From Journeys and Transitions
Born Again, For the First Time
December 6 & 7, 2005
I sit, now, to record the events of the most meaningful day of my life.
After the last entry, Teresa and I gathered our luggage and made our way down to the Parker House garage, just off the street. It was a cold morning by San Francisco standards, lurking in the low forties at five thirty in the morning. The street was vacant, save for a lone figure walking in the distance, and the occasional streetcar that rumbled down the tracks beside us.
The usually bustling city was still asleep, and the slight fog made the sparkling lights glow in the velvet folds of the hills as they ran on down to the sea.
We used our remote to open the tiny garage, loaded the trunk with our belongings, and then Teresa skittered into the passenger side and climbed over the stick shift into the driver’s seat (as there was not enough room even to open the driver’s door!)
She pulled out part way, and I stepped inside to enjoy her chauffeured ride to Davies Medical Center where Dr. Ousterhout would perform surgery to shorten and curl my upper lip a scant two hours later.
As we rode up and down the dark rollercoaster streets, occasionally swerving into another lane to avoid and electric bus, we chatted with nervous energy, both about the upcoming event, and all those incidental topics one uses to avoid having to address more anxious topics directly.
We arrived at the facility with some fifteen minutes to spare before the Admissions office was supposed to be open. But upon entering the lobby, we discovered they were already in operation, and due to the slow traffic of the early hour, received immediate service.
Here I sat, verifying personal information for the umpteenth time, signing forms, and having my identification bracelet fastened to my left wrist. And there sat Teresa, having exchanged positions with me from what they were exactly seven weeks ago to the day when I was the nervous loved one concerned about the outcome for my mate, and trying to put on a confident front.
Normally, the nurse’s floor isn’t ready to receive until six o’clock, but as luck or providence would have it, just as we were finishing the paperwork, the attendant got the call to send ‘em on up. And so, I was lead, with Teresa at my side, upstairs to room 111.
I was told I would be prepped in that room but, unlike Teresa, since I was an out patient, I would be returning to the same room after surgery for a brief recovery check before being released.
The floor nurse came in to recheck all the information, direct me to disrobe and don the hospital gown, take my vitals, and answer any questions. Then, she inserted the shunt for the IV, which (fortunately) was the least painful one I have experienced.
These rituals completed, Teresa and I were left alone for a few minutes when Marylou the nurse from Cocoon House stopped by to verify that she would be my operating room nurse today. We all had a short but bubbly conversation, and then she left to prepare for my arrival down stairs.
About forty-five minutes later, Dr. Ousterhout entered to take a final measurement of my upper lip, verify everything was honkey dorey, and then to bid me adieu until we would meet again in the operating room.
In his brief overview, he explained that I would be given an IV of morphine and a valium-like drug. I might fall asleep, or I might not, but the real purpose was just to deaden the pain a bit so when he injected several shots of Xylocaine around my lip and nose it wouldn’t hurt too much.
Shortly after he departed, the orderly arrived and wheeled me down to surgery. This time, it was I who went through the automatic double doors while Teresa waited behind, after one last kiss and squeeze of the hand.
So, I finally got to see how this previously forbidden area looked. Laying on the gurney, of course, one sees little but the ceiling. I noticed that the lights, not unlike the painted stripes separating lanes on a road, gave off a yellow-green color. And so I commented to the orderly, “Follow the yellow-green brick road.”
First stop was a holding area where four of us awaiting surgery were temporarily “stored” in small curtain-separated areas in a single common room. One by one, the anesthesiologist for each patient came in to describe the specific procedure and verify information. The attending nurses also stopped by.
After a few minutes alone, listening to the earthy flute music that played gently from the speakers, my anesthesiologist returned and wheeled me into the operating room.
It was quite a modern affair, much better equipped than those of my previous acquaintance. Marylou was there, as was an assistant, and then there was Dr. O himself.
It was a cheery room, filled with a combination of professional and conversational banter, in which I also indulged.
I was moved from the gurney to the table, strapped down, covered up, hooked in for vitals, connected to the IV anesthesia, and set to go. Dr. O placed a raised rubber pedestal beneath my head to hold it at the proper position, and then arranged my hair behind my ears. As he was doing this, and since he would be working on my upper lip, I asked him to “Just take a little off the top,” which fit in nicely with the pleasant atmosphere this morning.
As it turned out, I was indeed awake and reasonably alert for the whole procedure. I listened to the conversation, contributed when I could, and even found myself smiling while he worked on my lip!
Though I had been led to expect that the injections would be painful, the pain level was only a “1” on their scale of zero to 10. And by the time the final injection had been completed, there was no pain at all. (In fact, it is right now exactly six hours since my last Vicodin – I’ve only had two – and I barely feel even the slightest pain!)
Rather than the traumatic experience anticipated, and as difficult as it may be to believe, this was almost fun! The procedure, which had been expected to take 90 minutes or so, took only 55. So, I was back upstairs, fully alert, and without dizziness or nausea by 8:45.
As soon as they began to wheel me up from the operating room, my mind turned to the fact that it was actually done! I had really changed my face in a permanent way. Before taking me to the room, the orderly left me briefly in the hall to see if Teresa was in the waiting room, and while I was alone I felt the most marvelous sensation of having “become” that I couldn’t help smiling, even with the swelling lip.
Apparently Teresa had left to check out from our hotel, so I was brought up to the original room, where I eagerly awaited the opportunity to see my new look in a mirror. But, none was available in the room. Rather than ask for one, I was just so smugly giddy that it had all become real, that I decided to simply wait until a mirror was nearby, and in the meantime, spent most of my time with a Cheshire Cat smile.
Teresa was already in route back to the hospital when they called her. She arrived about ten minutes later, and by then they had already provided me with juice and crackers, which I had quickly devoured.
Teresa helped me dress and then went to bring the car around while the orderly did a final check of the vitals, then made sure I could sit, stand, and walk without being too wobbly.
Now that I was steady on my feet, I went to the mirror in the bathroom for the first time to check out the results of Dr. O’s efforts. And, oh my God! Even with the small dressing under my nose, my lip was so completely female! Yes, swollen, yes mostly hidden under the bandage, but… well, there are simply no words to describe it. My entire face now looked fully female. The results I hadn’t even dare entertain as a distant hope were not only realized but exceeded! The man truly is a genius with his hands.
The orderly led me down to the hospital entrance, and since I was so well recovered, it was not even required that I use a wheel chair. We chatted for a moment until Teresa pulled up, and then I strapped myself in and away we went.
Because I was feeling so good, as soon as we hit the street I asked Teresa if she wanted to stop by Cocoon House first. I knew she really wanted to, but would never have mentioned it, and in fact I, too, wanted to go there, already feeling the beginnings of such reality as a woman, such legitimacy, that I needn’t fear a negative impact on my sense of self. And besides, I actually missed the place!
Upon our arrival we discovered Tricia helping one of the guests into the car to go to the hospital for her surgery later that day. Ships that cross in the night. She ushered us in, and we spent an enjoyable fifteen or twenty minutes talking with her and the three upstairs guests, who were in various stages of recovery.
Eventually, I knew it was time for me to leave and get on home, and so we exchanged email addresses, hugs, and bid our farewells.
As I left, I realized that one of the reasons I had wanted to stop by was to have even a brief moment of comradeship with other Dr. O patients while I was still wearing a bandage from also having his work. The last time, I was an outsider. This time, I was an alumni. In some small way, it bridged another gap with Teresa to be in Cocoon House while recovering from surger, even for so short a time. It provided a new context and put my whole previous week there in a different light.
The trip home was uneventful, save for the beautiful Fall weather, the occasional dozing off, and the growing feeling of being the real thing. A complete and natural woman.
Now, I know that sounds trite. And I know I’ve written such things in the past about some of my experiences. So to say I felt something so much more deep and meaningful this time runs the risk of sounding like the boy who cried wolf.
I wish I had the words to express what it feels like to look in the mirror and see someone different, still yourself but only because you know you are seeing your reflection. But the aura of the person in the mirror, the way they strike you, the impression you get when you look at them has completely changed.
It’s like you have a whole new identity signature, just like in Star Trek where every warp engine has its own warp signature. Though people can be classified into types, every person ultimately carries their own individual energy pattern – an emotional snapshot like Kirlian Photography or a Chakra that defines their pattern. That is perhaps the one thing that is not supposed to be able to change in a human being. No matter how much a person’s character alters, it is still built upon some foundation or framework that is unalterable… perhaps that is the best definition of how we feel about the soul.
You can change how you act, you can change what you think, you can change how you think about yourself, but you simply cannot change the unique identity of your soul. You can lose your soul, save it, redeem it, but the soul itself is elemental, indivisible, immutable, and absolute.
Yet the feeling you have when you look in the mirror at yourself after having surgery that changes your identity signature from male to female, well… male and female are so fundamentally imprinted in our genetic memory that it is simply inconceivable at a pre-conscious level that a male energy pattern and a female energy pattern could emanate from the same soul. It is one or the other. And since there is no way to alter the elemental soul, the mind simply can’t grasp the actuality of it. Rather, the psyche balks and rejects the image as being that of self. And yet, you move your arm and the reflection moves its, so you cannot escape the certain knowledge that it is, indeed, you in the mirror. But the identity fingerprint is all wrong. And so, you end up stuck in this mobius strip of contradictory emotions leaving you feeling not so much that you have become someone else but more like you never were the previous person.
I know, it sounds like so much techno-babble bullshit. But I suspect that is only the case because, in fact, there really aren’t any words to describe an emotion you can’t have unless you make the journey yourself. And that is why a gap developed between Teresa and myself, and that is also why I expect that anyone who reads this who hasn’t had some form of FFS, major or minor, will discount and reject my whole discourse as some sort of self-serving, self-aggrandizing diatribe designed solely to justify my own surgery or a ham-handed attempt to elevate myself above the rank and file of the ordinary, garden variety, run-of-the-mill transsexual, thereby bolstering my own misguiding efforts to truly feel female even though that is, in reality, an unattainable goal, and anyone who claims otherwise is either lying or self-delusional.
Well, that’s not true. If you’ve ever trusted me (and have I not been completely forthcoming in this journal through all of these years and entries?), trust me on this one:
You can do the impossible. You can open your eyes one day to realize a different reality, one that always existed but could not be perceived: that you really are a woman. You were born that way. You always will be a woman. You cannot change always having been a woman.
You were simply deceived because of the filter of your physical exterior, your body and face, which shifted the actual energy signature of your soul from female to an apparent identity fingerprint of male.
Only when you finally remove the filter of the body’s shape and the mask of the face do you finally see the truth of your gender in the mirror, not just feel the presence of it in your heart.
Just seven weeks ago I had not even known the fullness of my own female spirit. I had feared losing Teresa, both as a personality and as a mate. I had come to question my own identity, my own self worth, my own legitimacy as a woman.
At Cocoon House I had completely come into my own, spiritually, due to Teresa’s guidance and patience. Through many tears, angers, and blameful moments I had seen a gap widen between where Teresa had gone and where I was stuck – a gap I believed I could never cross, forever barred from the actuality of being a real girl. And now… now, that gap is gone.
In the day and evening back here at home I have learned that I can no longer see a man in the mirror. I have mentioned to Teresa a variety of personal experiences and questioned whether that is what she felt as well. In every case, it was. I now also know the land in which she resides. I am there myself.
I look in the mirror, and even with the swelling, cannot see the person I used to be no matter how hard I try. And the impact of the shorter, cuter lip is so pervasive that all my other features have softened and feminized as well. There is no remaining male quality about my face at all.
Even when the shadows are wrong, even as tired as I am, I have a woman’s face now, under all conditions, in all contexts. I can no longer present myself as a man no matter how I might try. And, I have become completely unreadable.
But even beyond that, as Teresa and I have discussed tonight, it is not so much like transforming as it is like being born again. It doesn’t seem like there is a progression from what we were to what we are. It is more like dying and being reborn, so that that previous life is not really your past anymore.
A change of identity has occurred in both of us, yet the remaining constant is our undying love for each other.
And so, we leave behind transition. We leave behind transformation. All gender-related issues have been addressed, resolved, satiated.
Others may argue the point, but Teresa and I are both now natural women, physically, spiritually, emotionally, and mentally. We never did think like or relate to men in any way whatsoever. The shells in which we were born were inappropriate and needed to be transcended, not merely altered.
And so, we have not been transformed, but rather we have ended the old lives and been reincarnated as women. Life is no longer about gender identity; it is simply about living and loving as two women, together.
A Clip from Melanie's Video Journal - December 7, 2005
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