acceptance, ambulance, Bible, blessings, Cartoonist, Comic strip, conjunctival cyst, counseling, difficulties, eye surgery, family, Flickr, God, help, IV tubing, ministry, MTF, needle, negative attitude, nurse, One Big Happy, ophthalmologist, paramedics, police officers, positive attitude, post-operative recovery, prayers, rejection, Rick Detorie, Ruthie, salvation, school accidents, Scriptures, sedation, Transgender, Transition, Transsexual, violence against transgenders
In December, I had the first surgery of my entire 62+ year life. I had stitches in my knee when I was in 8th grade and had to walk on crutches. (If someone squirts you with a water pistol and the school driveway was just graveled, don’t chase them. Pick a more convenient time for payback on your terms. Hah!) I had my wrist x-rayed because I fell on wet grass and jammed it in 7th grade. In 10th grade, I sliced the skin under my right thumbnail when I was washing wax off of petri dishes and one cracked in half because the water got too cold. (I make my school sound like a dangerous place. But I got through three years as a hockey goalie, four years as a starter on the baseball team, one year of cross country and one year of soccer with nothing more than shin splints and a temporary loss of a toenail when a slap shot hit my big toe dead on – wearing only regular skates, not goalie skates.)
About 25 years ago, I went to the hospital in an ambulance because of stomach pains. I ended up walking home from the hospital a few hours later when the pain subsided and never found out the cause. And in April 2007, I had to have an encapsulated infection drained when it blew up to the size of a Mallowmar. I nursed that thing with home remedies and triple antibiotic cream until tax season was over and I could get it treated. But three weeks ago, I had a procedure that actually could be classified as surgery.
No, it wasn’t one of those surgeries. Except for a little makeup, a thin pad in my bra and a little “better living through chemistry”, I am still “what you see is what you get.” (I was on prescription hormones for less than a month for all but two of the pictures on my Flickr page that you can access from the Links page on this blog.)
What I had was a conjunctival cyst removed from my left eye. As anyone familiar with conjunctivitis knows, that means it was on the eye ball. It was tiny as eye ball cysts go. In fact, my optometrist thought it was a fluid bubble on the surface of the eye ball and just needed to be “popped”. But it was an actual cyst containing a clear substance. The biopsy came back that it was benign.
The adventure happened on the evening after I came home from surgery. I was awake but sedated during the operation. So I did need to have an IV in my arm during the operation. I was wheeled upstairs into a recovery room where they gave me a buttered roll, flavored gelatin and water. (I hadn’t eaten solid food in about 16 hours by this point and nothing orally for about 12 hours.) At some point, they told me that I could get dressed and that they were calling the person who would be coming to pick me up and take me home. I had a patch and a plastic “egg” half taped over the left eye.
A swing through the drive thru of the golden arches closest to home and I had my quarter pounder with cheese, fries and a large sweet tea. I made two phone calls after eating to make an appointment with the ophthalmologist the next day and then arrange transportation. Then I took a four hour nap to recover from the sedation.
I woke up and was hungry again. I had already planned on making an omelet. Soon I had a cheese omelet, English muffin and juice in front of me. I ate while watching the previous night’s episode of NCIS online. But I felt something sticking me in my left arm every time I would bend it. When the show was finished and I cried a little for McGee’s loss, I rolled up my blouse sleeve. There was the cause: plastic tubing connected to a needle still stuck in the crook of my arm. And beneath the tubing was a reddish-purple circle of blood. I found the paperwork that contained what I should do if I had a post-operative problem. The person I spoke to at the hospital said I should call an ambulance and that this was enough of an emergency to call 911. (First and hopefully only time I have done that.)
I went down to the lobby of my building. (There isn’t room in my tiny apartment for much more than me right now.) Soon, I was joined by two paramedics, a two-person ambulance team and two local police officers. So after a debate as to whether to remove it there or take me to the emergency room (I told them “Whenever in doubt, CYA.”), five of them stood around while one of them removed the apparatus, cleaned it with alcohol and then taped it with gauze. (The building’s Christmas tree next to me added a festive touch.)
Apparently it was a hectic day at the hospital. So instead of just one nurse taking care of me in recovery, I was handed off to another. Each nurse thought the other nurse had removed the tube.
In the end, it was much ado about nothing. But I was told that had nothing been done, it could have become infected or even a blood clot go into my bloodstream because of it. My reaction could have been “Why me? Why does stuff like this always happen to me?”
And indeed there was a time that I had that attitude about my life. In addition to the burden of being born trans, I could point to career underachievement, lack of a successful relationship, and financial troubles. And once you go down that road, you start to tack on every little problem or slight in life, real or imagined.
In my late twenties, I learned in career counseling how important it was to have a positive attitude. After I was saved at age 36 and I began to understand the ramifications of that event, I knew intellectually that I had one thing in my life that I did not earn or deserve that made up for any bad breaks that kept me from rewards I thought were my due. But old tapes have a way of replaying when you are vulnerable. Pity parties require little planning and few guests.
One of the things that helps me through the day, besides Bible reading and prayer, is my daily dose of comic strips. They remind me of the absurdities of life, to laugh at them and sometimes laugh at myself. One of the strips I read daily is One Big Happy by Rick Detorie. The star of the comic is a precocious six-year old girl named Ruthie. She is a pip, but she is also as lovable as she is bright.
In one Sunday comic strip, Ruthie settles down to say her prayers before going to bed. She comes to God wondering about the fact that some people talk about their misfortunes and ask, “Why Me?” But then she starts to tell God about all the good things in her life: a nice house and yard to play in, enough food to eat and clean clothes to wear, the fun things she does with her dad and the dress-up games she plays with her mom, a brother (two years older) who can be a pain sometimes but who also plays with her and holds her hand when they watch a scary show together, her grandpa who tells her jokes and plays cards with her and her grandma who watches movies with her while they eat popsicles (grandma and grandpa live next door).
As Ruthie finishes her list, she concludes that her life is very good indeed. And so she asks God, “Why me?” In counting her blessings, she realizes how fortunate she is compared to many people. In response, her attitude towards God is commendable. She wants to know why God would choose to show her favor.
I am considerably older than Ruthie. But I find myself in the same position now. And ironically, much of it is connected to my transition experience. I am liked and respected by the members of my new church (both those who know my past and those who don’t); while some Christians have rejected me, most have stayed in fellowship with me, including the pastor of my previous church (if the weather cooperates, we are having lunch today); while my brother is still struggling with the news told to him two months ago, he hasn’t rejected me, and all the cousins who I was in contact with prior to transition are very supportive; I retained most of my clients and added new ones to replace those who left; I am in very good health for my age with only one minor surgery and still no overnight stays in the hospital since my mom brought me home for the first time; and people tell me that I don’t look my age and some even think I am attractive; I have had zero bad incidents in public since I went full-time 26 months ago plus a year before that when I was somewhat androgynous (but wearing male clothes).
Yet I am well aware that this is not typical for an MTF transsexual. For years I read about (and was deterred by) stories of transsexuals being estranged from families, thrown out of churches, losing jobs, being beaten up, being murdered. Only a fortunate few were able to rise above. But if they were public figures, they were also fodder for comedy routines. Some others managed to live in stealth, constantly wondering if they would be outed. The rest paid even higher prices to live in accord with their innate gender identity.
But now I am getting these stories from a new source. As the number of readers of my blog slowly increases, I am hearing from some of you. I am hearing first-hand of your struggles with family, career problems, opposition from your religious community, and friends turned away or attacked. A few of you see me as an oasis in a dry and dusty land.
And so I am asking God, “Why me?” Why am I being spared most or all of what these dear people are going through? I know that some of it is circumstantial, based on geography and family structure. But I believe it is more than that, the beginnings of God’s affirmation that He has more than a blog for me: He has a ministry. I do not hold myself out as a trained or licensed counselor. But I can share Scripture, be a friend and give perspective. Occasionally there may be additional ways I can help, perhaps to talk to a third party. The Lord is still working on me and there are areas of my life that need more discipline. Plus at this time of my life, tax season and my clients still have a higher priority because the bills need to be paid. But I am here and watching to see what develops.
And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. – Romans 8:28