What’s left of the old me? Nothing? Something? Everything? Mary Jo asks both playfully and seriously, “What’s left of the old person?” and my answer is either that I’m just the same as I always was or that I am a total changeling.

Can I be both? Or must I be one or the other? Am I a completely different person? And if so, how can I connect everything together between the two selves? Or am I fundamentally the same as before and what can I point to that remains unchanged?

Sometimes I feel as if nothing’s changed at all, and by this sentiment, I think I mean that I feel whole and together in ways that recall the simpler aspects of my youth. So by saying that I’m the same as I always was, I believe I’m arguing for something like an essential self that I have managed to recuperate in the turmoil of these past few years. When I think like this, it’s easy to say that the only things that have changed are superficial.

But I also am struck by how much has changed. I don’t recognize my face, my skin, my dress, the way I think, or the way I relate to myself and other people. I catch glimpses (visual or just self-aware) of myself and am often stunned by who I am, and I find myself staring in the mirror or touching my arm or looking at the people around me and feeling almost as if I’ve been transported to an almost-identical world, but a world where everything is changed slightly. When I think like this, it’s easy to believe that nothing is left of the old me, not even memories, facts, intelligences, or relationships, and it’s a pretty easy step from that point to feeling perplexed about just what it’s all about.

I think the only way to reconcile these two views is to say they’re both right. I’m like Einstein’s thought experiment about the speed of light. There is a train that’s traveling almost the speed of light and to those inside the train, everything is normal: their clocks run the proper speed, they walk around the cars normally, and they remain the same size and shape. However, for an observer outside the train, some very odd things are happening: the train is longer, the people inside stretched longer, their watches running terribly slowly.

Which time, length, shape is “true?” For Einstein, both views are true.

What I do know about my own life is that its truths are very Einstein-like, and depend on where you stand relative to the speeding train of change. My equation isn’t E=mc^2, but it’s something similarly beautiful and perplexing. After all, I have multiplied my identities, divided them, added body parts and biochemistry, and subtracted beard, masculinity, and muscles. I was a whole number, an integer, then became an irrational or prime number. I used to be somewhere near the mean of a normal distribution, well inside 1 standard deviation, but now find that I have come to define deviation itself.

So having divided my old self by a transsexual transition, is everything easily divisible, or is there a remainder that makes my identity forever altered from its positive integer-ness of my youth? And just what is that remainder, anyway? Mary Jo and I would certainly like to know.