The Real Life Test

Chapter Three
Crisis

December 17, 1993 - January 1, 1994


Contents

Introduction
Chapter One: 1993
Chapter Two: November 30-December 16
Chapter Three: December 17-January 1
Chapter Four: January 1994
Chapter Five: February 1994
Chapter Six: March 1994
Chapter Seven: April 1994
Chapter Eight: May 1994
Chapter Nine: June 1994
Chapter Ten: July 1994
Chapter Eleven: August 1994
Chapter Twelve: September 1994
Chapter Thirteen: October 1994
Chapter Fourteen: November 1994
Epilogue


Friday, December 17

Too early! I thought as the telephone woke me at 8:00. "Hi, Sleepyhead," Angela greeted me.

"Mornin'," I muttered. "How are you? You sound like you're getting a cold."

"Oh... I'm fine." This was strange, I thought. Angela was making no attempt to use feminine intonation, but was speaking in a deeper voice I had never heard her use. "But I wanted to be sure and catch you early, before you got away for the day."

She continued. "I know you noticed how depressed I have been. I was missing my family so very much. Now I've been back with them for two days. I've been in my male clothes the whole time, and cutting back on the hormones. Everyone is so glad to see me back. Randy and Holly are calling me "Daddy" again, and I've been wrestling with Randy just like we used to do."

I listened, numb, unbelieving. "You aren't coming back...you're leaving me with this condo by myself? What about all the things you said over the last weeks? What about our undying friendship and love? How can you do this to me? Why did you come down here in the first place if you can leave so easily? How..."

"Slow down," she interrupted. "You know I still love you as my dearest friend." (You have a strange way of showing it, I thought.) "I realize now, moving to Atlanta was the wrong step for me to take. I belong in Charlotte with my family. But I didn't realize it until I spent this time away from them,. I don't want to divorce Peggy. If she will take me back - and I pray she will - then I'll do my best to be the husband and father they need."

A little calmer now, I asked, "Have you thought about your chances for long term success in your old life? You were desperately unhappy before. You are the person who was going to cut corners on the Standards of Care so you could get your SRS early. And now you've done a complete turnaround. Don't you think this is just one more tremendous attempt to purge? If you are truly transsexual..."

"At this point, I question whether I am truly transsexual. I know I do not want SRS under any circumstances. It wouldn't solve my problems. My personal feeling is that I am multiple personalities. I told you last week how strongly I felt Rob coming back. I truly feel that I express myself as Rob sometimes, and as Angela at others. There may even be other personalities."

This line of reasoning was too bizarre to contemplate. As if being transsexual weren't unusual enough... Most psychiatrists doubt the existence of true multiple personality disorder as a syndrome. They consider cases such as portrayed by Joanne Woodward in "The Three Faces of Eve" to be a severe psychosis. Such persons have no control over the personality they manifest at a given time; the changes are dramatic and total. It's much more than saying, "when I feel strong and assertive, I'm Rob; but I can be very mellow and passive when Angela comes through."

"Rob" (ROB?? ) continued. "Peggy, the kids, and I all want you to come spend the holidays with us. Just come on up whenever you are ready and stay till after Christmas."

Now I was becoming upset. "I can't think of anything I would less rather do than sit around Charlotte, North Carolina, for a week. I'll stay here with my friends."

"I understand, you are feeling hurt right now," he continued in a voice that was truly kind but sounded patronizing to me at the time. "We'll talk about it more. But please promise me you'll at least be here for your birthday. Peggy already has your present wrapped. Here, she wants to speak to you."

Peggy took the phone. As upset as I was with Rob, I still considered Peggy my friend. She and I shared a birthday on December 21. "You better get your butt up here on Tuesday," she laughed. "I can't take your present back."

"All right, all right." I smiled, glad Peggy had broken the tension. "I'll be there Tuesday and spend one night. But I do want to get back to Atlanta for Christmas."

Rob took the phone back. "Becky, there's much more I want to share with you, but it will be best to wait till you are here. Just remember I love you and I'm thinking about you, okay?"

I was silent. It was impossible for me to respond in kind. "Goodbye... Rob. I'll talk with you later."

I barely had the receiver back on the telephone before the tears began. A real panic overcame me. So many emotions and feelings fought for my conscious thoughts. How could she - he - break his commitment and promises so easily? Can I afford this place by myself until I get back to work? Will he take back all his furniture and leave me to furnish the living room and second bedroom by myself... the television, the stereo, many of the kitchen accessories?

And the most devastating thought of all: Look how easily he got his family back.

It didn't occur to me all the difficulties Rob would be facing. Peggy's acceptance was not guaranteed; she was no fool. She knew this might happen again. There would be terrible battles over any future expressions of Angela. And if, as I feared, this was only another purge, then Rob would have to face transition again one day and repeat all the old trauma even more intensely.

All I could see was my own failure to keep my family together. Suddenly I found myself missing Sheryl and Mark intensely. I went over to my key ring and took my wedding band and placed it back on my finger. And the doubts and questions grew. Could I go back too?

So many bridges were burned. Being a physician is not like being an independent contractor. Not only do I need the trust of my patients; I could have that to a great extent. I also needed the networking of my colleagues to refer patients to me as a specialist. Many doctors in Jackson had shown their inability to understand or accept my transsexualism. I could not succeed in Jackson as Rebecca. And if I went back as Brian...

Why was I even thinking such thoughts? I knew my heart; after a lifetime of study, reflection, and prayer, plus a year of therapy, I was firm in my gender identity. Going back would solve nothing.

In previous major moves, such as leaving small-town Amory for Jackson and the cardiology fellowship, I had experienced a period of intense regret over leaving the old, secure life. It became so intense I explored the possibility of quitting the fellowship and returning to Amory. But wise friends helped me understand my feelings. It is proper to grieve over losses we incur when we make changes. But we cannot go back to our old life and expect everything to be the same.

But I was not so rational this morning. I picked up the telephone and dialed the most familiar number I knew. Sheryl answered and listened patiently as I poured out my fears. "I don't know if I have done the right thing. I'm sure it would not be possible for you to take me back right away, but I wish you would consider it. I do still love you and I'm just not ready for the divorce yet."

She knew I was in pain; she had had enough pain of her own over the recent months to empathize. To her great credit, she was very patient and understanding. "I wish it would work for us to have our family back. But I think you know how much we have explored this since March. Your circumstances in Atlanta may be changing, but have you really changed the way you feel about yourself? Don't make any quick decisions. This is a terrible time of the year for depression, with the holidays and our own birthdays in addition to your move."

"I want you to do two things," she continued. "First, call Dr. Powell. Ask him if he can see you today as an emergency. You would do well to discuss all this with him right away."

"Second, get out of the house! Don't sit around all day and brood. I know how you get when you stare at the walls. Go to a movie or go shopping. You'll feel better."

As I hung up the phone, I thought, "That's the most cordial we have been to each other in a long time." I took her advice and called Dr. Powell. I caught him in between appointments; as I explained the events of the day, the emotions took over again and I sobbed over the phone.

He immediately realized my need for a visit. "I want you to come in tonight," he said. "I can break my schedule and see you right now if you think it's that emergent." I assured him I was not suicidal. "Then let's make it for 9:30 tonight," he continued. "I would see you earlier, but I have another emergency at 8:30."

He had agreed to see me at 9:30 on a Friday night. I think I have the world's greatest therapist.

I took Sheryl's second recommendation, showered, and dressed... as Becky. For the mall I just put on jeans and a turtleneck. But I already felt better and treated myself to supper at one of the full service restaurants at the mall. When I returned to the condominium, I changed into a dress for my appointment, and drove over to the Windy Hill office about fifteen minutes early.

Dr. Powell's office door was open, so I took a magazine and waited. In a few minutes I heard him saying goodbye to his earlier client, the 8:30 emergency.

The inner door opened and I saw, to my great surprise, MIchelle Kelly. "Becky?" she gasped. "What are you doing here?"

We hugged each other as Dr. Powell smiled. "I hoped you would be a few minutes early, Rebecca."

Tears flowed again. "Oh, Michelle, Angela has left me and I'm all by myself."

She was thinking rapidly. "When you finish your appointment, meet me at your condo. I'll get supper and drive over to Roswell. Then you are packing an overnight bag and spending a night or two with me in Forsyth. Neither one of us needs to be alone tonight."

Of course, she was right. I quickly agreed. My appointment with Dr. Powell had turned out to be a blessing already. As he and I talked, he reaffirmed my need to stay with my commitment. Over the months of our sessions he had become quite sure of my transsexuality and need for transition. He realized the events of the day as an external crisis which could be overcome. I found myself growing stronger by the minute. "There may be more crises," he warned, "but you are already on your way to overcoming this first one. Your confidence will be much greater when you realize what you can do." As I left, I promised him I would attend the group therapy session on Saturday.

Indeed I felt much more confident as I drove back to Roswell. I arrived a few minutes before I heard the knock on the door. Robert and Jeanne had met Michelle for supper, and followed her over to express their support for me. I cannot say enough about the value of good friends in overcoming a crisis. We visited for an hour or so, and then I packed two days' worth of clothes and got into Michelle's van. I napped on the 80 mile drive from Roswell to Forsyth; it had been an exhausting day.

Saturday, December 18

Where am I? My mind finally connected and I remembered I was on Michelle's sleeper sofa. She was already up, talking on the telephone. I showered and dressed and made myself some light breakfast.

Michelle's emergency visit to Dr. Powell had been precipitated by a crisis at work, with harrassment by her immediate superior. Thankfully, Dr. Powell had been able to offer some very concrete and practical advice for her. I really didn't think Michelle was in danger of losing her job, but I knew her supervisor could make it really unpleasant for her. She hopes to transition to full time sometime in 1994, and she must keep her job to be able to do so. But we were both in a much better frame of mind this morning.

We drove the short distance from Forsyth to Macon. While we were walking through the mall, we passed the Salvation Army Angel Tree. This is a tree which is decorated, not with ornaments, but with cards, each containing the name and clothing sizes for one child. "Let's each take a card," Michelle suggested.

I thought it was a marvelous idea. We took our cards into J. C. Penney and went to the children's department. I found a winter jacket, sweater, and jeans for my size 12 child. She did the same for a size 6. What joy it was to know two little girls would have a good Christmas because of us. The Salvation Army personnel were most appreciative.

As we drove back to Atlanta for group therapy, Michelle recalled the story of the Roman centurion who implored Jesus to heal his child. The centurion told Jesus, "You don't even have to be present to heal him. I know you have the authority." She felt that, even though she would not be present to see the child with her warm clothes at Christmas, she could be an answer to prayer. She described it so sweetly, and with such obvious love, it brought tears to my eyes. In twenty-four hours I had gone from despair to joy. Yes; God really does answer prayer.

As soon as we reached the Windy Hill office, Dr. Powell met me. "Rebecca, you need to call Sheryl in Jackson," he said.

"Oh gracious, I didn't tell her I would be at Michelle's," I answered. "Is she all right?"

"She was very concerned about you; but she and I had a good long talk and I reassured her you were all right. I'm glad to see you here to confirm it."

I immediately got Sheryl on the phone. In the past, she would have been angry with me for not letting her know where I would be. Now, however, she was relieved to know I hadn't harmed myself. We had the opportunity to talk for several minutes. We both realized that it would be wrong to postpone the divorce, but now at least we felt a possibility of friendship.

Before we hung up, she gave me a most happy surprise. Her last words were "I love you."

I couldn't leave the telephone room for several minutes afterwards, and had to redo some of my eye makeup.

Michelle and I shared our story in group therapy. I must say it was impressive to realize how two old friends were there to support each other, late on a Friday night, in a city hundreds of miles from what had been home. It was more than coincidence. A few persons who knew Angela guessed the nature of my crisis. I was surprised to find that they were not at all shocked by Angela's decision. Perhaps I was the only one to be caught without warning.

After a post-meeting dinner at Chili's, I accompanied Michelle back to Forsyth for one more night.

Sunday, December 19

This time I could definitely sleep late. Both of us woke up about 10:30 and took our time. We had a late lunch at Shoney's in Forsyth before returning to Atlanta. The time together had been healing for both of us.

After Michelle returned home, I unpacked and washed, then sat down and composed a message to Genderline about the resolution of the crisis. I had several messages of concern and support on my telephone answering machine.

Monday, December 20

I woke early today and drove down to midtown, to Hawk's Pharmacy. The pharmacist there is very sympathetic and helpful to us. But I was not going for prescriptions for myself.

Kathy McMinn, another member of our group, met me at the door. She and her husband are involved in a custody battle for her son, who would much prefer to stay with Kathy and Brett. Of course, most courts will not side with a transsexual parent, even if the other parent is unemployed and unconcerned. I had told Kathy I would do whatever I can to help, so after some discussion I made a note for my files and asked the pharmacist to dispense a small amount of Ativan. The stress of the trial had become too great. I introduced myself to the head pharmacist and showed him my Georgia license. He was happy to fill the prescription.

After leaving Hawk's, I decided to shop at Phipps Plaza, Atlanta's premier upscale shopping center. I felt very confident and knew I blended in, with my white silk blouse and black Talbot's suit. I bought identical gifts for Peggy and Michelle: crystal bonbon dishes in the shape of a heart. Peggy would appreciate the inside humor.

I spent the evening on the telephone, but also packed in anticipation of the drive from Atlanta to Charlotte. At any rate, I'll be seeing Peggy and the children for the first time since September. I didn't take any of Angela's - pardon me, Rob's - belongings back except "Stuck-up", the little plush stuffed animal with the turned up nose. He can come back for the rest.

Tuesday, December 21

Happy Birthday, Dear Becky, Happy Birthday to me.

I got no calls or cards from Mississippi. It was not surprising. People are not focusing on me during the holiday season. I upset them and challenge their presuppositions, so they can't handle it.

I loaded the car and drove to Charlotte in the gray December afternoon. It was an easy drive, and I found the Owens house without difficulty. As I sat in the driveway, wondering if I should get out and ring the doorbell or turn around and return to Georgia, Randy saw me and motioned for me to come in.

My reception was warm. Peggy and I shared our gifts. She loved her heart shaped bonbon dish, and I was thrilled over the lab coat with my new name embroidered on the pocket. Holly and Randy also had gifts for me: a pair of earrings and a Braun hand blender.

Then I heard movement on the stairs, and Rob (will I ever get used to that?) peeked into the kitchen. We greeted each other with a nod and a smile; nothing more. I presented him with "Stuck-up" and noticed how tightly he held the little toy. What's going on in this person's mind, I wondered. Such a mix of masculine and feminine behavior persists.

We stayed rather distant until suppertime. Rob wanted to take "both his birthday girls" to Valentino's, his favorite local restaurant. Of course I determined to look my best, but not to outshine Peggy. It was really strange, with Rob in coat and tie. At least no heads turned to look at us, like they always do when Rob is dressed as Angela.

After we returned to the house, Peggy let Rob have some time with me in the den, and he explained his feelings again as he had on the telephone. It was not a very convincing performance. I think he will be back to his Angela mode in a few weeks or months.

Wednesday, December 22

Peggy left for work early and the children had plans of their own. Rob and I enjoyed a late breakfast of cereal and bagels. He asked if I would drive him to his therapy session. Afterward he took me to a Shoney's for lunch and was very much the gentleman. Only once did he walk in front of me; and he was very apologetic afterward.

Rob is really serious about this multiple personality disorder. I don't think he has it by any means, but I can't convince him. Once he even said, "Maybe I should refer to myself as Rob-Angela now."

He wanted me to stay an extra night, but I used the weather advisory as a convenient excuse. "I'm really glad I came," I said as we parted. "I do care about you and want the best for you and all your family. I like you... 'Rob-Angela.'"

He was very emotional with that and gave me a big hug in his front yard.

I left Charlotte before the freezing rain began. The drive back was uneventful, and I felt much stronger for having had the courage to make the trip in the first place. I thought at length about the similarities between my perception of Rob and how his actions had affected me, as compared to Sheryl's perception of me and my actions. The parallels were striking. She feels I have deceived her, betrayed her, left her. She cannot refer to me as "Becky"; she wants to remember what she perceives as the happy times in the distant past.

This is a lesson in understanding and tolerance which the Lord is teaching me now. I will try to alter my expectations for Sheryl's acceptance. But it still hurts to be rejected.

Thursday, December 23

I just returned from a trip to the north, and now I'm turning around and going south. Michelle wants me to be there in plenty of time to help her cook all the dishes. I studied my recipe file and decided just to take the whole thing to Forsyth with me. I arrived late in the afternoon. Michelle had just gotten off work and was showering. I frightened her a little when she came out of the shower and found I had let myself in.

We made a large grocery list and drove to the Piggly Wiggly. Our total came to over a hundred dollars. We had to remind ourselves we were cooking for a whole party. Meanwhile our own cupboard was bare, so we ate at Pizza Hut before returning home.

Tonight I made the cornbread so it would be ready to make dressing on Friday. We did no other cooking, saving it for Christmas Eve. Tonight was a night to sleep long and well.

Friday, December 24

I heard Michelle stirring in the kitchen around 8:30. We had a cup of coffee and went to work. I had her kitchen and pantry memorized for locations of everything before an hour had passed.

I began by making the dressing, using the cornbread I made last night. It involved chopping onions and celery as well, and mixing it in chicken broth. I knew the last batch was too soupy, so I used less broth this time, and it turned out perfect. Then I went to work on the fassolakia and glazed carrots. All these were completed by 3:00, when we realized the turkey would not be thawed in time. We quietly panicked and located the nearest Honey Baked Ham store in Macon. A 10 pound ham ran us over forty dollars.

Later on Christmas Eve night, I worked on desserts. I baked an English pie and put together a large recipe of chocolate fudge; it kept me up until after 1:00 A.M. but it was well worth it.

Saturday, December 25

Never before have I awakened on Christmas Day in Forsyth, Georgia. Perhaps I never will again. But 1993 has been notorious for "firsts" and "onlys". Michelle used Christmas carols to wake me. She had an old 33 1/3 vinyl album with four songs on each side. I heard those four over and over again until I said, "Michelle, I love Christmas carols. But I may never love those again if you don't turn the radio on now." She took the hint. I gave Michelle her present, the same as Peggy's, a crystal heart candy dish. We immediately filled it with fresh-cooked goodies.

I called Sheryl to wish a Merry Christmas to her and all the family. Mark was in the shower. Of course I doubted he would talk to me anyway. I knew the holiday would be different this year for them, due to my absence.

We finished the food preparation by 1:00 P.M. My last contribution was egg nog, made from fresh eggs and sugar, with just a slight bit of whipping cream. And one cup of Wild Turkey bourbon.

Brett and Kathy arrived and were soon joined by Robert and Jeanne. The six of us sat down to a truly enjoyable Christmas dinner. Everyone was very complimentary of all our cooking.

After the cleanup was complete, we visited until about 6 P.M. I had already told Michelle I would leave on Saturday afternoon, because I was going to church on Sunday. I decided to go with Jeanne to her church.

Sunday, December 26

I awoke early enough to pick up Jeanne in plenty of time. We drove to Peachtree Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). It is a beautiful old church, listed in the National Register of Historic Places. The sanctuary was small but full of gorgeous stained glass. The Disciples of Christ take communion every week, and I was thrilled to participate.

I'm not sure where I will eventually make my church home. I do know, as a serious Christian, I will become active somewhere in a Bible believing church, theologically conservative but socially liberal. Somewhere.

I spent the afternoon washing clothes and straightening up the house; several friends called to check on me. I'm trying not to think of the holidays and the loneliness.

Monday, December 27

Today was a difficult day in its own right, not as bad as the 17th, but stressful. Today is Sheryl's and my 24th wedding anniversary. I could not bring myself to call her. I know it would upset us both. I only hope she is still with her family and not by herself today. I did write both Sheryl and Mark long, loving, handwritten letters.

My marriage will be over long before we make 25 years.

Otherwise I stayed busy with previously scheduled appointments. The Cablevision installer came and turned on my cable service. Finally I have a window to the world. I'm not a television addict, but it is nice to have the news on while I'm preparing supper; someone else talking keeps me company. Then the person from the security system company connected my system and showed me how to use it. Both men treated me very courteously and I don't think they regarded me as unusual at all.

Tuesday, December 28

Today I had my first electrology appointment in Atlanta. Actually, it was in Snellville, one of the suburbs on the east side. Barbara is a registered nurse who is a certified electrologist and works with the gender community. Michelle had recommended her to me. Her office was easy to find but was a long distance away from Roswell; it's all the way on the other side of Stone Mountain.

Barbara uses the same thermolysis technique that worked so well for me in New Orleans. She does take longer on each follicle, however. The result is that fewer hairs get treated each visit, but the "kill rate" is much higher. I loved visiting with Barbara. She is a very well educated, well read professional person. I believe I made a good choice to finish my electrology with her.

Wednesday, December 29

The weather was so bad today I only ventured out to the gas station and drugstore. Most of the day I spent doing housework and writing letters on the computer. Lee Frances called and we enjoyed a visit.

Tonight I treated myself to total decadence: I poured myself a glass of wine and sat down to watch (gasp!) network television for two hours.

Thursday, December 30

I left early in the afternoon for Forsyth. Michelle had won a free dinner for two at one of the restaurants in Macon, and wanted me to share it with her. It was a cute place, a retro-type '50's diner called Silli Jilli's. They just served plain fare but it was well done; I had a taco salad and she had chicken tenders.

After supper she said, "Where do you want to go now? I know a gay bar in Macon where we would be welcome."

"Michelle, NO. I've already told you how I feel about gay bars. If you like them, fine. I don't. Let's go to a movie."

She had no problem with that. We went see "Mrs. Doubtfire." For some reason everyone in the crossdressing/transsexual community is enamored with this latest trivialization of gender bending. I thought it was humorous, but certainly not a sensitive look at gender differences by any means.

We drove the short distance back to Forsyth and retired early to get ready for the New Year's party.

Friday, December 31

Michelle had me up and about fairly early today. We had to shop, cook, and get ready for the party. I looked through her Better Homes and Gardens cookbook and found two delicious sounding appetizers: a cheese ball and some cocktail meatballs in tangy cranberry sauce. At Piggly Wiggly I picked up the ingredients I would need for these. I already had the Rotel tomatoes and Velveeta cheese for my easiest dish: Rotel dip - just melt the cheese and stir in the tomatoes.

We needed a little more bourbon, so I went to the package store in Forsyth. The young woman at the counter asked me, "Are you ready for a good time tonight?"

"I am now," I smiled as I paid for the Wild Turkey. Oh, I wouldn't be drinking it, but you need to be prepared for the tastes of the guests.

Around 7:00 the guests started arriving. Robert and Jeanne; Joann from our Montgomery support group; Jennifer; and Taylor. Brett and Kathy came and brought Kathy's young son, who almost succeeded in staying up till midnight.

I wore my "little black dress" which I had worn at Southern Comfort and received so many compliments. It looked just as good tonight, but was not as warm as I would have liked in that drafty apartment clubhouse. Nevertheless, all of us had a very enjoyable time, and everyone but Taylor ended up staying at Michelle's house. I lost my comfortable sleeper sofa, but did end up with the single bed in the guest bedroom. It could have been much worse. I turned in around 2:00 A.M. and left the party people watching a television movie.

Saturday, January 1, 1994

The day began for me around 9:00 when I heard others stirring around. I didn't take time for a bath, so I was up and ready quickly to help with brunch. No one was in a great hurry to leave. Jimmy, Kathy's son, had behaved wonderfully for a six year old. He and I played some "let's pretend" and I was impressed with his imagination. Finally around 4:00 P.M. we began to depart for Atlanta.

Michelle gave me a big hug. I'll never forget that these holidays were very pleasant since the two of us got together. She saved my life, or at least my transition. And I'm sure she would say the same for me.

Back home in Roswell, I had leftovers from the party for supper. I went to bed early and as I crawled into bed, it occurred to me that I had not watched one minute of the New Year's bowl games. Hallelujah! I have been set free.

 

© 1996 Rebecca Anne Allison


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