort of summer day on which an air-conditioned welder's mask would have been most welcome. The truth is that I would've entered just about any place that would have gotten me out of that heat and glaring light, even for a little while. But it wasn't just the heat and glare from which I wanted shelter; I wanted a truce with, if not a resolution to, the conflict that had me ready to explode or implode--I wasn't sure of which.

Well, I got to the Center. Miraculously, the young woman working at the counseling services' reception desk said that, yes, someone could see me, even though I didn't have an appointment.

I'll give you three guesses as to who saw me.

Yes, Dwayne was my intake counselor. I don't know how long I talked with him, but by the time we finished, I felt as if I'd just read him War and Peace at the speed of light. I felt, for the first time in my life, that I'd told somebody everything. And, more important, I felt as if I'd told someone the truth about myself for the first time in my life.

Up to that day, I had never met him. When I went to the Center's counseling services, I had absolutely no idea of whom I would meet or what would result. However, I was never more certain as to what I was doing, and why I was doing it, than I was when I went to the Center that day.

I think Dwayne sensed all of that. Best of all, he empathised, and not only because he has lived outside of what our culture, or almost any other, expects from one gender or another. He usually describes himself as a "butch," but has told me that he would've liked to have taken testosterone and undergone the surgeries. He couldn't do those things, he said, for medical as well as financial reasons.

Later, I realized that I wouldn't have had to say a word to him and he would have understood exactly why I was in his office. I could have shown up in army fatigues and a crew-cut and he would have known why I was there. So it's no wonder that in revealing that first, most basic, fact about myself, I not only felt relief: I felt that some things were finally starting to make sense. Example: I knew that I had to stop drinking and taking drugs. But I didn't know why it wasn't all I needed to do, much less what my next step--never mind my long-term goal--had to be.

I had that conversation with him about a year before I began to live full-time as a woman or "came out" to anyone in my family. Perhaps I could have had that conversation with someone else. But as fate or luck or karma or whatever would have it, I had that conversation with Dwayne. And he was exactly whom I needed at that moment.

So I have Dwayne to thank. (Others would blame him.) We'll have lunch next week; I'll always have that day we met.