Today is my natal birthday so I’m a bit reflective.
I remember the hospital bassinet card my mother kept in an old photo album. The first name is “Girl”. She was so sure she was having a boy that she hadn’t settled on a girl name. It’s too bad her strong sense of who I was in utero was obliterated by a god in a white coat examining genitals and declaring “girl” most likely as soon as I drew my first breath.
While studying Anthropology I read accounts of Native American tribes that didn’t assign gender at birth. Instead they waited to see what the child did that reflected gender in that culture. I knew had I been born in that time and place there would have been no question that my gender was male. My life experience would have been congruent. My existential struggle different.
But I was not born in that place and time. And I did have to struggle for half a century from that early mistake – not my mistake but the one set in
motion by the god in the white coat.
For the past three years more enlightened gods in white coats have tried to undo what that first god started so long ago. Five surgeries later and hormonal elixirs have made a difference. And while this won’t undo the 50 years I endured being forced to be female, it’s a start. It’s restoring my much depleted store of energy – energy needed to live out the last part of my life more authentically. I feel as if I may finally be able search for a life cause and meaning outside of myself – beyond gender.
This last surgery has been the most intense. And I have been relatively lucky because physical complications, very common in this procedure, have been minimal. I still have physical healing to do but the next phase – the psychological work is just beginning.
Yesterday the surgeon noted how well things were going and I qualified it by adding the phrase “for an old guy”. He paused for a moment and said “in this case it wasn’t about age. You were mentally ready.”
Yes I was ready – and now I have to get ready again. Today is my birthday and though I am tempted to change it to the day I first took hormones or the day of my last surgery I won’t. I drew my first breath today so many years ago in a coal town clinic and was declared a girl. Every day since has been a battle against that declaration. From now on, on this birthday, I will give thanks for final victory over that battle.