Mary Jo and I woke today to a beautiful Trinidad morning, took a long walk around the state-named streets — Colorado, Arizona, Kansas — enjoying the victorian building style mixed with the adobe and the ranch house. I think my favorite street is Colorado, which runs E-W off Arizona Street: this beautiful boulevard has well-watered and -kept grass in its ample median and is lined with the nicest homes in central Trinidad.

Doctor’s orders were to eat nothing solid today, so I was limited to coffee and juice this morning, and I drank a few cups of chicken broth, many Frescas (which I haven’t tasted since childhood and now love, with its citrus base), and sparkling waters.

We went to the clinic around noon, where we signed paperwork, got prescriptions, met Dr. Bowers’ staff, and learned that we were to come back the next morning at 9:00 to prep for surgery. Dr. Bowers only does 1 surgery on Thursdays, and 2 surgeries on other days, so I would not (as it turned out) have to get up at 4:30 to go to the hospital for early surgery. We also got admitted into the hospital and got some blood drawn in preparation for the next day. We visited the pharmacy on Main Street and got our big jug of bowel prep, along with some other goodies for the two of us, then returned to the guest house. I mixed the prep, adding water to the fill-line in this gallon jug, shaking well, then storing in the refrigerator to make it easier to drink.

My friend Mary Rae arrived in the afternoon, and we talked a bit, but most of our interaction would take place in the hospital and in the Morning After House a few days later.

Mary Jo and I walked around the neighborhood again after lunch, visiting the nearby beautiful Kit Carson park, an upside-down bowl-shaped park with deep green sides, a huge gazebo at the top, and a big bronze of Kit Carson on his horse on the south side, facing west and looking left onto downtown Trinidad. Mary Jo and I had planned on trying to walk up to the Trinidad sign, and old-school, lit sign on the hill to the NW of downtown, and just west of the guest house, but we ran out of time. Mary Jo will be able to climb the hill on her own while I’m in the hospital, I’m sure. Instead, I had the first of 6 massages we bought for ourselves (3 for me, 3 for Mary Jo), and this masseuse helped me initiate a relaxed physical and mental space from which to begin my surgical experience. I think everyone should make use of Alissa’s services when they come here for GRS. She was playing some sort of oriental new-age music and I visualized myself suiting up for battle, both steeling myself to the chore which lay ahead of me and also focusing and meditating on the calm energy I would need.

The Evil Drink
I was supposed to begin drinking the bowel prep at 3:00, drinking 8 ounces every 10 minutes until it was all finished. I settled into our upstairs apartment with a straight shot to the bathroom, and began around 3:30. Much is made of the day before GRS and the chore of drinking the evil drink, the bowel prep. These fears, I am here to tell you, are simply overblown. It’s a salty drink that’s not difficult to swallow, but it is definitely the case that a chilled drink would be much better than a warm one. I found that holding my breath and downing the glass swiftly made the process pretty easy.

My routine began: drinking, sitting down with the laptop, watching the clock, visiting the bathroom when necessary and repeating. At 128 ounces divided by 8 ounces (more or less, as I just filled my drinking glass about halfway), the process took me 16 glasses times an average of 12 minutes, for a total of 192 minutes, or around 3.5 hours. All the visits to the bathroom were over by 8:00 or 8:30, and we sat around talking with Danny and Carol and generally trying to calm nerves. There was no point in going to bed early, as we could rise fairly late with no problems.

I previously reported to you that I haven’t felt anything intense about this trip, but I began to feel the gravity of my decision to come to Trinidad. The waiting this evening is quite difficult, but it’s great to have others to talk to. Everyone I’ve met here in Trinidad is nervous, or has been nervous, which is not to say anyone has doubts or regrets, but rather uncertainty as to whether the surgery is absolutely necessary, whether going through elective surgery when they’re healthy and transitioned is a good thing. I will undoubtedly write about the role of this guest house in the entire experience, but it seems to me that the space for all of us to share experiences, both before and after surgery, and to empathize with nerves and worries as no one else is able to do is utterly beneficial to me, as well as to Mary Jo. I cannot imagine doing this hunkered down over at the hotel on the highway, separated from the experiences and knowledge of those who are on the same journey.

We ended the day sipping a glass of scotch, as I was allowed 1 alcoholic drink. Being so empty and so tired from the bowel prep, the 18-year Talisker went straight to my head, and I could only drink half my glass. We jumped into bed to talk, as we have done so many times during these past 3 years, to reaffirm our love and our commitment to each other and to this strange, wonderful process, and to look forward to a second-half of our lives that in some ways is so alien as to defy recognition, but in some ways is simply a continuation of lives lived together.

I’m going under the knife tomorrow to get rid of a bunch of little (and some not-so-little) benign fatty lumps called lipomas that live all over my body, and I had to go through an intake process yesterday, the first such one I’ve ever done as Joyce.

Not wanting to hide anything, but also not wanting to declare to every nurse and receptionist that I was a transsexual, I decided I’d answer everything truthfully, volunteer nothing more, and see how long it took before I was “busted” as being “really a man.”

My first test came on the phone, when the surgery center called to get my basic information. One of the questions was, “Are you married?” Yes, I responded. “What’s your husband’s name?”

“Mary Jo.” Pause.

“O… K…. So….. his name is Mary Jo?”

Her name is Mary Jo,” I said.

“I see,” said the voice on the other end, “You’re in a same sex relationship.” Yes, I said, and encountered no problems at all. I think the same-sex relationship rationale is much higher on people’s list of explanations for a Joyce-and-MaryJo relationship than “oh, she used to be a man, and Mary Jo was his wife, and now that he’s changed his name and sex, he answers this way about his/her spouse.”

My second test took the form of Beverly, the surgical intake nurse, who examined me, took blood, and did an EKG yesterday. She and I hit it off just great, talking about the Beatles, my riding boots with low heels, my jewelry, and many other chatty subjects. When we did the EKG, I had to lift my shirt up to my neck for all those sticky pads, and I was quite glad for torso laser hair removal, which (I assume) makes for a plausibly female torso. In going through the questionnaire, she asked if I had had a hysterectomy, to which I said no. “OK,” she said without looking up from her clipboard, “Do you still have periods?” I answered no, and she was satisfied, even though the word “still” implies that I once had periods. Again, her script to explain this is menopause, which is a lot simpler than “she must be a transsexual.”

She sent me to X-ray for chest film (my third test), and I had to fill out this very small form that asked a) Is there any chance you could be pregnant? b) Date of last period, and the answers were No and N/A. The nurse said, “Why is that? Has it been more than a year?” Yes, I said, and the x-ray desk was satisfied that I was post-menopausal.

My fourth test was the x-ray technician herself. Being disrobed above the waist, I felt a bit vulnerable, but was again happy to have invested taking all those hormones and getting rid of all that hair.

I went back and Beverly told me all about the rules for surgery, emphasizing no makeup (rats!) and only clear nail polish, among the more serious prohibitions like no aspirin, no food after midnight, no blood thinners, and those sorts of things.

Now, my friends, this is clearly a very mundane encounter, but you can tell from what I’ve chosen to focus on that I’m kind of surprised there’s not a big note in red letters in my file that says “She’s a Tranny!” I am also curious as to what you feel is appropriate to answer about hysterectomies, periods, husbands, and those sorts of questions. I toyed with the idea of answering, “I was born without a uterus” as my explanation, and that’s true, of course, without explaining that I was also born with some other equipment, instead. [I don’t know how they would react if I checked “prostate exam” and “mammogram” as two procedures I was having done.]

I am not in stealth mode and am happy to answer with the full truth if it’s material to the subject at hand, but it seems to me I’ve disclosed quite enough in talking about my hormones, surgeries, doctors, insurance cards, photo id’s, and marital status.

Based in Trinidad, Colorado, this six-part series (which begins October 14th, 2008) follows patients as they arrive in this Old West mining town—dubbed the ‘Sex Change Capital of the World’—to see Dr. Marci Bowers, formerly Mark Bowers, who’ll provide them with the ultimate life-changing operation. From retired grandfathers to construction workers, businessman to office managers, each shares their unique story of how they came to terms with their sexuality.

Read all the program notes:

In June, I wrote Marci Bowers simply to inquire about an orchie and a very remote possibility of GRS and she called me back in July to say I had a date in August, 2009 for my GRS if I wanted it.

I was surprised by her call, and was doubly surprised when I said OK. The idea got lodged in my consciousness and began to grow, and once it sprouted and began to be more present, it slowly became an expectation.

But here’s what I’m wondering: Is GRS the genital equivalent of cosmetic surgery, or is it more deeply intertwined with gender issues? In other words, having embraced womanhood already, and having been accepted, why take a step that will be expensive and will take me out of commission for a month?

I can list reasons, but they’re not terribly compelling or urgent. And yet it’s something I find more and more desirable. I don’t know where this feeling comes from. Like so many things in this transsexual transition, some things just seem to have their own urgency.

I find my body pretty frustrating, not at the level of body dysmorphia, but at the rather superficial level of the way clothes fit and at the level of convenience.

A lot of late transitioners seem to take the view that GRS just tidies things up.

Even Mary Jo has begun saying, “You know, it’s a real jolt to see that thing sticking out of an otherwise female body.” And in some ways, I think not living with a hermaphrodite would be a relief to her.

But are these reasons sufficient to keep my rendezvous with surgery?