It was a cold day in February when I flew into Philadelphia PA. My surgery had been postponed from October due to a snafu in preparing all the documents that were needed for them to perform GRS (gender reassignment surgery) surgery on me .
It was so surreal in a way: seeing the snow, traveling in this male-shell, soon to be changed forever. I felt an emptiness, an uncertainty. My thoughts about going back to work, my wife, my friends, and family, they were all somehow distant and blurry. I was anxious about tomorrow's surgery, but had no doubts or lack of commitment. This is the path i chose.
The Uber driver dropped me off at my hotel. Before going to sleep I had to find a Pharmacy to fill pain medication prescription, and a host of things I would need post surgery.
It felt like a continuation of the endless obstacles that one is tested with on this road of transition. There was month after month of filling a handful of prescriptions -- provided by an out of state surgeon -- and then the countless hours trying to explain the reasons for them. There were blood tests, Mammogram, an ultrasound, and psychological evaluations. But after long delays, fortunately the Pharmacy was very understanding and helped me with what I needed.
The following morning I was scheduled to be at the Hospital very early for the surgery. It was a rainy. A cold morning,
I felt so alone when the Taxi came and transported me. I was looking out the window wondering where I was going and what was to become of me, of my future, of my life.
The Hospital small. I exited the cab and walked the next set of steps on this crooked journey of mine. I then met the head nurse. I had been fasting and was hungry but soon I was taken to the preparation area.
When awoke a bit dazed, someone was speaking and telling me things I couldn’t remember. I drifted in and out of sleep. It was a a few days before I left the hospital, then I shifted to the recovery center.
The recovery center was akin to a boarding house. I was on the third floor, yes that's right the 3rd floor! God help me! From the Hospital I had to walk up a steep spiral staircase to my room. I was to spend five days there, where I was expected to get my own food and bath etc. The details I will save but it was trying.
Born in Florida, I found the furnace cycling and cold air difficult during my healing. I can distinctly recall the non-heated stairwell and the crystal ice patterns that formed on the glass. Though it was cold, it was also quite beautiful. The beauty it portrayed made me stop and appreciate what nature can create; the window made me realize the things man can modify, too.
The next few days I would venture out in the cold to get something to eat and just walk about. A nice little consignment shop was close by and distracted me ; I bought a few things -- including a hat to help keep me warm. I wore an overcoat to conceal my drain ports until the day I left.
It is difficult to portray how alone I felt, distanced and removed from all things. Because it is a surgery center, they assume you will have someone, anyone, come by to see and care for you. My wife did not come with me. Other than my doctor, I had no visitors, nor anyone to just ask “how do you feel today?”
The pain of the post surgery continued during my travel home. The delayed flights over a 12 hour period didn’t help. When I finally landed home at 1:00 Am, I breathed a sigh of relief and couldn’t wait until I reached home. I smiled when my wife welcomed me with a comforting hug.
Fast Forward to today and I would say, yes I would do it again.
The "system" puts you through a rigorous process. They grill you pretty hard, making you jump through many hoops -- all in an effort to validate what in your heart you know to be true: that you in fact are suffering gender dysphoria.
The entire process is however more than most of us expect. We’re mentally and emotionally prepared for the surgery to become whole, to become one between the person and the gender. We’re ready for, and eager for the changes to ourselves, but many of us are not prepared for everything else.
There is an enormity of other changes you have to endure. Just for surgery are there a battery of tests and evaluations before you’re approved for surgery.
But there are many other things too pertaining to who you become in the eyes of the world. It is challenging to say the least. You have to modify your Social Security records, driver’s license, bank accounts, insurance, and medical records. The medical records process and insurance standards are a hurdle.
The process was well over a year, and it seemed like something new came up every week, each requiring immediate action.
Then, my employer had no policy to accommodate my life change. So I had to help them develop one. Not really for me, but those who might follow who would not have to endure what I did.
It was agreed that "corporate Lawyers" would brief employees while I was out on leave. That helped people be more sensitive to how they were to address me, but it was mostly superficial. Within six months I was downsized and let go, small surprise!
That was a turning point in my life. At first I was bitter about it, but in reality it was the best thing that ever happened to me. I had one true friend -- a coworker that was always there for me and is today still my best friend. Of all of the other people that I knew for many years, none but one even called. Those two people I now hold close, and appreciate what they mean to me.
It took a few months to regain my balance, but I was soon to learn that all those years of investing and saving paid off. I was able to early retire quite comfortably; I received severance pay after separation, and had my, Social Security and pensions.
With a new life and a new start, I decided to start my own company. It was with a passion in the areas of wellness and health/fitness that drew me.
From that moment on my whole outlook on life -- and what mattered most -- became clear: enjoy every day as if it were your last!
These days I go to Zumba classes, am learning Belly Dancing, I joined organizations to support the GLBTQ community, and I've become a certified NGLCC supplier.
Embracing life and socializing has allowed me to see people in a different way, and learn about new cultures and so much more.
Almost two years later, I live one life. Everything is consistent. Credit cards, driver license, passport, and bank account. I live as the woman I had always dreamed of in my childhood. Or do I?
What I did not dream about is what women endure, like wage difference, workplace harassment, fear at night, preconceived notions of what a woman should be -- and other things a male mind never considers.
It has made me appreciate the whole meaning of womanhood. The extra time doing makeup and clothes each morning, the little things to remember friends, social interaction, cooking and caring for those in need. I revel in all of it.
When I look back now as to why I got laid off, could it have been my own doing? Think of it; as a senior Project Engineer making over 100K a year, I was then on a pay scale no woman would be making in that Company.
Sad, but it could very well be true that the good ol’ boys speak equality, but act differently. So let it be said while they and others like them hold a grudge for giving up my seat at the men’s table, I will be out Dancing and living my dream! I am happy now. And that means everything to me.