Shirts vs. Skins

My kind of locker room.

My kind of locker room. Getty Images.

Another visit to the gym and another epiphany. In my previous post I wrote that I feel physically safe in the women’s locker room, but not emotionally safe. I try to ignore my emotions. It is machismo.

I use the women’s locker room because I think I should be strong enough to handle it. I think I should have a thick skin and not be bothered by how out-of-place I feel. That changing at home is wimping out. Because I don’t want to let the girls with the pony tails chase me out of the playground again. It is grade school, redux.

I also realized that I want to change and towel off like a guy, not a gal. I want to wrap the towel around my waist, not around my chest like a strapless little white cocktail dress. I don’t want to look like a woman, even in the women’s locker room. Even though I’ve never used a men’s locker room, I know that guys don’t wrap like that.

Not me. Not Gracie. But I'd wear the green towel that way.

Not me. Not Gracie. But I’d wear the green towel that way. Getty Images.

If I brought a beach towel I could put it over my shoulders and cover everything in a more neutral way (thank you to Mary for sharing your coping mechanisms).

I’ve only seen a few women completely naked at the gym. It is a breach of etiquette to stroll around the locker room naked. It is a breach of etiquette to look at someone while they are changing, especially if you can see anything. Especially if you are a butch lesbian or a masculine genderqueer person with a vagina. Better to be stared at than to be caught staring. Continue reading

Topless in the Locker Room

femmes-with-towelsI went back to the gym for the first time in three months. My surgeon cleared me on January 15, but then Donna went into the hospital. I’m just starting to feel comfortable leaving her alone for a few hours at a time.

The truth is, I was avoiding the women’s locker room. All of my adult life I’ve steeled myself going in and out of bathrooms, dressing rooms, and locker rooms. I brace myself for the  challenge. If you see something say something. I don’t apologize. I have the right to be there, but I don’t fully believe I belong there. I feel like an interloper.

It was my luck that the first day back, and as I was entering the locker room after my work out, I ran into a work friend of Donna’s. Carol was dressed in her street clothes and packing up. I was in shorts and a sweat soaked T-shirt. We chatted in front of my locker and then I sat down and fiddled with my lock and waited for her to put on her coat and leave. It was awkward. If I hadn’t just had top surgery, I might have stripped down. I waited. I was anxious.

Lots of women have locker room anxiety. They are shy about being naked in front of other women. They deal with it by arriving in their gym clothes and then going home and showering. Others opt for the modest multi-towel changing technique. They never show anything between their shoulders and their thighs. They shimmy into their bra and panties while remaining covered by towels. Other women change in the bathroom stall or shower stall, behind closed doors.  Continue reading

Why I Like Happy Endings

I'm not a goody two shoes. Boy in Little Lord Fauntleroy suit.

I’m not a goody two shoes.
Boy in Little Lord Fauntleroy suit.

I’m not a Pollyanna or a Little Lord Fauntleroy. I don’t expect the best from everyone, but I do like happy endings. Not happy as in a boy falls in love with and gets the girl, but happy as in the cop gets indicted by a Grand Jury after shooting an unarmed black man kind of way. Happy when justice prevails. The story doesn’t always go my way, but I am optimistic that things will change. Not on their own. Nothing changes without action.

For the first eight weeks after my top surgery, Donna refused to look at my naked chest. She was queasy about my surgery, and was afraid she would react negatively to the scars and the contours. The first four weeks were not a problem. I slept in the other bedroom because I snore like a rusty chainsaw when I sleep on my back. I wore a T-shirt and boxers around the house. I asked her if she wanted to look. I asked her what she was waiting for.

While Donna was in the hospital, and unable to get out of bed without assistance, I teased her by starting to lift my shirt. At one point she dared me to do it, but there were two nurses in the room and I didn’t think I could flash her without them noticing. Continue reading

The Sex Life of Sponges

Donna is back home with me. The hospital discharged her eight days after open heart surgery; four nights in the ICU and four nights in the cardiac step down unit. The evening before they discharged her, the Physician’s Assistant told me he’d spoken with the social worker and the physical therapist and they all agreed Donna would do better at home with me than in residential rehab. Medicare is providing a visiting nurse and a visiting physical therapist. We went home with a shower chair, a commode, a walker, a drug regimen, and an exercise plan.

It caught me by surprise. The original plan was for residential rehab, and I thought I had at least two more weeks of bachelor living before Donna came home. I had some straightening up to do. Her first night back I cooked a simple dinner. We ate at our dining table, and then sat on the couch and listened to Beethoven Piano Sonatas. It was very sweet.

Our new sea sponge.

Our new sea sponge.

Donna’s nurses in the step down unit gave us a lot of information and advice for a healthy recovery. Mila explained to me how to bathe Donna in the shower. She told me to use a soft sponge and clean the wound area first, keeping the incision out of the direct line of the shower spray. And to give Donna a clean towel every time she showered.

I may be an oblivious butch, but I usually give my towel the sniff test before I use it, and keep reusing it until it is close to funky. I consider this part of my reduce, reuse, and recycle lifestyle (i.e. lazy, procrastinating, and cheap). We only own six bath towels (two for me, two for Donna, and two for house guests) plus two old towels for drying Gracie off after it rains. Loads of laundry are in my future. Continue reading

What I Thought About in the ICU

I've been looking at a machine like this all week.

I’ve been looking at heart rate machines all week.

Donna had her heart valve replaced on January 21, 2015. As expected (95%), she survived and the operation was successful. She spent four nights in the ICU. Now she is in the step down unit. The next phase is a residential rehab facility, and then home.

The medical staff monitor, poke, stick, and medicate Donna. She is tired and doesn’t believe that this is what a good outcome feels like. Everyone says that she looks great and is doing great. I believe them; she looks good to me.

What do you think about when your partner is in the ICU?

My thoughts were not as deep as I expected. When I look at Donna I feel how much I love her, but I didn’t think about how much I love her while I was there.

I realized I made a mistake waiting by myself while she was in surgery. I’m a quiet person, and I didn’t want to have to chat while I waited. I should have had someone with me just in case something terrible happened. I can’t imagine being alone and getting bad news and then going home by myself. I had offers of company that I rejected. I must learn to accept help.

Some people in the ICU have no family, no friends, no visitors. I am afraid I will end up like that. I know that I am a one man dog, a one femme butch, a one Donna Jamie. Continue reading

The Odds Are in Our Favor

Donna is getting a heart valve replacement today (January 21, NYC). It is a big deal for both of us. If you are wondering why this is the first you are hearing about it, don’t blame me. She scheduled it last week and it blindsided me.

For three years or so Donna has had “aortic regurgitation” and fatigue. She has seen several cardiologists, and tried as hard as possible to avoid taking drugs or getting surgery. The diagnosis was heart failure and a potential valve issue, but she set out to get second opinions. She finally started taking beta-blockers over the summer. Donna can gather information to the point of procrastination.

Two weeks ago I accompanied her to a consultation with a valve surgeon at Columbia-Presbyterian. He read her the riot act and I am grateful that he did. The surgeon told her heart was working too hard to compensate for the aortic valve leakage. He told her that the risk of waiting was not worth it, and that she had a high probability of a good outcome if he did the surgery now. Low risk, high benefit. He also explained that the risk gets higher the longer she waits, and the benefits decrease. He told her to take no more than a month to decide. Continue reading

Have You Always Had That Mustache?

Marcel Duchamp pins the mustache on the Mona Lisa (1919).

Marcel Duchamp pins the mustache on the Mona Lisa (1919).

Now that I’ve had top surgery, I’d like to stop thinking about what to do next and settle back into my butch/transgender self. Without feeling pressured to be on some trajectory with an endpoint. WIthout being swept away by someone else’s idea of the transgender narrative.

The pressure to keep going is subtle. The unspoken assumption is that next year I’ll be taking T and using the men’s room. That transition has a starting line and a finish line and once the starting gun goes off all the participants are full speed ahead on the shortest path. There is no place in that race for a meandering half-baked genderqueer person.

An acquaintance ran into me on the street and we chatted. Later, she asked Donna how long I’ve taken testosterone for (I don’t) and if I’ve always had a mustache. Yes. I’ve always had what I refer to as my “Fu” but no one said anything about it until I changed my name. My Fu is most prominent on my upper right lip. I neither want my Fu to spread and grow nor do I want it to disappear. I’m fond of it. I never shaved, plucked, or bleached it (chin hairs are another story).  Continue reading