I have an addiction to VW campers. It’s expensive, messy, frustrating and incredibly fun. I’ve owned a couple – a 1974 Westfalia and a 1995 Eurovan. The Eurovan had all the creature comforts (air conditioning, power windows, furnace, etc.) and could actually run 65 mph up hill. But it had none of the charm of the chartreuse westy. The westy just made me smile whether I was looking at it in a parking lot or sitting behind the steering wheel. I’d love to be the proud owner of a rebuilt split-window hard top VW camper some day. But they get rarer by the minute.
The incredibly mild weather of late has me pining for a good old fashioned camping road trip, preferably of the air-cooled variety. Unfortunately I’m air-cooled camper-less at the moment. I have the air-cooed part – my ’69 Beetle is sitting in Michigan waiting for a minor repair to drive home. But camping via Beetle wouldn’t be much fun. I’m just not up to sleeping on the ground in a tent.
I think I’m also looking for a way to clear my head of all the noise that’s accumulated over the past year from planning and executing the transition. It’s taken a toll on my sense of self in a way that’s hard to describe.
The experience highlighted just how vulnerable I really am. It reminded me that my body is not my own – even as an adult. Logically I know there are good reasons for the WPATH standards of care but I still felt like I had to get “permission” from multiple gatekeepers- who could never truly know what it is like to live in my skin – to get access to hormones and surgery.
Quite frankly, I resented every second I spent working on getting “diagnosed” with Gender Identity Disorder. And it’s not over. I have to keep a “carry letter” on me at at all times (it is written by my therapist and basically asks the police to treat me with respect as I go through physical transition). Another gatekeeper (my surgeon) has to write a letter attesting to the fact that I am sufficiently “altered” to change the F to M on my passport and driver’s license. I also have to live as a “male” for an entire year under the watchful eye of a therapist to get additional permission (in the form of two letters from psychological professionals) for any future surgeries I may need for transition.
Don’t get me wrong – I like the therapist. I resent the process. In order to feel more in control, I always have a backup plan should the therapeutic relationship unexpectedly degrade.
My lost sense of self-determination was, of course, compounded by the surgery. Every time I get admitted to a hospital I experience it. They take away your identity step by step from the time you check in with the clerk – who only cares about your insurance coverage. They take away your clothes and personal belongings and basically reduce “who you are” to information printed out on a cheap plastic bracelet. Then, when you are at your most weakened state, you are at their mercy to determine when you can get your things back and leave.
Even though my body is healing fine, I feel I need to take some time and space to address these psychological wounds. The purr of an air-cooled VW engine is mesmerizing and therapeutic. It’s my oooommm. Yes, I know it’s not an environmentally friendly ooommm but it works for me. Add in an open road with no particular destination and the built in self-sufficiency of a camper and it feels like I have a perfect tonic for what ails me. Even if I don’t actually get to do it this year, just writing about it helps. Thanks for reading.