After Life

Book Two: Purgatory

From Journeys and Transitions

by Melanie

Chapter 75

Unfinished Business

October 23, 2005

It has been four days since Mira removed Teresa’s final bandages, and just one week since I gave up the male ghost.  Teresa and I have returned home to pick up the course of our lives.  It is still too early to know what elements of our pre-surgery existence will continue into the post-surgery world, which will fall by the wayside, and what new ones will gradually come to be a part of our lives or may be thrust into them by cataclysm.

I have found peace, and lost it.  I have been elated and depressed.  I have been confident that everything has already worked itself out, and just as sure that it never will.  I see now that the hell of the days and months leading up to surgery has been replaced with the uncertain flames of a personal purgatory.  Whether my ultimate fate is to ascend to heaven, remain lost in limbo, or to slip back into the fiery abyss and be consumed once and for all, is beyond my vision.  Still, venting my angst through words buys me time.  And I exist on the hope that if I can hold out long enough, my punishment will be over, and my pain will reach an end.

I can tell you that sometimes I welcome the thought of my life ending.  I can’t imagine that I would ever take my life, but when I am most depressed, as I am right now, I think it would be a wonderful world if a meteorite fell from the sky, crushed my skull, and vaporized my brain.  And end to pain – “’tis a consummation devoutly to be wished.”

Like the Mel Gibson character, Riggs, in the first Lethal Weapon movie, in my mind I can put the gun into my mouth, but cannot bring myself to pull the trigger.  But, as when his partner, Danny Glover, shoves a loaded gun at him saying, “You want to kill yourself?   Then go ahead and do it!” – Riggs takes the weapon, puts the muzzle to his temple and, with wild eyes says, “You want me to do it?  You REALLY want me to do it?”  he actually pulls the trigger.  Just before, the film edits between increasingly close shots of Gibson’s eyes and Glover staring into them.  It is only because we see in Glover’s eyes the eventual recognition that this isn’t a game, that Gibson will really do it, that he understands just how troubled his partner is, and puts his hand forward between the hammer and the cartridge, preventing the gun from firing.  And when he grabs the gun back, Glover says, “You really are crazy!”

That is how I feel on my worst days – really crazy.  Not insane where I can’t make head or “tale” of reality, but where life itself is so painful, that although I am not a quitter and try to hold out, it would only take the encouragement of another to conclude it all and thereby end the “heartache and the thousand natural shocks that flesh is heir to.”

What has put me in this state?  What has dropped me from the heights of the conclusion of the previous book to the depths of the beginning of this one?  To share, I must return to where I left off – the following morning, actually, as we prepared for Mira to arrive and take Teresa to have her final bandages removed.

Wednesday, Last

We awoke that morning, full of anticipation, hope, and nervousness.  We had intentionally slept late in order to make the time pass faster.  A few times, during the night, I have joined Teresa in her twin bed so that we could snuggle, as much as possible, under the circumstances, ever alert to avoid bumping into her face.  Eventually, I returned to my bed, and we both dozed off.

Neglectfully, we had not really done an interview for the DVD since moving to the upstairs apartment, and since we would be leaving for home right after the session at Dr. O’s office, it would either be this morning or not at all.

First, however, was the repacking of our gear.  When we move in, we REALLY move in!  We had boxes and bags of food, clothing, and equipment.  It took some time to get it prepared so that we could quickly load the car when we returned from the doctor’s.

Mira called to say she would be there sometime between 9:30 and 10:00, which gave us just enough time to do the interview.  Lighting was bad in that room at that time of day, so it took a few attempts to get the right angle so Teresa would not be cast into shadow.  Eventually, a good picture was arranged, and the interview began.

Previously, I had been on camera with Teresa, asking her questions and interjecting a few of my own concerns.  But I had felt I was standing in her limelight, though I didn’t mention it to here, and so this time I arranged to do a single on her.

There were a few false starts, and she almost cancelled the interview, as she was becoming increasingly self-conscious, but I convinced her to try just one more time, and eventually, everything flowed.

I do recall thinking, as I watched her through the viewfinder, how wonderfully female, how genetically female she appeared.  And her voice is so soothing, so feminine, so full of timbre, yet not masculine at all.

And I thought about how much like a transsexual I looked in our earlier interview in the garden at Cocoon House, and how my voice was so harsh, stagy, and affected.  In fact, that is how I have always compared Teresa and myself.  I am full of energy, but more like an impression of a woman in my manner, whereas Teresa is so real, from deep down inside, that I have always felt like a pretender whenever she has spoken with her true female voice.

Of course, there are many times she has been just as masculine in voice as I sometimes get.  Over the years, we have shared our love of performing vocal caricatures, slipping into various auditory identities, oft in mid-sentence.  But Teresa has never had that fake, flighty, high-pitched, unreal voice that I frequent, especially when I have lost my confidence.  And I have never had that female radio announcer, soothing, earthy, honest, and feminine voice that Teresa also slips into when being herself – when being sincere.

Although Teresa would frequently lose her confidence and slip into a pseudo male-mode, both vocally and in actions, whenever she could let her true self out, she was wonderfully true of feminine spirit.

As I watched and listened, I had a twinge of fear – driven by the knowledge that she would, eventually, become confident all the time, as a result of her surgery, while I, who had no such confidence, would continue to strain and pose.  And the result would be that I would be living with a real woman whose very presence would constantly remind me that I was not her equal – that I was still just a transsexual, and would never be the woman she was.

It is one thing to finally come to terms with my inner self, as I did last Saturday night.  But, if that cannot translate through your physical being, no matter how genuine you feel of heart, you always feel like a pretender in the physical world.

But, I quashed these thoughts, replacing them with memories of being told by the girls upstairs, by Tricia (and through her by Terri), and by Dr. O. himself, that I had extremely feminine features, and needed no surgery to pass.

Why then did I still see myself as the gawky transsexual?  How could I look at her pictures on the laptop that showed her still bruised and swollen, and yet clearly a woman, whereas in my best light, the secret photos I took of myself while she slept looked to me as if I were half man and half woman – some in-between freak, not fitting in either world, but clearly readable by both?

There was no time to speculate, as we needed to stow the gear and be ready for Mira to arrive.  Momentarily, the famous black Jaguar appeared in the driveway, and we were out the door.

The previous trip in the Jaguar had been to bring Teresa to Cocoon House.  At that time, she was still so wrecked from surgery that I did not film the journey, and rather kept my full attention on her.  But this time, she was full of energy (and much more alert), so I taped the drive for the DVD.

I had almost suppressed, until now, my feelings during the drive.  Mira was, of course, driving, Teresa, as to be expected, was in the front passenger seat.  I was in the back seat video taping.  The whole way there, I felt separated in the back.  I felt apart from Teresa’s experience.  I felt as if she had moved into a different realm and had left me behind.  I almost cried, but held it back lest I spoil the drive.  And I was angry.  Not at Teresa who was now on the other side of surgery, and could help being truly female no more than I could help still being physically transsexual.

I was angry with the old Teresa – the transsexual, like me, who had chosen to save herself and leave me behind.  How cruel, thought I.  How uncaring.

Sure (I told myself) she couldn’t have gone on without the surgery.  She was at her life’s end.  I love her so much I could not have denied it to her (though I did try to talk her out of it uncounted times).  I understand the need for self-preservation.  But had I not denied myself for decades for my family, and then continued to deny my needs supporting Teresa all the way up through surgery?  So how was her decision supportive of me?  Could we not – could SHE not have found a way that we both could have been saved together?  And why did not she do what I have done so many times – what I had, in fact, done by working so hard to help her get the money for her new face – to sacrifice myself for the benefit of those I love?

And then, we arrived, and I busied myself with the technical details of getting good shots on the way into the building and into Dr. O’s office.  There was a little chit chat in seeing the girls of the office that Teresa hadn’t see since before her surgery.  (When Dr. O. removed her stitches, he had opened the office alone just for that.)

We were brought to the same room yet again, and Mira came in, equipped to remove the titanium staples from Teresa’s temples, clip the non-dissolving sutures from her nose, remove the plastic splints from inside her nose, and the tape and outside supporting splint from outside the nose.

Other than when Teresa first arrived in her room from Surgery, just 8 days earlier, I had not experienced something so heart-wrenching.  Apparently, Teresa has much better nerve connection than most experience right after surgery.  Though good in the long run, it also made the procedures so painful that Mira had to stop several times to dry the tears on Teresa’s cheeks.

But this time I was prepared, emotionally, so I set about taping the who event from every conceivable angle, including graphic close-shots that sometimes chill the bone just to see them.

And then, it was over.  The tapes had finally be removed, the external splint was office, and Teresa’s new (albeit swollen) face could be seen in its entirety for the very first time.  I almost gasped at how pretty she was, and more than that, how genuinely female.  I was so happy for her!  And so miserable for myself.

The worst of my personal fears had come true, and the greatest of my hopes.  I was in a relationship now with a real woman.  A woman who truly looked like a woman, no matter now tired or run down, no matter how sick, no matter how her hair was – forward or back, no matter what she was wearing, or if she was stark naked.  And here was I – feeling so much the transsexual that everyone says is unreadable.  Seeing the maleness in my face, knowing that I had to put my best angle forward, stay out of side light, keep my hair down over my forehead.

We were no longer the same, and what was worse, she was genuine, and I was broken and alone.

Again, though, I put on a good face, not just on the outside, but on the inside.  I convinced myself how happy I was for the two of us.  Tricked myself into believing that I could only see Dave, the woman, in the mirror, and even asked Mira about the surgery to repair and beautify my upper lip, getting a price for the procedure in fact.

I knew the effect of that change would make me even more unreadable.  And I knew that it would soften my features and counteract my male features.  And I refused to let it even enter my mind that Teresa no longer had anything to counteract.  She no longer had any male features to balance out.  But I would.

She started out having FAR more male attributes to her face than I.  When Dr. O. whittled on her, he carved them ALL away to perfection.  But since I apparently have features that fall within the female norm, he won’t be doing those surgeries on me.  And so, the little male imperfections remain on my face, and no matter how feminine I may make myself look with some procedures, the tiny male attributes I have will always leave me a transsexual standing next to Teresa’s perfect female countenance.

But since I didn’t allow those thoughts to form, and squelched the emotions that would have led to them before they were born, I just noted the transient feeling, and never came to the words.  I come to them now, knowing what that aborted feeling really was and where it would have gone if left full term.

Mira, now, retreated to her office to prepare paperwork.  One of the items is an identity paper.  Apparently, Teresa’s looks over the next few months will become so different from her photo IDs that she will not be able to prove who she is.  The letter, signed by the doctor, explains that she recently had massive cosmetic surgery that has altered her looks.  And this is to be used by her until she can get new photos taken.

Whereas I could still get by with my Dave ID, if I simply drew in longer hair.

While Mira was busy, Teresa and I were relegated to some chairs outside her office to wait.  I decided to use the time to call Mary, my wife, on the cell phone, see how she was doing, and inform her that Teresa was all done, looked great, and had nothing left to do but heal.

When I was finished, Teresa called me aside to tell me, quietly, that my voice had dropped back into male levels when I spoke with Mary on the phone.  She told me this from kindness, knowing that I had suppressed my female self in exchange for a fake male persona with Mary throughout our three decades together.

I took it in the spirit intended, and determined within myself that I would not let that happen again.

And then it was time to go.  We wished everyone goodbye, they wished us all good luck.

We had left our car in the hospital parking structure for eight days, with a $20 a day maximum.  It had been suggested to us that we show up after ten p.m. to get our car as the gates are up at that time and you can drive right out without paying.  But Teresa, having grown so much in her attention to details of honesty since, as she says, she has been in my influence, did not want to skip out.  She told me she would rather pay the whole $160 than do something dishonest.

Now, quite truthfully, that is way beyond even my own sense of ethics.  I figure if a place allows a loophole from ten p.m. to 6 a.m. every day where they put the gate up and allow you to leave without paying, you are under no obligation to do so.  But, Teresa felt that her guardian angel had seen her through this far, and she didn’t want to offend her.  She had mentioned her intention to Mira, who suggested we check with the Admissions desk, as they may have some sort of voucher or discount they could offer.  We explained we had left the car for eight days while Teresa was recovering from surgery, and they provided a voucher.  We didn’t know how much it was for, but when it was presented to the parking attendant, he charged us ten dollars for just half a day.  As Teresa says, it was validation of the desire to be honest.

With me driving, we made the quick trip back to Cocoon House.  A block away, we saw Terri, Tricia, and Mary Lou all headed out to lunch.  They didn’t see us, so we knew there would not be the warm good-byes.  Once in the house we discovered that the two previous guests who had been our roommates were both gone as well!  And, a new inhabitant we’d never seen before was curled up on one of the beds in the back room.  We still don’t know where our new friends ended up.  Perhaps they moved downstairs, perhaps they went out for a walk.  Either way, we packed quickly, and I loaded the car as Teresa is not allowed to lift or carry for about a month.

With a last look back, and a keen eye for traffic, we tried to remember which way to turn on Caesar Chavez, felt confident it was to the right, and headed off to the freeway.

If you are not familiar with San Francisco, it is a tangled maze of one-way streets, roads that run up and down hills like a roller coaster, and freeway onramps that rival the dead sea scrolls or quantum theory in hiding their secrets from the Common Man.

Nonetheless, having made three recent trips to the city, we only made one wrong turn, heading the opposite direction of what we wanted on the freeway itself, and this was easily remedied by getting off, turning around, and getting back on track for home.

It is about two and a half hours from San Francisco to our home in the Sierras, along the main highway from Sacramento to South Lake Tahoe.  Along the way, I was so amazingly cheerful.  I really felt good about myself.  And I felt good about Teresa.  I am so much in love with her, and I find myself getting “interested” just by glancing over at her.

The new discovery of my truly inner womanhood filled my heart.  And to be honest, it hasn’t left me nor wavered in the slightest since that fateful evening of self-discovery a week ago.  That feeling of not being true within myself, of wondering if this was as good as it gets, of feeling like a fake woman in my own mind – that feeling is gone forever, and I am sure and certain that I always was a woman in heart, right back to my earliest memories.  No, my depression stems for other issues, separate but related, and in fact (as you shall see) would never have occurred if not for the wonder of embracing my true self.

Driving as the newly discovered me, for the first time, was a wonderful experience.  I felt no need to be aggressive on the road.  And every change of scenery was seen with new eyes, as if for the first time.  There was a gentle peace in my heart that I had never felt before, except perhaps as a very small child many decades ago.

I truly felt myself as a woman, I knew I thought as a woman, I knew what all women know – the things that make us the same, foundationally, underneath our individual personalities.  I have NEVER felt more satisfied, before or, alas, since.

And though the nature of the feeling has never vanished, it is now placed in a context that causes me constant pain.  How odd, the fulfillment of completeness and true self-knowledge coupled with an agony of the greatest suffering….

Still, this was a good trip, punctuated with our loving, ongoing banter, and with high anticipation for the wonderful life we plan on sharing together.

At long last, we arrived back at our mountain home, and pulled up to the door to be met by our friend, who had faithfully watched the place, fed our cats, and collected the mail for the full ten days we were gone.

We received a very warm welcome, and Teresa garnered much praise on her new look, almost spectacular despite the swelling.  The three of us traded stories of the week that was, then our friend eagerly asked if we could break open the packaging on the 42” plasma television Teresa had ordered delivered while we were gone as her recovery present.

With a little effort, we got it up and working while Teresa watched on (following doctor’s orders).  Magnificent picture!  And to top it off, I had been searching for a new piano keyboard, a synthesizer really, that had eighty-eight true weighted piano keys, but would also record directly to my computer.  It had also arrived while we were gone, and I quickly had that set up as well.

I should have felt nothing but elation at being back home with my beautiful mate in our new home in the mountains, most of our debts paid, business on the rise, toys like the plasma screen, and a future of going out together, two gorgeous women, made all the better by the newly found fullness of my woman self.  And yet, even then, I could feel something stirring deep within – something scary and horribly negative.  I dismissed it at the time, assigning it to exhaustion and the high emotion of the days previous.  Now I know, it was another inner truth struggling to be free.  And I was suppressing it through automatic mental pathways as surely as I had suppressed the extent of my female soul for so many years.

That night, Teresa and I shared a large bed together for the first time since we left the lower apartment.  And though our friend was just down the hall in one of the other bedrooms, we snuggled and fondled, and felt the intensity of two lesbian women’s souls intertwined.

In the morning, breakfast was made, computers and gear replaced in its ordinary position, and plans made for me to take our friend to the airport for a six o’clock evening flight home.

At lunch, while Teresa napped, I heated up for our friend a serving of Teresa’s famous “Beer Chicken,” which we had frozen from the last batch she made, just before leaving for San Francisco.  (The gravy is considered by many both a food group of its own and a beverage.)

All too soon, the time was at hand for the excursion to Sacramento.  Our friend woke Teresa to say goodbye, and with cheery farewells, we set off to catch a plane.  During our interval on the highway, our friend and I exchanged stories of gender-related experiences, sharing and comparing feelings, insights, fears, and triumphs.

We took the winding, tree-lined corridor from the freeway to the terminal, and I bid my fond farewells to one of the first true friends I have made in my adult life.

Pulling away from the curb, I realized that these were my first moments alone since I had found myself that Saturday night, just five days ago.  I drank in the experience.  I knew I was seen as a woman by all who saw me driving, and I knew that for the first time I truly felt like a woman, knew I was a woman on the inside, seen only by myself.

Transition and Transformation together for the first time.

But it was not to last.

Still, that night, we reveled in each other’s bodies, alone again after twelve days surrounded by others.  And as we touched and spoke words of love, we both felt complete as women, and the experience was far more intense that I had ever known.

The following day, Friday, was the beginning of our efforts to get life back on an ordinary track.  Some workmen showed up early to continue a construction project on the deck for our landlady.  I needed to make a trip to the store to re-supply our larder, and also to the post office to send out some payments I had intentionally neglected during our sojourn.

After breakfast, showering and getting dressed in some of my new clothes, plus a full complement of make-up, I felt my very prettiest, and set off to encounter “civilians” for the first time since we originally left our mountain town.

The post office was first, and when I went inside for stamps, the good-looking, mustachioed man behind the counter called me “dear,” twice in the course of our conversation.  I hadn’t had that kind of reaction since the very first days of my transition, when I was far younger and prettier.

My heart took wing as being seen again, after all these years, as I felt inside.  And taken along with my new full sense of my female self, it was perhaps my best personal moment ever.

I returned to the car with a spring in my step, and drove ‘cross town to the brand new 24-hour Safeway to do our shopping.  And it, too, was a wonderful trip.  While I was at the store, I picked up a hair color and highlighting kit.  (Teresa had pointed out that if I wanted to look younger, I should sweep my hair back and fasten it behind as I had done in one of my favorite photographs with an old boyfriend.  So, I had done that.  I knew I had some gray in my hair, but when I pulled it back, a huge shock of gray hair was exposed at the temple.  It wasn’t unattractive, but made me look – and feel – much older than I wanted to.  Hence, the hair coloring kit).  I also purchased Oil of Olay eye treatment to get rid of some of the fine wrinkles that have begun to show, and also their beta-hydroxy treatment, with which I hoped to eliminate some of the texture problems and fine lines around my mouth.

I had no problems in the aisles nor at the checkout counter, and drove home with such an uplifting feeling that I should finally be both complete and at peace.

When I arrived, I discovered the landlady had shown up to check on the workmen’s progress.  She and I had a pleasant conversation, and then I unloaded the huge trunk load of groceries I had selected.

The rest of that day was largely uneventful, but spent in true (though transient) happiness.  And that night, we again joined our souls – at least as much as we could with the medical restrictions to raising Teresa’s blood pressure!

Yesterday morning, Saturday, we rose to discover the workmen outside returning to finish the job.  Teresa remained in one of the sweat suits she had purchased for her recovery.  I was in nothing but my white terrycloth bathrobe, when a knock came at the door.  It was one of the workmen who explained that he had forgotten his extension cord and wondered if I could lend him one.  And in his tone, was the same male to female vibe I had gotten from the postman the day before.

I found a cord, presented it to him, and closed the door.  And then it hit me – I had just played out the same scene that Dr. O. described in his pamphlet!  I had gotten very little sleep.  I was in my bathrobe, no make-up, and hadn’t even brushed my hair.  And this virile, mid-thirties construction worker had completely read me as female, and even acted in that special way they have when encountering an attractive one.  What’s more, I hadn’t even worried about my appearance before I opened the door.  I had just assumed I was myself, and it never crossed my mind to trouble myself about it.

This hit a new watermark for me.  I felt as if I had finally arrived to my salvation.  I felt as if Teresa and I were truly equals.  And a sense of well-being filled my heart.

I had used my night crèmes the evening before, and since they were probably helping, I decided to finish the job and color my hair.  Now I have only tried this once before, and it was difficult. But this time, it went so smoothly.

The highlight part of the kit was unfamiliar to me, and I didn’t leave it on long enough.  As a result, rather than creating golden brown highlights, it gave my hair an overall red-orange sheen – not unattractive, though not what I had expected.

In fact, it made me feel a little more special, a little more unique.  Teresa calls it “auburn,” but I am glad it is just days before Halloween and the following Fall season.  It makes me look appropriate to the time of year.

Teresa had experienced a bad night for pain.  So much so that she called Mira first thing in the morning, and Dr. O. called in a refill prescription for the Vicodin.  She still had a day’s worth left, and I had to make a trip down the road to Placerville to deposit a royalty check so I could cover the rent.  So, I dressed in the same clothes I wore Friday (which worked even better with the new hair color), put on my make-up, and hit the road.

I had a little trouble finding the bank, as I had only been to that branch once before, and Teresa had been driving.  But, after overshooting, I finally found it.  And rather than simply depositing the check in the ATM, I was feeling so good about myself I thought I’d stop inside and take care of some business I’d been putting off.

I needed to get a replacement card ordered, as the code numbers had worn off the back of mine.  Plus, I needed to change my address on all my accounts.  And finally, my PIN number never worked on the new business card they had sent me months ago, and I needed to get it activated.

So, I waiting my turn, then went up to the teller to take care of business.  And here is where by day started to head South.  I became VERY nervous speaking with her, speaking with a person so close, face to face, especially a woman.  And though she never gave a clue that I was acting strangely or looking odd, I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was and did.

I think I covered well enough to not let my nervousness show through, but to me I was all gawky and tense.  Nonetheless, I had entered feeling supremely confident and left feeling seriously unsure of myself.

Then I noticed that Raley’s Supermarket ( a major modern chain filled with exotic items and many departments) was right across the parking lot.  Since I had forgotten a few things at the Safeway the day before, I decided to check our Raley’s, which I had been meaning to do since we moved to the area.

It was the most wonderful food store I have ever explored.  But I was torn in two directions.  On the one hand, I was absolutely sure that I looked VERY pretty.  And, I knew that with the hair color, I looked much younger as well.  I also recognized that I was overdressed, more like a well-off visitor than a resident, but since this is a tourist town, that is not out of place.

But on the other hand, I was carrying with me the self-consciousness and fear of discovery that had washed over me at the bank.  And I couldn’t shake them no matter how I tried.  So, with this odd incongruent juxtaposition of a sense of physical beauty but absolute certainty that I was completely readable, I went about my mission and filled by basket with the few items from my list.

At the checkout counter, I was again very nervous, but seemed to pass well-enough, and gratefully retreated to the safety of my car.

Next, I knew I must stop at Long’s Drugs for Teresa’s refill.  After a few minutes on the road, I arrived and parked near the store.  I entered with some trepidation, and made my way to the pharmacy department.  There was one lady ahead of me, who quickly finished, and then I approached the lady at the counter.  I explained I was picking up for Teresa, and she found the prescription and then directed me to the pharmacist who was required to tell me about various warnings with this medication. 

In my conversations with the clerk, things had gone well, but I still couldn’t escape a growing dread of giving myself away.  When I spoke with the pharmacist, I got the definite impression that my reactions were not he expected, that there was something strange about my manner but he couldn’t say what.

I escaped as quickly as I could and decided to shop for some jewelry before facing the dreaded check-out counter.  I picked up a few things and spoke briefly with a clerk, again getting feedback that I was acting strangely in some way I couldn’t see.

And then, I braved the female clerk.  I hate being that close to people, not because of any physical signs of my physically male past, but because I feel like there is something in my eyes or my manner when engaged in one on one conversation that makes people give me a closer look and then they put two and two together.

And sure enough, that is what it seemed like happened.  The conversation started normally, but then I am sure I saw her look me over as if something had surprised her, and then try to cover it.  I am convinced her manner toward me changed.  And we (in the transgender community) know what that means.

Once you get going along the transition path, you reach a point where you don’t get laughed at anymore, and don’t receive verbal ridicule shouted at you.  But there are still times when you just don’t quite pass un-noticed, and someone tunes in to your secret.  They don’t make any obvious reference, but you can almost feel the room grow cold around you.  You can almost feel the spotlight scorching you.  And though you know they may not be sure that you are a transsexual, and certainly don’t see you as a man in drag, their suspicions are strong enough that they withdraw their woman-to-woman relationship, they mentally kick you out of the club, and you become a thing in their eyes, neither male nor female, and certain not like them.

This is almost more difficult to bear than being read outright.  You can respond to the overt reading with righteous indignation.  But the “soft read” as they are calling it now, gets under your skin, undermines your sense of self, and burrows through your heart like a beetle, slowly killing the tree it feeds on.

I left as quickly as I could, maintaining what composure I had remaining, and threw myself into my car like a woman drowning, grasping at flotsam that would only delay the inevitable.

By the time I returned home, I was falling into a major depression.  I tried to hide it, but my manner was so somber, my demeanor so pensive, that it wasn’t long before Teresa tuned in to the fact that something was horribly wrong and questioned me about it.

I was honest with her.  I can no longer be otherwise.  And my depression, naturally, depressed her.  I felt worse and worse as the evening progressed.  I kept checking my face in the mirror, and comparing it with her perfect female face.  There was no solace to be found.  My most wonderful moods of the last few days had been flipped topsy turvy, and I could not and still cannot believe I will ever feel anything more than transsexual, physically, no matter how truly female I now feel in my heart.

As the darkness of my mood deepened, I finally decided t go to bed, to lose consciousness so I could evade, at least temporarily, the constant pain in my soul.  Teresa joined me in bed, and I still responded physically, knowing that these problems are not caused by her but merely illuminated by what she has done.  We fell asleep, holding each other.

In the middle of the night, I awoke with a feeling of militancy.  I suddenly saw my soul not as fragile and easily squashed by the negative energies of life, but as rubber, perhaps inspired by the Beatles’ album, Rubber Soul.  I came to see that no matter how hard I was slapped down, no matter what pressures put me in a vice grip, once they had receded, I always spring back.

Until my moment of self-discovery a week ago, I had only seen a part of my true self.  So when it suffered the pains of a cruel world, it recoiled back into the place where the bulk of it always hid – the place I did not see myself; did not even know existed.

So it seemed as if I had been partially destroyed by the pain, and that merely encouraged me to hide from my own mind.  But now that I am all out in the open, I see that I am not destroyed but merely suppressed by forces beyond my ability to withstand.  Yet, is it not a woman’s way to bend and spring back, rather than stand immobile as a rock, either to withstand or wash away?

My essence cannot be destroyed, just temporarily repressed.  But I will spring back.  I have always sprung back.  And from this understanding, I drew strength.  I felt that I could stand tall against any soft readings, against any overt rejections, because no matter how excruciating the pain, no matter how powerful the forces against me, I will spring back.

This means to me that I am safe.  My being is eternal.  But the pain is real.  So the key is to minimize the pain, or avoid it altogether, but never at the expense of re-hiding my self.  Now that I am out to my own mind, I will never again forget who I really am.

I explained this to Teresa – that I intended to face the world with absolutely surety of my right to be me – that I felt entitled to express myself as myself.  And any negative energy intentionally or unintentionally sent my way is no threat, and will be reflected back by my rubber soul.

Let them be the ones who feel uncomfortable.  Let them be the ones who squirm under my scrutiny.  I felt as if I could be my feminine gentle self, but if the situation arose, take on the emotional world single-mindedly.

When I awoke, that frame of mind remained.  So I set about a plan to confront my world.  I put on an old ratty pair of blue jeans in which I had been read many times when I weighed more in our previous home.  I put my hair back in a ponytail, swept it back to expose my forehead, and fastened it there with hair spray.  (When I had first put my hair back, the bangs made me look too cute, and I wanted just the opposite.)

I put on no make-up, wore no jewelry, and specifically donned a low, v-cut neckline to draw attention to my Adam’s Apple.

 Thus accoutered, I sprang to my car and drove to the Safeway to pick up a few remaining items we needed.

I left the safety of the car to walk ‘cross the parking lot to the store.  I intentionally had parked some distance away so I would encounter as many passersby as possible.  During this first leg of my experiment, I ran into no visible signs of difficulty.  So I entered the store.

Rather than looking nervously around to see who might be noticing me, I retained my militant mind and casually, but with purpose, made my way up and down the aisles looking for my products.

I had wanted to use a hand-carry basket, but couldn’t find one.  Eventually, though, my load had become large enough that I really needed the carryall.  So I approached a middle-aged man who had a basket and asked where he got it.  He cheerfully directed me to the door of the store where they were in a stack.

I passed many other shoppers, and even with my rather formidable peripheral vision, was unable to see any hint that I was anything but passable.  And that was my real purpose of this expedition.  I needed to see if I was truly as passable as Teresa is.  I needed to know if my fears were only in my mind, or if I could truly relax and simply be myself.

If I dressed in the least glamorous way I could, no make-up, no jewelry, and hair pulled completely back, even with the masculine features I have, even with my slight but noticeable Adam’s Apple, was I truly a genetic woman in my look?  Was I, in fact, blessed with a female face, or were these others who had told me of my genuine appearance misled from the truth by their own knowledge of my true soul, or by a selection of good clothes, good make-up, and favorable lighting conditions?

The shopping trip went without a hitch – even the checkout counter where I specifically chose a guy.  When I worked my way up to him, he gave me hardly a second look.  He was far more interested in the woman working the register next to him, and kept looking over my shoulder to see her, and virtually ignored me.  I never saw any sign of recognition in his eyes.

Encouraged, I went back to my car and decided to try the drug store once more.  At first, I wanted to stop at the nail salon in the same shopping center, but saw that they were closed on Sundays.  I had thought it would be a really militant thing to go into a salon, dressed as I was, and sit face to face with a woman, presenting myself as a woman.

Clearly, I had determined to face my fears head-on.  I hid myself from myself for decades.  I am tired of hiding.  I will hide no longer, no matter the cost.

Passing the salon, I entered Long’s Drugs and did some window shopping.  I had a brief conversation with a clerk in an aisle, and got my first feelings that something was wrong.  Was it me, or was it her?  Was I imagining it, was she tuning in to some strange vibe from me, but not the TG one, or did she actually sniff the truth?  I decided to ignore it and proceed.

I took the shiny Santa Christmas candle to the check-out, and picked up a Sunday paper along the way.  The line was long, so the manager called for another checker, and since I was last in line, I was the first at the new aisle.

We started to chat, but then, just as the other day, I had a complete repeat of the same scene in the very same store!  Midway, she saw something, started averting her eyes, became withdrawn in her conversation.  I kept my cool, but it didn’t help.  The woman behind me became drawn into the conversation.  As I was leaving the counter, I commented on something the lady had said, and was ignored, shunned almost by the counter clerk.

I slunk back to my car, devastated again.  I was not as unreadable as Teresa.  I could be read.  And I didn’t know why.  But still, my militant nature refused to capitulate.  I rounded the corner and went into the hardware store – another trial by fire, even though I had nothing to buy there.

I didn’t linger, but I did walk up and down the aisles browsing.  Finding nothing I wanted, I left, but as I hadn’t really encountered anyone personally, it was hardly a fair test of anything.

I considered stopping a few other places, but in the end, decided that since I had that one bad experience, no additional experiences, no matter how good, would compensate for the bad one.

I returned home, expecting to give a false impression of the success of my trip to Teresa to create some positive feelings.  But, I was unable to sidestep the truth in the light of her questions.

She so wanted it to go well for me, but it had not.

Still and all, we needed to take some pictures of her today for comparison purposes.  So, I set up the lights and snapped a number of shots from different angles to do another “wrap-around” series.

And then, I told her I wanted to do the same for myself, and asked if she would take the pictures.  She said she’d be happy to, so I slicked back my hair as she had done to show the full shape of my face.  We clicked off a number of shots, and then I downloaded them all to my laptop.

I opened a picture of her taken just before surgery and found a counterpart angle from the new series.  Teresa had told me she hadn’t see that much difference in her face in the mirror, but when she saw the pictures, side by side, she was amazed at how much difference there was.  She went from appearing not only to be transsexual, but probably a guy in drag, to being a truly female and feminine pretty woman, even through the remaining swelling, even just 12 days after surgery.

When Teresa went back to her computer desk, I took a look at my series, and my heart nearly shriveled.  Here was a transsexual in some shots, and a man in drag in others.  To be honest, one or two of the angles, and some of my features in all angles looked female.  But in almost all of the pictures I was clearly not a woman at all.

What was worse, my Adam’s Apple made my neck look thick, and clearly mannish.  I fear that no matter how much work I might do on my face, I would never look female unless I did the Adam’s Apple trach shave as well.  But that often permanently lowers the voice, makes it more masculine, and since my voice is my stock in trade, and perhaps the one attribute I can usually feel is well within female parameters, I can’t imagine what my life would be like if I lost that quality.  I could no longer teach classes, I could no longer speak to strangers or on the phone, I could no longer sell voice tapes for Christ’s sake!

So, Teresa who never developed an Adam’s Apple since she went on hormones at age nineteen, will always be more genuine than I, unless I risk that which brings me the most comfort in my physical self and also pays my bills.

I was so saddened by the results of the pictures that my depression went even deeper than it had the night before.  I even went so far as to tell Teresa I thought it best that she no longer talked to me about gender issues, specifically about my issues, as we were in two different worlds now, and she could no longer relate.

Now there’s an approach guaranteed to strengthen a relationship, eh?

When the pressure became too great, I sat down to write.  Writing is my only successful therapy.  It vents the hurt and lets me get back to a more positive, or at least less-negative, outlook.

I’ve never written sixteen pages in one day before, but that is a good indication of just how painful these last days have been for me.

And now, as I wrap up this entry, I once more have brought up the pictures from today to review on my screen.  I’m not as shocked as I was this afternoon.  The writing I have done has helped to center me.  I look at Teresa’s pictures, and her transformation is astounding.  She really does look like a genetic woman.

I look at my pictures, and I see the transsexual still, but not nearly so intensely as I did before.  In fact, I look not a little like Paul McCartney, but then, I always did.  And we know how feminine his face has always been.

Mostly, what I have done, is to enlarge my picture and see if covering up certain features made me look more or less feminine.  This is a good way to see what helps and what hurts the overall appearance.  What I discovered is the same information I had come to earlier in the week.  The number one male quality I have to my face are my lips, and most specifically, my upper lip, which is too long from the nose down to the lip, and no longer curls up as it should, and is not full enough as a lip either.

When I cover that part of my face, even without replacing it with more feminine lips, just the removal of the masculine upper lip from the visible picture is enough to tip the balance, even for me, from feeling that I am looking at a man or looking at a woman.  It is almost like throwing a switch, the effect is so dramatic.

And this says to me, that as I concluded previously, if I want to truly be unreadable, the lip is the first thing to go.

What have I found myself now saying?  That although I pass pretty much perfectly when dressed well, and even better when I wear make-up, and better when I have my hair down in bangs, I have learned (from today’s experiences) that I don’t pass everywhere under all conditions.

But I can not escape the truth that there is something I can do about that.  I can take baby steps, I can make small changes one at a time as cost and convenience permit.  I can alter the most impactful quality of my face first, and then move on to the next.

I have no idea how far I’ll need to go to feel wholly confident in my unreadability.  I have no idea how far I’ll want to go to feel as feminine outside as I do inside.  But I do know that both are attainable.  The cause is not lost; the quest not a hopeless one.

I WILL overcome this depression that threatens to undermine my ability to engage in life, and worst of all, threatens my relationship with the woman I love more than myself.

I will NOT be seduced by the sirens of self-pity to remain in this purgatory any longer than necessary, stopping short, like the Donner Party, to feast upon my own soul.

And, most important, I WILL NOT let my own private suffering and weaknesses of spirit come between me and my Teresa, without whom, even should I come to be completely unreadable, life would have no meaning or purpose at all.

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