I’m beginning to feel like a vacationer who’s packed and is waiting for the taxi to the airport, one that won’t come for several hours. If telling the group of friends who know about me has been therapeutic, then dealing with the fact that I’m straddling two worlds is becoming more frustrating.
On the discussion boards I frequent, it’s quite common for some transsexuals to keep track of the number of days until surgery, like a timer ticking down to a transformation. My own rendezvous isn’t with the surgical steel scalpel, but with the clean cut of professional duties. May 24 will be my last public academic duty I have for 15 months, and I find myself ticking off the time in my head when I get frustrated, “one, two, three months, I can do this.” I tell myself that I have a million things to do before May 24th, that I should stay focused on the big picture, that I mustn’t become restless — the three months will seem to have flown by in hindsight, I’m sure, once I’m standing in June.
Transition is more of a waiting game than an adventure, truth be told. A video documentary crew following me for 18 months would have to cut thousands of hours of footage of me waiting to make a 1-hour show that seemed like an adventure with dangers and elations and depression, and while it would be cinéma verité, such a documentary would present a false picture through the omission of all that waiting.
I was getting ready for a birthday party earlier tonight, and really hadn’t given it much thought during the day. In the early evening, I cleaned up and was feeling wonderful about myself, and realized that what I really wanted to wear was a party dress and what I really felt quite natural doing would be to put on makeup and just be myself. Half the people at this party know, so why can’t I do it? Well, the reasonable side of me argues back, “That would defeat this whole rational, careful pace of disclosure, wouldn’t it? Not to mention it would hijack Miles Borocky’s birthday party by putting you in the center of attention.”
“You’re right,” I said to the face in the mirror, disappointed and frustrated, but resigned to her in-between state. “Maybe I could just pretend I’m wearing a pretty party dress?” I asked, biting my lip like a teenager negotiating with her parents about going out on a date. Feeling like I was in the Emperor’s New Clothes, and fully aware of the moral of that tale, I decided to wear the invisible dress. It was black and white with short sleeves, v-neck, a medium-width black belt, and a hemline that fell right at the knees. When I twirled around, the pleated skirt flowed out playfully.
Naked, but a little wiser than the emperor, I realized that the world would have to see more normal things than an invisible party dress, so I wore black jeans and a stretchy red v-neck t-shirt I bought the other day — it was a nice contrast but I realized that even this presentation would be far too revealing, even though it felt quite normal. This ensemble was just another version of my feminine party-going persona, confident and casual. Prudence again said that this presentation, too, needed to be invisible, so even this little touch was hidden away under a man’s striped shirt.
Walking among my friends and colleagues, chatting about fun topics, drinking beer and nibbling on finger foods, I felt very much at ease, but I was also aware of the voice of the little kid who blurts out in the fable, “Why isn’t the Emperor wearing any clothes?” Tonight, the child’s inverted exclamation, repeated in my head all night and imagined to be in the heads of my friends and colleagues, was, “Why isn’t Joyce wearing her invisible clothes?”
Do I cover up with shame? Do I explain the rationale of a deliberate schedule of disclosures? Do I run crying from the room as I realize the truth of the child’s observation? As I hang up the invisible party dress deep in the back of my closet, I ask myself how can I balance the plans and thoughts and rationales, on the one hand, with the emotions, anxiety, and excitement about emerging, on the other hand?
“Patience,” I am forced to answer, non-answering, unsatisfying, but prudent and imminently rational.