This post is long overdue. There are many good reasons for that: I’ve just returned from an extended visit to Dr. Pierre Brassard’s clinic in Montreal which involved major surgery; I had three hours of jet lag on the return trip; and I’ve been slowly recuperating at home and getting back into a normal routine. However, it should wait no longer.
By now you will know that I have had gender reassignment surgery to make me physically the woman I have been so long on the inside. As my dear friend Karen likes to put it, “I am whole”. I prefer the term “congruent” – inside and outside now match.
There have been countless people who have supported me on my transition to my new self. Family, friends, co-workers, medical professionals, church leaders, even acquaintances I have yet to welcome as friends have all helped and affirmed me as I discovered my self.
Most special and dear to my heart is of course my wife Lorraine, who has known of the “me” inside since before we met and has supported me at every step. It was Lorraine who finally told me to get on with my transition instead of stagnating in a miserable “rest of my life.” She has made many personal sacrifices, some willingly, some reluctantly and some painfully – but we are together as loving life partners, and I could ask for nothing more than that.
My children, Sarah, Liz, Cynthia and Adam – I totally came out of left field for all of you. You saw the person, the parent you called Dad for so much of our lives being wrenched away and twisted into some kind of “not-Dad” creature. But instead of running, you stayed to learn that the “me” inside was still the same person: your loving parent who had carried a secret that could remain secret no more. You had grown to love the person I looked like; now you know that what you saw was just armour and camouflage to protect the real me inside. It was hard – and still is, I know – to see me with the armour gone. But I will always be your Dad, and you, and only you in the whole world will always have the right to call me that.
My three grandchildren, who I don’t name online, have always loved me unconditionally regardless of how I appeared. You never saw my armour or safety gear as such: nor would you have understood if I had tried to explain to you why I had to wear it sometimes. You have always seen the “me” inside – a loving grandparent you (and yes, only you) will always call Papa. It’s pretty hard to top a gift of love like that.
My best friend, soul-sister and mentor Jacqueline – what can I say? I remember helping you on your first few halting steps out of the closet so many years ago. I did not know then what an honour that moment was – but it was like being present at a birth. You blossomed into an amazing, gracious, kind woman who passed me on the journey and became my leader and teacher in so many, many things. Your insights, thoughts and straight practical sharing of every detail of your transition, surgery and recovery have helped me as no book, website or support group could ever have done.
My dear friend Janean, who lives so far away yet who is so close to my heart. You have believed in me and cared for me as Stephanie the woman from the very beginning. I was never Stephanie the curiosity, the transperson or the former guy to you. You have taught me so much about love and acceptance in its many forms. You’ve even awakened an interest in country music – an achievement I would have thought impossible a year ago!
Dear, sweet, wonderful Karen, who writes so beautifully and who treats me like a mentor, teacher, guide and older sister: you inspire me, you truly do. You have reawakened the love of writing in me and instilled the habit of not only feeling grateful for good things but seeking out things worthy of gratitude. Your journey parallels mine so closely. You follow yours with a grace and richness and happiness that is beautiful to see and will be an inspiration to many.
Charlene and Linda and all the dozens of people I’ve met over the years in the Cornbury Society – we don’t meet online much but you too have been mentors, role models, teachers, partyers, inspirations and friends. Thank you for all you have done for me.
Suzanne and Ginger and Alyssa and Waneta and Barbara Anne and all the other amazing, confident, talented and caring women I have had the honour to work with creating the Esprit convention for the last fifteen years: you too may not read this, but you have inspired me and energised me. Esprit taught me to embrace and celebrate not just what I do but who I AM. Your gifts to me have been countless.
My cousins: Ian, Don, Betsy, Susan. You were among the first I told and you all accepted me unconditionally. I am proud to be part of our extended family together.
My other extended family: Sharon, Diana, Mary, Eileen, Peggy, Ron, Ross, Mac and Quincy. You are another entire group I surprised from left field, but who were willing to meet me and take the time to accept and adapt, even if you didn’t fully understand what I was doing.
My co-workers: Shannon, Cilla, Peter, Margaret, Sharon, Bruce. You kept my secret, maintained the cover and the camouflage when I needed it most – and are happy for me now that I no longer need it.
My fellow volunteers at the theatre: Lisa-Marie, Tracey, Brian, Margaret, Joyce, Pam, Victor, Dave (and about a dozen more there). Only a couple of you know my back story; the rest all know me just as Stephanie. It is wonderful to work with you as just part of the crew.
My singing buddies in Collage: Terry, Betty, Carolyn, Elaine, Lorraine, Kirsteen, Connie, Steve and Darren. My transition was hard for many of you to understand and accept but somehow we still always make lovely music, bring smiles to people’s faces and have a great time together. Singing is special to me and it is wonderful to share it with you all.
There is the army of people who took care of me in Montreal. Dr. Pierre Brassard and Dr. Maud Bélanger surely head the list as the surgeons who made my body congruent with my soul, but Chantal and Yvon, Richard, Carol, Marc André, Simon, Isabel, Menon, Francesca, Diana, Marjolaine and many more all cared for me professionally, expertly and caringly to make sure my experience and recovery a wonderful, special time.
And there are hundreds, maybe thousands more. There are distance healing practitioners, friends all over the world, neighbours, entire church congregations. We are connected not face to face but through the power of prayer.
Let me tell you a true story.
As I was being rolled into the operating room in Montreal Monday morning, I saw at least eight faces around me – the surgeons, the anesthesiologist and several others. But as I moved onto the table there were suddenly about twenty or thirty more there with me, unseen yet real and tangible, with their hands on me, their hands on the table, invisible but definitely present. They were only there for a few moments until I went under, but there was an unmistakable presence of caring people and a warm blanket of love over me.
I found out two days later that on the day following my surgery, the Prayer Group at the Amity Assembly of God had gathered to offer prayers for me, symbolically laid their hands on a table together and spiritually held me up in prayer. They did that the day AFTER my surgery – yet I tangibly felt the power of their prayer on the day of the surgery, right there in the OR. I know none of these people except two. I cannot explain it except to say that God answers prayers when the answers are needed, which may have little to do with when the prayers were actually offered
I am truly a cherished daughter of a loving, imaginative, creating God and I am constantly surrounded and blessed by His angels, both winged and wingless.
So great a multitude.