This is me, getting “back on line” in more ways than one, since the biggest spring of my life. As I promised, I would take some time off to heal and bring the blog back when I could, which is now. I will post the events of March 21st – March 30th in three parts. This part is benign, but parts 2 & 3 will contain some graphic descriptions (and will also carry this premumble) reminding those with weak tummies that surgery and the human body sometimes can be… an uncomfortable affair…
So without further ado… I present Raised by Wolves 21 –
Scottie Jeanette Christine Madden ,Spring, 2017,
Well that happened…
I thought I would start writing this one a lot earlier than I actually am… I’m three weeks from the largest moment of my life with the exception of my marriage and… Yes, it’s basically a rebirth?
Is it? Because as radically different as every single molecule of every moment of every day is for me now, this is that inevitable that I wrote about in “Getting Back To Me…” that inevitable that has been the sun on my distant horizons my entire life, that inevitable that I tried to hide from for so long…
that inevitable that finally came.
When I last wrote to you all, I was on my way to Scottsdale Arizona – I returned from Scottiesdale Arizona literally a new woman.
Before we go any further, I feel it’s time for the requisite pre-mumble and disclaimers, and I confess that I say this now with a little different understanding than I had before. But it still is our promise to ourselves in our community (which is of course the Ts of the LGBTQIA+ community). That promise is that we make sure it is understood that for us a community: surgery is not the destination, it’s not a value or degree of trans-ness or a commitment or anything other than the personal choice to either have or not have; that one must make in one’s life to fulfill one’s personal life path one way or the other.
We take pains to make this crystal clear so that we don’t establish a way to judge someone’s else’s identity.
We are who we declare we are and that’s not up for debate, opinion, or judgment.
That said, it is (was) the most important aspect of my transition, with the exception of Marcy’s support for me.
So, here I am.
On the other side of the river I’ve spent my entire life staring longingly at from the far shore.
And here’s where our legacy and the generational divides start to appear. I am, in the language of the older generation in the trans community, no longer trans… Yes, in the older generation when one of us “went all the way,” that person was no longer considered trans. You were now…
just a woman. And thank you, God.
And to get academic for another half-second to completely throw this all into the blender, the whole idea of using the terms “cis” and “trans” from the Latin meaning this side (cis) and that side (trans) of the river, I suppose by definition I am on back on this side now.
What I can tell you is that, yes I am, finally after 45 years of longing, dreaming, wishing, praying, denying, trying to forget, throwing up my hands in despair, and burying my body with alcohol and any other kind of distraction…
The prayers of a 4-year-old child begging God to give her her body back when she woke up the next morning, have finally been answered.
I Got Back To Me completely.
And I wish I could say it was easy… it’s easy if you view it from afar, like watching the rising sun melt river ice. The truth is that the sun’s blaze transforms the hard crystal of ice to liquid and eventually vapor by searing the molecular bonds with such force that it cleaves atomic forces like paper dolls.
And speaking of paper dolls. For those just joining us, after waiting for six months in line for my surgical date, suddenly the day was drawing nigh. My surgeon’s nurse called me to make sure that I had all of the drugs I was supposed to bring with me, as I would be traveling from California to Arizona to enter the chrysalis and emerge as my butterfly self. I went to my local pharmacy to pick up the drugs and discovered…
According to their “infallible” computer, I was no longer covered by my insurance plan. I, or rather it, had been canceled. In their world, (which I had adopted now as ALL my world) I didn’t exist.
To say that I dissolved in a puddle of tears in the parking lot would be an understatement. I whimpered out to Mylove over the telephone as I struggled to find my car in the parking lot through a shower of tears. She calmly said, “come home Mylove, and we’ll figure it out.”
“Figuring it out” literally meant a 48 hours of round the clock phone call vigil, which i wrote about in my last blog – no need to pick that scab again.
Working with Kaiser’s managers in the members’ office and covered California to work it out was a harrowing experience considering I was just about to get on the plane. it was with those circumstances that we are driven to the airport by my brother-in-law then its a kiss on the cheeks, hugs that practical crush us and we’re on our way.
As we jog through the Burbank airport, Mylove suddenly veers left and I almost slam into a woman in a wheelchair, after making my apologies, I see what has literally attracted Mylove’s attention – A magnetic sign , in the shape of paw print declares, “I heart my 2 mommies.” Mylove is buying 2, for us each to affix to our cars back home. But it floors me, Mylove wants to declare to the world our state. Through tears I continue toward the TSA Prechek… with Mylove. Completely.
When we got to Scottsdale, the hotel clerk told us we had to pay for the entire 9 nights in advance, $2500 that we didn’t have. We realized we needed to do something and fast. And by saying “we,” I really mean Mylove.
It was all her.
And that was the beginning of her carrying me (literally) through this entire experience, emotionally physically and spiritually, keeping my spirits up, making sure I took everything I was supposed to take, and generally opening every door in front of me.
I think you may all think you really know what love is, but you have not felt the full power of it as it comes from Marcy Madden.
So we paid for the one night, both held our breath and dove into the internet… no way we could blow money we didn’t have at that moment on something KP was going to reimburse us Gosh only knows when. And here’s where Mylove and I started to realize we were on a divine path lit by angels…
One our oldest friends, a blonde tornado who goes by the name of Eloise or Weezie for short was in Scottiesdale for a conference, and decided to stay an extra day and help us out. And she had a car, and she knew where the Whole Foods was and best pho. Since I could only have clear broth – I would not be deprived. To say she was a Godsend wouldn’t cut it – she was a blast of sunshine.
After a comedy of errors and another hotel, we were finally settling in to a day of bowel cleansing, which, if any of you ever gone through any kind of major surgery, may have had this experience. You have to completely flush your system of all solids which involves using industrial-strength laxatives that they try to make palatable by adding berry flavor to. SPOILER ALERT: it doesn’t work. I mean flavoring doesn’t work. It tastes like berry burp flavored gasoline. However, the lax thingy works waaaaaaaay too well.
Weezie and I must have have been sisters in a past life because in this life we bantered and teased like siblings… I’m using the past tense because, since transition, our banter is lighter and sweeter and the edge is all gone (something that she can’t stop reminding me of… sigh).
Except that now the roles are reversed and I’m the little sister. Weezie took far too much delight in my extra-embarrassing efforts during this mega cleanse, and couldn’t stop herself from recording on camera my very first enema.. yes we have to get that scrubbed from all devices…
The jokes and puns never stopped and soon we are all completely laughed out. Weezie excuses herself to her own hotel and then it’s just me and Mylove and a hundred or so more trips to the toilet even tho’ my “lips are sealed,” in other words, absolutely no more fluids after midnight. Even so, you’d think from the volume departing my body that I had been drinking directly from a firehose.
And then dawn comes… thank God! Actually it’s predawn but I’ll take it – we have to walk to the hospital at 4:30 a.m. to be there at 5:00.
It’s eerie… walking with nothing but the street lights awake. Even the signs for Starbucks are dark at this time. The traffic lights change for no one, until we press the pedestrian button and get our way…
The hospital is as quiet as a church. Three other couples sit and whisper in the darkened lobby. We’re all anxious for our various reasons and scheduled surgeries. Not even the receptionist has arrived yet.
Marcy and I are crossing our fingers and holding our breath as we sit with the admissions woman moments later – we’re trusting that Marcy’s work with the KP members services has somehow held, and trickled down to here. Everything’s still in a whisper as if we’re not wanting to wake the hospital up lest they too have kicked us out of queue over the insurance confusion. But we’re fine, and whatever snafus we had getting here seem to be ironed out at least for now.
And then I’m escorted away. Marcy will be sent for once I’m “gowned up.” I can feel myself slipping into survival mode. I’m not afraid. I’m scared that I will miss it – these most profound steps that I’ve taken as an adult, even more intense than our wedding, are happening! And I’m trying desperately not to miss a molecule, but my mind is being clouded by adrenaline.
Weighed, gowned, and measured – BP is surprising normal, heart rate too, how could that be?
Yes, the super zen calm that I’m known for when I’m directing multi-cam television or steering a crew through a third-world customs quagmire has descended on me like a trusted friend. I am in my zone now, and the anxious turbocharged fear has given way to my superpower – I remember everyone’s name after hearing it only once, the entire surgical team flashes in and out of the cubicle getting ready for showtime. They are a well-oiled, highly professional team that moves with the tight choreography of a hip-hop ballet, smiling, gently joking and tending not only to my physical needs with needle, pill or cuff, but my emotional needs, keeping it soft and light, — they know better’n I, that every small step for them is a giant leap for me.
I’m helped onto my gurney, the warming blanket fills with warm air and I snuggle in, and Marcy arrives. Things are light and efficient – everyone is cloaked in surgical green except…
… my surgeon, Dr Ley.
She’s in her workout clothes as if she jogged to work this morning and is powering a banana and yogurt as she checks in on me and her team. She likes what she sees. Her team is ready. She gives me a reassuring squeeze as the anesthesiologist slips a pill under my tongue.
And Marcy says that she brushed aside my hair and kissed me for good luck. I have to take her word for it (I would’ve guessed as much) but that’s where the tape stops. No fade to black, no static… No freeze frames or even the film caught in the gate before melting… just a hard cut to black…
Three and half hours later I’m in a recovery room. Dr. Ley and Marcy have already spoken, apparently. I have no idea. I have no reason to disbelieve that, it’s just, I have no recollection of even being anywhere except… wait… yes, yes…
The first inkling I have that I have just finally crossed the river back to this side is when I’m aware that… yes, it’s… my face? Yes, my face is stretched into…
A huge contented smile. Mylove’s brushing the hair from my eyes and standing over me smiling (this time i remember) and she says, “every time you wake up, you have the biggest smile on your face!” Every time? Every time? You mean this isn’t the first time I’ve open my eyes? I’ve been in my room for two hours, which B-T-Dubs already has flowers in it, and a pink teddy bear holding a heart that says “it’s a girl!” and a huge bouquet of balloons. Weezie is still here having kept MyLove company.
And I am now fully starting to enter my body… this body. My body.
Did i mention that I don’t want to miss a moment? I am supremely, blissfully, wonderfully happy. I’m so happy that I can’t believe how happy I am. As much as I tried to imagine this moment, I’m struggling so hard to cling to it. I’m….
Holy cow, I am not prepared for how immense this moment actually feels. And maybe that’s a defense mechanism or maybe that’s how I was able to stay on the other side of the river for as long as I had to. Maybe that’s the way that I was able to endure all of what I had to endure in order to get through a day on the far shore. But guess what? I’m so blissed out, that I cut off thus line of introspection. Even asking that question now seems so… Irrelevant? It’s hard for me to admit this, but yes… that’s how I feel, that’s how amazing this time is! And it hits me like a thunderbolt! As my toes recognize the feeling of the warm sands of this shore… The pain of 50 years is so… distant. It feels like a story I once read.
(Now, this is me talking three weeks after the crack of a thunderbolt sheared the smog of Gender Dysphoria from my being… and some perspective is in order)I
n my writing, speaking, workshops, and activism, I’m remembering what the pain of gender dysphoria is so I can describe that to people who have never experienced it. That has been very relevant. It’s how I’ve been able to help open the hearts of people to understand our community, to help them try to understand how confusing and psychologically disturbing and traumatic this is. But more important than that – the world’s understanding of the destruction that Gender Dysphoria wreaks is crucial for getting transgender people the help and care we need to merely live our lives. Critical. Crucial. Necessary.
But… suddenly irrelevant?
Snapping back to my hospital bed…
I mull this… the black hole suddenly filled with light and love… like seeing the hole where a diseased oak had once rotted suddenly filling in with Gardenias. I reason, as my mind floats in a soup of Dilantin, the intravenous pain medication that is blissfully keeping me distracted from the sutures keeping me trussed up like a thanksgiving turkey… where was I? Oh yeah… it’s only irrelevant, this lack of gender whatchamacallit, to me right now. It’s obviously not time to think about the past, but wonderfully important to treasure this moment now.
For the next couple of hours I drift in and out of sleep, and every time I wake up, I struggle to stay awake to share this moment with Mylove… A gentle knock at the door and Dr. Ley walks in and stops and stares at me and says, “how the hell are you so blissful? you just came through major surgery and yet you look… radiant.”
This, of course is a bit surprising since she sees at least three patients per day, so I would’ve thought that everybody has this same reaction.
But now even she was surprised.
Next time: Part 2 of 3 – More that… happens.
Scottie Jeanette Madden
Screenwriter, Author, Cook and Lover. Author of "Getting Back To Me, from girl to boy to woman in just fifty years"