Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Letters from Harry eins (1)

I mentioned in another post that my mom started writing Harry around September of 1958 when a physician at Childrens Hospital of Boston recommended she contact him over me. It took my younger brother 4+ years after mom died in early 2005 to send me the boxes mom had intended to give me. He is a lawyer, a politician, and not much of a fan of mine.

We were close until he got involved with Republican Politics and I was a major hindrance because lots of people back home remember me and that got in his way. The storage seals on the boxes were broken so I know he took a peek.  Unless his German has improved the only letters in there he could have read were the early ones from Harry to me starting in 1961 when I was a freshman in college.

They must have taught mom record keeping at Radcliffe along with her Linguistic skills because she was fastidious about cataloging her letters with Harry's responses.  She typed most of her letters on a German typewriter and carbon copied everything. She even carbon copied her hand written letters. I wish I could ask her why she made copies of everything she wrote but that will have to wait a while.

It is decidedly surreal to read about yourself from the perspective of your mother and the doctor treating you and little miss smarty pants, as in me, wasn't as slick as she thought she was. I let the letters sit there for quite a while after I initially opened the box because I did not realize they were cataloged by date and the second letter I opened and deciphered, my German sucked then, was quite disturbing because it involved the catastrophic event that almost destroyed me in May of 1963 and what was done to me that fateful summer.  I may or may not write about that because if there ever was a signature of what was done to some of us it was what happened from May 15, 1963 until August that summer. I went from a scheduled surgery with Burou in Casablanca in early January 1964 to nearly being destroyed.

My older brother Ray was after me to dig into the pile and translate the letters from the beginning. I told him I planned on it since I had decided to retire in early 2010 and would have time but I think I know the other reason. I nearly destroyed me during that period but I also almost destroyed the people that loved me. Without Harry I am not sure my family would have survived because Harry's advice to mom was not only about keeping me on the straight and narrow, not an easy thing to do, but how to keep my two brothers engaged so they were not harmed by me because it took a lot of mom's time to help me.

That may or may not be the basis of some of my issues with my younger brother today. He acted up in High School and was rejected by Harvard where all the men were supposed to go and he might have been the smartest of all of us. It worked out eventually for him but Harvard Law Review is better than pregnant girlfriend and Suffolk Law Review by anyone's standards.

The other interesting data in the cataloged boxes is all the records from every psychological evaluation and medical test I was given from childhood through to college. It is how I found out I had very low testosterone levels and elevated estrogen. The only testing where I knew the results were those given to me when I entered college.

I thought the reason my mother had to travel with me for freshman orientation was because I was 15. Well I did until we arrived at college. I was two weeks early for freshman classes and freshman orientation was only the Thursday and Friday before classes started. I need to add that this particular University was chosen over MIT, Caltech, and others because both the University and the Engineering School agreed to protect me because of my transsexualism. They knew everything and Harry and my mom chose this school for me. Actually Harry chose it and mom agreed to it.

Harry knew people at the University Medical School and I have a copy of the letter where my mom and Harry asked them to test me but to do it blindly so no individual testing me would know my name or gender. Harry wanted a blind test so even the doctors conducting the psychological tests did not know my gender to avoid as much bias as possible. Some tests are analytical but others are observational. I was tested for 6 days and I was exhausted when it was over. I was actually listed as Subject A.  Could there have been a Subject B like me?

The only reason I know the results of those tests is I was present when the Doctor talked with my mom and that was because Harry's friend was called away for an emergency. The thing I love about most doctors is when dealing with a kid they talk to the parent like the child is not even in the room and this was no different.

The doctor had two folders in front of him. One was thin and was my University admission stuff and the other very thick one was the results from 6 days of torturing me. The man turns to my mom and tells her that 'she' has normal testosterone levels and slightly elevated estrogen levels for a 15 year old and the psychological testing shows her to be a completely normal 15 year old girl who shows some signs of stress in her life but that is to be expected with girls her age. He then adds he had no idea why the University wasted all this time testing your daughter because they were not paid.

When the doctor looks up my mother didn't say a word and just points at the admissions records and he looks confused and she motions for him to open it. My admissions records of course have the accurate records of who I am and the gender Male and he sits there when he realizes what is up and starts muttering 'oh my, oh my, how can this be so' or something like that and I am sitting there thinking to myself why the heck did I just go through taking the same tests from multiple doctors for 6 days. I don't know about the normal part but I could have confirmed the girl part by myself.

It didn't end there. The next day we were scheduled to meet with the Chair/Head of the Engineering School and the President of the University. In their mind it was a coup to scoop even a freak like me from MIT and the other big name technical schools. Dr. Fawcett was University President and I liked him immediately.  He was kind and he talked to me along with mom. He had a sense of humor because he looked at me and said I guess you confused one of my top Research Physicians yesterday and he told me his door was always open if I faced any issues so don't be afraid to drop by. I'm thinking that is weird because nobody was nice to me like that. He was true to his word.

The Chair of the Engineering school was very nice also. Sitting with him was a Professor Eldis O. Reed who would be my adviser, watchdog, surrogate father, protector emeritus, and my confidant along with his wife during my undergrad and graduate studies. The first word out of Dr. Reed is she should go to school as a girl which brought a smile to my face but could not be for other reasons involving my full-ride scholarship.

Dr. Reed is one of the smartest and most down to earth people I have ever know.  He had the humorous Reed Eyeball Theory which states 'That if it doesn't look right the odds are high it isn't' which was primarily aimed at making students observant and not locked into strictly numbers and he was famous for his Mechanics classes because he started every year off with a movie showing the Tacoma Narrows Bridge collapse with the refrain if we make a mistake we don't get second chances and then asks everyone why it collapsed. Most think it is a resonance issue which simplistically it is but I told him it was some form of torsional flutter which is now called aeroelastic flutter which got me off on the right foot.

My mom was incredibly observant.  In a letter she wrote to Harry after returning from my University she thanked him profusely for finding this University for me and added that she had never seen her daughter that happy and that Dr. Reed and I seemed to immediately have a connection. Dr. Reed would have a profound influence on my life and was one of the reasons I survived the summer of 1963.

Mom also mentioned she had met Karen, who would be my dorm caretaker, and she was very pleased with her which I never knew about.  I recently asked Karen and she said she thought I knew. I was in the first coed dorms at the University and they decided geeks were the best people to try it with. I had the only private room in my dorm  pod because there was no way I could room with a girl then and I would have psychologically damaged most young boys if I was their roommate.

In a letter from the summer of 1959 when we returned from a family vacation in Scotland, England, France, Spain, and Italy mom tells him she took his advice and let me off her leash for a while and she had tried his recommendation of having me stay in her room with her. There was a prophetic comment where she told Harry that 'she really is just a little girl' when she talked about how I interacted with this Scottish boy and mom was no dummy because she said it was so natural she has to have a boyfriend back here and I think I know who it is. Jack from Ayr in Scotland was a nice boy but he blew my cover back home.

I always wondered why mom sort of caved on that vacation after the disaster of Immigration when we landed in London. Harry had told mom to let her be herself and observe.  Harry always used female pronouns even before he met me.

The scary part is I never realized the pressure she was under from some family members and several shrinks I had seen to Institutionalize me. Some thought I belonged in a nut house.

I have gotten to the point where I can read the German slowly and admit that I have jumped to letters from important times in my life. I have avoided the letters from 1963 because I am not sure I want to know certain things. They both thought I should not marry husband #1 because I wasn't really marrying him. I was accepting him as part of the deal to raise his baby daughter which for some bizarre reason he had sole custody of.

Mom knew how badly I wanted a child. I would have married Satan to have a baby and he wasn't that bad but it felt like it at one time. Why is it so many of us want children so badly? A friend says it is natural for young girls to want children but sometimes I wonder if it is brainwashing but she was and is a joy. Husband #1 shall forever more be known as certifiable asshole #1 or CA1 in shorthand.  I should have stuck to bad boys.

I have written about what he did to me but in a third person narrative which should give you an idea how badly CA1 hurt me plus it might be too explosive for this forum. I think I'll ask my friend Elizabeth from NYC if I should. Lord I still despise CA1 which isn't good.

I actually have my diagnosis from Harry which is interesting.  Even in 1960 he was using his Benjamin Disorientation Scale in some form. I did find out why he was looking for someone when we met.  Mom sent him a photo of me and he was looking for me that way.  I wonder if that counts as mom playing Harry a little because she knew I was going as a girl to our initial meeting. Well I can assure her it was the one and only time I ever put anything over on or fooled Harry.  I always felt I was an open book to him and he was just reading from the pages of my life.  He knew me better than I knew me.

Wow, I didn't mean to write this much but I can get lost but my baby wants a walk or he will eat one of the cats. I wonder if he will take a recommendation? Hopefully I will read some more letters and if anything interesting arises that I am willing to share part zwei (2) will be posted.

Liz


2 comments:

April said...

Elizabeth,

Thank you so much for sharing your story, I have read everything.

Best regards,

April

Veronica said...

You're helping me learn to read more quickly. Have to keep up with your output! I don't want to miss anything. :)

Why do we want babies so much? You think evolution has anything to do with it? We're here because our ancestors had lots of babies. Since those who reproduce pass on their genes, wanting to reproduce would seem to be a successful trait.

I touched someone's pregnant belly the other day. She is into it (I wouldn't never just do it). It was the first time for me, and it was wondrous. But as I left, I teared up. Estrogen does funny things to us, eh?