Hard right turn.
I'm on a plane flying out of Burbank airport. It's Wednesday, September 21st. We shot down the runway heading west and as we lifted into the sky we took a graceful sweeping, high banking turn to the right and headed east...
I'm heading to Arizona. I'm a blender of emotions. Joy. Excitement. Tears. Fears.
I'm not turning back; I'm heading in the right direction.
I'm hours away from talking to a surgeon. My surgeon. For my surgery. Yes, surgery. The surgery. That surgery. Gender Confirmation Surgery.
I am writing this in real time. This is a day… well, it’s a day I never thought would come. I’m not using those words lightly. This isn’t a day long looked for, a day, like Christmas, graduation, or even my wedding day. No. This is a day that I never believed could ever come.
As the cabin pressure clutches my head, I feel a need to sleep (the natural Madden safety “override” when things are beyond intense), but I’m also driven to document my state--heck yes, this is big decision. Mylove and I just gave a lecture that took extra time to make this politically/emotionally/intellectually-charged subject as plain (as could be) to a class of 100 bright-eyed, budding psychologists at Cal State Channel Islands only yesterday...
… I guess it's on my mind.
Who am I kidding? Certainly not you, dear reader. You know better. You know me better. You, faithful reader, to whom I've spelled-out in my book, a word, the word, that has glimmered and winked out on the horizon of farthest reaches of the inner universe of my life. And this word is...
My relationship with this word is… well, it’s the chimera of my life. It’s lion’s head and dragon’s body, has shape-shifted almost as many times as the infamous "it" (dysphoria) that I also described in “Getting Back To Me.” It's a word that started out as a known but distant throb. Then, for a while, became a siren’s call, threatening to dash my life on the rocks of doom. Then faintly as a distant beacon in the darkness, before finally shredding the clouds into vast ribbons, as courage and Grace blazed into my life.
But it does demand some attention as the giddiness of sunlight warms my skin. I have, as a student of yoga, been more than casually aware of karma, destiny, fate and kismet. None of these are the same, it turns out, for me or anyone. And with almost thirty years of study, I can't confuse these. Karma, in the true yogic sense of the word, actually has three flavors. One you brought with you into this lifetime. One you created in this lifetime and are experiencing with every perceived new moment, and continue to create in this lifetime with every thing that you do with that moment. The last is the “bolt of lightning” that seemingly comes from out of nowhere, but that is still a reaction to your past actions. (I know, me, too. I have yet to understand the differences between number three and the other two, but then again, I’m “justa” student, I don’t pretend to be an expert). In simpler terms, karma is action and reaction, creating action... and reaction... demanding more action than reaction, if one’s on one’s game.
To me, the above mental pretzel is important because it’s how I’ve tried to understand this lifetime. The first flavor of karma was what I thought my life which had been, was going to be.
A sentence, if you will, a prison-term I could do nothing about. A destiny, if you will, that was going to be "as best as could be expected." The spiritual equivalent of "bless your heart." A mediocre life that would be marked by good deeds and noble acts, by the love I made, rather than received… that would earn me a better go next time. A better life could be mine next time in exchange for the effort I put forth this time.
But God did give me a mind. And a heart. And this life. The next life was a gamble. How could I sell this life and Mylove short? No. I couldn't give up. I wouldn't give up. And as many of you who have heard me write (hang with me), the she that is me staged an explosive escape. She didn’t just pick the lock on her dungeon doors, she blew up the castle.
But, as dramatic as that sounds, it didn't solve all of my life.
Which brings me to the other two flavors of karma. And that's where it's gets murky.
Am I charging toward inevitable because of karma I created or karma I'm creating?
Was I always going to heed inevitable's whisper or am I'm creating its call?
Was this path I'm now running down as fast as I can, making up for years lost, trying to live the years left by taking a hard right turn, always going to be my path?
Or did I just suddenly wake up and am now seeing the road clearly for the first time, and choosing this path consciously.
Well, Geezus when you put it that way, what idiot would confess to the former?
So there. I guess I just answered my own question. And I guess it’s so, cuz I have both duck bumps and tears.
Maybe it's why I can't help but be open, very open, almost too open about what I'm doing. I'm passionate about living this thing called life to the fullest. Now that I know what compromising oneself (I used to say checking my swing for you baseball fans) actually feels like--how insidious it really is as the water gently warms around you and you have no idea that you're being lulled by this bath that is actually soup. And you are the main ingredient. Your life got past you. And you didn't even know it as the ball went between your legs...
No. I won't have it. At least I wouldn't have it, which why the walls fell as the dragon who once guarded the hostage blew down the battlements, and this damsel jumped aboard the scaly back, took the reins and soared...
But here's the thing. This is just me.
As I've gotten further out into the world as ... well, as me, the girl who was raised by wolves (if you gimme a sec I think I can cram a few more metaphors into this before we get to the end), I find myself speaking about and to the issues of our community. In the readings and lectures Mylove and I have been devoting our lives to, I feel responsible when I’m at the megaphone.
So here goes:
We in the trans community are not our bodies. Yes, we love all that goes with glorifying and celebrating our physicality; from Buck Angel's tats and pecs to Laverne Cox's curves and hair, to Jenny Boylan's specs and class, to Liz Bornstein's bohemian flair...
... but none of those great people are their bodies. What they have done is what everyone who lives, does. They live. They have bodies. They care for them, clothe them, adorn them.
And for the outside world we know it looks confusing. We have been at odds with our own bodies for too long in most every case, so when we turn that around, it looks like we ourselves are consumed/obsessed by them. You have no idea how traumatic looking at (or not looking as was my case) my image in the mirror, because its reflection merely showed the walls of my prison. So now that I actually like how I look, I love that woman who stares back at me. It’s relief beyond compare.
So, we all fiercely guard our right to govern our bodies and our privacy. Let's be clear. GCS is not a requirement. It is not an achievement or measuring stick. No one is "more trans" than anyone else—not because of hormones or medical procedures, suffering, trials or any other outside criteria.
And we can't care if the cis world understands. It isn't for them to decide anyway.
But here's why we all politely demure to privacy or out-and-out call you out when you cite your curiosity as the excuse for being rude: when you ask that question you are suddenly making us inhuman. You are asking a question whose answer is reserved for lovers and doctors, and you are neither if you are asking. Because you would know the answer if you were one of those. You would have earned our trust to know that answer, and we would've told you.
We are not our bodies, but your question shows you don't get this. You are making my genitals the subject of your curiosity. Cis people seem to be offended that we would keep this secret from them. Hmm.
So there it is... but my flight’s about to touch down at Sky harbor. More later!
As we wait to taxi to the gate (bizzy day at Sky harbor) I am also parked emotionally. I am on the verge of tears, but there's an exhilaration in the water. I'm worried that I spent so much time writing the above disclaimer that I'm selling my own experience of now short. I am feeling like an astronaut about to leave the pod bay doors and step into the void. And on the other side is... is… is what? What do I expect will be my next... what? Step? Threshold? Milestone?
I don't even know what to call it. I am getting surgery to take care of something that has... been what all my life? A problem? An issue? None of these seems accurate. That’s because, this has been a black hole in my consciousness. A place I don't go. An area of my body I don't look at. A part of me that I try not to think about... I have always felt... okay, dissociated in this meat suit.
Am I really wearing this boy's body? and why?
Time out for an über-ride to Scottsdale…
And we're back.
Inevitably, I got here. This here, right here. T-minus 2.5 hours to my first consultation with the surgeon and counting... I’m going to eat some lunch and pick up where I left off over chips and salsa and a taco salad.
But how did I get here is still numbing my mind. How did I ever get to here, despite my own body contradicting every thought and experience about who I really am for 54 years? This could be why I am so mentally strong. I can hold to the truth of reality despite all and I mean all odds. It's why fantasy, as much as I, who had permanent creases in my jeans’ back pocket from the constant companion of Lord of the Rings, I who was the first DM (ask a geek) in my circle of D&D'ers. Yes, that I who would going to make a career in fantasy...
... just couldn't take fantasy anymore in my own life.
I couldn't take that being who I am would be a dream, a concept, a figment of my imagination.
So what was it other than inevitable?
And if so, then why is it... unbelievable that I could actually, really, finally be here?
Because the chasm between perceived reality (this body is... well, it has boy parts!) and inevitable, seemed farther than the nearest star.
And yet... across time and space, the seals on my pod have just been breached, oxygen has entered my body and I'm emerging from my suspended animation to step forth on planet Venus.
For reals? For reals. For reals!
I think, as I set foot on the Venusian soil, that it's unbelievable because I never dared believe I would ever be here. I dreamed it, oh how I dreamed it, but never, ever ever dared to actually believe it.
Remember, I make make-believe for a living. I know how the sausage is made (too soon?). I know where the smoke ends and the mirrors begin... so why would I believe that my own dream could actually come true?
Because, honey... it's inevitable. It was inevitable from the start.
This day has been coming to you since before you could dream.
And before I know it, I'm in the office and meeting with Dr. Ley. As a trans woman I feel understandably comfortable in her presence. She's drop dead gorgeous. (I need to talk to her about her internet photos. Honey, they seriously don’t do you any justice) and basically, I'll have what she's having!
And she is all business, explaining in great and perfect detail, in ordinary terms, what will be my new reality. Depth of cavity. Aftercare procedures. Surgical reality and managed expectations.
And Mylove is here by speaker phone. Dr Ley laughs that she hasn't looked at me the whole time, focusing her whole spiel at the phone. But it's better than okay. This has to be a mutual decision. And if this is the compensation for her not being on the plane with me today, then so be it. And Mylove has questions: What is the recovery time? Will [my] age be a negative factor? How does this compare to other major surgeries? Like her hysterectomy or her colostomy?
That's Mylove. She's got my back even as I'm about to tharn. I am so overwhelmed I'm ready to just let it all happen. But Mylove would never let me do something that... stoopid. She would never let me go into this half-cocked (still too soon?), wouldn't let me sleepwalk through the second biggest decision of our lives. This isn't in the least "elective" surgery, unless by elective you mean lifesaving.
Cuz that's the thing--as fucking mind-blowing, gobsmacking, knock you to you knees, crazy as this could be... as completely overwhelming brain-freezing full tharning as it should be (and is!), the alternative is still a spectre that looms out on the fringes of my consciousness... the utter despair of a life unlived, the splinter in my heart that would never let me rest.
So, maybe that's my beautiful identity showing up for its day, finally. Finally, ready to step out and step up to... inevitable.
Cuz, after the doc pulls and tugs and examines what will be her raw materials to fashion me a new vijay-jay, she makes sure I'm really okay. And it's here that I feel the most comfortable. She knows what I'm really going through--from the inside out. The tsunami of emotions and the sheer giddiness that will all be in our rearview mirrors very soon. She outlines the gory details and usually, this is where my nervous system shuts down, no exaggeration. Even the thought of cold surgical instruments and my warm flesh in the same area code will usually have me pulling the rip cord… but, I'm all in, so in, I stay. And I takein all the details that will soon be my daily (wait, daily?!) regimen. At least a year’s worth of intense, okay let's say "making intimate friends" with my new... me.
And it feels important to stop and ponder that. I never referred to the organ down there as mine. it was it, that, and the, but never "my," as if I knew on some level to become attached to it. But it will be my new me, and mine. It doesn't go away. Just like me, it will be transformed into something beautiful and feminine and... right.
And then I get my second gobsmack - from Miki the business manager, wearing her hat as scheduler... And I have to hold on to chair… am I dreaming? Cuz she just proposed a date that's a full six months sooner than everyone had led me to expect.
I am in the right place after all.
In fact, were it not for the natural cycles of my hair growth (downstairs), I could go sooner. Dr. Ley's addition to the practice has relieved almost a year’s waiting list.
And then, I'm back in an Über, listening to my Phoenix driver extol the virtues of a city that I'll soon be seeing a lot of.
But most important is the phone call I need to make now...
Mylove and I talk about the "other call" (it already has a name in our family) and we acknowledge, it's actually a call from which we will measure time.
I listen as Mylove tries to keep her own emotions in check as she makes sure that I'm okay. I am. Torn between lying on the floor and crying and screaming and dancing for joy, I'm a hot mess. And she is... almost the same.
Yes, we still have a lot to do. Yes, with nothing on the horizon but uncertainty and promise, why not schedule it for then? And then there's the second phase which requires three months of healing before it can be considered. So we opt for phase two for just after my birthday. A new me, but I'll still be a Cancer!
So, together, we turn right into the winds of change and hold on.
Scottie Jeanette Madden
Screenwriter, Author, Cook and Lover. Author of "Getting Back To Me, from girl to boy to woman in just fifty years"