There is a wondrous beauty to Bucharest and its parks in the winter. Snow sticks to the trees and branches, and the Christmas lights of the city shine all through the center. My young friend Oana and I took a long walk last night from Victoria Square to Unirii Square just to see the lights and here the Christmas sounds. A large outdoor Christmas market is set up at University Square, where the night was bright and warm with holiday sounds and smells.
This is my third Christmas in Bucharest. Two years ago it was a warm December, but inside it was cold as I spent my holiday weeks deeply enmeshed in post-divorce litigation. Last year was cold but snowless as I glowed in the warmth of my first post-transition Christmas. I wrote then of the joy of receiving new passports and other documents in my new name and gender and of other firsts in my new life. For this, my third Christmas, I have it all. The winter beauty of cold and snow surround me, and I live in the warm certainty that my life now is simply my life, transformed as I had always wanted. More than anything, I am warmed by the feeling of family surrounding me. I spoke yesterday for nearly an hour with my son in the US, and tomorrow I will talk with my sisters, nephews, and nieces as they gather around their tree. In Bucharest I have yet another family that has embraced me.
I am choosing to make this a quiet holiday. After a ten-hour party for Thanksgiving, I am expecting just a few close friends for Christmas. (To anyone who is reading this and is in the neighborhood, please do drop by!) I'm still doing all the holiday baking, but most will go to these same friends and others. The Embassy is closed for a full five days for Christmas. Then we reopen for a two day break from the holiday, after which we close for another five days. Twelve days with only two days of work feels more like a vacation than a holiday, and I will use it to rest to the full.
This is the quiet first posting in a new mini-saga. Less than four weeks from now, on January 19, OD and I will fly to Phuket, Thailand, for our GCS/SRS surgeries. When did I enter countdown mode? In some sense I've been there ever since I made the decision last August to go with Dr. Kunaporn in Phuket. I entered the final count for real sometime after Thanksgiving when I began to realize that with the long holiday coming soon, I needed to begin winding down a number of work projects, either completing them or getting them to a state where they could safely be put on hold for a month or more. When the Embassy reopens after the New Year, I know that OD and I will be in a whirlwind of final activity. We will be in much of it together, as OD will be coming to Bucharest to apply for her visa, something she can not do in Moldova where there is no Thai Embassy.
Why The Exclamation Point? It is my response to those who marvel at the immensity of this impending surgical step. I have heard a few comments such as, "Well, I only hope you will have no regrets." Just from the questions, their tone, and the expressions on well-intentioned faces, it is clear that my well-wishers have never had a transgender feeling or thought in their lives. Rather than a life-altering event of immense magnitude, I look at gender confirmation surgery (GCS), Spa therapy if you will, as the exclamation point that comes at the end of a very long sentence, a process that has been my life. The immense life-altering event took place over a year ago on November 10, 2011, with the public announcement of my transition and the full-time beginning of my new life. GCS is just the exclamation point.
So why GCS at all? Indeed, many transgender persons never have GCS. For those who are transitioning FtM, the reason often is the technical one that phalloplasty is not perfected and can cost up to a year's U.S. salary or more for a very imperfect result. Cost also is often a factor for those who, like me, are transitioning MtF. If not for those many people who responded to my appeal, GCS would have remained an impossible dream for OD. Thank you to all who responded and, together, covered nearly the full cost of OD's journey of a lifetime.
For those who can afford GCS but choose not to have it, the reasons are varied. At its core the explanation for many is one I agree with entirely. This road is a question of gender, not sex or sexual orientation. It is a matter of the heart and head that has nothing to do with what is between a person's legs. It is a matter of who one wakes up as in the morning and how one is perceived by the largely binary gender world that surrounds us.
For me, however, GCS has been a dream ever since my youngest years when I would try to make my penis disappear between my legs, when I would go to bed at night with a silent prayer that it be gone when I woke in the morning. I never wanted it and never enjoyed using it sexually even as I must acknowledge that without it I could never have experienced the life joy of being a parent. In the end I found this organ to have only one positive virtue: it allowed me greater ease on hiking and camping trips, particularly in cold weather.
GCS will also open up doors to new possibilities. How real my chances are I don't know, but as the reality of GCS approaches, the thought of discovering sex for the first time in my life, sex as I always wanted it but could never have it, has taken form. In dreams and in my gaze as I look at friends, I find myself wondering, "What will it be like?"
Those are the joys and dreams of this Christmas as I prepare to return to my holiday baking. The tree is up in the living room with gifts surrounding it from and for my extended family of loved ones and friends. It is again a very, very Merry Christmas in Bucharest. To my family and friends and to all who have found their way to these notes, may your Christmas be a merry as mine, full of warmth, love, and happiness.
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