So here’s the thing:
Oftentimes, in a society where we are becoming increasingly isolated from traditional societal bonds (family, neighbors, prison pen pals)and yet paradoxically, ever-more connected by more ethereal, perhaps less satisfying ones (Facebook, MySpace, um…prison pen pals), we may feel as though the world has looked us over and found us wanting, like the sandwich case at a busy deli that’s been picked clean, leaving only the Prawn-and-Avocado on White. When you’re transgendered, this sense of isolation and insufficiency can be even more acute, stabbing you in the tender bits of your soul and then sprinkling lemon juice on you while giggling. For this reason, it’s incredibly important to have a support system in place…and I don’t mean the $300 you buried in a coffee can behind the old shed.
Well, I don’t mean JUST that.
Rather, I mean that transgendered folks should pack their bags for the journey of life with the stuff they need to make it through.
A) A network of friends and loved ones in place to help you through the rough patches: hearing “Sir” at a restaurant, spending the weekend in hiding because your electrolysis session left you with a face that resembles something recently dragged along the barnacle-encrusted underside of the Queen Mary, being “accidentally” shoved by a group of guys on the street, et hoc genus omne.
Because the Transition Turnpike is both long and perilous, one can be plagued by fear and her handmaiden, doubt, while traveling along its pitted surface. I don’t mean “doubt” in the “should I be doing this?” sense – there’s never been any doubt in my mind that transitioning was necessary for me to have any kind of life worth living – but rather doubt about my odds of making it to the end of the turnpike without spinning out in Untimely Deathville or being trapped in Loneliness Hollow due to the lack of available partners for a transgendered lesbian in my beloved but somewhat backward home.
Friends help with this…especially when one’s family may not support one’s decision to take some advice from Polonius. As my friend Laura is known to opine, “There’s family you’re born with, and family you gain along the way.” I know that whenever I’m feeling like a Stella in a world full of Stanleys, my friends are there for me, not just with platitudes and “there-there” murmurings, but with sage advice, hilarious and heroic efforts to turn my frown upside down, and, of course, hugs and tissues for when my frown remains stubbornly in place.
I draw the line at sharing pants, however.
This category also includes ones partner/girlfriend/boyfriend/significant other, of course…however, my previous experiences have left me charred and twitchy, as well as slightly suspicious that I may be dead inside, like a lightning-struck tree or a Republican.
B) Medical staff that knows its shit. Well, not literally. That’s gross, and I’m sort of disappointed that you went there. I’d like you to take some time to think about the way you’ve cheapened this experience.
All right then.
Medical professionals are sometimes at a loss when dealing with the transgendered. It took me three tries to find an endocrinologist willing to treat me, and even then I had to drive 50 miles to visit him in his Fortress of Estrogen…but it was worth it to find a doctor who would do more than look me over and throw a prescription at me before begging me to leave so I didn’t contaminate his waiting room with “The Gay.” My doctor actually cares, and it shows in his insistence that I take my spiro, hormones and anti-hypertension meds in the correct fashion.
Dr. K: “OK, Claire, the important thing is to use good sense and consistent dosing. We’re going to –
(cut to me, already covered in so many estrogen patches I look like a chubby Girl Scout sash, downing my spironolactone in a manner reminiscent of Cookie Monster)
Dr. K: “I don’t want to hit you with this clipboard, but I will.”
Seriously, though, when you’re making major renovations to your body, you need professionals. This isn’t the crappy IKEA bookshelf you slapped together after three Cosmos – this is the thing you need to carry your brain around without resorting to some sort of creepy Krang device. My doctors (both my GP and my Endo) are awesome, and while I sense they are not 100% cool with the IDEA of transgenderism, their professionalism and dedication to the Hippocratic oath means they give me the same level of care they do their genetically female patients.
I was lucky with my therapist – I found him on my first go. Dr. O is incredibly supportive and insightful, and has definitely helped me maintain my sanity on this trip!
C) A sense of humor and an appreciation for the ridiculous. Now, I know this may come as a shock to some of you, but I am not what most would call “serious.” Or “mature.” Or even “competent,” depending on the day. However, I am 100% convinced that taking anything (life, being trans, Hispanic and a lesbian in the middle of Squaresville, USA, the woeful lack of Hello Kitty Pop-Tarts at my local Kroger) too seriously is bad for you. As Sebastian-Roch Chamfort was fond of saying when he wasn’t busy scalding his contemporaries with some bon mot, “The most wasted day is that in which we have not laughed.” Except, you know, in French. It would be weird if he said it in English, just at random.
D) Faith. Now, lest you assume I’m about to get all Moses on you, let me say that faith means different things to different people (I’ll take my Stating The Obvious award now, please). For me, the offspring of a Catholic-turned-Nazarene and a lapsed Methodist, God is an important part of my life and my journey. I know that a lot of my peers in the transgendered community feel that the Christian God and his son Jesus are out to get us (or at least some of the crazies claiming to follow them are)…however, I’ve had and enjoyed a relationship with God and Jesus since I was a kid, and despite all the rhetoric and selective, ill-informed Bible quoting by the haters, I’ve never felt anything but love and support from and for God. When people say “God made you a boy, and you’re a sinner. Also, I don’t care for your shade of lipstick,” I point out that God made me transgender because He thought I was up to the challenge, and acknowledge that perhaps this shade might be a trifle orange for my complexion, but it was on sale.
While I have little use for organized religion, faith is an important part of my life, because it eliminates the middleman from the equation and lets me commune with the Eternal directly. Religion is Wal-Mart, Faith is Sam’s Club (without the ID card and visitor limit).
Ultimately, of course, we are all responsible for reaching the end of the road (whether it’s Transition Turnpike, Mommy Lane, Presidential Parkway or Avenue of the America’s Next Top Model), but with a little careful planning, a few faithful traveling companions, and some luck, the journey and the destination are worth all the trouble…