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.

Donna likes ambiguity. She likes movies with endings that are open to interpretation or unresolved (e.g. the French New Wave). She likes to discuss what the director meant, what was left out, and why. I like documentaries. I want to know what really happened, the back story, the details. I want Donna to see my chest the way I see it.

People, and institutions, can change. Sometimes through persuasion (coming out), sometimes through non-cooperation (call me by my name or I won’t answer), and sometimes by intervention or obstruction (I have the right to pee in this bathroom). Most people don’t change without a challenge; we must convince them that moving is better than staying where they are. They need to overcome their inertia, their complicity, their fear.

I’m a nonviolent activist, but I’m not used to being one in my own home. If you fall along the queer or transgender spectrum it helps if you are an optimist and an activist. You need to believe that you can create change, that things can and will get better, and that there is a reason to keep going. Barbara Deming said that we “have as it were two hands upon [the oppressor]—the one calming him, making him ask questions, as the other makes him move.” I’ve been nudging Donna along.

Donna was sitting on the couch reading the Sunday paper. I got out of the shower, and walked around with a towel, drying off, showing, but not showing. She asked me to put the towel down and turn around. She took it in and said it fit me, it looked nice. Nicer than she thought it would look. My scars were not as bad as I said. She liked that I had pecs and upright nipples. She was afraid that I would be flat or caved in, that it would look like something was removed or was missing, that I’d look unfinished. She said I looked like a boy, and that she liked it. She picked up the newspaper and continued reading the arts section.

I put on my boxer briefs and strolled around the apartment. I hung up the towel, I put on deodorant, I made the bed, I straightened up the papers on the coffee table. She didn’t lift up her head. I pulled on a T-shirt, buttoned up my jeans, made a cup of coffee, and sat down on the couch next to her. Clean and happy.

From the NYPL archives. Photo by Diana Davies.

From the NYPL archives. Photo by Diana Davies.

Note: Barbara Deming (1917-1984) was active in the Civil Rights, Peace, and Gay/Lesbian Liberation movements. Excerpts from her 1968 essay On Revolution and Equilibrium are here (the editors revised some language). The photograph is from a demonstration in support of Intro 475 (NYC Gay Rights Bill) and is from April, 1973. Barbara is third in from the left, after Sylvia Ray Rivera and Marsha P. Johnson. Kady Vanduers is to the right.

31 thoughts on “Why I Like Happy Endings

    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      So do I. I think all girls (or all people assigned female at birth) are raised with distorted images of themselves. Trying to figure out who you are authentically is no easier if you meet society’s expectations of beauty, or if you fall far short of them. If I had a dollar for every time someone said to me (as a tomboy) “you’d be so pretty if you’d only do…” then I would be rich.

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    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      Yes. A happy ending after a lot of sturm und drang. Next thing is to get me back to the gym to work on my back and shoulders so I can wear a tank top this summer.

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  1. The Little Butch That Could (TLBTC)

    That’s great! Another hurdle passed in your relationship. Congratulations! BTW, how’s Gracie doing with both her parents having surgery? I’m sure she’s been “helping” as best she can.
    Cheers.

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    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      Gracie was “peevish” when Donna was in the hospital because she was left alone a lot, and actually nipped the dog walker on his glove (so she was “let go” as a client). My neighbor pitched in with the walking and Gracie had a sleepover at her house during the blizzard that wasn’t so I could stay overnight at the hospital (the subway was shut down and I didn’t want to be unable to get back there if anything happened but Donna was fine and there was only a foot of snow at most so it was all for show).
      But, Gracie was very happy when Donna came home because it meant we were both there almost all the time plus visitors = extra treats. She is settling back in again. My V-day gift to Donna is going to be a clean and bathed (get all the dirty snow gunk off her belly) Gracie.

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      1. The Little Butch That Could (TLBTC)

        Well it sounds like everyone in the household is getting back into the swing of things. I’m sure Donna will like her V-day present. . . not so sure about Gracie. Cheers.

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    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      Thanks. We both knew eventually she was going to have to look, and it does look a lot better now than it did when the doctor took the bandages off. I’m glad she thinks it looks natural on me; it is about the best thing she could say.

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  2. middleagebutch

    Thanks for sharing. I’m like Donna. I like nebulous endings subject to interpretation. Maybe it’s the writer in me. W likes knowing. Everything. It drives her crazy when she doesn’t know or understand something.

    I am happy for your happy ending though. You deserve it.

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    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      I always attributed it more to Donna being a psychologist and me being a Civil Engineer rather than strictly to some kind of butch/femme dynamic. But both of us dislike movies that are emotionally manipulative or have predictably obvious plots (therefore we see very few American movies unless they are independents).

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      1. rimonim

        Hahaha! Well, you’re not alone–over 4 years on T and nothing more than weird isolated chest hairs that for some reason are like 1.5″ long. My back, however, is another story. Did God create hair just to mess with us?

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      She is doing well. She went back into the hospital for two days due to low blood pressure from the medications, but they took her off one of them and that solved the problem (they also ran some tests and did another echocardiogram to make sure the heart and new valves were working properly). Now she just needs to take it easy, rest, do a little walking and let herself heal.

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    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      It is a constant struggle to keep doing, and not to expect instant gratification. Also you never know which actions are going to make a difference and which ones won’t. It is a balance of patience, consistency, and perseverance.

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  3. liamanthony2014

    Sounds like you handled that really well. Good for you. I can’t wait to get my top surgery (might be years yet) and imagine I’d look like that too: like a boy. Not as if something were missing.

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    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      The upside of US healthcare is that in NYC you can get hormones and top surgery on your own timetable with informed consent- but, and it is a big but, you may have to pay for it all out of pocket depending upon your insurance. So I was able to set it up relatively quickly by UK standards, and without being on testosterone.
      Hope you get your transition approved with minimal gate keeping.

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