The Real Life Test

Chapter Seven
The Job Search

April 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, April 1

It's a long way to Georgia. I left Hattiesburg without breakfast, and stopped in Laurel, an hour down the road. Shoney's Big Boy is a Mississippi landmark in many towns, and I knew they had a predictably good breakfast buffet.

Then I continued on I-59 to Meridian, and picked up my familiar route to Atlanta, taking me through Tuscaloosa, Birmingham, and Anniston. The sign at the state line says "Welcome to Alabama the Beautiful." I have begun to see it as "Alabama the Never Ending." Finally I saw the next state line: "Welcome. We're glad Georgia's on your mind."

This is one long drive. It was late afternoon when the welcome sight of the Atlanta skyline greeted me as I approached the hill at Six Flags. I caught some of the rush hour traffic going home to Roswell.

In my absence, much had occurred. Theresa and Sheldon had teamed with Margaux in a clandestine operation to get her out of the apartment. They waited until her roommate went to work, and then moved her belongings out using Sheldon's pickup truck. Into our already crowded apartment went computer equipment, stereo, books, furniture, and clothes. I had already given my blessings to the move. I think it's in Margaux's best interest to get away. Her roommate is very emotionally labile and immature. They are not lovers, although apparently he would like to be; and the pressure on Margaux has been difficult to handle.

So the now ex-roommate, Joe, came home and found a note from Margaux She did not tell him where she was going, because she knew he would drive right up and start a confrontation. Joe is not handling this move too well. Margaux has a pager and a voice mailbox, and Joe left dozens of messages for her already today. She doesn't believe he would resort to violence. From her description, he sounds rather passive and dependent in many ways. Theresa is very antagonistic to Joe, but I don't want to see a situation where he is humiliated. If I can speak with him, I think I can present a scenario where everyone saves face and no one is the loser.

Saturday, April 2

We helped Margaux unpack her belongings and get settled in. She is going to be sharing the front bedroom with Theresa. I'm a little uneasy about that arrangement; I don't know if Theresa has any designs on being intimate with Margaux, but I get the strong impression that Margaux has no such intentions.

They seem to be getting along well now, for persons who had such a bitter parting when they moved out of the apartment they shared over three years ago.

Margaux called Joe tonight and I got my chance to mediate the dispute. She mentioned my name to him and said, with my permission, that I was older and a professional person. I took the telephone.

"Hi, Joe. This is Becky. Thanks for talking to me."

"Hello, Becky. I'm sorry you are getting dragged into this." He was putting himself in a position of apology, which gave me the opportunity to steer the conversation.

We talked for about twenty minutes. Margaux was becoming nervous. She wrote me a note, saying "don't let him tell you lies about me." But that wasn't what Joe was doing. He was just voicing his concerns to a third party, who would listen with interest and without my own agenda. He needed to save face, and I gave him the opportunity to do so. Finally I gave the phone back to Margaux.

"You were really helpful," she said when she hung up. "He was much more pleasant. I'm not worried about his reaction any more."

I had just used a "win-win" approach instead of trying to hurt him. This approach so often is better than winning at all costs and making someone else lose. ( I think that is testosterone driven.) I've always preferred letting my adversary save face.

Sunday, April 3

Easter Sunday dawned clear and gorgeous, just as it's supposed to do. I was so glad Mr. Dau had expertly altered my yellow suit. With a white silk blouse and a pale green seashell pattern scarf, I lingered over the image in the full length mirror before driving to church.

The worship service was inspirational. I have had some difficult spiritual times in the past year, but I remind myself: certain churches may have rejected me, but my Lord has never rejected me. I know He gave me this set of life circumstances for His own reasons, and will give me the strength to live for Him. Now as I rejoiced over Christ's resurrection and life, I felt I could endure to complete my trials and live a normal life for the first time.

After church I returned home to my little family. I heated the meal I had prepared yesterday, while they set the table. We held hands as I returned thanks for the meal. The Hawaiian sweet and sour pork loin chops with rice and tossed salad were a favorite with everyone.

The warm spring afternoon was ideal for spending time at the Chattahoochee Park with Robert and Jeanne. On a day like today, it's easy to forget all the difficult times behind and ahead.

Monday, April 4

Some difficult times are closer than I thought. The mail brought the bad news from my accountant. I will owe nearly $5000 in Federal income tax for 1993. I was afraid of this, with the confusion in my finances.

Since we are filing our last joint return this year, I talked to Sheryl. She agreed to help me with the payment, and I will take my share out of the joint account which we are cleaning out as specified in the divorce proceedings.

Sheryl has been very helpful during this ordeal, although I know it is extremely difficult for her too. I've been able to get away from Jackson, but she has to face the gossips every day. I try to imagine the whispers. "That's her; her husband ran off and had a sex change." It would be better for Sheryl if she would leave Jackson too; but she won't do that.

I signed the returns and wrote the check: surviving the Feds one more year.

Mr. Bently called from the personnel agency. He wants to present my resumé to a group of cardiologists in northeast Atlanta. I am very hopeful but skeptical of their acceptance, especially if he alludes to my history. I don't think this should be the first thing people hear about me, but I don't really have control over what he says.

Tuesday, April 5

Today's mail had better news. The American College of Cardiology acknowledged my name change as I had recorded it at the meeting last month. They sent me updated documents, certificates, and the fellowship pledge. My professional organizations have been quick to support my transition. I wonder if they have had to deal with it before?

It's four months since I worked. I feel I should be qualified for my disability policy. The circumstance keeping me from work is a medical condition. I talked to Dr. Powell again about it, and he gave me the name of Dr. Lewis, a psychiatrist here in the north Atlanta area. It seems my disability insurance would not accept the word of a Ph. D. psychologist; they must have an M.D. to testify to my disability.

Dr. Powell is concerned for my future records. He wants to be sure the diagnosis listed on the disability application is not one that will have an adverse effect on my future employment. He was very emphatic that "depression" should not be listed, because that is a warning to employers that the employee may be prone to further problems. Actually, the best diagnosis to list is "transsexualism," as strange as that may sound. That implies that once my surgery is done, I no longer have a disability, and the insurance may help me to transition back into a full work status.

I dread the thought of being unemployed until after surgery, but perhaps I should accept the possibility. Certainly nothing yet has been forthcoming. I am reviewing the classified listings I received at the ACC meeting, and will begin contacting them soon. I'm fearful of the encounters. Most likely I will have several unsuccessful initial interviews at first, before I feel totally comfortable interviewing as Becky.

At any rate, I won't be working right away. I called Dr. Lewis's office and made an appointment for next week.

The schedules for the next quarter at Emory's adult education program were published, and this time I called immediately to make a reservation for the T'ai Chi course. It will begin two weeks from tomorrow! I will look forward to this.

Wednesday, April 6

I sat down with the computer printouts from all over the country, sorting out practice opportunities that looked good. My first priority, of course, was Georgia. There were no listings from Brunswick or St. Simons, but I noted possibilities in Athens, Columbus, Commerce, Winder, Canton, and Valdosta.

Elsewhere in the Southeast I saw opportunities from Tennessee, Kentucky, South Carolina, and lots from Florida. There was even one from Charlotte! I smiled to see Pascagoula, Mississippi. The Singing River Hospital has a new cath lab which is underutilized.

A listing in Alabama caught my attention. Gadsden is only a couple of hours from Atlanta. There are two hospitals with cardiac programs there. A Doctor Charles Soren is looking for an associate. I composed my first letter to him, and followed with several to the Georgia locations.

All is still not settled with Joe and Margaux. He continues to page her beeper many times during the day. She lets me hear some of the voice mail messages; they are sad and desperate. She calls him, but does not let him know where she is. Especially she doesn't want him to know she is living with Theresa.

Margaux's friend, Caroline Cossey, and her husband David live in Atlanta. Caroline is famous under the stage name Tula, a postoperative transsexual who has had a role in a James Bond movie and lots of commercials. I recalled that it was at the recent "Tula Day" festivities that Theresa renewed her friendship with Margaux.

Anyway, Margaux was telling Caroline and David of her difficulty with Joe. David decided to help. On his own, he called Joe and told him to back off Margaux, or else. Fortunately, Joe did back down before we had to find out "or else" what.

Thursday, April 7

I learned that Margaux's work as a computer graphic artist suffered a severe setback last year when she was injured. She received a phone call from Joe one night. He was working at a pizza delivery place about a half mile away from their apartment, and needed her to bring a flashlight so he could do some minor auto repair.

Margaux walked down to deliver the flashlight (she doesn't drive), and waited for Joe to give her a ride back home. While waiting, she was offered a chair behind the counter. She had been in the chair for just a few seconds when it gave way, and she fell to the floor amidst broken chair pieces. Her right arm swelled up greatly and was very painful.

A trip to the Emergency Room resulted in no specific diagnosis, and no fracture. She was given the usual treatment for soft tissue injury with ACE bandage and analgesics. She continued unable to use her right hand and arm for many weeks, due to the severe pain. Further evaluation showed no specific abnormalities, but she remained in pain for days, and was unable to work with her graphics tablet and programs for months

Friday, April 8

Theresa hates her job at Babbage's. Yes, she knows a little about computers and especially the game software, but she's basically just a salesperson and doesn't have to use any of her skills. She hates the hours, keeping her at work until after 9:00 at night. But most of all she hates having to dress up every day and wear heels and hose. Theresa is a blue jean and T-shirt person.

So it was no surprise to learn she drove up to Cumming today and spent time at the pawn and gun shop where we purchased our arsenal. If there's anything she knows more about than computers, it's guns. I'll say this for Theresa: she's like no other woman, genetic or transsexual, I've ever met. I suppose her abbreviated time in the military created an interest in weapons. Sometimes I wonder if she would be one of these militia people.

The pawn shop crowd was impressed with Theresa. Harry, the owner, has talked to her about working there. She might make enough money for her surgery more quickly there than at Babbage's. I just hope she makes enough to pay me back for the car. I'm getting an unpleasant feeling about that debt.

Saturday, April 9

Surprise! Theresa went to the mall today and told her manager at Babbage's she won't be back. She will begin working Monday for Harry at the Cumming Gun and Pawn Shop.

We haven't heard from Sheldon in some time. I think he is getting on with his life and won't be back for Theresa. She doesn't seem to think about him as much. I hope the new job will keep her occupied.

On the second Saturday of each month, we get a double dose of TS support. From four to six P.M., we have our usual group therapy at Dr. Powell's office. This is well attended. For many of our group, it's the only real therapy relationship they have as a requirement for surgery. Few can afford the individual hour-long therapy sessions. Dr. Powell is such a giving, generous person; after group therapy he will stay and counsel briefly with anyone who requests ten to fifteen minutes of his time.

Then from eight to ten P.M., on the other side of Atlanta in Jonesboro, we have a social support group meeting. Many of the same people attend both meetings, but there are some different faces. I spent time with two persons today whom I don't usually see.

Gail Denton is 21 years old, the same as my son Mark. She has not lived at home since she was sixteen, but she finished high school despite living with friends. Of course, her high school diploma doesn't say "Gail Denton". Gail found herself on the streets of downtown Atlanta, and has been deeply into the gay and drag queen demimonde. She was performing at Charlie Brown's Cabaret when Theresa happened to catch her act and immediately recognized: this person isn't a drag queen. She introduced herself and told Gail about the Montgomery group.

Gail comes to group meetings in very stylish clothes, most of which she makes herself. She sews very well. Today she had on a silver and black zebra print catsuit with matching shoes. She attracts a lot of attention from the "wannabes" who wish they could look so convincing.

Gail is in a very difficult situation with her current roommate and is about to find herself homeless again. This could get out of hand, but I think we can help her.

The other person is slightly older than I am. Felice is pre-operative also, but has grown her hair out in a long pony tail and, with her pale blue eyes and Dr. Silver's nose, looks like any normal woman. She is a former Olympic athlete who made good money in various sales positions before accepting her need to transition.

Felice's roommate is a professional topless dancer, a woman who has had humongous breast implants and lots of facial surgery. Men go absolutely nuts over her. Under the stage name "Holly Hills", she makes an excellent living touring nationally and internationally. Felice is her "manager". Their home is not too far from us in the northern 'burbs.

Never in my old life would I have been friends with such a variety of fascinating people. I love it.

Sunday, April 10

The spring flowers planted around Roswell United Methodist Church continue as gorgeous as when the azaleas were in full bloom. It makes me wish I lived in a house rather than this condominium, so I could landscape it as I choose.

Of course, if I had the money to afford a house, it would mean I'm working so hard I can't find the time to work in a garden. You can't win.

I listened with interest to Margaux's description of her personal physician. Dr. Henry is an internist who has served as her endocrinologist for years. He has always treated Margaux with understanding and compassion. This is understandable, since he found himself in a persecuted minority in Atlanta also. Some years ago he came to terms with his homosexuality. He was financially devastated in a divorce and rebuilt slowly, rebuilding his practice with his lover, a nurse practicioner. He lost some referral sources, but gained many new patients through word of mouth in the "community".

He is in his late sixties now and is starting to give some thought to retirement - and to selling his practice. I don't think it is what I would want. I would be a general internist again, with no hope of returning to an invasive cardiology practice. The income would be low at first. My ongoing expenses from my own divorce would still be great. Still, it gives me other possibilities for returning to a medical practice, which I miss so greatly.

Margaux will call Dr. Henry and set up a meeting for me with him to see his office. I am happy but apprehensive about dealing with a colleague who knows my whole story.

Monday, April 11

I mentioned earlier that Jerry Montgomery's home seemed like a boarding house, with so many T-people renting a room.

Now I have my own boarding house. I'm in the rear bedroom upstairs and Theresa and Margaux are sharing the front bedroom: an arrangement which doesn't entirely suit Margaux, but she is tolerating it to get out of her former situation with Joe.

Downstairs - we have no bedrooms. But now we have a roomer. Yes, Miss Gail has arrived. Her previous landlady decided Gail wasn't contributing her share to the living arrangements. What can I do? I can't have this child, the same age as my son, back out on the street again.

She has been able to earn money dancing, sometimes at drag bars, sometimes at straight clubs. This could be a dangerous line of work if she is discovered. She is also attending Roffler's school of hairstyling. Of course, the catch (there is always a catch) is: she has no reliable transportation. (Let's all sing the chorus a third time.) Yes, I can help her with transportation to Roffler. I'm not so sure about the clubs in Midtown.

Gail moved her few possessions in. The clothing goes upstairs in the front bedroom closet. I don't even want to look in there. She has a sewing machine which we can store in the attic when it's not being used. There is not much else.

I wonder what the homeowners' association will say about the T Hotel.

Tuesday, April 12

The drive to the telemarketing office is putting more of a strain on Margaux than on me. Her hours are 10 AM to 2 PM, then she is off from 2 until 5, then back until 9 PM. Formerly, she could take the MARTA rapid transit to her old apartment, but now we are far off the MARTA line.

Some days I will pick her up at 2, and we will run errands or have a Coke before I return her to work. But most days she either stays in the neighborhood (not an entertaining prospect) or catches a bus to Lenox Square for less than three hours. It makes for a long and difficult day.

She has begun to put out applications for work in the area close to our condo. Unlike Theresa, Margaux is willing to work at almost any decent location. The old Roswell Mall is just about a mile away, and the stores there include a large Target department store as well as Stuart's, a budget ladies' clothing chain. This work is such a step down for her, but without a car she is very limited in her options. I think it would be best of all for her to get her drivers' license so she can find a better job in her field of graphic design. Maybe I will be able to be her driving teacher!

Wednesday, April 13

Although I have spent my share of couch hours as a patient of Ph.D. psychologists, I have never before seen a psychiatrist. Why would I, I wondered; the counseling itself is what I have needed. The additional medical training and the ability to prescribe medication are not necessary for me. My needs are related to the social stress imposed by the refusal of other persons to accept my need to live and identify in the female gender. The only medication that will help this need is estrogen.

So I wondered what Dr. Lewis would have to say as I waited in his office. The contrast was evident in the busy waiting area with a familiar clinical atmosphere, rather than the quiet, well decorated psychologist's office seeming like a private den.

Dr. Lewis was pleasant and treated me as an informed patient, but not as a colleague. Of course, I wasn't seeing him as a colleague. I took great care to assure him that I wanted to resume work as soon as possible, but my transition had impaired my ability to work at the present time. It may be after my surgery before I am able to satisfy the scrutiny of a medical group looking to preserve its serious reputation. Until then, I feel I should be considered disabled due to my transsexualism.

It was a new idea in his practice, but it made sense. He was very helpful in answering the questions of the disability insurance carrier. We ended on a positive note; he made it clear that he didn't think I needed continuing psychiatric care. Thank goodness! My pre-shrunk head is analyzed enough already.

Thursday, April 14

This is my week for doctor visits. It was time for my six months' checkup with my endocrinologist, Dr. Brown. It's so interesting seeing how other physicians' offices are run. The internal medicine practice to which Dr. Brown belongs is housed in a large midtown Atlanta office tower. I can only imagine the rent. I parked in the designated garage, remembering to take my parking ticket for validation.

The waiting room was a mix of endocrine and general medical patients. I listened as a woman in her sixties described her diabetic foot problems to the elderly black woman sitting next to her, who was here to have her blood pressure checked. I belong here, I thought, but not on this side of the wall. I could treat these patients!

After checking my weight and blood pressure, Dr. Brown's nurse gave me the obligatory paper gown to wear for the exam. I realized a milestone has been reached. I have too much breast development to ever go topless again.

Sometimes I think Dr. Brown understands transsexuals, and then he brings me back to reality. We talked of my transition, doses of hormones, and absence of side effects; then I mentioned I had begun to get some leads on a medical practice. He replied quickly before thinking, "As a woman?" then realized how silly he sounded. Duh - yes.

Back at home, I had a telephone call from Mr. Bently. "The doctors liked your resumé, but didn't feel comfortable with your background. But we will keep trying."

"I really don't want to apply anywhere else and tell them immediately that I'm having a sex change! Let's let them see my qualifications first, " I insisted.

I believe I'm going to have to find this job myself.

Friday, April 15

The I.R.S. has already put its teeth into me this year, so today has no dread impact. Instead I had a pleasant surprise on the telephone.

"Dr. Allison? This is Lisa, with Daniel and Yeager Associates in Huntsville. We are a physician placement agency, working with temporary and permanent practice positions. You registered at the American College of Cardiology meeting as someone interested in a new practice position."

Lisa talked to me for a half hour, and I gave her my credentials. Her company represents physicians in many specialties, especially primary care; but they get requests for cardiologists on occasion. This was one such occasion. She saw I had a Mississippi license, and wanted to tell me of a practice opportunity in Vicksburg.

The position is a long term locum tenens, probably about eight months. I calculated that I could complete that term and have plenty of money for my surgery. She spoke as if it were taken for granted that I could have the position.

I need to tell them, but not over the phone, I told myself. I arranged to drive over to Huntsville and meet Lisa and her colleagues. It will be convenient for me to go on Thursday, April 21, in the morning, then drive through Gadsden on the way home and check Dr. Soren's facilities.

This is so exciting. What if something lasting comes of it? I don't have an Alabama license, but that will be the least of my problems. I am getting serious consideration, based on my qualifications alone. Someone will need my expertise.

Saturday, April 16

Margaux has decided to take the job at Stuart's for the time being. She is very overqualified to sell clothing, but she still is unable to do her computer work. The location is close enough that she could walk if a ride is unavailable, but for now it will be easy to drive her back and forth. She got off work early today, and will start full time next week.

There are advantages to being out of work. One is the opportunity to pursue interests I never had time for in the past. In the case of cooking, it is more than time; I never had the opportunity before.

Cooking is therapeutic for me. If I am under severe stress, the best way to relieve it is to focus concentration on a complex task. Some people work crossword puzzles. I prefer to construct a meal. It's a little like chemistry lab. If you follow the instructions, you will get the right values for your unknown. Then, after mastering the initial recipe, I will improvise.

For today's dinner, for example, I made a puffy omelet. The basic instructions are in the "Plaid Bible" - the Better Homes and Gardens cookbook:

Separate the whites and yolks of four eggs. Beat well, adding water to the whites. Fold the yolks into the whites. Cook in a skillet for eight minutes, then put in the oven at 325 degrees for eight minutes.

The sauce gives opportunities for improvisation. I used provolone cheese and a mixture of tarragon and parsley instead of fines herbes. I altered the recipe for three people instead of two (Theresa was still at work) and it was just right for Gail, Margaux and myself. With fresh strawberry pie for dessert, we were dining well!

 

Sunday, April 17

With my three roommates now all employed, you might think we would have very little time together, and that time would be spent happily. Not always so, I learned today.

There is some friction between Theresa and Margaux which wasn't apparent in those first few days. Margaux has been concerned about the way Theresa is getting the money for her surgery. Most of the money is coming from loans from her friends (no, not me, I've already got the car loan.) Margaux doesn't believe Theresa intends to pay back any of these loans, based on her past history.

I missed the early part of the argument - I was upstairs balancing my checkbook and paying bills - but when I heard Theresa shout "You're a washed up has-been!" I knew it was time to run downstairs. I found them almost literally in each other's face, shouting angrily, with Gail observing from a safe distance.

"Come here." I grabbed Theresa by the arm. "We're going out the back door.. Gail, you take Margaux out the front door." I was surprised at my out of character boldness.

"I don't really want to know what that was all about," I told Theresa. "But you and I invited her to live here too, and we cannot treat each other that way. If we are going to live together, we need to get along better."

Theresa was still furious. She nodded without saying a word. Then she dealt with the crisis in her usual manner: she chain smoked several cigarettes sitting in the carport. I stayed with her for a few minutes, but when I realized she wasn't going to speak, I went back upstairs.

Obviously, these two aren't quite as compatible as I had thought. I wonder how they will do sharing that front bedroom. I'm not ready to share mine again yet.

 

Monday, April 18

My check from the Cardiology Group of Mississippi finally arrived for the month of April. It was certainly appreciated. The money is tight, with the alimony and child support consuming nearly all of each check. I have wondered how to supplement my income.

It's time to act on my application for disability, for which I saw Dr. Lewis. I really do think it should be possible to get something from my disability insurance. I've had a private policy I have paid into for fifteen years, and never used it. I composed a letter to the Paul Revere Insurance Company, giving full details of my transition. I made the point that I expected to return to work full time in the near future, and for now I'm unable to work due to transsexualism.

I think they may agree. They want me back making money, and they will realize that the completion of my transition will allow me to pay my premiums again.

 

Tuesday, April 19

Dr. Joe Henry's office is on Piedmont Road in the Buckhead area of Atlanta. He is a solo practicioner, working with a physician's assistant who is also his life partner. Both of them were so kind to me as Margaux introduced me.

Dr. Henry had a medical practice in Taiwan for several years. On his walls were swords, flags, and other memorabilia from that time. I enjoyed listening to his stories. He was, of course, aware of my gender conflict, and knew I had not yet had my surgery.

"I will be 65 soon, and would like to work five more years," he confided. "I would really like to sell my practice soon and work for the new owner."

It was very helpful to know that I had a job - if I wanted to give up cardiology and practice internal medicine. That, of course, is not what I was trained to do. But how many times have we all done something we don't want to do? I thanked Dr. Henry for his offer and promised I would consider it. Perhaps he will find a general internist who is exactly qualified for his needs.

I had a pleasant surprise in the mail: a reply from Dr. Soren in Gadsden. He wanted me to contact him regarding a visit to show me his practice. I called his office and made an appointment for May 5. The office manager was very pleasant during our conversation. It is amazing to me that I do so well with my telephone voice, since I have not had voice lessons or vocal cord surgery. When I stopped trying to sound "male" on the telephone, my natural voice just came out very convincingly female. It isn't particularly high pitched, but that is good; it's not falsetto. I haven't been "sirred" in some time.

 

Wednesday, April 20

Once I thought I was the clumsiest person alive. My inability to dance, I now realize, was due to my discomfort with the male role. Now I am free to express myself physically and to move gracefully. T'ai chi should help me gain new body awareness and confidence.

Arriving early, I found my fellow students ranged in age from mid-twenties to over sixty. No one had any background in t'ai chi, but we were all anxious to learn the graceful moves.

Our instructor arrived promptly. Jim is a psychologist (M.A.) and has studied t'ai chi for over twenty years. He began by showing us the Yang short form, which we will be studying. I was thrilled to think I could move so gracefully. It will take many weeks to learn. I'm ready to start.

Most of our first session concentrated on the proper relaxation and warm up exercises. My body had not moved in those directions in a very long time! The exercises were stimulating and we practiced them for a half hour, then learned the first movement. I had no idea how important it is to coordinate my breathing with the movements. It makes for such a natural and graceful exercise. I had always considered myself clumsy, but now I feel free to move with grace.

At the end of the hour I was not at all fatigued; I felt exhilarated. No wonder our instructor told us not to practice just before bedtime, I thought as I drove back to the condo from Emory.

 

Thursday, April 21

This was going to be my busiest day since I began my transition. I rose early and filled the crock pot with the rump roast I bought yesterday, studding it with bits of garlic and rubbing in Cavender's Greek Seasoning. I turned the pot on low heat and left a note for Gail to turn it off in eight hours. I dressed in my dark green shirtdress for a business appointment.

I didn't get through the Interstate before rush hour, so the traffic on I-285 was a real crawl. Finally I found my way to I-20 West. After an hour and a half I reached Anniston, where I turned off the Interstate onto Highway 431.

The route took me through Gadsden, and I made note of the medical center. I didn't see Dr. Soren's office, and didn't spend any time looking today. I had a date in Huntsville!

"Do they already know about me?" I wondered to myself. Surely they do; they have my résumé and I know they have made telephone calls. Not all my references in Jackson are going to refer to me by my female name. But truthfully, it's best if they do know. I wouldn't want to take a position and have someone think later I had been deceptive.

Making a personal visit to Daniel and Yeager was important. If they see me as the normal person I appear to be, they will be motivated to find work for me. They won't have any mental images of me as strange looking.

When I arrived in Huntsville I followed Lisa's directions and found the building easily. Huntsville is quite a change from Atlanta: this six story office building is one of the largest in town. Daniel and Yeager's offices were very modern and attractive.

Lisa was expecting me. We made small talk - girl talk - and I had a cup of coffee. In a few moments she called Mr. Daniel to let him know I was here.

John Daniel was very friendly and helpful. "Dr. Allison, your qualifications are outstanding. We don't have many clients with such a résumé. Please let me assure you, we do not consider your personal circumstances in attempting to place you. I can't imagine the difficulties you have experienced, and I know you will be an outstanding physician again."

Best possible case, I thought to myself. They do know, and they don't care. Why can't everyone be like that? I still worried that there will be a problem with Vicksburg. We concluded my interview after lunch, and she promised me she would work on several leads for me right away.

I was elated over the results of the meeting. Even in the deep South there are persons who can be accepting. But being accepting is easier when they don't have to work with a transsexual person on a daily basis. What will my co-workers do?

 

Friday, April 22

Early morning phone calls seldom bring the best news. Shortly after 9:00, I ran from the shower to answer the telephone. "Dr. Allison, good morning. This is Lisa."

Wow, what service, I thought. "Good morning, Lisa.. How are you?"

"Well, I wanted to bring you up to date on what we did after you left. I called the business manager of the Vicksburg Clinic to see if we could arrange a time for you to interview. I really hate to tell you this..."

Oh shit.

"He told me they did not want to pursue your working there. I am so sorry. You are definitely the best candidate they are likely to find anywhere. It doesn't make any sense."

No, it doesn't, Lisa, I thought; but you and I are reasonable persons and we don't live in Mississippi. I knew some of my old acquaintances had recognized the name. News of my transition was still too fresh. What would those doctors say - "no sex change is going to touch my patients"? Am I overreacting?

Lisa promised me she would keep looking for a postion, and there would definitely be something even better. I thanked her, knowing she was sincere. But the anger was great as I hung up the phone. I had to ventilate.

I pounded the wall with my fists and cried. "Damn ignorant Vicksburg." Margaux heard the commotion and came running upstairs. After allowing me a few minutes to let out my frustration, she reminded me that I could do much better than that position anyway.

I'm sure she is right, but it hurts to be rejected. I trained many of those doctors. How dare they pass judgment on me? This position would have given me the money I needed for my surgery and kept me practicing up through the end of the real life test, then after recuperating from surgery I would have been free to go anywhere for a practice position. Or so I rationalized.

At least now I can concentrate in the Atlanta area again. I didn't really want to leave my new friends.

Saturday, April 23

It's not a good day to be outside. The rain is pouring. Thank goodness we are high on a hill. The second floor is very noisy during a storm as the wind howls around the corner of the building.

During the storm a very inconvenient, nearly disastrous, event occurred. A huge bolt of lightning struck a transformer near our building, leaving us without power for almost an hour. When the power was restored, I tried to turn my modem on. No response occurred. Great - my little 2400 baud modem was bad enough when it worked. I really don't look forward to spending the extra money for a new modem, but it is very important to me to maintain a connection with others in my circumstances.

The weather cleared in time for an easy drive to the support group meeting, where the remarkable absence of controversy was very welcome.

 

Sunday, April 24

The Sunday Atlanta Journal-Constitution is an exercise in weightlifting. I coaxed the huge rubber band off and thumbed through the Sunday living section while I sipped my early morning coffee. A display advertisement caught my eye:

Open House at our New Facility
Internal Medicine Associates of North Georgia
Canton, Georgia

Is it an omen? I decided to find out.

After the church service I grabbed my Rand McNally Road Atlas and headed out Crabapple Road towards Canton. My neighborhood in Roswell is the closest part of greater Atlanta to the little town in the last gasp of the Appalachian Mountains. The drive was an easy two lane road, winding higher into the hills of far north Fulton County.

Finally I reached civilization: a barbecue shack, a tiny frame house with a sign in the yard proclaiming "Income Tax Preparation", an auto repair business with the obligatory junk cars in the yard. Then the road wound into Canton, with all the sophistication of a tiny Southern county seat. I stopped at a Publix grocery and asked directions to the hospital.

On this Sunday afternoon, a week before the open house, I didn't expect to see anyone at the Clinic. The hospital itself is single story and appears to have 80 to 90 beds. It's quite a change from the huge Mississippi Baptist Medical Center. The Internal Medicine Associates' new building is very modern and from the outside looks well arranged. I could see into the corridors past the waiting area.

The empty feeling in my stomach was not hunger. It was anxiety and yearning to be back in practice again. Please, let it be soon. But where?

I've never lived in a town as small as Canton; not even Amory, the little North Mississippi town where I practiced general medicine before returning to do my cardiology training. I tried to imagine the townspeople. Probably most of them are fourth generation residents; not many people from the city choose to come to this small a place. Would they accept a newcomer - a woman physician - or what if they knew their new doctor was a transsexual woman? Would I be run out of town? Would they hold a prayer and healing revival for me at the Full Gospel Church? Would I be physically in danger?

I consulted the map again and drove east along Georgia Highway 20 through Cumming, the site of the famous pawnshop. Cumming is a town as small as Canton, or it was until a few years ago. Then the completion of Georgia 400, the freeway, brought yuppies, Land Rovers, and chain restaurants to the little town which once had no more exotic food than catfish and hush puppies. The topography changed as I drove past the southern end of Lake Lanier and crossed Interstate 85. Barrow County's low rolling hills seemed more hospitable for me than the Appalachian atmosphere of Canton. Winder itself is larger, around ten thousand population; big enough for a larger medical center.

Winder reminded me very much of Amory, Mississippi. I passed the City Hall and the offices of the weekly newspaper. Older neighborhoods were well maintained and residents of all ages smiled and waved. An old church had been converted into an upscale restaurant. Everything is University of Georgia Bulldogs: Athens, the home of the University, is only about thirty miles away.

The Barrow County Medical Center is a large, multi story hospital undergoing a major construction project. I found Dr. Anand's office, Barrow Cardiology, in temporary quarters in trailer type housing adjacent to the hospital. I couldn't see inside, but the fact that so much construction was ongoing encouraged me that this would be a progressive place. It's strange that I didn't feel that way about Canton, when their Internal Medicine offices were new also.

Having thoroughly psyched myself for Winder, I drove back to Atlanta, a very easy drive on Highway 316. Margaux and Theresa could tell how excited I was. The thought occurred to me that Winder is even a place where they might live too, if they wished to move with me. Margaux would need a drivers' license and wheels, but we have time to work on that.

Monday, April 25

The idea of living in a small town again seems so strange. How could a transsexual physician survive in the "fishbowl" atmosphere? I remember living in Amory. Sheryl would go to the grocery store and people would be talking in the next aisle about me - their doctor. Worse, sometimes they would be talking about her. I remember the people in Forsyth talking about Michelle, without realizing I was listening. The idea that I might blend in perfectly, without being detected as transsexual, was appealing but unrealistic. Someone would find out sooner or later.

But I'm getting panicky for a job. I haven't heard anything else from Daniel and Yeager since the Vicksburg disaster. It was foolish to think I could succeed that close to Jackson anyway.

I took the printout from the ACC meeting and found the mailing addresses of the two groups: in Canton, Internal Medicine Associates of North Georgia; and in Winder, Barrow Cardiology. Assembling my résumé, I hoped all the documents were in order with the right names. "Looks pretty good," I thought of the finished letter. "I would hire me."

I dropped the letters in the mailbox and began to visualize myself in Winder, Georgia. A country cardiologist.

 

Tuesday, April 26

After warming up on my letters to the physicians in Winder and Canton, I decided to write a letter of major importance. If I write now, I will be able to get on schedule for my SRS toward the end of the year.

Whom to write? I had considered Dr. Seghers in Belgium, who works closely with the Montgomery group. His costs are less than most of the American doctors. Of course, the most famous surgeon is Dr. Biber in Colorado. But Dr. Biber is over 65, and I don't know anyone who has been to him recently. Dr. Gene Schrang, from Wisconsin, practices at a major medical center. The opportunity to recuperate in an American hospital, with extra personal attention, was important. My observation of Dr. Schrang's results was the most important influence of my decision.

I sat at the computer and put a great deal of thought into the letter which would set in motion the process leading to my sex change surgery.

Eugene A. Schrang, M.D., S.C.
Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery
240 First Street
Neenah, Wisconsin 54956

Dear Dr. Schrang:

I am writing this preliminary letter to make your acquaintance and introduce myself. I'm a cardiologist/internist who recently moved to Atlanta from Jackson, Mississippi after beginning my male to female transition.

I practiced internal medicine in a small Mississippi town before returning to Jackson for my cardiology fellowship in 1985. My subsequent cardiology private practice ended in November 1993 when I was asked to leave by my partner due to my gender transition. I have divorced and moved to Atlanta, where I took a sabbatical for several months to polish my skills in my new role. I have been quite successful and now am very active in church and community activities with no one aware of my past. I have just begun to look for a new medical position.

My goal for SRS is late November or early December of this year. I am, of course, interested in the penile inversion technique rather than the use of the rectosigmoid colon. I hope to avoid skin grafting, but will abide by your recommendation after my physical examination.

The only ancillary procedure I may want at the time of my SRS is breast augmentation, and I have not decided yet about that. I am frankly disappointed with the saline implants I have seen. The silicone gel implants, in my observation, have been much more natural appearing. At any rate, I'm between a B and a C cup on hormones alone, so I may not opt for the procedure.

I am sure you don't remember, but I met you at the Harry Benjamin meeting last October in New York City. We spoke for a few moments at the reception on Friday night. That was just before my move to Atlanta and beginning my real life test.

I will look forward to hearing from you at your convenience.

Sincerely,

Rebecca Anne Allison, M.D.

I looked it over and allowed myself to be impressed with the significance of the moment. Then I stuffed it in an envelope and into the mail before I had a chance to change my mind.

 

Wednesday, April 27

Gail has a new dancing job at Tops and Tails. Her outfit is, literally, the upper half of a tuxedo. She will wear a leotard under the little starched dickey and black formal coat with its tails, accompanied by a collar and bow similar to a Playboy bunny, and a top hat.

She most definitely does not look like a boy. Miss Gail "tucks" very well. Tucking, of course, is the art of concealing the penis so it doesn't leave a telltale bulge under your tight garments. We all get quite expert at tucking in any way that works for us. I have seen some pre-ops who use adhesive tape to pull the penis back tightly between the gluteal folds. That seems too painful to contemplate. Fortunately, after years of hormones, the size is reduced so much that tucking is easy. Many of us can help the process further by pressing the testicles into the inguinal canals, concealing them as well.

So ANYWAY, as Gail says, I'm out in front of the condo with Theresa, looking at Gail's car to see if it is running (never a guaranteed assumption). It's three P.M. And Miss Gail is ready to go to work. Out she comes, down the front sidewalk in her fishnet hose, four inch heels and formal wear. If I had a jacket I would throw it over her. Oh well...

My outfit for t'ai chi was considerably more casual. I wore shorts and a t-shirt to the education building on the Emory campus. I greeted the friends I made last week and we began warming up independently.

At least twenty minutes of every class session are occupied with warm up exercises. These are designed to clear the mind of stressful thoughts, and limber the body to perform the form. In one, we rotate the pelvis clockwise, then counterclockwise, keeping hands on the sacral area. In another we step forward on one leg and push outwards with our hands. We practiced five or six warm ups, then spent the rest of the time on the first two movements of the form.

I find it so relaxing, but stimulating at the same time. It makes me wish I had studied this for years also. I hope it will work out for me to continue in the full course which will probably take six months or more.

Thursday, April 28

What an interesting night Gail must have had! I was asleep, of course, when she got in at 4:00 A.M. Later I drove over to the telemarketing office and brought Margaux home for the three hours between 2:00 and 5:00.

When we returned to the condo we found the back door open. Gail was inside, but she wasn't alone. A crew-cut, heavily muscled young man was standing in my living room. With a glance toward me and Margaux he curtly asked, "Who are YOU?"

I may be meek and mild, but this is my home and I won't be intimidated in it. "I'm the person who owns this house. Who are you?"

"Oh," he relaxed his posturing. Good heavens, I thought, is this how some males try to impress women? It isn't working; I am not impressed. Margaux and I settled in the living room, paying no attention to him, trying to make him a little unwelcome. Soon he and Gail went outside and he eventually drove away.

In the afternoon the phone rang with a call from Dr. Anand in Winder. He was impressed by my résumé and would like to have me come for a get acquainted meeting. How soon could I arrange it?

Well, let me check my appointment calendar. (Quick check) Uh - how about tomorrow?

When I hung up, I had appointments with Dr. Anand and with the hospital administrator of the Barrow Medical Center for tomorrow afternoon. This could have great potential!

I decided to be proactive and schedule my appointment with Canton also. I called and reached the president of the Internal Medicine group. They had received my letter and were glad to hear from me. We arranged an appointment for Monday, May 2. (I may cancel it, I thought, if I have already decided to go to Winder.)

I was wide awake late into the night, thinking of being back at work soon.

Friday, April 29

Margaux told Dr. Henry I was interested in Winder. "Dreadful little town," was his comment. I didn't agree - yet.

After lunch I worked on my hair with the hot rollers and got it just right. I wore my cream linen Maggy London shirtdress with a lizard belt. This should look well in small town Georgia, I thought.

The drive to Winder is easier if you go directly from Atlanta, rather than going through Canton as I did earlier. I took the first exit to Winder from Georgia 316, the divided freeway to Athens.

The hospital sits well back from the street, on a several-acre parcel of land. Its nearest neighbor is a beautiful little Methodist church, I observed gladly. I parked in the side lot, near the temporary building housing Barrow Cardiology.

"I'm Dr. Allison; Dr. Anand was expecting me." The staff was very friendly and glad to see me. "We would love to see a woman cardiologist here."

Dr. Anand entered the hallway from a patient examining room. We talked a few minutes and then he called the hospital administrator to come give me a tour of the facilities.

This would never happen in a large urban hospital. I usually don't even get to meet the senior administrators, but Mr. Gibson took time from his busy day to show me the hospital wards, the CCU, and the new construction, which would include a large suite for Barrow Cardiology. I could imagine myself in one of the doctors' offices which was still in the 2x4 beam stage.

Dr. Anand was waiting for me at the end of my tour, having seen his last patient for the day. He wanted to tell me of his practice and give me a little tour of the area. He graduated from medical school in India and has been here in practice several years. He has a loose partnership with Dr. Neel, who practices just down the road in Commerce. The two share a call schedule, and both go to Crawford Long Hospital in Atlanta for their cath procedures.

We rode through the town as he pointed out sights I had first noticed on my reconnaisance trip. At this time I was most intrigued by Dr. Anand's car. The new Crown Victoria was equipped with the most interesting telephone I have seen. As he pushed a button, the computer voice intoned, "Call, please."

"Winder office," he would say. He also had settings for "home", "Commerce office", "Winder hospital", and "Commerce hospital". The voice activated machine would then dial the correct number. It was a totally hands free procedure.

Maybe I should get out more, but I was very impressed.

We parted with an arrangement for me to meet Dr. Neel and tour the Commerce facility later in May. I wish it could be sooner, but Dr. Neel will be out of town and I must be patient.

Saturday, April 30

It was another rainy Saturday morning, and I had time to kill before getting ready for group therapy. In the hours when the others were sleeping in, I had time to take a look in the mirror.

My facial features had healed so well from last year's surgery. I loved the absence of bags under the eyelids. But what was wrong with my eyes? The mascara and liner were just right, not too gaudy. Then I realized: the eyebrows were wrong.

I had been to a salon down the road to have my eyebrows tweezed a few weeks ago, but the operator was much too conservative. I decided I was ready for a radical result, a new look for someone who had never severely plucked her eyebrows. It's not rocket science. All you need is tweezers and a mirror.

An hour and a half later, after many sneezing fits, I saw a much better defined face. The skin was red and inflamed from plucking, but the inflammation quickly resolved. I loved the high arched brows! They are even symmetrical. If I had realized I could do this well, I would have transitioned my eyebrows much sooner.

Group therapy can be depressing, as various members tell of their employment difficulties. MIchelle Kelly is getting negative comments from some of the national guardsmen with whom she works as a computer technician. I think she would be safe if only she would dress down for the work, wearing jeans and work shirts. But I can't make Michelle understand that. Her attitude is "I worked hard to get to wear this dress, and I'm certainly not going to wear jeans."

I wish I knew why so many of us have such feelings. For most types of work it is important to be able to relax and be casual to the point of getting dirty. It's much easier to wash a pair of jeans than to dryclean a dress - and much cheaper.

The Georgia nights are getting warmer. After dinner I stayed outside and practiced my t'ai chi moves, listening to Theresa and Margaux inside the open front door. What a strange and interesting "family" I belong to now.

 

© 1996 Rebecca Anne Allison


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