By the time you read this post, Donna and I will be on a direct flight from New York to Venice. It is a trip we planned to take last year, to celebrate her recovery from open heart surgery, but cancelled when she broke her ankle. Right now, the trip is more of a challenge than a celebration. Donna has less energy than she would like, and is anxious about walking long distances. We are both a little apprehensive about the little packets of testosterone left behind in my sock drawer, but we are going to try to not think about them while we are away.
Almost as soon as we became lovers, Donna tried to get me to go on vacation with her. At first I resisted. I didn’t understand her desire to travel, and it was expensive. She persisted. I was so infatuated with Donna, and felt so lucky to be with her, that I gave in.
Venice was the first place we went to together. I don’t remember why we chose Venice, but I was smitten. I’m excited that we are finally, after over 30 years, going back to Venice, together.
I prepped for the first trip by reading guidebooks and regional cookbooks. I went to a store in Little Italy and brought home the cheeses and cured meats of the Veneto. I drank only northern Italian wines for months before we left. I read Italian novels and learned to count in Italian to 100,000 (before the Euro there were 1400 lira to the dollar). I didn’t want to look like, or act like, the stereotypical crass American tourist. I didn’t want to embarrass Donna. I didn’t want her to wake up and realize that getting into a relationship with me was a big mistake.
That first trip wasn’t all romance and pleasure, although there was quite a bit of both. It was marred by my dysphoria, and by my shame at being overweight and butch and a bit dowdy. Everyone in Italy looked sophisticated and elegant. I felt OK when I was out with Donna, but I had a panic attack every time I went out by myself for a walk. To comfort myself, I went to the best gelaterie and pasticcerie.
For most of the time that we’ve been together I lived with the fear that Donna would leave me. I was afraid that she’d figure out that I really wanted to be a boy, or she’d understand why I couldn’t tolerate seeing my reflection in the mirror. I kept expecting that I would outgrow those feelings or that being in a loving relationship would make them go away. I kept hoping that I’d never have to talk to her about it. When I finally told her, it nearly wrecked our relationship.
I prepped for this trip by reading up on Venetian history and architecture. I drank some Italian wine and researched restaurants and food markets. One night I blew it by blurting out to Donna that I had filled a prescription for low dose testosterone. It was bad timing that my semi-annual appointment at Callen-Lorde was so close to our departure date. I hadn’t talked to Donna about my ambivalence about going on testosterone for a while, and it upset her that I sprang it on her right before the trip. Not that there would have been a good way. She was afraid I’d take it and turn into the werewolf of Venice. I had to talk her through her fears of who I might become, and remind her that I am her Jamie.
This trip I am not afraid that Donna will leave me. I’m not expecting to have panic attacks when I go out by myself. I’m comfortable in my body and my clothes. I’m hoping that we can fit in a little romance and a little pleasure and a little gelato and remember that we love each other.
Note: We will be gone for over three weeks – I doubt I’ll be posting again until the end of October. Besides Venice, we are going to Ravenna, and then driving around Le Marche and Umbria. Since all roads lead to Rome, we are dropping our car off and flying back from Rome.