There it was, at long last, in the mailbox on Monday - a big manila envelope with “Montreal” as part of the return address. I’ve been bracing for it for a couple of months now, thinking each day as I drive up to the boxes, “This could be it.” Well, this was it. Final decision time. Make the down payment and go through with the surgery, now less than four months away, or put it off.
On Tuesday I freaked. I melted down in the morning while wrangling the boy to school, then walked on Wells beach and sobbed. (I had the whole beach to myself, though it was a gorgeous spring-like morning.) The source of my anguish was a sudden powerful resurgence of a fear that going ahead with the surgery now would cause permanent psychological damage to my teenage son.
Actually, that’s understated. On Tuesday I caromed helplessly between black guilt and last-breath desperation to live. I forgot all about the possibility of a both-and outcome. Doom. Catastrophe. Dire dilemma. I felt that I had to either give up my life, or kill my child.
I cried some more in the beach parking lot, stopped to wash my splotchy face in the grocery store bathroom so I could bear to show it at Borealis when I stopped for a medicinal scone, and continued on to work. Then I made a good choice: I e-mailed Sarah, who is smart and Queer and who seems to have a greater capacity than most for the serene fielding of other people’s psychodrama. We met for coffee, and I poured out my confused jumble of hypertrophied emotion while she listened. The first words out of my mouth were “I may be projecting...” No, you think?
Here’s what I’ve figured out, talking to Sarah and pondering since: all my life I have had this powerful irrational fear that if I was ever fully myself, it would kill the people I love. I can feel the reverberations of it going back to earliest childhood. One of my pop-psych novelistic imagination theories is that when I was two or three I terrified myself into internal exile with the intensity of a murderous rage I felt toward my little brother, that...that BOY who had usurped my parents’ love.
Did I reach a little hand through the bars of his crib to cover his mouth and nose and snuff out his life? Did I then recoil in horror and self-loathing from the act I had momentarily contemplated? Was that the end of any chance I might have had to articulate my gender truth for years and years to come? Was I, in sum, a little girl too fierce, too headstrong, and too overwhelmed by her own ungoverned passions, to face living in the world? It all feels, if not literally, then psychologically true.
So Tuesday seems to have been an echo-spasm of the same complex of elemental feeling which was the source of my forty years of self-repression. Even as I talked to Sarah, the intensity of the feelings drained away. The last thing I said, in a bemused and wondering tone, was, “Can I really do this? Really?” And Sarah offered “Yes,” and hearing someone else say it like that, I knew it was right. (Sarah, thank you again for listening.)
Not that my son is thrilled about any part of my gender transition, but he’ll survive. We’ll all survive. I’ll be making that down payment, because I have finally figured out that I can be female without killing anyone. For me, that still counts as a bona fide revelation. What a fucking bizarre life.