The Real Life Test

Chapter Eight

May 1994


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

Sunday, May 1

North Georgia continues to present its best appearance for the Sunday driver. The dogwoods are faded, but the summer flowers are beginning to appear. Beds around Roswell United Methodist Church feature begonias, periwinkles, and petunias. Inside, a cut arrangement of gladioli and Shasta daisies is breathtaking.

Did I simply fail to see the beauty in years past?

After church our class had lunch at Mary Mitchell's home. Mary is the mother of three young men, college age and just finished. Two still attend Georgia Tech, and are often home on weekends. Her home, just three miles from mine, is a two story contemporary with weathered wood exterior, on a lot filled with oak and sweet gum trees.

I envy her lovely home, and wonder if I will ever be the lady of such a house. Even more so, I envy her relationship with her sons. The contrast with my lack of contact with Mark was painful.

Monday, May 2

My appointment at the Internal Medicine Associates of North Georgia was at 11:00. I retraced my drive from Roswell to Canton, thinking it remarkable that the mountains were so close at hand. Canton seems to sit in the southernmost Appalachians.

Canton makes Winder look like a metropolis. The atmosphere is different. Winder is in the flat country of east Georgia, toward Athens. The people seem more open and friendly. Canton appears very insular. Perhaps it's all in my mind.

I arrived a few minutes early at the clinic and introduced myself to the receptionist, who was very helpful and showed me back to the office manager. She and I talked for about ten minutes while waiting for Dr. Evans to finish seeing his morning patients.

Dr. Bill Evans was short and thin, and looked hurried. He apologized for not being able to take more time for me, but "it's a busy Monday... I know you understand." Even though he took time to give me a tour of the facility, I got the impression he was not trying very hard.

The Internal Medicine Associates group is predominantly general medicine, with a gastroenterologist and an oncologist. They are looking for a noninvasive cardiologist to do consultations, stress tests, and echocardiograms. Cardiac catheterizations are not done in Canton, and would be referred to a group of cardiologists who practice at Kennestone Hospital in Marietta.

I'm not ready to give up my cath lab expertise yet. I thanked Dr. Evans and wished him well in finding someone suitable. Oh, well, not every opportunity turns out to be great. On the way home from Canton I didn't have any impulse to stop and look at housing like I did in Winder.

Tuesday, May 3

I drove Margaux to work at Stuart's and returned home to a quiet condo. Theresa was already at Cumming, and Gail had called a friend to pick her up. She will go to her training at Roffler beauty college later today.

The enforced absence from work has had positive aspects for me. I realized that one day, I would be back at work just as hard as the physicians at Canton. Not many cardiologists get an opportunity in mid-career for a prolonged sabbatical. Instead of agonizing over being out of work, I should enjoy the slow pace while I can.

Wednesday, May 4

Well, I have this gun. I wonder what to do with it. Theresa has an idea. Today before leaving for work, she persuaded me to meet her tonight at Shooters' World. This huge indoor firing range has Ladies' Night each Wednesday. There's no charge for range time, so all we will have to buy is our ammunition.

How incongruous: after an hour of relaxation exercises and learning the T'ai Chi form, I drove up to the Gwinnett Mall area and met Theresa as she drove down from Cumming. We entered Shooters' World and bought our ammunition. They assigned us two adjacent lanes and gave us appropriate goggles and ear protection.

Now I found myself with this little Taurus .38 special revolver, looking like a toy next to Theresa's huge 9mm automatic. It didn't help that the target was in the shape of a human silhouette. I attached the target to an overhead clip and activated the motor to move the target to an appropriate distance.

Pop! Pop! The little revolver generated only slight kickback in my hand. I fired a full amount of five shells and pulled the target back to check it. Two bullet holes were in the upper chest area, where I could expect to stop an intruder. One was in the abdomen, and the other two missed the "intruder". I was intrigued. I think if I can defend myself this well, I may make it in a big city.

Thursday, May 5

My Rand McNally Atlas lists the population of Gadsden, Alabama, as 45,523. That should be enough to sustain several cardiologists. There didn't seem to be much to do in town, but it is close enough to Atlanta and Birmingham to allow for weekend or day trips. I planned my driving time, remembering how long it took on my way to Huntsville.

I followed Dr. Soren's directions and found the office easily. The office manager was expecting me, and gave me some background information on the hospital and Dr. Soren's practice. He has been in Gadsden several years as a solo practicioner, and finds it difficult to share call with the other cardiologists in town. There doesn't seem to be much cooperation between groups. This is a fairly common situation in small towns, where the competition is strong for small numbers of patients.

Dr. Soren is younger than I am (it seems that everyone is, since I entered cardiology practice after spending several years in general internal medicine). Sometimes I wonder if my age will be a greater hindrance to my finding good work than my gender transition. He was very friendly and gave me a tour of the office and the adjacent hospital and cath lab. On these initial visits, details of the business side of the practice are not usually discussed, so I didn't find out what salary he will offer. And with my passive nature, I certainly didn't ask.

"I hope you can stay for dinner," he asked after our tour. "Several of my staff are going to meet us at a new restaurant which just opened. It's called Applebee's."

That's quaint, I thought. Even Jackson has Applebee's. Of course, Jackson's population is over 200,000 persons. I am sure the upper-level chains are very welcome in Gadsden. It beats a drive through burger.

Actually, this was a very nice Applebee's, with a view of an attractive stretch of the Coosa River. Gadsden is surrounded by manmade reservoirs, and boating is very popular. I enjoyed my Caesar chicken salad as I told the nurses a little about myself. (Very little. I mentioned that I moved to Atlanta to get a fresh start after a divorce, so they didn't ask for more details.)

With an existing cath lab in town, Gadsden is more attractive professionally than Winder or Canton. But it's still small town South. Would Dr. Soren feel the same as the doctors in Vicksburg? How will he react when he learns my history?

Does he already know? That's the maddening question, and I don't dare ask.

Dr. Soren thanked me for coming, and promised to be in touch. The moonlight drive back to Atlanta gave me an opportunity to weigh the merits of the places I have already visited.

Friday, May 6

Margaux worked early hours at Stuart's today, so we went to dinner together when I picked her up. She couldn't wait to tell me the most amusing event of her day.

Some of her customers use the sales staff as baby sitters while they try on their prospective purchases. One woman today brought along her three year old, who terrorized the store as much as he could. The little demon spun the racks, knocking clothes to the floor and stepping on them.

Margaux was on her best behavior. "Hi there," she smiled sweetly at the brat. "What's Mama doing?" The kid would have none of it. Screaming and running, he made everyone else uncomfortable. But he seriously underestimated his adversary.

Finally Margaux had enough. She slipped over to the boy's side and leaned over to him. In her lowest baritone voice she growled, "Okay, kid, settle down or I am going to kick your butt."

His eyes widened like he had seen a ghost. "Mama!" he gasped and ran into the fitting room. In a moment Margaux heard the mother's irritated voice saying "shut up and quit talking like that." In other words, she didn't believe her kid for one minute when he talked about the man's voice coming out of the woman.

Maybe that three year old will be less of a problem for future salesclerks.

Saturday, May 7

Tomorrow is Mothers' Day. I wondered how my mother would have responded to my transition.

My mother was widowed in 1967 when my father succumbed to lung cancer. She continued to work as director of nursing service in our hometown hospital until 1976, when she retired and moved to Amory to be close to me, Sheryl, and Mark. For two years we had more wonderful time together; then the day came in 1978 when she called me and said, "I'm really not feeling well. I am coughing and wheezing so much."

"Can you come down to the office? We'll get a blood count and chest X-ray."

I made the mistake of taking the X-ray out of the developer and looking at it first myself. The large mass in the left lung was not a respiratory infection. Mother had a remission of several months, thanks to radiotherapy, but in January 1979 she also passed away. I remember feeling so alone in my own hospital that day. I still can't think of it without crying. How I wish she had known me.

Robert and Jeanne sensed my depression and snatched me out of the condo to go shopping at Target. (We give Target an air of French elegance by pronouncing it "tar-jhay"..) I browsed the card section briefly, stopping when I realized I didn't have any cards to send. Jeanne made her purchases and we returned to my car.

When we were seated and belted, Jeanne reached in her shopping bag and pulled out a card. "Hi, Mom," she smiled for me. "I hope you have a great day tomorrow." It was a Mothers' Day card for me - my first, and who knows if there will be another. What a wonderful and thoughtful gift! My fog lifted and I spent the rest of the day feeling Mother must be happy with her daughter.

Sunday, May 8

The rainy weather has stayed away for a few days, and Mothers' Day is near perfect. At Roswell United Methodist Church, the ushers are handing out single long stem roses with the church bulletins. I clutched my rose, not even worrying about the thorns.

After lunch I returned to downtown Roswell, on the square. Although Roswell is a part of Fulton County, it was not always so. Once there was a county named Milton north of Atlanta, and Roswell was its county seat. Hence the courthouse square. Today was the day for Roswell's Spring Festival. The weather was warm enough for a print sundress. I took my time in all the booths of the arts and crafts fair, browsing to find treasures to decorate the walls of my condo.

The scene reminded me of Amory's Railroad Festival. Each spring the craftsmen set up their booths in Railroad Park. I would trail along behind Sheryl, trying to act uninterested, when I was really just as interested as she was in all the decorative accents. What would she think, I said to myself. Well, she thinks more now. Everything I tried to hide is out in the open, and I am so relieved.

Monday, May 9

Our mailboxes at Holcomb's Crossing condominiums are not at each unit; they are all in a group at the end of the building. They are not locked. I worry about this. How easy it would be for someone to wait for the mailman and sort through our mail, keeping the envelopes that might contain a check.

The postman spared me that worry today by knocking on my back door with a large parcel in a mailing tube. The return address was University of Mississippi Medical Center. Yes! My certificates. I opened it anxiously.

All three were completed with my correct name. The residency certificate, dated 1975, and the cardiology fellowship, dated 1987, were signed with the name of the current (1994) chief of internal medicine. Anyone who knew the history of the Medical Center would know these were not completed at the dates listed. I was not concerned over that detail. More important were the words: Rebecca Anne Allison, M.D.

... has completed a residency in Internal Medicine.
... has completed a fellowship in Cardiology.

And best of all, on the sixth day of June, in the year of our Lord nineteen hundred seventy-one, Rebecca Anne Allison is awarded the degree of Doctor of Medicine magna cum laude.

What a wonderful affirmation! I couldn't wait to replace the old certificates in my frames and hang them on my bedroom wall. Now I have a "medical office" again.


Tuesday, May 10

Theresa has heard from Dr. Seghers concerning a date for her surgery in June. Now she must get her passport ready.

Current government policy allows a temporary passport to be issued, listing sex as female, for persons going overseas for their sex reassignment surgery. It is necessary to show your name change documentation and the letter from your surgeon. Theresa had these documents together for mailing to the passport office in Miami.

It's so difficult to get all these documents together along with birth certificate, Social Security, all the credit cards... sometimes I wonder if it is so important to cover your tracks completely. Even if it is temporarily possible, there will always be a voice from the past, some connection who will know you and bring up your history. I think we should be prepared to be "outed" at any point in our lives.

I wonder if Theresa will have the money for surgery when the date arrives. I absolutely cannot do this for her, and she really hasn't asked. She can't make it at the pawnshop, so she will have to depend on "loans". I would worry about the payback on those loans.

Wednesday, May 11

Dr. V. P. Khamre, a cardiologist from Pascagoula, Mississippi, called to speak to me. He got my name from the search list at the ACC meeting, and invited me to come and investigate his practice.

I had to pause a moment after my experience with Vicksburg. Mississippi has left a bitter taste in my mouth. But I don't know Dr. Khamre or any other doctors in Pascagoula. It's like another state in many ways. I agreed to meet with him next Monday; he will arrange for my accommodations Sunday and Monday nights.

The ACC directory lists only two cardiologists in Pascagoula. The other doctor is also a foreign medical graduate. On the coast, this probably doesn't matter as much as it would in the interior of the state. I believe people there are likely to be more accepting.

Thursday, May 12

Finally, I heard again from Lisa at Daniel and Yeager. "Dr. Allison, how are you? I am so sorry again about Vicksburg. But I have a better opportunity. Have you ever heard of Dr. Gene Shell in Brandon, Mississippi?"

Have I ever... Dr. Shell is one of my old friends. He practices noninvasive cardiology in Brandon, the little county seat town about twenty five miles east of Jackson. He had been very supportive of my transition and had attended my coming out party in December.

"Dr. Shell is going on vaction for two weeks in June, and needs a doctor to cover his practice. If you are interested, he would like for you to call him."

This is better, I thought. I called Gene and confirmed that I would be available from June 13 to June 24. He was very gracious and glad to have someone he could trust professionally. He would not make many office appointments, but would let me do the hospital practice, consults, and all the procedures including treadmill exams and echocardiograms.

The opportunity to spend two relatively low-stress weeks back in my home town was too good to decline. In the weekend in between, I could rest, catch up on multiple friends, and do some of the things tourists do in Jackson - things I never could do before.

Friday, May 13

I began making plans for my time in Jackson. There were so many people I wanted to see. First I called Lee Frances. I knew what her response would be: "Praise the Lord." I was correct. We made plans to spend time together and go out for dinner once or twice.

I needed a dental appointment, but didn't want to break in a new dentist in Atlanta. I decided to see if my Jackson dentist, Dr. Paul Woods, would give me an appointment. To my delight, he said he would love to see me and was very supportive. Maybe not all of my Jackson peers think I've lost my mind.

Dr. Ron Mumbower, the psychologist who heads the counseling ministry at Jackson's First Baptist Church, was equally supportive. Ron and I had several very emotional sessions before I left Jackson. His opinion changed from skeptical opposition to cautious support. I remember his comment, "I just can't believe God would make such a mistake."

"I didn't say it was a mistake," I countered. That astounded him and caused him to rethink his position on gender identity. Ron is a rare breed: an open minded Baptist. I will be sure to see him.

One call I did not make was to Sheryl. After much thought, I decided to write her instead, so she would not feel pressured to respond. She has had a continuing struggle with these life changes, and really hasn't accepted them as much as she sometimes suggests. I am not even certain I will see her this trip.

Saturday, May 14

What a wonderful concidence: in my mail today is the final notice for the Class of 1964 Greenwood High School Reunion. The dates are Friday and Saturday, June 10 and 11. I can drive over from Atlanta to Greenwood on Friday, spend Friday and Saturday nights in the Best Western, then drive from Greenwood to Jackson on Sunday. This is working out much better than I could have planned.

My friends wonder if I am taking a risk in going to my reunion. I think it's a great opportunity for adventure. I know most of the women in my class will be supportive, and I am aware of several of the men who are at least tolerant. I don't fear for my safety, and there's certainly no need for secrecy, since every Mississippian who knew Brian knows I'm Becky now. What a wonderful way to start my two weeks back in my home state!

Sunday, May 15

"But Becky, you finally escaped from Mississippi," Margaux reminded me. "You know you don't want to go back."

She's right. I don't look forward to trying to practice in the state which has pronounced me unacceptable. I'm not a woman physician to the good conservative Mississippians with whom I spent two decades as an adult. I'm gendertrash with an "alternative lifestyle", whatever that is.

Pascagoula, however, is far away from the rest of Mississippi geographically. In the far southeastern corner of the Mississippi Gulf Coast, it has more in common with Mobile and New Orleans than with Jackson and Tupelo. The people of the coast are different. Large ethnic groups retain their uniqueness for generations. Biloxi is known to have a very large population of Yugoslavians. More recently, the Vietnamese have moved into the fishing industry in large numbers. The diversity should help the tolerance level.

Interstate 85 stretched through southwest Georgia, passing north of Columbus and on into Alabama. The route is different, but the time spent in Alabama is just as long as the drive to Jackson. I turned onto Interstate 65 in Montgomery and after nearly three more hours found myself in Mobile. The temptation to stop at Wentzel's oyster house was great, but I resisted to get into Pascagoula at an early hour.

Finally I reached old U.S. Highway 90, the beach boulevard in Gulfport and Biloxi which curves inland to Ocean Springs and Pascagoula. This road brought me to the LaFont Inn, one of the Coast's oldest motels, only a few blocks from Singing River Hospital. I had reservations for two nights. Dr. Khamre had left a message for me to call him at the office if I arrived before 5:00. It was 4:30 when he answered. We made an appointment for me to meet him at the cath lab at 9:00 tomorrow.

I enjoyed lounging poolside in my bathing suit. Family groups and businessmen came and went around me, not noticing. I'm glad to be an invisible woman. The operative word in that sentence is "woman," not "invisible."

Monday, May 16

I awoke early enough to iron my skirt before breakfast. The LaFont provided me with an ironing board and iron: impressive personal service for a small Mississippi motel. After breakfast I walked across the street to the Singing River Hospital.

The Pascagoula River, for which the town is named, is said to be the gravesite for an army of Indian warriors. Overcome in battle, with their backs against the river, about to be slaughtered, they chose to die honorably by marching into the river singing. Now the sound of the flowing waters is said to echo the song of the doomed tribe. All over Pascagoula are businesses named Singing River this-or-that.

When the wind is right, and it often is right, the area carries the unmistakeable smell of the paper mill up the river.

I found Dr. Khamre in the doctors' lounge, having a cup of coffee. He showed me the cath lab facilities and introduced me to the cardiac surgeon. I wondered what these solo practicioners did when they wanted to get out of town, since there is no one with whom they can share call.

By now I'm becoming expert in evaluating job interviews. I gave Dr. Khamre high marks on the hospital tour, but less high on the office visit. His office is tiny, with little room for patient comfort. Still, he showed me figures on his office receipts which indicated a very favorable profit.

I interviewed with the hospital administrator, who was not optimistic that Dr. Khamre and the other cardiologist could reach an agreement on much of anything, especially a call schedule. The conflict seems typical for people who are not accultured to American medicine and manners. Neither cardiologist will have anything to do with the other.

Back at the motel, I rested and reflected on the morning. All my opportunities so far have had a "catch". Either there is a conflict in the local medical community, or the interviewing doctor has been perceived as trying to "muscle in" on an established group. Sometimes it is discouraging to think I will be in a second class position, always trying to catch up to the leaders.

Tonight Dr. Khamre took me to meet other doctors at a party on one of the coast's excellent seafood restaurants. I can't get this food in Atlanta! The coast is a different and interesting place, but living here is another matter. I haven't heard bells.

Tuesday, May 17

I checked out of the LaFont, saving my receipt for reimbursement from the recruiting agency. Instead of turning back to the Interstate, however, I stayed on Highway 90, heading west through Ocean Springs. I had two appointments to keep.

At the little Ocean Springs Hospital I asked the operator to page Dr. Mansour, an acquaintance with whom I had spoken by phone. I knew he would give me an impartial opinion of medicine in Pascagoula.

"It's a mess," was the synopsis of his opinion. "They are both good cardiologists, but they don't cooperate with one another. The hospital would like to recruit their own cardiologist, and I suspect they want an American medical graduate."
Hmm. If they are xenophobic, they'll definitely be transphobic. This won't do. Oh well, I wasn't too excited about living in Pascagoula anyway.

My second stop was pleasure, not business. At the Biloxi Bay bridge Highway 90 becomes Beach Boulevard, running right along the beach all the way across Harrison County. This has been Mississippi's playground for as long as I can remember. In high school I attended a Key Club convention at the Buena Vista Hotel and have enjoyed returning ever since, eating shrimp, oysters and "Biloxi bacon" (mullet) at restaurants like Baricev's and Mary Mahoney's.

Hurricane Camille wiped out most of the buildings along the coast in 1969, and the economy was slow to recover - until recently when casino gaming arrived in Mississippi. Our legislature wanted to benefit from the tax revenues of casinos, but didn't want to antagonize the conservative voters. So they allowed gambling in ships docked just offshore! Our sacred Mississippi soil is not tainted, but the gangplanks of the casino ships touch it just enough to allow our citizens entry. The grocery money goes into the slot machines. Gamblers, owners, legislators - everyone is happy in a hypocritical fashion.

And in my own hypocritical fashion, I determined to enter the big riverboat and stay until I had dropped forty dollars at the slots.

It didn't take long. Thank goodness, compulsive gambling is not one of the traits I have to worry about. I walked back to my car in the warm Mississippi sun, past the wolf whistle of a construction worker on the casino next door, got in and didn't stop driving until I was halfway through Alabama. Finally I reached Six Flags over Georgia and saw the beautiful Atlanta skyline starting to light up at dusk.

Wednesday, May 18

I had forgotten about my application to the medical staff at Dunwoody Hospital in northeast Atlanta, across the street from Dr. Silver's office. Today the director of Medical Staff Services called me at home.

"Hello, Dr. Allison. We have processed your application, and have almost all the data we need. I just have a few questions." She wanted to know about my hospital practice in Amory when I did internal medicine. I had left that reference out purposefully, since I didn't think they would be hospitable towards my transition. But the Gilmore Hospital in Amory is under new management, and perhaps they would be open minded. I told her I would contact Gilmore (and, I thought to myself, of course send a copy of my name change document).

She also wanted to know if I had established a practice association here. Oh, I thought, if only I were wealthy, I could start a practice from the beginning, and be my own boss. How tempting; but I would starve for the first couple of years. And I don't have the luxury of starving.

Thursday, May 19

My new documents continue to trickle in, a few at a time. Today I received new certificates from the American Board of Internal Medicine for my board certifications: Internal Medicine in 1975, Cardiovascular Diseases in 1987. In a way, it gives me an identity going back nearly twenty years.

Framing is expensive. I'm sure Brian wouldn't mind if I took his old certificates out of the nice old frames, so Becky's new certificates will have a home!

Friday, May 20

"Good morning, Dr. Allison." I have learned to recognize Dr. Anand's voice. "I would like for you to meet Dr. Neel and see the facilities at Commerce. Can you come to my office next Wednesday?"

I agreed to meet him in Winder and ride over to Commerce in the early afternoon. If I do go into practice with them, I will be covering both hospitals when I take call. This is not as difficult as it sounds, since the Commerce hospital is much smaller and has fewer seriously ill patients. Commerce is located on the main highway, Interstate 85, and I remember it from my trips to and from Charlotte. Its most memorable feature is a large factory outlet shopping center - a fairly major point in its favor.

I'm not sure why I feel so positively about Winder. I think it's because I haven't come across anything better yet. It will be important for me to keep looking, and not commit myself too quickly to a situation that might not be best for me. This advice is hard to follow when I've been out of work for nearly six months now, and the expenses continue. At least Angela has stopped insisting that I buy out her share of the condo. It's bad enough having to make the full payment, especially since my "boarders" are all living from one day to the next and can't guarantee me help with the rent.

Saturday, May 21

A glance around the room at our transsexual support group made me thankful my problems are relatively small. Out of fourteen persons attending today, two had made serious suicide attempts. One had waged (and won) a very bitter legal battle to maintain visiting rights to her child. Three transitioned prior to age 21, and had never attended college; they worked at low pay jobs. Two did sex work to supplement their income. One has gone back and forth between the male and female roles three times, so uncertain of her choices. Over half a dozen are on antidepressants.

It is so frustrating. These are decent, intelligent people, who do not deserve the rejection that has made their lives so difficult. I wish I could make it possible for them - for all of us - to transition in an accepting, loving social environment, rather than the shame and threats cast by insecure people who can't deal with diversity. Maybe one day, when I've been a successful woman for years, I can do my part as a positive role model.

Sunday, May 22

Next Saturday, Roswell United Methodist Church is sponsoring its annual "Field Day" at Roswell Park. This event allows persons with disabilities to experience the thrill of being an athletic competitor, with no pressure to win over anyone else. Everyone is a winner. In Bible study, we were given the opportunity to sign up to help produce Field Day. I was quick to volunteer. This should be a complete change of pace from my usual schedule, and a wonderful chance to help these special people.

Monday, May 23

My letter from Gilmore Hospital arrived promptly. For a rural hospital they are very efficient. "Dr. Allison," the letter stated, "we will furnish information concerning your practice in Amory from 1975 to 1985. The record shows that during that time, you were practicing under the name of Brian Errol Anderson."

I wondered if it would make a difference. After all, won't the employers find out anyway? I am becoming less afraid of my past being discovered. But now Gilmore had made it a matter of principle. I replied, "May I ask you to reconsider? I now find myself in a situation where I must make a professional life for myself. It is not my intention to deceive anyone, but I would request that I be treated as the person I am legally at this time."

If this doesn't change their minds, I will allow them to send records under my former name; but I would prefer to preserve my new identity.

Tuesday, May 24

Today's mail brought letters from Mississippi. The first was from Lee Frances, enclosing a copy of the "Grace and Lace Letter". On her own, at age 74, Lee works to publish this newsletter for whomever will read it. It is sent to persons interested in the relationship of Christianity to crossdressing and transsexualism. She receives articles from several contributors (including, ahem, myself) and adds her own blessings. I have seen letters from numerous persons telling Lee of the comfort and strength they have received from Grace and Lace.

My contribution to her current issue is called "Strength Through Weakness." I wrote it a few weeks ago, describing my loss of privileged status due to transition. I made the point that I could not rely on my own strength to get me through these trials, and would trust God to empower me.

The other letter was from my long time friend, Alan Vance. Alan lives in Clinton, a suburb of Jackson, and wrote to encourage my attendance at our high school reunion. Just before I left Jackson, Alan visited me in my apartment, where he met Becky for the first time. He told me, "I came here to try and talk you out of this; but now I would never do that. This is right for you." I wrote him in reply, telling him I planned to attend.

Wednesday, May 25

For my trip to Winder and Commerce I dressed comfortably in my new outfit from Giorgiou, wearing a ribbed silk tee under the vest. Since I was concealed by the vest, I even dared to go bra-less. Now that I more or less have to wear a bra every day, I appreciate the luxury of being able to leave it off on occasion.

I made the now-familiar trip through Gwinnett County and arrived in Winder in time for lunch. A barbecue restaurant just south of the railroad tracks had looked appealing, and I noticed it always had a parking lot full of cars. I ordered the pulled pork sandwich. In the South, this usually comes on a plain bun with barbecue sauce and cole slaw (on the bun, not on the side). My impressions were confirmed: it was delicious. The waitress was very friendly and gave me some ideas about what to do in Winder, mostly "get out of town to Atlanta or Athens". Fortunately the highway makes this easy.

Dr. Anand was almost finished with office hours, so I waited and chatted with his staff. They seem to get along well with each other, and I suspect I would fit in well in an office of women. I followed his high-tech Crown Victoria on the short drive between Winder aned Commerce.

Dr. Neel (short for Neelaragu) is very friendly, even more so than Dr. Anand. His office is smaller than the Winder office will be when construction is completed. Soon Dr. Anand left to return to Winder, and I was able to ask Dr. Neel about his practice. I followed him around for about two hours, seeing patients with him (which was refreshing) and observing that he treats patients the same way I would.

Dr. Neel has an elective cath scheduled next Tuesday at Crawford Long Hospital in downtown Atlanta. By then he and Dr. Anand may have more procedures on the schedule. They try to do their elective procedures one day a week. He told me he would obtain permission from the cath lab for me to observe the case, and I agreed to meet him there at eight A.M. It feels so good to have even that little bit of clinical involvement.

I celebrated my successful day in Commerce by stopping at the factory outlet center. At Hervé Bernard I found a denim jumper which would be perfect with or without a tee under it. With my blue suede casual flats, I will have an outfit to spend lots of time in. I'm learning to make purchases to coordinate with other things I already have. We must be smart shoppers!

Thursday, May 26

Margaux has had it with working at Stuart's. The hours are long, the pay is poor, and she has to be on her feet all day. She wants to go back to telemarketing until her arm is strong enough to resume the computer design.

She is going to try and work out a way to ride MARTA to Lenox Square in mid afternoon, since the telemarketing hours are 10-2 and 5-9. That will make for a long day, but at least when I drive her to and from work, it will mean only two trips each day. I think I'll go ahead and start teaching her to drive herself!

Friday, May 27

The telephone call was from the medical staff coordinator at Amory's Gilmore Hospital. "Dr. Allison, we are sending you a letter, but I wanted to call and let you know I have spoken with the hospital attorney and the administrator. We will answer letters of reference for you without referring to your former name. You have our best wishes for success in your new practice."

I was almost speechless. We get so accustomed to rejection, I had almost assumed my letter would have no influence. But it really made a difference, even in rural Mississippi! Not everyone is antagonistic.

Saturday, May 28

Seven o'clock is awfully early for Saturdays in my condo. I had to get up today, however, to get ready for Field Day. I dressed casually in a logo T-shirt, shorts, and sneakers. I didn't go so far as to go braless, however.

At Roswell Park we volunteers outnumbered the competitors. Of course, that was the plan. Each disabled person would have one or two of us helping them in each event. Our name tags displayed very large letters, easy to read.

"Hi, Becky!" one of the women greeted me, reading my name tag. She was one of our many participants with Down syndrome. It was obvious she had participated in previous Field Days, and she was already enjoying herself tremendously.

"Hi, Rose Marie. What do you want to do?" She steered a course for the basketball goal. This goal was low enough so our shorter friends could almost dunk on it. Rose Marie gleefully grabbed the basketball and alley-ooped it over the rim.

"That is great, Rose Marie. You are going to do well today." I stayed with her for a few events, then someone else guided her over to the miniature golf green. I went back to encourage others.

A lot of joy was shared this morning. At one o'clock we all walked down the path to the outdoor pavilion, where hot dogs and hamburgers were grilling. I held back with the other volunteers as our competitors dined first. Afterwards, the awards ceremony concluded Field Day. As you might guess, every competitor received an award. It was delightful seeing their faces as each one was called by name and singled out for praise.

I learned and grew today, myself. Transition can be a very selfish time if we just concentrate on our own needs, which admittedly are very intense at this time. Taking time to help others should help keep our priorities in perspective.

Sunday, May 29

The beginning of the summer season means another year of the laser light show at Stone Mountain. Robert and Jeanne met me and Theresa at the condo, and we loaded blankets into the trunk of my car to sit on the grass and enjoy.

The crowd gathered long before dusk, and everyone enjoyed the beautiful and (for a change) dry weather. We found a good spot to see the show. Stone Mountain is a huge mass of granite east of Atlanta, and carved into its side are likenesses of Robert E. Lee, Jefferson Davis, and Stonewall Jackson. The heroes of the old Confederacy looked down on a changed South. Close to half the audience was composed of African-Americans. And then there were all those transsexuals...

The light show began with the Charlie Daniels Band's The Devil Went Down to Georgia, and continued for over thirty minutes with one laser trick after another. It was expertly done; so well that there was hardly any audience noise, most people were so intent on watching the show. At the end a spine-tingling version of Dixie began slowly and grew faster as the laser outlines of the figures galloped off the mountain, tipping their hats to us.

This is the sort of special entertainment I will miss if I have to leave the Atlanta area. But I'm sure every city has special attractions of its own.

Monday, May 30

It's the Memorial Day holiday, but the pawnshop is open just the same. I decided to ride up to Cumming and hang out with Theresa for a little while. All the employees were going to lunch at the Whistle Stop Cafe, and I was invited.

I found myself sitting next to Don, who must weigh 300 pounds and looks more like a bear than any human I have seen. "I hope I'm not clockable," I thought. "If I am, I hope Don has a sense of humor." No need to worry; we had a good, if not heart-healthy, meal without incident. All I had to do was listen to Don's stories and laugh whenever he laughed. Being a good listener is easy.

This marks six months that I've been living as a woman. How naïve I had been to think I would walk right in and find work! The right job is still elusive, but it's out there. I just have to locate it.

© 1996 Rebecca Anne Allison

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