Measure Twice, Cut Once


Taxis are required by law to take you anywhere in the five boroughs; but they do not like to go out of Manhattan unless you are going to the airport.

Monday, the day I had top surgery, did not start off auspiciously. The car service called a half hour before the scheduled pick-up time to tell me they were running late. The car would arrive at my apartment after I was due at the hospital. We canceled the car and went down to Hudson St. and hailed a yellow taxi. The driver refused to take us to The Bronx. He claimed he didn’t know how to get there and his GPS was broken. We hailed another taxi. The driver punched the address into his phone and started driving. We arrived on time. I gave him a good tip.

Montefiore Hospital’s day surgery unit is in a huge building with many corridors. We got lost. We wanted the silver zone and kept ending up in the purple zone. A security guard led us to the day surgery registration area. I signed in and got changed into my gown and waited for Dr. Weiss to come by for the final mark up.

Measure twice

Yes, it was this kind of measuring tape; in centimeters.

He arrived and apologized. He forgot to bring his measuring tape. He ran off to get another. I imagined him at the Dress Barn begging for a spare tape “Hurry up, I’ve got a patient on the table.” I have no idea where he found it, but, after what seemed like a long time, he reappeared with a new one. He looked at his notes, measured and marked and measured and marked. He stepped back, admired his work, and then we walked into the operating room.

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What I Did During My Midlife Crisis


Even chimps have midlife crises.

Mea culpa. I want to apologize to all the middle-aged people whom I mocked, behind their backs, for what they did during their midlife crisis. I rolled my eyes at the $60,000 kitchen renovation with a Sub Zero refrigerator and an integrated wine storage system. I snickered at the $45,000 red Cadillac sedan with French leather seats and a Bose sound system. I said “She should have had a brain implant instead of a boob job” in reference to a less than stellar co-worker who got a big cup.

I take it all back. Somewhere out there someone I know is “tsk-tsking” me for having top surgery. It is payback. What I am doing fits the profile of a midlife crisis as much as taking skydiving lessons or buying a Harley-Davidson.

Midlife can hit you hard. Particularly when you are set in your ways. Same job. Same partner. Same apartment. Same therapist. Same non-conforming butch gender stuff. And then boom, you look up and you are in uh-oh land. The land of possibilities that you did not let yourself think about every time you pulled on your Levi 501’s, buttoned your L.L. Bean flannel shirt, and laced up your Timberland boots. Continue reading

Are We There Yet?


And it really is a BMW. Really.

I went for my pre-op physical for top surgery. No big deal. Blood test, urine test, and an EKG. Montefiore Hospital. An hour on the subway; the next to the last stop on the #4 line in The Bronx. I didn’t read or listen to music. I looked at everyone else on the train and wondered what they saw when they looked back at me.

I was anxious about the blood test. I am afraid of needles. I have a 50/50 chance of fainting when I give blood or get a shot. I told the nurse I wanted to recline so that If I fainted I wouldn’t fall out of the chair. We talked about our dogs until she finished drawing blood. She has a brindle pit mix. I survived.

It was the EKG that got to me. Another nurse left me behind a curtain and told me to take off my shirt and lie down on the gurney. I remembered that I was wearing boxers that stuck up above my jeans and a binder (Air Max velcro). She attached the EKG electrodes to my arms and legs and then she struggled a little to get them under my binder.  She didn’t say anything and I was just about to offer to loosen the velcro when she got the last one attached.

While I was on the gurney I realized that once I have top surgery this is going to happen every time I have an EKG or a physical. It will be awkward. With my shirt on, I will be a hard to read flat chested butch. WIth my shirt off, I will be transgender. In no-man’s land. Continue reading

Are You an Apple Trapped Inside a Cranberry?

Do you ever feel like you are an apple trapped inside a cranberry? Or like a cranberry trapped inside an apple? Or maybe you feel like a cran-apple (or, as auto correct would insinuate, like a crabapple)?

Thanksgiving can be a tough time for U.S. fruits like us (transgender, butch, queer, or otherwise gender nonconforming). The ramp up to the holidays is packed full of images of heteronormative families in joyous and loving celebration. The women are working in the kitchen, the men are in the den watching football, and a well-behaved dog is peacefully snoozing by the fireplace. It is a constant reminder of how I don’t fit in, and why I don’t want to fit it. And that I am estranged from my birth family. It ended with Thanksgiving.

When Donna and I started our relationship, my mother would not invite her over. She was trying to keep my grandmother from “knowing.”  We were supposed to be one small normal happy family. The main source of happiness in my life was, and still is, Donna. Back then, I didn’t have a dog, but my mother would not have allowed me to bring the dog either.

I wouldn’t go to Thanksgiving without Donna. I hoped my refusal would pressure my mother into coughing up an invitation. It didn’t. We table hopped for a few years, but I wouldn’t go home. When Donna and I moved in together we decided to make Thanksgiving dinner in our home. We invited some friends over. Twenty years later, we are still cooking for the same crowd. My grandmother and my mother are both dead; stacked one on top of the other in a mausoleum in Westchester. Continue reading

How Dare You Presume I’m…?


San Diego Gay Pride March, 1983

When I realized I was gay I came out with a vengeance. When I realized I was transgender I came out with a whimper.

I came out in my residence hall my first week at college. I came out to my mother and brother at the end of my freshman year. I came out to my co-workers on every job. I came out because I believe there is no point to being in the closet. Being gay is nothing to be ashamed of or to keep private. Being gay means being out.

I fit the butch stereotype of a masculine female. I show up on everyone’s gaydar but not on their transdar. When asked “Don’t butch lesbians just want to be men?” I said “No!” because it was the “correct” answer. Even though it wasn’t true, for me.

Coming out as transgender is different from coming out as gay. Different presumptions. When I tell you I am gay I am stating that I am sexually and romantically attracted to women. When I tell you I am trans I am stating that I don’t self-identify with my birth sex or the gender imposed upon me when I was born. Continue reading

The Other Side of the Shore


Bras Across The Bridge – Breast Cancer Awareness – 2011

I managed to make it this far without going through the social rites of passage for a Jewish-American girl. No Bat Mitzvah, no Sweet Sixteen, no Prom, no graduation party, no wedding. No ceremony to mark the crossing of a line, the shift in status from childhood to adulthood. No ancient rituals, no reading of texts, no scarifications.

Maybe scarifications. I’m counting down the days to top surgery (December 8). If top surgery is my rite of passage, it is not clear to me what is on the other side of the shore.

I’ve been low-key about it because I don’t want to put a hex on it. I am thankful that Donna remains nominally onboard and reconciled to my going through with it. I’ve read up on tips for top surgery and what to expect while you are recovering. I ‘m making a list of what I need to do around the house to prepare. I want to make it as easy on Donna as possible.

Over the last fifteen years I’ve had four surgeries (one to repair torn knee ligaments, two to remove fibroids, and a partial hysterectomy). I learned that I get nauseous and depressed from anesthesia. I learned that I am impatient to recover, that I get bored staying at home, and that I don’t like to ask for help.

But, I am channelling all of my anxiety about top surgery into the realization that I don’t have the right outfit to come home from the hospital in. Or for lounging around in while I recover.  Or for taking a walk to cool my cabin fever. Continue reading

Living with the Dichotomy

Butch-cognitive-dissonanceI am trying to listen. Without interrupting, without succumbing to distraction, without shutting down. This is what I hear my six-year-old self say (in not quite six-year-old language):

I’m not a girl. I don’t want to be a girl. It doesn’t feel right. I can’t pretend I’m a girl. I hate being a girl. I can’t pretend I’m happy. I don’t want to grow up unless I can be a boy. I want to wear boy’s clothes and play baseball. I want a boy’s name and a crew cut. 

I want to be like my Dad. Not like my mother. Not like my grandmother. I don’t want to grow up and be a wife or a mother. If I could, I would turn myself into a boy. Continue reading