Wednesday, November 13, 2013

November: What I've Gained

It's a chilly evening in Washington.  At about 10pm you would have seen me walking past the White House as I made my way to work on the 11pm to 7am shift at the State Department.  I had just come from an event celebrating the tenth anniversary of the National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE).  For the previous three hours I had sipped red wine and listened and watched as Mara Keisling, Chloe Schwenke, and a number of my other idols in the transgender equality movement spoke and were honored.  As I walked along Pennsylvania Avenue under a bright autumn moon, I had to pause in front of the White House and feel that chill that came not from the cold but from sheer exhilaration.  I'm really here!  I'm really me!  How wondrous to have lived to see this day, this time of acceptance that I thought I would never see in my lifetime!

Last weekend marked the second anniversary of the announcement of my transition at the U.S. Embassy in Bucharest.  It's the day I now consider my birthday, and congratulations flowed in from around the world.  Just in time, I received a long-awaited document from the State of New York:  my amended birth certificate.  It now records that I was born Robyn Ann Jane Alice McCutcheon, female, in Nyack, New York, in a year when Eisenhower was President.  With that, the long train of fundamental document changes has reached its end.  Holding the birth certificate in my hands, I feel that official validation that what I always knew was true is now recorded as a matter of public record.

Enough about loss.  (See November:  What I've Lost.)  So what have I gained through transition?  It's not as easy a question to answer as you might think.  Might as well ask a fish what she has gained by being put in water.  What can one say when everything finally feels natural, when one can finally breathe one's fill just like a fish in water?

That moment of exhilaration in front of the White House captures it.  I'm really here!  In decades past I would have walked down Pennsylvania Avenue with a knot somewhere in my stomach, my eyes downcast.  Having a knot in my stomach was my natural state, a condition that would loosen only when I could escape to the mountains.  There was a jumble of fear, depression, and the self-imposed dictate of sheer will that I must go on as I am because that is the only choice.

All of that is gone now.  I no longer have that knot in the stomach.  I have forgotten what it feels like to have it.  I enjoy life now.  Even the most trivial daily tasks that once were drudgery now bring pleasure.

Confidence.  With the knot in the stomach gone, I no longer fear the future.  Where I used to plan obsessively, I now go forth each day with a lightness of thought, a confidence that I am ready for whatever the day might bring.  The time for living is now, in this moment.

Mirrors.  I used to hate them.  Without intending to sound vain, I can say that today I enjoy looking at my own reflection.  It's the reflection I always thought should be looking back at me.

Voice.  Could my voice ever have been different than it is today?  Those old recordings of someone with a bass voice claiming to be me must be a forgery.  I can't imitate that voice today even if I wanted to.  It's gone, wonderfully gone.  The voice I speak with now is the only natural voice I could ever have had.

Friends.  I had very few in my old life.  Today, friends along with my sisters and my son make up my large extended family.  Most of all, I treasure having girlfriends the way women treasure having girlfriends.  Whether it's for coffee, a phone chat, or a long walk, time for girlfriends is a nearly sacred matter.

The Future.  I remember sitting in my office at Computer Sciences Corporation in 1978 and estimating the number of days until my retirement, the day I could escape and be alone.  I really did that.  I just wanted to get through life, do what I was supposed to do, and get to the end of it when the pain would go away.  Now it's as though I have finally started living, each day, week, month, and year an increment of time to be treasured and enjoyed.

It is wonderful to be two years old with my life still fully open before me.  A life I never thought I could have is now mine.  In comparison, all that I lost through transition fades to insignificance.  It's a beautiful time to be alive, to walk past the White House under a bright moon and feel that exhilaration of being a woman with her future and all roads open to her.

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