When I had to come home early from my first Esprit, it was Jacqueline who sought me out and sat me down on my last morning, after everyone else had gone off to class or their other activities, and talked to me. She knew I was upset, even though (I thought) I had done a pretty good job of not letting it show. But she knew. And so she sat with me, there in the hotel room and talked to me about the letdown that was inevitably to follow, and how important it would be to maintain the friendships that had grown, so suddenly, and with such intensity over the past three days.
“Did someone say something to you?” I asked.
“No,” she said. “I just had a feeling that you might need someone to talk to. I’m a pretty intuitive person.”
Indeed. And a kind and a generous one, like so many of the people I met there. So when she flew back to Montreal, my heart flew back there with her, too.
Jacqueline has had her surgery, and I am over the moon with joy for her. I am so thrilled that I almost have no words to describe it. And I have almost no words to explain it, either. How can her surgery mean so much to me? Almost as much as my hopes for my own.
The obvious answer would be that it gives me hope. She is done with the waiting, the frustration, the gatekeepers. And she has done it despite all the anguish and heartbreak that makes the journey such a long and difficult one. She is proof that despite everything, those who need to make the journey can. If she can do it, then so can I. I am thrilled because she has patiently, graciously, and with more generosity than I deserve, encouraged me and shown me the way.
At the same time, my reaction has forced me to ask myself why actually having the surgery is so important.
Sometimes I imagine myself facing the interrogators at my re-evaluation, sometime next year, I hope, that panel of psychiatrists who have such power over my body and my life. “What difference would it make in your life,” they ask, “to have the surgery you say you want so badly? How do you imagine your life will be transformed? You say it is so important to you; what makes it so?”
No answer seems adequate enough. Perhaps, when something is as important as this, our words fail us. In her blog, Jacqueline says, “It will bring a physical and emotional congruency to my energy fields.” Er…Jacqueline, is that what you said to the psychiatrists? Okay, maybe they didn’t ask you that. But what if they ask me? I know what you mean, but did they? Can anyone outside the experience, anyone who is not trans, possibly begin to understand? This desire, this need, goes right to the core of who I am…and even though I’m saying it, I’m not sure I can explain exactly what the words actually mean. I speak in vague abstractions, because those are the only words that come to mind. Our experience is so far outside anyone else’s, how on earth can we possibly expect that person to recognize something in her own life that comes anywhere close to what we feel? How can you explain the taste of Sauvignon to someone who has never tasted wine? How can you explain the color purple to someone who is blind?
Perhaps the best we can do is by approximation.
Imagine, a woman who is a survivor of breast cancer. She has been down a road that none of us would want anyone to travel. We know this woman. She is our mother, our sister, our neighbour, our dearest friend. She has passed the gates of Hell and returned. Devastated. She feels mutilated. Her breasts are gone.
We get that, don’t we? We understand how she feels. Somehow, she is going to deal with the change, but for awhile, at least, we recognize, we understand, that she feels she is somehow less than she was. That she has lost something precious, some part of her self. Perhaps eventually, she will come to terms with that. Perhaps eventually, she will feel (almost) whole and feminine again. But for awhile, at least, she does not. And we understand.
In a very real sense, our body is our self. And when it is damaged (say) by accident, age, or disease, we are diminished. We are no longer whole.
And while I realize that in speaking of the cancer survivor, I am speaking in approximations, it is in some ways,(not all,) the same for the person who is transsexual, except her body betrayed her at birth, and it betrayed her again when she reached puberty. She never was whole. This is why the surgery is so important. It holds the promise that she actually can be.
So, I ask myself, how will my life be different if I have surgery? I am living as a woman, now. That won’t change. I will still sing in the choir. I will still work in my studio. I will still attend my women’s group. And I will still work at surrounding myself with wonderful and loving friends. How, then will it be different? I don’t know, but it will. For at least five years, I have lived almostfull-time. I didn’t imagine that life would be all that much different once I went completely full-time. But it is. It is richer, fuller, and happier now than I could ever have imagined. I began my “official” RLE on January 31st, about five months ago, and yet so much has happened since then, that date seems a lifetime ago. With the change outside, something changed inside, too. I know what joy is, now. And when I remember the despair I felt in the last few years of my male life, I realize that those years really werea lifetime ago. I imagine a similar change will follow surgery.
It’s as if we could give the cancer survivor back her breasts. This is why I take such joy in Jacqueline’s surgery. After all these years, she can be the person she has always been in her heart and in her dreams…and so can I. The very thought makes me feel luminous inside. It takes my breath away. When I think of Jacqueline, I could weep with joy. In fact, more than once, I have. And why not? We are becoming the women we scarcely dared to dream we could ever be.
It is more than joy. I think the word I have been looking for is luminosity.