Sunday, June 22, 2014
Three years ago, at age 44, I decided to embrace my identity as a Transgender Woman. My transition began during the long winter of 2011, and day-by-day I've stumbled my way into the person I am today. During this emotional process I've shed many layers from my previous identity that had accumulated over time. It was like I had been wearing a suit of medieval armor, heavy and cumbersome, all my life. And while I feel free these days, I know I’m more vulnerable and susceptible to the world around me.
I got divorced, changed jobs, lost a few friends and gained more, changed my hairstyle and clothing, and even bought a new car, but this wasn't a middle age crisis. My car is a white Hyundai Elantra with a hello kitty air freshener hanging from the rear-view mirror. Badass indeed.
It wasn't long, but seems like decades to me now, when I came out to my remarkably large family, all eight of them, including two parents and four brothers and two sisters; this doesn't even count the multitude of cousins, nieces, nephews, and aunts and uncles involved. That all happened three years ago in June. It was also the same time I came out to my entire school community, where I had been a high school teacher and coach for eight years. I informed them my name was now Gia, Ms Drew, for my students. It could have gone better. I lost my job the following year. But my family has stuck by me and I know I’m one lucky girl.
In the spring and summer of 2011 I started having my facial hair removed with lasers and electrolysis, as well as starting to take female hormones. Thousands of dollars later, my hair removal process continues. I had the misfortune of having a very heavy shadow, Fred Flintstone or Homer Simpson's face should give you a good idea of my starting point. Extinguishing the testosterone that burned through my body for thirty years while raising my estrogen levels by ingesting over a thousand little blue pills, has been both lifesaving and life altering. I do feel more at peace with my body much of the time, yet there have been complications that have found me in the ER and on a hospital bed on too many occasions. While some of these have kept me from pursuing other parts of my medical transition, I’d like to believe they’re only temporary, like road construction in the summer. Living is not without risk and setbacks.
Three weeks ago, I drove to Providence to deliver a few of paintings to a gallery for my ex. We still get along, like peas and carrots. I had met with the gallery owner on several occasions in my previous identity while I was still married, and even as Gia once as recently as last year. Our conversation in her new space on South Maine Street, which runs parallel with the Pawtucket River, was friendly as usual, and she asked how my ex was doing (seemingly not making the connection that I was the other half). I answered, and mentioned her new cute new boyfriend, health of her mother, and success of her own art gallery. She was happy to hear things were going well, especially after the trouble she had been through with her divorce and all. She then asked, "what was his name?" Stunned in silence for a moment, it felt like I was in the middle of a live dream. She was talking about me, but she didn't see that person, she only saw Gia. I stumbled a bit, then said their name, my old name. It was strange saying it out loud like that, especially in the third person. "Oh yeah, that's right" she answered.
We thanked each other and she wished me a pleasant ride back to Maine, giving me complicated directions to get back to the highway, which I forgot immediately after pulling away from the parking spot with a broken meter. With my head spinning from a close encounter with my own ghost, I found my way home.