Hail Mary Passes

There are a few things Kris and I can’t talk about, not because she can’t talk about them – Kris can and will talk about anything – but because I don’t seem to be able to.  Kris filibusters. Into the yawning acres of my frequent silence, she throws words, buckets full, truckloads full of words. She pins hopes and dreams on those words and tosses them at me, sometimes hurls them at me, hoping and dreaming that I will catch one of her hail mary passes in the end zone, while I make the yard by yard plays sometimes gaining, sometimes losing ground.

In the 13 years we’ve been together we’ve settled into this dynamic. I settle for yardage. She throws for the touchdown. “You are eloquent in your despair,” she says. And I suppose I am.

We seem to navigate money, parenting and home repair better than most.  Balloons, fingernails and injured animals are on my list of taboo subjects.  I will flat out leave the room. In the last few years, my transition has become a taboo subject. Not its existence, but the continuing journey of it.

The final piece, at the 30 yard mark, 3rd down, are the surgeries required to build a functioning male organ. It’s painful for me to even type this paragraph about it, so full of shame, guilt and fear am I.

My struggle with this part of my body is so personal, so individual, so bitterly lonely that it is dangerous. It renders me silent. And yet, as a couple, partnered in every way, intimate to our cores, this piece is shared territory. We have to navigate around it to stay connected.

In a perfect world, I would simply make an appointment, have the surgeries and heal. Life would move on, the giant wall would be gone and we wouldn’t spend the rest of our lives with the sacrifices that would require. We would still have our house, our pets, our bookstore and our dignity. I would feel whole in my body, and we wouldn’t have to avoid the subject.

It isn’t a perfect world, and while I’m trying to come to terms with a punt, Kris is still trying the hail mary pass. “The money,” I say. “We have to make a plan,” she says. “We can’t even repair the kitchen,” I say. “We make choices,” she says.  It’s breathtaking, her strange optimism, her single focus on my well being. If the roles were reversed, I hope I would do the same.

But the roles aren’t reversed, and here I am trying to fit into an ill-fitting body so those good things about our life, and there are just so many good things, don’t disappear on my account. Today I wondered how I would feel if she just gave up and let it go like I’ve been trying to do and realized with a shock (and more guilt) that I was depending on her hope.  I was looking at it from way down here in the end zone by myself hoping that she would, once again lob it high into the sky and I would see it hang there in the air somewhere between her and me and be grateful that she trusted me again to catch it.


Gender in Motion

dogsI rubbed a knot out of my bulldog’s back tonight.  All the while I soothed him and told him what a good and handsome boy he was.  My other dog is no fool and wanted in on the affection extravaganza.  She too heard what a good and clever girl she is as I scratched her belly. And I like to think the three of us there on the fur speckled rug loved each other. I don’t think either of them would have noticed if I called them good and attractive beasts without the gender assignment. They are blissfully ignorant of everything but the touch of my fingers along their spines and the tone of my voice when it’s cookie time. But I am not ignorant of their genders. I can’t think of anyone who doesn’t refer to their pets in some gender or another – humans assign gender to name the objects of our affection.  I have a beloved teddy bear in my closet with no clear markers whatsoever, but even when I refer to putting Snoozie Bear on a shelf I say I put him away.

Transition, then, is dangerous territory. The soft cheek of the woman thickens into the bristled cheek of the man. The deep timbre of the man’s voice ascends with effort into the voice of the woman. And somewhere in the middle, when narrow hips betray the lilting voice, when the hint of a breast confuses the cut of the shirt, we become a puzzle to solve, a question to answer, a questionable past and a dangerous future – to many, we become an object to observe. Objects are easy to throw away.

Our gender does not make us human, but denying our gender strips us of our humanity. So what do we do with that awkward in between place, that gender in motion?

Consider the actor I passed a month ago. His heels dug into the carpet in the lobby just after the show. His weight, his fatigued center of gravity, pulled him backward until the pointed red leather spike heeled boots, slanted forward from the heels of his feet, six inches off the floor, to the tips of his toes, folded awkwardly into the tips of the boots, made dents in the delicate pattern of the rug. His dark hair and beard collected the sweat from dancing and his pants breathed carnal humidity.

I paused there a few feet away from him and we looked at each other for just a second – me in my jeans and dress shirt, scars from breast removal and hysterectomy hidden beneath, him in his tight leather and spike heels sweaty and spent and perfect in his articulate inexactness.

What if we pass each other like this in brief moments of recognition and realize we are at our most human, and we are beautiful?