How do we conceive of our old selves? Do we shed them like snakeskins and move on with our lives? Or do we honor them by integrating their best parts into the new us? My preference, as you can tell from my tone, is to do the latter. My psyche is permanently bound up with my past, and while I understand why some transsexuals choose to jettison their past, I think it’s sheer folly for me to pretend that George doesn’t exist and never existed.
I wrote a few months ago about the appropriate ritual for a transsexual’s journey and concluded that neither a funeral nor a welcome-home party was up to the task, but that graduation might come close. I have been thinking about this topic on and off during the spring, and in an exchange with JackyV in the comments to “Round the Clock,” I stumbled across another, perhaps much better, metaphor — retirement.
Rather than seeing this transition as a clean break from George, I see this process as the ultimate gift to him. It frees him from his toil, much of which was clueless, but a lot of which involved covering up my existence. He’s a good-hearted man who I hope did all right by family and friends and I genuinely like him. But he’s earned his retirement. I give him permission to stand down, to lay down his arms, to drop his ever-cautious guard that made him reserved and lonely. I want him to get a good night’s sleep and lounge by the pool and live a playful retirement.
But I also want him to write me postcards from his travels from time to time, to impart his wisdom and patience to me, to even share some of his caution and skepticism with me. I want to write him on the cruise that never ends and tell him I’m sorry for causing him so much pain and that I think we’re going to make it. I want to send him pictures of the family he built and let him know that he’s always in our hearts and minds. He may not be present, but he is fully integrated into our family and into my being.
I know family and friends are worried that in sending George into retirement, I will lose my values, my scholarly and administrative skills, and my very being, but that prospect seems unlikely. Sure, I’m going to do things a little differently, present myself in a changed way, emphasize different things in my interactions with others — but my values are ultimately George’s values, even though they may be wrapped up in a different package. I certainly don’t want to let him or his legacy down.
Thanks and bon voyage, George, lifelong protector and conspirator.