See also: May 27, 2002
I've slept maybe five hours since Tuesday, but you know, I feel great. I feel wonderful beyond any previous threshold for wonderful.
I started a week-long (paid) vacation from work on Tuesday, and that night, a very close friend of mine called Annalisa arrived here from Birmingham. We had been planning the visit for a couple of months and we were both really looking forward to it. We've known each other for just about three years, though we originally met online we'd met a few times (over the years) for concerts, coming-through-town sort of things, etc. But this visit was different.
It started out Tuesday night with sushi at Kanpai in mid-city, then we went to see Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones (which really kicked Episode I's proverbial ass in so many ways). We went to the late show, and returned to my place at around 1:00am. We got a call from one of her friends that lives here, Lana, wanting to know if we want to hit Bourbon Street with them, as they were in the neighbourhood and Lana hadn't seen Annalisa in a few months, so we went. We ended up going to Larry Flynt's Hustler Club, which was boring to say the least, and then to the Alibi Inn for drinks, which was considerably more fun. Through most of it we just talked, like we usually do when we see each other, though I displayed a bit of my attraction to her: I said, Can I smell you? We were both drunk, and we've both been very into each other for the entire length of our friendship, but the circumstances were never ripe for getting together. She giggled and nodded, and I leaned into the crook of her neck and inhaled deeply. I sighed. She smelled so good. She smelled like my most pleasant dreams. We continued drinking and talking, and ended up back at my apartment at around 7:30am. (The bars in New Orleans don't suffer from the dreaded "last call.") We brought Lana and some of her friends back to my place for about an hour to smoke some salvia divinorum, and a good time was had by all.
Wednesday proper came into being at around 3:00pm, after about four hours sleep. Annalisa and I went to the Louisiana Pizza Kitchen on Carrollton for breakfast/lunch, and then headed back home to prepare for the Cranes concert happening at the Shim Sham Club later that evening. We made it into the Quarter at around 9:30pm, just in time for the opening band, Matthew, who I had never heard of but nonetheless enjoyed. They sounded kind of like the bastard love child of Sunny Day Real Estate and Radiohead. We milled around a bit while the Cranes crew set up, drinking Long Island Ice Teas and Tom Collins mixers, and smoking cloves. Apart from my local friend Melanie, I didn't really know anybody in the place, which is something of a rarity for shows at the Shim Sham.
At around 11:00pm, the Cranes made their entrance on stage. Alison Shaw was beautiful and fairylike, as I expected (the last time the band toured the USA, I missed the show because I was travelling at the time, so this was my first time seeing them, after having waited five years since their previous tour here), and the Cranes played a tight set packed with old favourites. I sang along to them all (the Cranes have been an enduring favourite band of mine for going on seven years now). After the last encore ("Paris & Rome," which Alison introduced by pointing to me and saying "this song is for you"), I waited by the backstage entrance to meet Alison. She came out, cheery as always, and we introduced ourselves and did that European standard cheek-peck-kiss greeting. I told her I loved the show, adored the Cranes, and asked her about a particularly special (to me) song, which she was happy to answer. I shook her hand (she has such soft skin!) and excused myself, leaving her to whatever aftershow stuff she had to do. She's such a sweet person. Upon meeting her, I've now met all three of my personal idols; Douglas Coupland (twice, actually), Nicole Blackman, and Ali. So I was pretty stoked. The show was a great start to a mind-blowingly incredible night.
The following are details about why I chose to abort my gender transition. (See my writeup under May 27, 2002 for full details about what brought me to this.)
Only recently have I been able to articulate why, exactly, I chose to stop. However, I'd been having some serious doubts since the very first day I decided to do something about my gender issues, but I never told anybody about it, not even my therapist or my best friends, mostly because the doubts and other issues were so complex and I was really at a loss for words on the subject.
First and foremost, I was quite aware that I'd been born male, and no amount of surgery, therapy or HRT could change that. I knew that I wasn't simply the stereotypical "woman trapped in a man's body," but I wasn't totally comfortable with my maleness, either. Of course not. As anyone who has known me long enough will tell you, I do have a somewhat feminine demeanor, which is often mistaken for an outward expression of homosexuality, which of course is not the case. The more I was told this, the more I thought about it, about transsexuality and so forth, but I never figured I'd do anything about it; it always seemed so extreme and drastic to me.
When I began seeing a therapist in November 2001, I told her just about everything I was feeling about transitioning... except for the doubts. I guess I really didn't realize that I even had doubts at that point because everything was so new, and I suddenly had a purpose and something to do with my life, something to aim for. However, as I recently came to realize, in the back of my mind I was doubting that I would be successful, or happy, or untraumatized, or completely destitute from paying for surgery when everything was all said and done. (read: post-op.) I also had some quite superficial worries, like, "would I be pretty," "am I really feminine enough to pull this off," "what happens if I'm never able to get another date," and so forth. When I started hormone replacement therapy in January 2002, just as I was about to take my first dose of estrogen, I thought, "after a few months of this there will be no turning back... are you sure this is what you want to do?" I ended up sitting there with a glass of water and the estrogen pill for about an hour debating myself internally. In the end I took the pill. And I took the pill every day thereafter, until four days ago, which, incidentally, is about two weeks before the effects of HRT become, for the most part, irreversible. (i.e., permanently sterile, permanent loss of (male) sex drive, etc.) Whenever I took the pill after that I couldn't help but think disjointedly about what might happen in the future of my transition, what would happen if something went wrong with it, or what would happen if I decided that I wanted to stop for some reason. Because of this the transition was always a traumatic thing for me, however happy I felt about it at the same time. I was happy to be proceeding with it, but... I didn't know what to do with the doubts I was having. I didn't even really consider them doubts, really... just kind of slight hesitations. I thought that might be normal for transsexuals in the beginning stages of transition, but I never really thought to look it up anywhere, despite my rather large collection of bookmarks for sites about transsexualism and gender dysphoria.
I couldn't get it straight in my head that something was wrong, until Annalisa asked me if I thought that there was anything wrong last week. Without her intervention/concern, I most likely would've just kept going with the transition, possibly end up very unhappy and totally broke in a few years, just stagnating along with something I really deep-down didn't want to go through with. I was so scared. So scared that I couldn't really even ask anybody what they thought about me during the transition, or ask them if they had any doubts. My parents expressed some doubts, but of course I didn't listen to them because I wanted to do my thing and not worry about them thinking I was unhappy, so I just presented an air of knowing what I was doing to them, and to my friends, and to anyone who asked, really. I was scared and hurting back in the recesses of my mind, and generally, when I'm scared and hurting, I shrivel up inside and nothing comes out.
In summary, my biggest reservations, fears, and doubts, put forth in a bulleted list for your reading convenience:
- Would I be happy during and after the transition?
- Could I ever totally remove the male parts on the inside of me, through surgery, HRT or other means?
- Could I ever become completely, totally, and in all other ways female/feminine?
- Would anyone consider me attractive ever again? Would I?
- Could I ever be honest with anyone ever again? Could I be honest with myself?
- Could I afford any of the surgeries I wanted? (SRS, scalp advancement, rhinoplasty, chrondolaryngoplasty, breast implants (if necessary))
- What would happen if I lost my job mid-transition and was unable to get another due to my appearance?
- Would $whoever ever speak to me again?
- Would I eventually have a nervous breakdown of some sort from unresolved hesitation, doubt, and fear?
- Would I be in a state of terminal gender limbo if I ran out of money?
So you see, there was a lot going on in my head, but I really didn't know what to do but continue with the transition. It seemed safest, which probably sounds stupid based on the doubts enumerated above, but that's the best I can do to describe the feeling.
After the show we drove out to Lana's place in New Orleans East and scored four doses of MDMA. We each took one and then headed back home. I had never done ecstacy before, so I wasn't quite sure what to expect. Unfortunately, it didn't really have much of an effect on me due to the Paxil already in my system, regulating my serotonin levels, so when we both took recharge doses (nasally) a couple of hours later, I was only mildly buzzed. Annalisa was feeling fine, and the talk flowed like wine, only now it was more personal, deeper than we'd previously dared to delve. She talked about her string of terrible boyfriends; I talked about my string of terrible girlfriends; we talked about my gender issues. She admitted to me that she thought I was having doubts about transitioning fully into a female form, and I admitted that was the case. The doubts had been building in me since I started hormone replacement therapy in January; unlike other transsexuals, who are often absolutely sure that they are of the opposite sex, despite their physical sex, not just an X trapped in a Y body. Me, I had always felt that I am male, but wanted to be female. I had no illusions about what I was, but I knew what I wanted to be... sort of. Hence the doubts. At some point during the conversation we started cuddling; soft, warm, and extremly comforting. My confusion about my gender and the doubts therein overwhelmed me and I started crying. Annalisa just held me, cradling me in her arms, my face buried in her shoulder and neck, and my tears were rolling down her arm. She just held me, and told me that it was OK.
For my entire life, every fibre of my being has longed for someone to hold me while I was crying and tell me softly, It's OK... just let it come. It's OK. I'm here for you.
It was then that I decided to abort my gender transition. With her help I realized that I can be happy with my body/sex/gender as long as I could be happy with my surroundings, and as long as I could be happy with my life, gender issues or no. I'm still quite sure that the dominant part of my personality is female; but there's no denying that there's also some masculinity left in there that can never be fully deleted from my psyche, and I was tired of fighting with it. I think I can live in peace with a slightly masculine personality and a male body. As it is, I'm just (just) below the cutoff point for hormone irreversibility. As of that morning I stopped taking the hormones, and with luck, my body will be back to normal in a few months.
I am comfortable with this.
Next we moved on to how we felt about each other. Since earlier this year (around the time I started HRT, actually), we knew that we were both really into the other, romantically and in all other ways. We both admitted that, since we first met, that's how it's been; that basically, we were in love, but it wouldn't have been feasible to act on it at any time during the tenure of our friendship. But now... things are different. I've been single (and, with the gender transition, facing a possible lifetime of singularity) for eight months, and she's been on the verge of breaking up with her current boyfriend, who I've heard nothing but awful things about, for a few weeks. She's heading back to Birmingham now to start the final process of losing him.
I am moving to Birmingham in about six months, when the lease on my place in New Orleans is up, and it couldn't come too soon. New Orleans casts such a pall over me now; I'm itching to get out of it.
Annalisa and I both figured six months would be enough time to finalize how we truly feel about each other, and to consider the prospect of a serious relationship. This also gives her ample time to deal with her "currently on hiatus because he's got so many mental problems" boyfriend. It'll give me time to get my issues straight and find an antidepressant that works for me; my psychiatrist's diagnosis of my bipolar disorder was, I believe, completely inaccurate. Additionally, I'm going to start sending résumés to tech companies in Birmingham in August or September, and start looking for an apartment.
• • •
Yesterday (Thursday), we went out for sushi again, this time at Samurai, with Annalisa's mother and aunt. Her mother likes me, apparently, but doesn't yet know that I'm not trans anymore. She'll find that out within the next few hours. She won't find out about the status of her daughter and I for a few weeks, yet.
After sushi, we rented the recent film Life as a House, and watched it from the comfort of my futon. The movie was very sweet and sentimental, and a bit strange. I highly recommend it. It's a good date movie.
We were laying on the futon side by side, bare legs akimbo, as the end credits started rolling. As if drawn by an invisible force, we both turned our heads towards the other, and then melted into the softest, hungriest kiss I've ever, ever known, with the softest, sweetest lips I've ever felt. It was so euphoric, like being wrapped in a sheer length of absolute release, and peace, and care. We spent the rest of the night alternately talking, kissing, cuddling and basically just enjoying the hell out of each other, all while the TV displayed silent snow after the tape in the VCR had run out, which was completely unnoticable from our perspective and preoccupation with each other.
Annalisa left for Birmingham at about 11:45am this morning, but not without neverending, lovely goodbye kisses and tight, I-need-you-now hugs. As she got into her car, I told her I loved her, that I have for as long as I've known her. She said exactly the same thing back to me. Then I watched her drive away, not without tears in my eyes, and then started this entry. I miss her already, but I can't recall ever feeling so right, so comfortable about anything before at all.
This is love. We'll find out if it's true love, all in good time.