Ok, so I’ve met with my new medical care practice. Actually, I met with the administrative folks and the nurse practitioner (NP) who I will be seeing most of the time anyway. In some ways I was stunned by the differences in the environments. The multiple new-patient forms to be filled out were like from another planet. They asked for everything from “given name” to “preferred name” to “zodiac sign”. Birth gender, current gender, gender of the future? Smoke: cigarettes, cigarillos, cigars, clove cigarettes, vape daddy? I left blank “preferred pronoun”. My head was spinning. I hadn’t realized how “white bread” my former medical practice was. Nor had I given much thought to the fact that it was called “Center for Women’s Health”. No need to wonder how that made me feel every time I went.
I really liked the NP. Her energy was totally cool, calm, reassuring. She nodded thoughtfully, even solicitously, no matter what I said as I rambled through my life story. I felt like she really got me, understood what I was saying. There was not a hint of judgment. I probably could have told her I had an elephant’s trunk growing out of the center of my back and she wouldn’t have flinched. I didn’t tell her that. But I forgot to tell her about the CNH on my ear and the stitch still in my back from last year’s mole removal.
We did talk about testosterone. Well, she talked about testosterone. I sat like a deer in the headlights frozen, stunned, barely breathing.
I have always dreamed of the magic that might, one day, make me into a real boy (as Pinocchio would say). But those were fantasies of my imagination, a phantasm of longing for what could never truly be. In the midst of one of those daydreams, had I been brought out of my reverie with an offer of the elixir that would make it so, I have no doubt that I would have jumped at the chance, swallowing it down before the proffered potion could be snatched away. My own inner fable has been the “if I lived alone on a tropical island (with good medical care and access to medication), I wouldn’t hesitate to take testosterone (or anything it took) to live my authentic self. Male pattern baldness be damned. To be the person I am in my soul all the time would be miraculous, beyond my wildest hopes and dreams.” I imagined goatees, beards and even a handlebar mustache once. Six-pack abs, calves that didn’t look like bird’s legs, biceps, triceps and gluts. Heck, there were no limits to my imagination.
But this shit just got real. Someone actually offered me (with the casual air one might use when offering a tic-tac) my philosopher’s stone, the vichyssoise of virility. And I sat numb and bewildered. My first thoughts were the same as the ones that have brought me up short in my most recent musings. Suddenly I can’t imagine it. My mind is a blank stare into nothingness. This is all I’ve known for 49 years, this longing for what I am not. I don’t know how to live my life as anything other than I have. I have a wife I adore, children I cherish, a career I love, a life that is basically amazing. Why would I mess with such a good deal?! What would testosterone do to all of that?! What/how much am I willing to risk for the sake of feeling integrated? What would people say/think/feel? I will look foolish, be laughed at, targeted, a pariah. My mind races through individuals I would dread having to explain to. The list grows longer the more I consider. And then I imagine the pained expression on Emily’s face. This was not what she signed up for. How could I do this to her? I feel irresponsible and selfish.
Em has been clear with me. She will stand by me no matter what. For better or for worse and all that. Though nothing even remotely like this is in our ketubah (marriage contract). If I need to be a man, she will not leave me. She will probably not like it. But she will learn to live with it. It has felt like a shaming response, similar to my mother, “I don’t know why you’d want that. It’s stupid, but alright, go ahead.” I also know it has been the best she could do. I know that as I have suffered, Emily has suffered right along with me. She has watched me struggle, had less than half a partner, felt my pain keenly. She has not balked, criticized, nor run from my pain, but has stood devotedly by me. I don’t feel like I deserve it and I keep waiting for her to get angry with me.
Interestingly, something seems to have shifted for Emily in these last few weeks. Perhaps she noticed (as I had) that I’ve been more sanguine since making the appointment at Fenway? Perhaps she’d had her own shift within her own thoughts and heart? Perhaps I’m the one who is different, bolstered by more support? Whatever it was that inspired this seeming change, I have felt it. When I got home from the clinic she was solicitous. In a new way. She didn’t take a deep breath in a way that felt she was waiting for me to give her lousy news. She didn’t square her shoulders in that let’s-get-this-over-with manner. She quite genuinely and curiously asked me questions about the appointment. Like the NP, but with so much more love, she listened and nodded and considered as I described my observations and thoughts. She asked, with no hint of dread that I could feel, “What do you think you’re going to do?” I wish I knew.