The Real Life Test

Chapter Six
Back In The Shark Tank

March 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


Tuesday, March 1

Will my life ever settle down? Theresa had to call me from the mall; her car wouldn't start. Finally we were able to jump-start it. Then we got it to the Nissan dealer here in Roswell, and just as we feared, he diagnosed the problem: she needs a new carburetor. Oh, well, we have spent so much money already on the car, I am not going to let it sit around and rust at this point.

Bettie called. The divorce was finalized yesterday. She will now get to work on my name change; I requested that she move quickly so I could have the documentation I need to attend the American College of Cardiology meeting here in Atlanta later this month.

So my marriage is over. I wasn't very good company the rest of the day.

Wednesday, March 2

I drove Theresa to Cumberland Mall this morning. We arrived just a minute or two after ten, and she hustled in to her retail cart. As I drove back home, I still couldn't get my mind off the divorce. The papers would be in the mail soon. They would contain phrases such as "just as if they had never been married" and "neither party shall make additional demands on the other".

I wonder if anyone goes through this transition without sometimes having regrets and second thoughts. I know in my heart that I made the only possible choice, if I wanted to continue living. But the pain is hard to bear sometimes.

I wonder if Sheryl feels as low as I do. If she does, she will never tell anyone.

My mood was interrupted as soon as I got into the house by the telephone. "Becky, can you come pick me up?"

"What is it, Theresa?"

"I've just been fired for being late."

It was unreasonable of her employer to dismiss her for being less than five minutes late, in my opinion. At any rate, that job was not the most desirable or the best paying. She can now investigate here closer to home, at North Point Mall.

Thursday, March 3

The divorce papers arrived today, along with Bettie's bill. I paid it and called her office to ask about the name change. She can have it completed by next Friday, which will be just in time for me at the A.C.C. meeting.

The papers did, indeed, say all those hurtful things.

Theresa's car was finished today, and we went job seeking. She put in applications at several stores in North Point. The Babbage's computer store is an excellent possibility for her. She is very knowledgable in the area, and impressed the store manager on her initial interview. I think she will get the job.

Friday, March 4

I wish I could be actively looking for work. There are so many classified advertisements in the various medical journals, seeking cardiologists. In addition, I know there will be many opportunities advertised at the A.C.C. meeting.

For now, I must wait until my name change is finalized, so I can begin changing all my documents. That process is very time consuming itself, so I am sure it will be several more months before I return to work. I really didn't anticipate it taking this long.

Today we had some spare time so Theresa took me out for a drive in the country. We went north up state highway 9 to Dawsonville, where we had some wonderful barbecue and Brunswick stew at a small restaurant she had discovered years ago. The ownership had changed but the food was still excellent. Then we continued to Dahlonega, in the southern Appalachians, where Theresa had briefly attended North Georgia College before dropping out due to the intensity of her dysphoria. I enjoyed seeing her reminisce, and realize how much better her life had become now.

Saturday, March 5

The so-called "gender community" here in Atlanta is all astir today. Dallas Denny has planned a party at Backstreets Lounge tonight in honor of Tula. Tula who? Her name is Caroline Cossey, and she has authored an interesting book dealing with her transsexualism. Tula has been a very successful model as well as having a photo spread in Playboy and a minor film career, including a role in one of the James Bond movies.

So, why didn't I attend Tula Day? Several reasons. I don't like clubs like Backstreets with their emphasis on the gay scene and "drag queens". I am trying to have a normal life here in Atlanta and just don't want to be seen there. And I'm not a celebrity chaser. I would rather stay home and watch a rented movie.

Theresa decided to go with Sheldon. She thought she might see some of her old friends there. When she returned, I learned she had been correct. I listened as she described Margaux, with whom she had shared an apartment several years ago. At the time Theresa had not transitioned and was still in male mode; but Margaux was already living full time as a woman and doing computer graphic design work. They each found separate places to stay later, and had not really kept up with each other. I could tell Theresa was really glad to see Margaux.

Sunday, March 6

Tonight Theresa picked up Margaux and brought her over to the condo. I enjoyed visiting with Margaux, who is a little over a year postoperative. Dr. Seghers in Brussels did her surgery. He is the surgeon Theresa wants to use, as soon as she can work the financing.

Margaux is very sophisticated and quite attractive. Though slightly taller than me, she weighs maybe twenty-five pounds less. She is knowledgable in almost every field of conversation I mentioned.

Margaux is a graphic artist working with programs such as Photoshop and Illustrator on the Macintosh. She was very interested in my comments about the A.C.C. meeting and the exposition associated with it. I told her I would try to get a guest pass for her.

Monday, March 7

I finalized plans with Bettie about my name change. She thinks she can have the paperwork in order by Thursday or Friday, so I will drive over and sign the papers. Then I will spend time getting my documents changed.

Theresa won't be accompanying me this time. She started work at Babbage's computer store today. The job is not difficult, and she is very knowledgeable about computers; but she dreads having to wear skirts and heels every day. Theresa would be just as happy in jeans and T-shirts. But this job certainly beats the pushcarts in Cumberland Mall.

Tuesday, March 8

Margaux called this afternoon for Theresa, but with Theresa at work I talked with Margaux on the phone for over an hour. As I mentioned, she is so knowledgable on a great variety of subjects, and I think she enjoyed the conversation as much as I did.

She is very disturbed about her living arrangements. At this time she is sharing an apartment with a fellow named Joe, who is several years younger than Margaux and works at a Domino's Pizza location. Joe and Margaux are friends but not lovers. He, however, is becoming much more possessive and demanding of her time. She hardly feels safe in her own bedroom.

I listened with interest and concern. Certainly there would be room in Theresa's bedroom for one more; would I want to take on someone else? I didn't hint at such a possibility, but I may mention it to Theresa later.

"Becky's group home for the gender conflicted." Right. I'm out of my mind.

Wednesday, March 9

There is very little to pack for this trip to Jackson (I'll only be spending one night), and very few chores other than those related to the name change. How soon Jackson has ceased to be "home" and has become just another business destination. Most of my friends still aren't ready to meet Becky, because it means giving up their image of Brian. It's too much to ask them to mentally process my entire transition in such a short time.

I called Sheryl and told her I would be in town. She graciously gave me permission to use the Jackson address for the name change. Not surprisingly, she didn't feel she could deal with me on this trip either. I resolved not to let that fact hurt me too deeply -- at least not for very long.

Thursday, March 10

If one can help it, one should never choose to be on the Atlanta expressway system during morning rush hour. With that in mind, I waited until 10:00 A.M. to leave for Jackson. The traffic was not unreasonable, and with good weather, I had a nice drive.

I arrived in Jackson at 4:00 P.M. after a late lunch in Meridian. Bettie had the documents ready for me to sign so she could present them to the judge early tomorrow morning. I'll always remember her kindness and patience with me during this whole ordeal.

Lee Frances and I went to supper at Perkins Family Restaurant, one of her favorite places. I always insist on taking Lee out for supper rather than having her prepare a meal. She's getting too old to be sweating around the kitchen that much. Besides, her four cats are everywhere, on the kitchen counters, in the food. Once before I left Jackson I had brought a lemon meringue pie for our dessert, but the cats found it while we were still having our main course. I love pets, but enough is enough.

Still, I'm glad she has the cats for companionship. Lee becomes very lonely and has been rejected by most of her family and friends who cannot deal with her feminine side. Loneliness is a common bond for many of us who have gender conflicts. Lee is a crossdresser, not transsexual, but sometimes a crossdresser has a worse time than we do. This may sound strange and oversimplified, but once a transsexual person has irreversibly completed the transition process, many people accept them in their new gender. Crossdressers, who usually still wish to retain some of their masculinity, are seen in a less sympathetic point of view.

I had prepared an article for the next issue of Lee's Grace and Lace newsletter she sends to several hundred persons nationwide regarding gender issues and Christianity. She will be sending another issue out in May. We visited for several hours until she became fatigued and I returned to the Quality Inn.

Friday, March 11, 1994

I had completed my shower and makeup and was getting dressed when the phone rang just after nine. Bettie has always been businesslike, and even if she would ask Theresa "may I speak to Rebecca" she would always greet me with "Hi, Brian." But not today. There was a note of happiness and accomplishment in her voice: "Good morning, Rebecca."

"Oh, does that mean what I think it does?" I laughed.

"It does indeed. We have your papers ready. I made five certified copies and you can photocopy as many more as you need."

I hurried the cup of coffee, checked out of the motel, and was soon at her office.

Would you like to know what the decree says?

I thought so.

This day this cause came on for hearing on the Petition to Alter Name of Brian Errol Anderson; and the Court, being fully advised in the premises, finds that it has jurisdiction of the person and of the subject matter, and further finds that the petition is well taken and that the relief requested should be granted.

IT IS, THEREFORE, ORDERED, ADJUDGED AND DECREED that the name of Brian Errol Anderson, who was born December 21, 1946, in Greenwood, Leflore County, Mississippi, and whose father was Errol Ward Anderson and whose mother was Mabel Blackwell Anderson, be and it hereby is altered to the name of Rebecca Anne Allison.

IT IS FURTHER ORDERED, ADJUDGED AND DECREED that Brian Errol Anderson may now use the name of Rebecca Anne Allison under authority of this Court and may so alter the name on any certifications imposed by law or otherwise.

SO ORDERED, ADJUDGED AND DECREED, this 11th day of March, 1994.

(signed)

Well. I believe it has been ordered. It has been adjudged. And it has been DECREED, y'all, that I am Becky Allison.

I must say, it's about time.

Decrees in hand, I set out to obtain as many documents as possible reflecting the name change. I obtained a new Mississippi drivers' license but was disappointed I still had to keep the "M" rather than an "F". They can't change the sex designation without a letter from my surgeon. No matter; I can use a window in my pocketbook that covers up that part.

A trip to University Medical Center was very productive. The registrar's office was happy to order new diploma and training certificates at minimal expense. The state licensure board was equally helpful. I could not get my birth certificate changed, however. The personnel on duty today at the Board of Health had no knowledge of such a procedure, and her superior was out of town. I'll just wait till after surgery and get the name and sex designation changed at the same time.

Finally, before leaving for Georgia, I stopped at the Social Security office and filed a request to change the name on my account. In the next days and weeks I know there will be many more photocopies mailed out: credit cards, magazine subscriptions, bank accounts; but I had made a good start. It was near midnight when I drove into the Holcomb's Crossing entrance.

Saturday, March 12

The name change was completed just in time. Today was early registration for the Annual Session of the American College of Cardiology, meeting here in Atlanta at the Georgia World Congress Center.

I dressed professionally in a black Santa Fe column dress. I am not fond of the women's business suit with floppy bow, which seems to be less in fashion now anyway. I have my own look and I think it suits a physician well.

I brought a copy of the name change and my ACC membership card. As I walked from the parking lot into the registration hall, I realized I no longer experience an adrenalin rush in public. It's so natural to be out as my true self now.

At the registration booth I told the clerk, "I may need some special assistance with registration this year." I showed her my documents and she made the appropriate telephone calls, then directed me to the ACC office room. She never showed surprise and was very helpful. The ACC officer recorded my name change and assured me it would be changed on all my official membership records and correspondence. Then I went back down to the registration area and completed the process, receiving my portfolio of information for the week and my name badge. I even registered Theresa and Margaux as guests, knowing they would enjoy the technical exposition.

I had enough time to attend group therapy and describe in detail all my progress. The next few days should be tremendous confidence builders.

Sunday, March 13

Perhaps I can be excused for not paying as much attention in church as usual. I was too excited about the convention. I rushed through lunch and drove back downtown, finding easy parking at the World Congress Center on a Sunday.

Most of the scientific presentations would not begin until Monday, but the exposition itself was the attraction today. I had been to numerous conventions and walked through the exhibits each time; but never before had I been "right".

The exhibits were dazzling as usual. The current hot topic was electrophysiology, and the equipment manufacturers had entire mock laboratories set up in the convention hall. Elsewhere there were displays on angioplasty, atherectomy, stents, and catheters. The ultrasound equipment was running continuous loop displays in color Doppler. Healthy, gorgeous models were demonstrating treadmills. There were two aisles devoted to books and journals.

I spent nearly three hours learning about new drugs which had been approved over the last few months since I left Jackson; observing new catheter demonstations; and browsing the textbooks. Now I had an outline of how I would spend the rest of the week.

It was like Christmas morning for me. Oh, how I love cardiology. How I have missed it and can't wait to get back to it. Soon I will.

Monday, March 14

For today's meetings I did not try to park downtown. I simply drove to one of the convention hotels and parked in their hotel parking lot, then rode the shuttle bus. It's quicker and safer transportation.

I circled in my program the names of lectures and panel discussions I wanted to attend. Some of them were sold out, but I was able to order audio tapes of those sessions. I looked for some of my Jackson colleagues or other persons I knew, but saw none of them.

Today's outstanding feature was the computerized placement search. I stood in line and finally reached the computer terminals. The ACC assistants showed me how to access the "want ads" I was seeking. I ended up with over one hundred descriptions of available positions to take home and read through. Most were in the Southeast, and many in Georgia itself. Knowing how much difficulty is involved in getting a new state license, I would rather find something in Georgia.

Neither today, nor yesterday, did I have any evidence of being "clocked" or of being treated as anything other than the female physician I am. Life is beginning to improve!

Back home I studied the computer lists. Opportunities in Georgia included Columbus, Valdosta, Commerce, Athens, Canton, and Winder. There was one opportunity in Atlanta, at Northside Hospital with a Dr. Silverman. I prepared a resume to fax to him tomorrow.

Tuesday, March 15

Today Margaux and Theresa accompanied me to the convention. They were impressed by the size of the exposition, and looked closely at all the high-tech equipment. I attended several panel discussions and met them later in the afternoon. I also faxed my material to Dr. Silverman.

We had a long conversation with Margaux. She confirmed what I had heard on the telephone: since surgery she has been living in a difficult environment, with finances devastated and unable to get out and find a place of her own. In addition, she had an injury which impaired her ability to use her right hand for several months, and she lost her best clients. Now her roommate is very demanding and jealous of her other friends. She needs to get out of the situation. I knew I would discuss it with Theresa later, but I felt comfortable with the idea of asking her to share space with us.

Wednesday, March 16

Before leaving for the convention I had a phone call from Dr. Silverman at Northside Hospital. He was interested in meeting me and we set a time for tomorrow.

I attended lectures all morning, then left to pick up Theresa and Margaux. We were going to the convocation tonight to hear the year's headline speaker, William F. Buckley, Jr. His intellectual conservatism is appealing to me. I cannot abide the far right turn the Republican Party is taking, and Buckley is a refreshing balance between such ultra-conservatism and the reigning chaos of the Democrats.

My friends, interestingly, had the same political views. I thought it interesting that transsexuals, who are scorned by the right and cautiously tolerated by the left, would have such leaning. But our minds and feelings haven't changed. Just as in past years, when I mistrusted the Big Government concept, I still have no reason to change my opinion. Neither am I a crusader for "transsexual's rights" (if there were any such thing). I don't want to be branded as "different". I just want to live in society as a normal woman, and if I have conservative views, they are legitimate for me.

Buckley did not disappoint. His pointed comments really skewered the Clinton Administration and were quite popular with his audience. I would love to have had the opportunity to meet him afterward, but his escorts hustled him away immediately.

On the bus, returning to the hotel where we parked, I was startled to see Tom, an old friend from Mississippi. Tom practiced cardiology in a small town in Mississippi and had received his FACC award at this convention. (I knew that because I saw his name in the program.)

He didn't recognize me. I had seen no one else from my past at this convention. Surely he had heard about my transition, but to see me with smooth face, long hair, plastic surgery, and a blue jacket dress would be a shock for him. Was I up to the task?

I told Margaux what I was about to do and she smiled. I moved forward in the bus and saw the vacant seat next to Tom. Slipping into it, I smiled and said, "Congratulations on your FACC."

He was completely caught by surprise. "Well... thank you."

"You don't know who I am, do you, Tom?" I was really pushing my luck.

"No. No, I don't... [long pause] Brian??""

"Not any more," I smiled.

He had heard about me, but was very glad to make contact and see for himself. I told him of my job search beginning. "You will have to tell your new partners everything... won't you?" he wondered. Not wanting to stir controversy, I assured him I would. We talked for a few minutes, and I said goodbye and made my way back to my friends. I suspect Tom had had an ACC meeting he wouldn't forget.

Thursday, March 17

St. Patrick's Day did not influence my wardrobe choice for Dr. Silverman. I didn't have a good green business outfit anyway.

Dr. Silverman met me at his office in Northside Hospital. He was much shorter than I, about five-seven; late fifties or early sixties; and a gracious host.

Northside is looking for a cardiologist to do invasive procedures and be hospital based. Unfortunately, they want to pay straight salary without bonuses for productivity. "If you do three caths a month or fifty," he explained, "you make the same."

The amount was far too low for me to meet my financial obligations. I'm sure they were looking for a young cardiologist straight out of fellowship, knowing such a person would only stay a year or two until a better offer presented itself.

Likewise, the cath lab itself was very disappointing,. Northside has such a good reputation for other services, like obstetrics; but their cath equipment is outdated. Both my hospitals in Jackson were much better equipped.

My first serious lead turned out to be a disappointment. I told Barbara about it this afternoon, and she encouraged me to keep looking. "You have so many promising situations, and you haven't contacted them yet."

If it were easy, everyone would be doing it.

Friday, March 18

Undaunted by my experience at Northside, I began looking through the phone book and the American College of Cardiology membership directory. I identified eleven different cardiology groups to contact.

On the computer I devised a form letter and put it together with my Curriculum Vitae. The introductory message, I thought, was catchy and interesting. I prepared eleven envelopes, took them to be mailed, and (figuratively) sat back to wait.

[In retrospect, I didn't realize the strong pull of the good ol' boy network in Georgia. Everyone knows everyone else; everyone went to school at Emory or Medical College of Georgia. My difficulty wasn't due to my gender transition; it was because I was not local talent. I never got a reply to any of the eleven letters. I called a few offices to inquire if they were received, and they were. They just weren't acknowledged.]

There's a chronic lack of manners around physicians in this city, and it may just be necessary for me to leave Atlanta to find a good position.

Saturday, March 19

Spring has already sprung in Atlanta; Monday is the first official day, but the azaleas and dogwoods have had other ideas for most of this month. I began thinking about an Easter outfit (another first). Rather than spend big money, I decided to use outfits I already had.

Last year I bought a white wool suit from Ellen Tracy on half price sale. It was still rather expensive, and I needed to get some wear out of it. The problem was the size. When I bought the suit I was a size 16. Now I'm a 10-12. I also had a beautiful yellow Christian Dior suit which my friend Anne from Seattle had given me, also in a size much too large.

I looked in the Roswell Yellow Pages under Alterations, smiling at the private joke implicit in that word. "Dau Custom Tailors" had over 25 years experience and was conveniently located.

Mr. Dau was a gracious Chinese gentleman. "Yes, of course we can have these ready by Easter." I tried both suits on for him and he marked the skirts and jackets for my smaller size. Now for less than ninety dollars I will have two very fine spring suits.

I'm learning to stretch my dollars.

Sunday, March 20

The spring weather was gorgeous today as I drove to church. I wore my blue column dress and a print scarf. Accessorizing is not an inborn talent for me. It has been a bit difficult to learn, but I'm getting better.

After Sunday School I went to lunch with my class at a restaurant just across the river in Sandy Springs. The members of my class, and the entire singles department, have been totally accepting of me. They include me in all their plans.

Do they know? I don't think so. My voice certainly doesn't give me away; when I finally began living as a woman full time it just naturally fell into the alto range for speaking. The female inflections and vocabulary were always there. In the past, I had to work to sound masculine. Now I can forget all the disguise and be natural.

My appearance is very feminine; not just according to me, but to my counselors and everyone who knows my story. I've had enough electrolysis so that stubble is not a problem. My plastic surgery gave a marvelous result.

So I don't think they know. And I'll never ask. But if they do... they accept me anyway. Life is so good.

Monday, March 21

The significance of today was not lost on me. One year ago today, I moved out of my house where Brian had had an outwardly comfortable life. The tumult of the twelve months since then is hard to believe. I have a completely different set of friends and acquaintances now. Most of the old friends have rejected me.

Would I do it again? I don't think I would make any changes. It hasn't been all happiness, but the alternative was sheer misery. As painful as some of the losses have been, I finally have a life of my own.

Emotionally, I'm in much better shape than March 21 of last year. How well I remember crying for hours, trying to find someone to listen and comfort me. I wouldn't want to be in that position again.

Tuesday, March 22

My six month appointment with Dr. Silver, slightly delayed, was this morning. He was very pleased with his work. We discussed my job applications and he suggested I look at Dunwoody Hospital (formerly Shallowford), right across the street from his office. I didn't realize Dunwoody was so large and actually has a cath lab. With his recommendation, I felt confident to go over and talk with the personnel in the medical staff liaison office. They were very encouraging and suggested physician groups I could contact for an affiliation.

The application is impressively comprehensive. I spent two hours filling out what I could do easily, and made a list of contacts to make. The hospitals are very particular about whom they admit to their medical staff. That's as it should be.

Wednesday, March 23

With my name change completed, I was ready to get my Georgia car tag and title. I stood in line at the Federal Building branch office, showed them my old title and court order for name change, and paid less than fifty dollars. Much easier and cheaper than Mississippi, and I walked out with Fulton County tag WEC 764.

Tonight we discussed Margaux's moving in with us. Theresa and I are both in favor of it, because we all do get along well, and her present living situation is getting worse and worse. Her lease runs through the first of the month, so on the last day of March we will get her moved in here.

Thursday, March 24

Now that I had no further excuses, it was time to get my Georgia drivers' license. I had studied enough and knew I could pass the written test. I arrived early enough to beat the crowd, and only had to stand in line a few minutes.

The test was as easy as I expected. I took my scores to the male officer who complimented me on passing the test. He filled out the blanks on my application himself, asking me questions: "Height?" I told him 5'11". "Weight?" 145 pounds. That was all he asked. On his own he filled in brown hair, blue eyes, and female sex.

This is too easy, I thought as I carried my completed application to the typist. Indeed I was right. As I said to my friends later, "I thought I had scored, but they caught me at the goal line."

Everything was going great until the typist reached the "M" on my Mississippi license. She looked at me, in my red shirtdress and white cardigan; then she looked back to the license. Then back to me. Oh-oh.

"Did you know this license has an 'M'?" she asked me.

I played it cool. "I know... isn't that the stupidest thing?" I laughed.

She wasn't biting. "I'm sorry, but I have to fill it out just as it is here." Well, whatever. I was disappointed, especially since Jeanne got "F" on her pre-op license. But they gave me a typed temporary license until the official one is completed. The temporary license was easy to alter a typewritten "M" to an "F". At least I have 45 days to flaunt my official femaleness.

Friday, March 25

Road Trip!! I think about National Lampoon's Animal House when I hear those words. We would leave tonight after Theresa finishes her shift at the computer store. I packed my new bathing suit and cover-up. Am I ready to go to the beach? I wondered. We'll know soon.

I picked up Margaux late in the evening and we loaded the car. Theresa was waiting for us at the employee entrance. She was more than ready to shed her skirt and heels for blue jeans. We bought snack food and were on our way down I-75.

When we reached our turnoff outside Macon, Theresa took over the driving and I settled into the back seat of my Maxima for a nap. The time was 11:30. The next thing I knew, it was after two and we were crossing the toll bridge from Brunswick to St. Simons Island. That's not a bad way to travel, and I wasn't even stiff.

After a brief tour of the beach area (looking for the motel) we finally found the Queen's Court. The night manager smiled and said he wasn't inconvenienced at all. As we carried our bags up the outside stairs to our room, I noticed the white azaleas and oleander everywhere. The subtropical climate made for a beautiful landscape even at night. There would be much more to see, but we collapsed into bed exhausted.

Saturday, March 26

There were no alarm clocks today to keep us from sleeping until nearly eleven. I was the first up, and showered while the others continued to nap. When I had my jeans and T shirt on, I walked over to the main street of the little resort and found a place selling breakfast pastries. I bought coffee and croissants and enjoyed the stroll back to the motel. In the daytime I could see the Queen's Court was surrounded by huge old live oaks with Spanish moss, making a romantic background to the white spring flowers. Spring is here; how relaxing.

After our snack we changed into beach attire. This was my first time to go out in public in a bathing suit, and I wasn't even nervous. We layered on the sunscreen, got our towels and reading material ("The 50 Worst Rock and Roll Records of All Time"), and drove to the beach.

I must admit, no one was paying attention to me because I was with two women who had had serious breast augmentation surgery. Theresa and Margaux are quite justifiably proud of their superstructure. Their bikinis made me look drab, but I'll settle for drab at this point.

It does make me want to consider having an augmentation when I have my surgery, however. I have some decent breast development from the estrogen, but it could be better.

Helicopters from the nearby military base flew over and waved to us on the beach. Boys and dogs tossed and caught Frisbees. Families strolled. It was altogether peaceful and right. The weather was still too cool to remain out more than an hour or two, so we returned to the room and watched television.

We drove around the residential areas and all wondered what it would be like to live in such a place. Why not, I wondered, and looked up cardiologists in the St. Simons and Brunswick areas. I found several and wrote down their names.

Later we went to supper at one of the locals' favorite restaurants, The Crab Trap. We waited outside for a table for about fifteen minutes, even at this off season. Once seated, I ordered a half dozen oysters on the half shell. I shared them with Theresa (Margaux wasn't buying my idea that raw oysters are delicious).

As I "savored the flavor" I felt something solid in the oyster. It was a teardrop shaped pearl, the biggest I have ever found. I cleaned it and saved it. We enjoyed our meal and returned to the room, where we changed to our old sneakers before walking to the beach.

On the beach the nocturnal animals were out. We saw turtles and crabs, and one huge solitary crane. "Oh, look," Margaux laughed. "Jurassic Bird." Indeed the bird could have been a prehistoric remnant, so proud and powerful he seemed. We spread out and approached him from three angles until he spread his wings and slowly glided away.

When we finally returned to the motel it was after 1:00 A.M. Our day on the beach had been well worth the trip.

Sunday, March 27

I was the first one up at 9:30 and had to coax my friends to get up and going so we would leave before check out time. We said goodbye to the beach and took a few detours on the way home. I saw the little chapel which commemorated John Wesley's visit to the island, in the years before he returned to England and founded Methodism.

The island also was home to a nondenominational retreat and conference center which Theresa and her family had attended in past years. "Let's stop by the prayer chapel there," she asked.

It was a beautiful little chapel with stained glass and a view of the water. Theresa knelt for a moment, then rose with a smile on her face.

"I've prayed the same prayer here many times," she explained, "and I just wanted to say 'thank you' now that it has come true."

I knew exactly what she was saying. Please, change me into a girl. I offered my own silent thanks. How far we have come.

The four hour drive back to Atlanta passed quickly. We dropped Margaux at her apartment, knowing we would be moving her to our place soon.

Monday, March 28

I decided to follow up on my impression of Brunswick and St. Simons by writing for a hospital staff application. The address of the hospital was in some of the Visitors' Guides I picked up on the island. Southeast Georgia Medical Center does have a cardiac cath lab. They sent their angioplasty cases to Savannah, but they do their own diagnostic caths and pacemakers. I could live with that.

I also found the two groups of cardiologists practicing in Brunswick. Interestingly, both had female members. A good omen, I thought, as I wrote to introduce myself.

I have no idea whether it will work. You just have to throw out so much bait before you get any nibbles. The process may take longer than I anticipated.

Tuesday, March 29

"Miss Becky," said Theresa, "we need a little protection in our lives."

"You mean condoms?" I grinned. I knew she didn't mean condoms.

"I mean protection from the bad guys. We need a handgun. I'll take you to the firing range and teach you gun safety."

It made sense. We are vulnerable now as never before, and Atlanta is a high crime city. My little canister of pepper gas probably wouldn't do much good. We decided to go up to Forsyth County, just north of Fulton, since the "red tape" would be easier to clear and we might even get the guns today.

After driving up and down the main road, we saw a large building: Forsyth County Pawn and Gun Shop. It looked promising. Inside were two huge, smiling men and counters full of handguns and rifles.

"I'm going to look for an automatic pistol," Theresa explained, "but you should get a small revolver for your first weapon. Probably a .38 special." We found a Taurus Model 85 which fit my hand well.

I've never owned a gun before. After getting the permit (which did involve a background check to the extent that they know we aren't felons), we paid for our guns and carried our new purchases back home to become familiar with them. I packed mine away, knowing I would be gone for a few days.

Wednesday, March 30

This is Mark's birthday. It is the first time I have been away from my son on his birthday. I had to fight the impulse to call him. Sheryl says he asks about me, but isn't ready to hear from me yet.

Thank goodness I had enough to keep me busy. I'm going to participate in a panel discussion at the regional meeting of the American Psychological Association in New Orleans. This is in connection with a paper being presented by Dr. Powell and his partner, Dr. Mauger. After electrolysis and lunch, I set out down I-85 for Montgomery, Mobile, and the Mississippi coast. They all went by in my rearview mirror as I pressed on to New Orleans. Finally I made the outskirts of the city I knew so well. I stopped in New Orleans East and called the number Jerry Montgomery had given me.

"You're just in time," he said. It was 7:00. "Let's get everyone together and go for supper." I was disappointed in his choice of restaurants, a little Italian place in the Garden District. It wasn't bad, but really, there is no city in the Western Hemisphere with better food than New Orleans. Commander's Palace, Galatoire's, the Grill Room, Bayona... but we were on a budget. I had to keep reminding myself.

Jerry and Lynn Montgomery, and my friends Joyce and R.J., were staying at a Quality Inn close to the French Quarter. Dr. Powell and Dr. Mauger had obtained rooms in a bed and breakfast inn in the Garden District; it looked charming. I had no such options; the rooms were taken.

I ended up in a La Quinta in Metairie, the western suburb of New Orleans where I had had electrolysis every week from April through December of last year. The place brought back memories.

...It was the summer of 1986. We had been back in Jackson for a year, and Sheryl and Mark still missed the little small town we left. When Mark's school was out, they loaded a car and drove back to Amory to spend some time. I stayed in Jackson to work, ostensibly.

I worked a couple of days and could stand it no longer. I called in sick and plotted a trip to New Orleans... as Becky. I had the wig, cosmetics, and clothing safely hidden away, so it required minimal advance purchases. I told the neighbors I would be back in 48 hours, and down I-55 I went. I stayed at this same La Quinta Inn.

After a good night's rest I was ready to do the town. At that early date I didn't know any other transgendered people in New Orleans, but I suspected I could easily find them. In retrospect, I might have placed myself at unnecessary risk that night; but it didn't happen.

I looked remarkably passable for someone with no hormones or electrolysis. I decided to go to a mall and shop. The shopping excursion was very uneventful, and no one seemed to suspect my disguise. I was proud of myself as I returned to my car.

I exited the parking lot and waited at a traffic light. Making plans to drive to the French Quarter, I glanced in the mirror to be sure my hair was straight. In the unfamiliar heels, I didn't notice my foot slip off the brake.

CRUNCH!!

I would never have believed a rear end collision at 5 miles an hour could do such damage. No one was hurt, thank God; but the car ahead of me had broken taillights and a dented trunk lid.

My car would not move. I sat there in a cold sweat, watching the radiator fluid run into the street. "That's it," I told myself. "Life is over." I sat still as the investigating officer asked for my driver's license and his politeness changed to a sneer.

Fortunately, this was New Orleans, after all, where crossdressers are not uncommon. I wasn't arrested. I had proof of my insurance, so all I was charged with was failure to keep my vehicle under control. The towtruck operator carried me back to my motel. Still in a panic, I purged everything in the hotel garbage can and rented a car to go back to Jackson. Weeks later I caught the train back to pick up my repaired car.

I have no idea what story I fabricated to explain the absence of the car. Suffice it to say, once I told Sheryl years later about my gender conflict, she immediately said, "that's what you were doing in New Orleans when you wrecked the car, wasn't it?"

And that, friends, is how Becky wrecked her car while crossdressed. The memories made me laugh as I relaxed for the night.

Thursday, March 31

I was getting ready for the day and decided to call Joyce at her motel. She had some upsetting news:

"Suppose they gave a seminar and nobody came?" She explained that no one had signed up for the seminar on gender dysphoria. Apparently there was a seminar at the same time on giving court testimony, and everyone signed up for that one. Lynn and Jerry were very upset, as was Dr. Mauger. Dr. Powell, as always, took it all in stride.

We were all dressed up and no place to go. I told Joyce I would pick her up later and we would make the best of it by shopping the French Quarter and Riverwalk. First, though, I had friends to visit. I put on my favorite blue linen column dress and drove over to the Gregory System office.

"Surprise, everyone," I said as I found them all in between clients at 9:00. They could hardly believe it was me.

"You look GREAT," Karla exclaimed. Geraldina and all her staff were glad to see me. I gave hugs all around before leaving; I didn't know if this might be my last time to see them.

Joyce and I strolled the Riverwalk and commiserated about spending our money needlessly to get here. We saw Lynn and Jerry, who apologized to us. Of course, it was out of their control. We just made the most of it.

In an art shop on Royal Street I found a triptych of New Orleans scenes with the cathedral in the center. It would be ideal to go over the mantel, and the price was reasonable. I ended up carrying it around for a few hours.

We both decided to leave New Orleans today. Joyce, being a pilot, can fly back. She has a new boyfriend and was missing him, so she hurried to the airport. I drove up to Hattiesburg and spent the night there so I would have less distance to drive the next day.

 

© 1996 Rebecca Anne Allison


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