Tag Archives: relationships

Mx. Fix-It

Gender-ObsolescenceI miss transistor radios. In the summer, I’d lie in bed, trying to stay awake, listening to the radio station of the New York Mets. Lindsey Nelson, Bob Murphy, and Ralph Kiner gave the play by play. They held out hope that somehow, someway, the Mets could turn it around and win the game. I held out hope that somehow, someway, I’d wake up and be a boy.

Transistor radios were magical. Portable. Cheap. SImple. They had an on switch, a volume control dial, a tuning dial, and an earphone jack. I still own a variety of boy toys that play music. My iPod and iPhone are the current pocket size devices that keep me connected me to my past.

For the first time in my life I am having trouble keeping up with technology. Not just computers and smart phones, but appliances that have too many bells and whistles. Unless it is made by Apple, I am no longer able to look at the box, unpack it, and go right to the quick-set-up-guide. I am doomed when the first step is to download the App and go into product settings.

I’ve always been good at setting stuff up. Cribs, IKEA furniture, stereo systems, or computer networks. I’m careful, I’m logical, I’m diligent, and I read the instructions. Lately, I’m afraid of turning into the angry old man who rails at the sales clerk that digital files are the devil’s handiwork and that nothing will ever sound as sweet as an analog LP (i.e. a vinyl record album) and a vacuum tube amplifier. Continue reading

I’m Ready to Ring in 2016


Calvin and Hobbes

I don’t make New Year’s resolutions. I have a mental list of stuff I ought to do that I didn’t get around to doing in 2015. Some items are holdovers from 2014, perpetually on the verge of almost being attended to.

I had great hopes for 2015, but it was a hard year. I’m glad it is over. I’m not going to sugar coat it. Donna’s open heart surgery, hospitalization, and recovery took a lot out of me. I was discouraged (and furious) on Labor Day weekend, when she missed a step, fell, and broke her ankle. She ended up in the hospital again, and then in rehab. She came home in a wheelchair, and slowly progressed to using a walker, and last week to using a cane. I love her, but I don’t love being her caretaker. We got on each other’s nerves. We adjusted. We are getting back to normal.

We didn’t go to Italy (we cancelled the trip after Donna’s fall). I didn’t make time for ice skating. I never finished cleaning out my room (I did clear out a closet, a dresser, and take 6 quarts of coins ($712) to the bank). I let the mail pile up out of control again. I let my legal and financial paperwork fester. I didn’t call my brother.

I did go for my top surgery revision, see a doctor for a physical, get a colonoscopy, maintain my weight, and go to the gym irregularly enough to not lose ground. I swam in the ocean in board shorts and a rash guard. I didn’t go to hell in a handbasket. I’m in a satisfactory place to start 2016. Continue reading

Shopping for Dresses While Butch and Trans

Donna liked the purple dress in the middle.

Donna liked the purple dress in the middle.

I went out and bought four dresses. Not for me. For Donna. She decided that, while her leg is in a cast, it would be easier to get dressed and undressed if she wore a dress. It would keep her from getting her knickers in a twist.

I suggested that she could go on-line and order a couple of inexpensive cotton dresses. Instead, Donna sent me to Gudrun Sjoden.

Gudrun Sjoden is not a store I would normally shop in. It is full of bright-colored, loose, flowing, and artsy Scandinavian women’s clothing. The clothes come in bold stripes and flowered patterns. They are meant to be worn in layers. It is a look that one either likes or loathes. Other than some striped socks, there is nothing in the store that I would consider wearing. While I wouldn’t wear the clothes, I am attracted to the kind of woman who does. It is Donna’s favorite store.

I arrived in blue jeans, a black turtleneck, a black Patagonia fleece pullover, and hiking boots. I brought along a flowered red tunic, from last winter’s collection. Donna wanted something just like it, but longer. All the other shoppers, and the sales staff, were wearing Gudrun Sjoden outfits. I felt uneasy; I knew I didn’t belong there.

I approached a salesperson, and asked for help. I told her that my partner broke her ankle, is wearing a cast, and wants to get a couple of dresses. The dresses should be loose, stretchy, and long, but not too long. Preferably in red, maroon, or purple; preferably striped or flowered. I showed her the tunic. She nodded and we looked at every dress in the shop. She picked out an armload of dresses that might work.

Then I remembered the last time someone handed me an armload of dresses. I was thirteen. I had already stopped wearing girl’s clothing. My father died, suddenly, unexpectedly. I was too heavy to fit in my old dresses or my mother’s. I didn’t have anything to wear to his funeral. Continue reading

Welcome to Rehab

Regata_StoricoI almost made it back to Venice. Donna broke her ankle in two places on Saturday. We won’t be going anywhere anytime soon.

I’m angry with her for falling, for rushing, for not watching her step, for being Donna. She was on her way to the swimming hole, and came back to get sunscreen. She missed the step from the porch to the walkway. I didn’t see it happen. I just heard her cry out.

I was planning on staying home and writing a post about going back to Venice. Instead, we took a trip to the emergency room.

Our first trip abroad together, in 1983, was to Italy. We flew into Rome and took the train to Venice. When we arrived in Venice there was a crowd outside the train station, and the Vaporetto weren’t running.

We arrived on the first Sunday in September. In the middle of the Regata Storico. There was nothing to do except look at the boats and wait for the Grand Canal to reopen so we could get to our pensionne. I ate my first gelato.

I learned a lot about Donna on that trip. I learned that she loves the unplanned and unexpected, that she likes to change the itinerary, and that she likes to travel without reservations. We were going to stay in Venice for five nights but had such a good time that we ended up staying for ten nights, and skipped Emilia-Romagna (Bologna and Ravenna) before decamping for Tuscany.

Donna doesn’t like guidebooks. She hates lists of “10 things You Must Do In …”, even though she’d want to do five or six of them anyway. She thinks of herself as a traveler not a sightseer. She is fond of Romanesque churches and Roman mosaics. She finds them in out-of-the-way places. We go out of our way to visit them. After Venice, we were going to drive through Umbria and Le Marche.

If you are in a long-term relationship you probably have a set of meaningful one word phrases you both use. For us, they are Grazalema and Bologna. Continue reading

Sitting on the Fence

It is hard to lasso Androgel.

Getty_Images  It is hard to lasso Androgel.

Donna caught me by surprise. She said “Stop saying that you’re not taking testosterone because I’m against it. I don’t want to be in that position anymore. Make up your own mind. Do whatever you want.”

It would be nice if Donna had said this lovingly, with the caveat that she will support me whole heartedly. That I will always be her Jamie no matter what path I take. Whether I am butch or trans. That I should do whatever I think is best for me. But that wasn’t exactly what she meant.

In January Donna had open heart surgery to replace a heart valve. The outcome, according to all her doctors, is excellent. The valve took, she didn’t get an infection, her heart is pumping properly, her heart rhythm is good, she doesn’t have atrial fibrillation. 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

From Dysphoria to Euphoria

I'll never wear a binder again.

I’ll never wear a binder again.

It’s been three weeks since I had top-surgery. I look so natural to myself in the mirror that it is impossible to believe that I used to be a 38C. I’m not exactly flat chested; my breast bone is prominent, and even as the bruising goes down, I look like I’ve got pecs. Euphoria.

I also have scars, scabs, stitches, and a little flaking and chafing. It isn’t pretty. I’ve got three more weeks to go before I can walk around without compression. I’m sleeping by myself (i.e. with Gracie) because I have to sleep on my back and I snore like Daffy Duck in this clip. Every morning I climb into the other bed, lie on my back, and cuddle with Donna.

Donna still hasn’t seen me shirtless, but she has seen me in shirts. She isn’t ready to look at my scars. I don’t blame her.

Two years ago, Donna was shocked and upset that I started binding. In retrospect, it was the only trans action I took without prepping her beforehand or waiting for her to get used to the idea. To keep the peace, I agreed not to spring anything else on her and to include her in my decision-making. A year ago, Donna was talking about top surgery as self-mutilation and a form of misogyny. Yesterday, while were on the bus, she said that I look like myself only more so. She said my chest fits me. I had to ask her to repeat it. Continue reading

The Adventures of Timmy and Lassie


Timmy and Lassie

My desire to have a dog was based on Timmy and Lassie. If I had a dog I could have an adventure. I could have a trusty companion. I could be loved unconditionally. My mother was quick to point out that dogs were dirty, and that Stuyvesant Town forbid them.

I settled for stuffed animals. My favorite was Lucky the Lion. He was so big that he took up the whole foot of my bed. He was the first prize I ever won. My name was pulled out of the raffle drum at the “father and sons” dinner at Congregation Rodeph Sholom. Daughters were allowed, but I pretended I was a son. I carried Lucky the Lion home on the bus; he took up two seats.

It is hard to go on an adventure with a big stuffed lion. Continue reading