Friday, January 11, 2013

So You Want to Be in Pictures? -- or -- The Exclamation Point (Part 2)

"Pictures?  Does this mean that yours truly, only a week away from flying to Thailand for gender confirmation surgery, is about to give us a review of holiday season movies?"

Well, not quite, although I did like Argo and Anna Karenina but would suggest steering clear of The Hobbit unless you enjoy seeing the fantasy of your mind’s eye blown out of proportion on a 3D screen.

Going to the movies has been a fun way to spend the quiet days of the holiday season.  The U.S. Embassy in Bucharest followed the Romanian holidays, giving us all but Thursday and Friday of Christmas week as days off.  The same was true of New Year’s week.  It felt as though we had been given a two week vacation.  Much of the time I kept my eye on the calendar, counting down the days until OD and I fly to Thailand on January 19.
Rupert Minds the Bicycles
The holiday was not entirely a movie-going experience.  On New Year’s Eve, Rupert took me on a bicycle excursion to a part of Bucharest I would never have discovered on my own.  After making our way down icy dirt roads between abandoned factories in a wasteland landscape, we came to a ruined eighteenth century cathedral that had been burned by the Ottomans but that continued to stand through the centuries.  With walls that look more than five feet thick, it’s no wonder that the structure withstood wars and Communism.  Today there is a steel fence around it to protect it from the curious, but Rupert says there was not even that when he first came upon the cathedral many months ago.  It was somehow a comfort on New Year’s Eve to stand before a monument that had withstood the test of time.

New Year’s Eve was a repeat of my Thanksgiving open house.   Guests began arriving at 9pm, numbering 25 or more in the end.   The stereo volume went up and the bottles were opened.  I set up the telescope outdoors for anyone who wanted to look at the Moon or Jupiter.  At midnight we all went outside to pop the champagne corks and hug each other as the Bucharest sky burst forth in a blaze of fireworks.  What a contrast it was to my lonely New Year’s Eve of two years ago when I stood at the threshold of full transition.   (See The Education of a Transgender Rip Van Winkle.)  Only at 4am did the party start to ebb, a few friends staying to watch movies.  I left them on the couch sometime after 5am.  When I woke up hours later, I was delighted to see that those who had stayed had already done much to clear up the evidence of an all-night party.

Movies and pictures were a part of my holidays in another way.   Just before Christmas I received a DVD that took me by surprise.  I had nearly forgotten that in 2007 I had been discovered by a small film crew that wanted to make a documentary based on the research that Alina Eremeeva and I had done on the 1936-37 purge of astronomers in the Soviet Union.  (See My Great Purge.)  No, it wasn’t National Geographic or the Museum of Natural History that had come knocking at our door.  The group that had discovered us came from an institution I had never heard of before, the Museum of Jurassic Technology in California.  I was somewhat nervous as I put the DVD in the player, wondering what a movie produced by a museum specializing in Jurassic technology might look like.   Indeed, the hour-long documentary is stylized, but factually it follows Alina’s and my published works closely.  The filmmakers had traveled widely, filming on-site at Pulkovo Observatory, in St. Petersburg, and in Uzbekistan.  Once I saw that the facts had been preserved, I sat back and began to enjoy the stylized and somber presentation that includes poetry appropriate to the tragedy that befell Soviet astronomy in the 1930s.   (The film is called The Great Soviet Eclipse.  You can find a short on-line excerpt here.)

Alina’s and my research was the star of this documentary, but I also now find myself at the center of a film on transgender issues that the young Bucharest filmmaker Alexandra Carastoian is making.  Alexandra is associated with the Romanian LGBT rights organization ACCEPT, and she has made a number of short films for ACCEPT.  She first approached me about her idea for a film over a year ago, but it took six months before my involvement was approved through the appropriate channels both at our Embassy and in Washington.  Since then Alexandra has come periodically to film an interview with me as well as some candid day-to-day scenes from my life.  Her latest film session was last Saturday, and it turned into a mini-party as we began with breakfast, moved to filming, and then continued with dinner.  OD had come from Moldova and also became a part of the film.

Alexandra says her favorite part of making a film comes in the cutting room as she puts it all together.  I have full trust in Alexandra who by now has also become a good friend, but I am sure that it will be with some nervousness that I view the finished product for the first time.  It was one thing to see a DVD based on my research.  What will it be like to see a film in which it is not my research but the living me who is on the screen?  

Now we come to the movie that is my life.  I’m sure a few readers have struggled through the paragraphs above, wondering when I would finally get to what has been happening day-to-day as the Thailand clock counts down.

The nuts and bolts are that all monies have been transferred to the Phuket International Hospital.  OD spent several days with me last week in order to go to the Thai Embassy to apply for her visa.   There is no embassy in Chisinau, the Moldovan capital, so anyone from Moldova who wishes to go to Thailand must come to Bucharest for a visa.  Our surgeon, Dr. Sanguan Kunaporn, has received and approved the letters that OD’s and my counselors wrote as justification for our surgeries.

Over a week ago, as required by Dr. Kunaporn, I ceased taking my daily dosage of estradiol as well as aspirin and vitamin supplements.   Dr. Kunaporn allows his patients to continue on anti-androgen medication right up until surgery, so at least I am not experiencing any sudden testosterone explosion.  I do, however, feel the decrease in estrogen level.   I feel more on edge, quicker to react to anything that is not going according to plan. Insomnia of the wake-in-the-middle-of-the-night variety has returned, encouraged by the anti-androgen-induced bathroom trips together with my increased excitement as the imminence of my journey to Thailand becomes ever more palpable.

What are my greatest worries today?  At the top of my list is getting sick.  Coming down with a cold or flu over the coming week would be the greatest catastrophe I can think of.  Fortunately, I was dragged down for days by a severe cold in the first half of December, and I hope that has given me some immunity that will last me through the week to come.

Almost there.  The journey to Thailand may just be an exclamation point in this life journey, but it is the answer to my childhood dream and prayer.  In the evenings I am rediscovering old episodes of the Twilight Zone that I first saw as a child in the 1960s, remembering the promise of a mysterious magic that might transform my life before I woke the next morning.  That morning finally comes in little over a week.  It is not the Twilight Zone with Rod Serling standing off camera.  Instead, it is the reality of a life transformed through hard work, suffering experienced and suffering caused, and the love of friends and family, a drama that Rod Serling himself could not have conceived of.

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The link below is to Alexandra Carastoian's short film Vreau sa stiu cum e that she made for Pride Month 2012.

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Follow these links for more of The Exclamation Point:
Previous entry -- My White Romanian Christmas 
Following entry --  The Journey Begins

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