Saturday, December 31, 2011

A year of Firsts

In 1959 when I was 13 and my life became an open book to everyone there were some amazing and painful firsts. There was that first kiss from a boy and his acceptance as a girl. Almost immediately after that was our family version of European Vacation which in some ways rivaled the National Lampoon's European Vacation starring Chevy Chase in its weirdness for me.

I flew as a boy to London or putting it more aptly was signed in as a boy for the flight which started the weirdness. When I handed my boarding pass over the poor Stewardess looked confused and gave me a rather strained smile.  My brother Ray did not help things by calling me sis which the poor Stewardess who served us in the Upper Crust section kept looking at me and I knew she wanted to ask are you a girl because boy was not working.

This was my first time on a Airplane and I was fascinated by planes and rockets and space and flying by then.  About halfway to London it dawned on me my poor mom was looking at me rather weirdly and I would later learn it was mom's moment of awareness concerning me. When I went to the genderless toilets all airplanes possess I was told the men all watched me walk up the Upper Crust aisle. Ray had told me I had a little wiggle in my walk but it was just how I was.  Like everything in my life it seemed to fly over my head in the consuming gloom I was in over my unknown transsexualism.

It got weirder at Immigration in London when mom quietly said she was on vacation with her three sons.  Ray and Steve passed fine but that poor man took one look at me and even though the picture and me were the same he decided this was just not right. In those old passports you actually had to look carefully to find the sex marker.  It was my first name that confused him. He spent seconds looking around and found the M and it started.

Ray did not help by calling me "sis" as he tried to calm me down because I never did handle this kind of scene too well. They finally ushered us off to a private area where my mom cleared things up with some comment about "the condition I was in being the result of the condition I had" which flew over my head. She actually knew I was transsexual from Benjamin. Mom was getting a first hand look at life as me from the perspective of a very concerned observer and being a smart woman she decided the vacation would be a disaster if it kept going like this.

We were flying to Scotland and when I went to board the plane my boarding pass identified me differently. She simply said "I think it would best for all if we do it this way when flying" and that was it. It was easy because she just shortened ny real first name and told them I was a girl which met the approval of the view of me they had.

The vacation was wonderful because eventually it seemed mom realized it was futile to insist I was a boy. She even gave me a girl haircut in Paris which transformed me. When we came home in mid to late July after 4+ weeks in Europe I looked different and in all honesty felt better about myself. I admit I loved the attention boys gave me in Italy.  When you are 13 in our condition and boys are pinching you butt and whistling at you and your mom it can be life affirming. I think I had a permanent smile in Italy.

In Italy I also saw the first people that might be like me which can best be described as something out of a Chaplin movie. It was around 9 PM and we were in a cab heading back to the hotel and Ray was asking the cabbie for a sight seeing tour and that meant money so we were driving around.  His English was broken but passable and as we went around a roundabout he casually mentioned that the girls on the corner were actually pretty boys or travesti and that peeked my attention. I wondered if any were like me cause they sure looked pretty good in the dark. That went over like a lead balloon and we returned to the hotel.

Mom explained they were not like me in our shared room. That was the other thing on this trip.  I got to share a room with my mom like a daughter would. It really was the changing of the tide. She was very patient answering my deluge of questions and actually bought me some girls slacks and tops in Paris plus undergarments with the express understanding wearing these at home was risky. Risk was my middle name or should have been. I did wish she had bought me a dress but I did not push it.

When I got home I was worried that Kevin would just forget about me since I was not a "real" girl and the next day after landing at Logan we arranged to meet. It is so different for girls. I have always been shy and most men I have known tell me it is my "little girl" quality that attracts them. I was actually shaking when I rang the door bell and fully expected Kevin to reject me or be cold.

His first words were something about my hair being different and he really liked the look and I think I lost containment on the little girl part of me because if recollection serves me correctly I do believe I was the one that launched my 5'-8' and 120 pounds into the arms of that gorgeous 6'-4'  130 pound body and his waiting arms. It seemed he had not forgotten me.

After a while he took my hand, I love holding hands, and took me to the garage where his father had left him the use of his Corvette.  I firmly believe it was this first meeting with a Corvette that fueled my lifelong love affair with Corvettes. The top was down and we headed south and were soon on a road that ended on a sandy beach in Duxbury Massachusetts.  It is one of the most beautiful areas of the coast line with the added feature of homes sitting off shore on top of rocky areas.  The tide was still going out and the homes seemed to crop out of the ocean.  It was mesmerizing and the wonderful smell of the ocean and the sandy beach is quite beautiful. I have been told many of those homes have been washed away by some of the big storms.

It was my truly first unofficial date with Kevin. I was in a girl heaven that I had only dreamed of. We walked along the beach and as the tide receded the clam diggers seemed to come out of nowhere with their claws as fresh clams where dug and placed in buckets. I loved fried clams from Howard Johnson's on Wollaston Beach but had never tasted fresh clams. Kevin stopped and we talked with several clam diggers with his arm casually placed around my shoulder. On the way back he bought some fresh clams from one of the men we had talked with.

He went to the Corvette and brought out the picnic cloth and the food I knew was there and we had a picnic. The fresh clams with lemon right from the shell were amazing and I had a permanent smile it seemed. He actually commented he had never seen me smile this much. For years afterward I had dreams about that day.  I dreamed of owning one of those homes that could be isolated by a high tide and making love with him every day we were there and isolated.  Just a girl's dreams of perfection and bloss that were not to be but I had them long after he died in Southeast Asia.

We went there several more times and that was the happiest summer of my life. That first day he ha chased me around the sand because I might be the most ticklish person alive and I got sand everywhere and I admit I loved his hands helping me get it off me. I got home late and there were more than a few raised eyebrows when he drove up to my house and let me out. It would have been the perfect date if he had leaned in and kissed me before I exited the car but we kissed goodbye before we got to my neighborhood.

I went to my room to change and thankfully my younger brother was elsewhere so I locked the door for some privacy. A knock and a voice told me my mother was there and I let her in and that was the day she looked me in the eyes and asked me "do you have a boyfriend" instead of the obligatory "do you have a girlfriend" or the true meaning "do you finally have a girlfriend". I didn't respond immediately but managed a weak "no" and she patted my knee and kissed me on the forehead and told me supper was in ten and sweep the floor. It was then I noticed the significant amount of sand I had deposited from my discarded cloths. I believe in my heart I knew she knew and was okay with it but that is hard to accept for kids like us.  I scolded myself and told myself I had to be more careful. She knew everything only I didn't know she knew everything.

Ray and Kevin both had licenses and dad had taught us all golf and Kevin played and it never dawned on me till decades later Ray brought Kevin along when we played golf so Kevin and I could be together. We usually went to Canton Massachusetts and played the championship course #1 course at Pongkapoag  which is a 1936 gem designed by the renowned Donald Ross. I was told to play the girls tees while the boys played the back markers. It is a macho thing. We had tons of fun and even Steve mentioned he thought Kevin liked me which to Steve was weird.

It was a very weird year. Even my grandmother seemed to back off when we returned from vacation. Well she was still nasty at times but not as nasty as she could be. Ironically High School was both far better and far worse if that makes sense. Everyone knew I either thought I was a girl or wanted to be a girl so the physical issues just seemed to vanish. I still received the weird looks and stares in the corridors between classes but more often than not a smile seemed to replace the smirk or snarl of the previous year. There were some bad instances but they were isolated but they still hurt.

The worst part and the most painful was seeing Kevin.  It was football time so I tutored him and the only day we had any chance to be alone was on Sunday and that meant Sunday afternoon because he went to Mass on Sunday morning. My Sunday was free because I had been thrown out of Sunday School and the Church for asking the Minister what gave him the right to teach me about god.  He had no answer and I called him a hypocrite and a few other adjectives and verbs he seemed to not understand, no swear words, and like Ray I was free from the religious mumbo jumbo of church and sat and watched ten pin bowling and the three stooges with my brother.  Somehow the similarity works when I think about it. Organized religion verses the Three Stooges.  The Stooges made more sense and Ray and I laughed ourselves sick together with the occasional Marx Brothers comedy thrown in for added hilarity.

It was on one of those Sunday mornings that Ray looked at me and said, "you like Kevin don't you?" I was going to cry and he said something about it is okay and I admitted I liked him and that was that.  He seemed to understand and casually said he thought Kevin really liked me. It must be mentioned that although Kevin and ray played for separate High Schools they had been  friends for years so Ray knew his friend.

The worst part of High School was watching the other girls fawning over Kevin.  It drove me stark raving mad. Every tutoring session we had I would list every fault a particular girl had while forgetting I had the biggest flaw of all. He would roll his eyes and I would get over it but start immediately the next tutoring session. As I approached my 14th birthday my body seemed to be getting weirder by the day.  I do thank my mom for not listening to the docs that recommended testosterone. I owe her a big hug when we meet in heaven, assuming I make it there and praying it exists.

I went to all his local football games on Saturday and I so wanted to be a cheerleader. I knew every cheer both Cheerleader squads used and I day I told Ray I could be a cheerleader and he laughed and I proceeded to do an entire routine including the gymnastics and flips and split and he calmly looked at me and sad, "Don't ever do that again or someone might see", which was to protect me and added, "you were great by the way" to soothe the rejection. It just seemed another injustice in my life. I would have gotten beaten to death if other boys had seen me do that. I still remember all the cheers for both High Schools. I so wanted to wear a cheerleader outfit.

There was a horrific suicide attempt brought about by my last sessions with  ashrink where I had opened up and told him I had a boyfriend who loved me as a girl and he said things to me that drove me near the end of the short bridge my psyche was on and with a nudges from some relatives on our Thanksgiving I tried to attempt suicide not with pills but a method that if I made the attempt was certain death. Kevin stopped me but I ended up nearly doing myslef in when I got extremely ill from being so wet and cold.  It was the beginning of the end of the secrecy surrounding Kevin and me.

The other first was threefold. I learned I was transsexual in late December, I met my savior Dr. Benjamin, and I started female hormones. By the end of this year of firsts there would be no turning back.  My ears were pierced and the only thing I could not wear publicly at home was a dress.  I would have done it in a heartbeat but there were some lines one did not cross in 1959 and that was one of them.

It was the year that changed my life in save my life. It happened because I did something stupid that led to that first kiss that led to so many other things it started that snowball down the hill that turns into the avalanche that helped me push my way to SRS. There are turning points in life for everyone and the one thing that is common in many kids like I was then and those like me today was once the door was cracked we pushed our way through come hell or high water.

Now for a mini rant.

If you think it is easy to expose yourself to the ridicule and hatred of being so different you are wrong. It is never easy but we kids did it because we had no choice.  We could not be what we were not.  Whether it was because we were what Harry referenced as Psycho Sexual Inversion or stubborn we just knew it could not be as it was because we could not survive. In my time one could not go to school as a girl but many of us pushed the boundaries and paid for it in different ways.

Kids today have the chance to grow up as girls. Going through a female puberty on hormones is wonderful. Even with that hideous thing we were born with watching the curves form and your breasts bud is intoxicating because it is what all girls go through. It lifts your spirits and gives you the hope you need for the future. I was smart and educated but I have friends that left home at 13 or 14 and worked some nasty shit jobs to get hormones and SRS.  Nothing was beneath them if it meant the goal was closer.

I am appalled when I read bloggers or those that comment whine they cannot afford SRS.  What it usually means is they are not willing to work for it. Usually they want an NHS system to pay for it. I have a close friend that had an amazing career but she buried herself in booze but woke up around 30 and realized what was happening and walked away from some amazing talent and moved far far away eventually just to be a very normal girl, woman, wife, and friend.

It is this need and desire that separates us from the want-to-be transsexuals who are truly not transsexuals. In my time it was actually an issue getting SRS.  It was down right dangerous and a crap shoot at best. Today the surgeons are amazing and experts at SRS, from Meltzer to Bowers the results are impressive.

As for costs it was on a pay basis far more expensive to have surgery in 1971 than it is today.  My surgery was $4K on a discount, we were his first, plus 2 weeks in the Hospital which in my case was close to another $3500 or more. In 1970 the average salary was $7, 564 or the cost of my surgery. In 2010 is $41, 673 and SRS is now tax deductible and it was not in 1971. The average cost is in the $20,000 range including hospital time from someone like Marci Bowers. That is 50 perecnt cheaper than 1971 on a average salary basis.

I just cannot picture any person that believes they are or want to be a girl/woman that could accept keeping a penis as a viable alternative unless surgery was denied for medical reasons. Does make one wonder what they really are because it is not truly transsexual.


Van buren said...

Just a thought on your last paragraph, I did a blog post a while back on an old blog questioning exactly what might totally preclude someone from SRS, I had quite a few people throw their opinions in, but at no point did anyone come up with something indisputable. From what I can tell, it is not something that would medically preclude a patient from SRS, but rather, a surgeons willingness to operate due to certain medical conditions.

there's a great many SRS surgeons out there all over the world in this day and age, if you are TS, where there is a will, there is a way.

So in my opinion, medical preclusion as a reason for not having SRS is exactly the same as the lack of finance reason, both are excuses to keep their penis yet still grab for validity as a woman. (something that plainly, they are not).

Further, I'd sooner die on the table than live my life out that way.

In regards to the rest of your post; I don't know how, but lately you manage to strike quite a chord with me in many of the things you write. I longed and am still waiting for many of the things you write of. A girl who's still waiting on her first kiss, her first date, someone to hold her hand, to just recognize her, at 28, is often a truly sad girl.

I guess no-one said life had to be easy huh.

Thanks for sharing and happy birthday.

Deena said...

Happy New year Elizabeth.

Deena said...


Foxfire said...

Elizabeth, I admire you so much and love reading these stories you relate from your life, which often mirror the same sorts of things I went through growing up with that horrid condition. Thank the gods or fates or whomever that we found our cure, and we did it because we had no other choice to stay alive. Many happy returns for a wonderful and joyous New Year. Hugs from Foxy