Immersion

Immersion
A Short Story
By Maryanne Peters

I sort of, fell into Sociology. I had always intended to study the liberal arts and I enrolled in College in Political Science, Economics and Sociology. Frankly, I found Political Science annoying and Economics confusing. Sociology just seemed to fit. I cruised through the bachelor courses and was invited to do honours. Even before I received that degree I was invited to do a master’s degree, based on a research program.

In Sociology there has always been a rivalry between Quantitative Research and Qualitative Research. The former is essentially a numbers exercise, involving analysis of statistical data to draw conclusions about human behaviour. It was not my strong suit. I was more suited to Qualitative Research which is close observation. In particular, with some close colleagues on the program, I was interested in Immersion Studies, sometimes called “Participant Observation”.

Perhaps the most famous exercise in this vein was Margaret Mead’s (now largely discredited) study of Samoan culture in the 1920s. She fell into the trap of drawing conclusions based on her own notions of an idyllic island life, disregarding traditions of repression and the impact of strict Christianity. There are other well-known works concerning criminal gangs, protest groups and other subcultures. The most interesting results came from living with, befriending, and participating in the activities of that group, but not coming with preconceived ideas or falling away from objectivity.

Four of the candidates for master’s degrees were considering this kind of work, so we brainstormed some areas of interest. None of us was game to look to a criminal organisation so we were looking for interest groups, preferably groups suffering from prejudice.

My colleague James suggested the local transgender community. It seemed like a good idea. We could all look at aspects, and there was room enough for us all us to be participants.

I was not interested in the gender or sexual orientation aspects of the study at all. James was gay and was interested in this aspect. My take on it would be to concentrate on social network analysis, focussing on interdependency within groups of individuals. Immersion would need to be deep and sustained in order to get the results I was looking for.

The fact that I was not gay or transgendered I saw as an advantage. There is plenty of literature about researchers losing objectivity. I was not prepared to do that. I was concerned that James’ sexuality might affect his conclusions, but that was his affair. In the end, he found himself collecting his data by what is known as “Passive Participation” without being too involved

Jill ended up focusing on female to male transgenders within the group and got herself a buzz cut to blend in. It actually suited her, but she never quite achieved to level of immersion she was searching for.

Diedre was the fourth of our class to work with us, but she dropped out early in the piece.

So, my plan was simple: Join the community the subject of our study as a male to female transgendered person, win their confidence and friendship, observe and record. I never dreamed that it would take over my life.

I will not outline my study. It has been published and won me my master’s degree. The purpose of this story is to explain what happened to me, and perhaps even why it did. By way of background I should explain that this all took place in a time when there was little tolerance or understanding of transgendered people. There were few opportunities for them, but things were improving a little.

So, the central characters in my study were Bella, Delphine and Helen. Add to that my own alter ego – Emily. These were the people that I lived and worked with and who allowed me into the lives to observe them. They knew I was a student and a scribbler, who kept a notebook in my bag at all times, but I did not tell them what I was doing for fear that they would close up, or adjust their words to me, and skew my study.

Bella was older, big and brassy and ran a night club and a coffee bar. She claimed to be a natural red head but she always wore a wig – a red one of course. She was a larger than life character and a mother to the entire community, which is what it was – Our Community. Her coffee bar was the capital. In those days, she served espresso coffees and cappuccinos before they were fashionable, so in addition to her exotic sexually ambivalent customers she had coffee lovers and foreigners, and those just curious. She sometimes called those people her “JHiFTiCs” – just here for the coffee – Jiffys for short.

He night club joined the coffee bar at the back but had an entrance on another street, so really no association with her daytime operation. It served cocktails and had a stage for a burlesque show and the occasional stripper. Often that stripper was Delphine. She was a post-operative transsexual and she had a great body. She put effort into keeping her body in shape and appearing as feminine as possible. She was a little handicapped by large hands and feet and some masculine features in her face, but she always looked good. She had her own good hair but wore wigs during the show.

I never saw either Bella or Delphine dressed as a man, although neither of them looked to be truly a woman. Helen was different. She worked at the bar in the evenings and did sifts at the coffee bar. She was just a little older than me but she had the advantage of being small and slightly built. You would not guess that she was not a girl. That is what she wanted. She worked where she did because they could accept her, but what she really wanted was to become a woman, meet a man, get married and raise a family in the suburbs.

There was a collection of others, many of whom are mentioned in my study. Generally, I grouped them into those who joined our community for support through transition (Like Helen), or to be involved in adult entertainment (like Delphine), or to find a place to sell their wares as prostitutes.

Sadly, for the transgendered of that time, there seemed little option for many but to sell sex. There are always men ready to buy, even if what is on offer is limited to oral of anal options. Helen had considered it, because surgery was expensive, and she had received offers, but she wanted to keep herself for her husband. It seemed quite quaint or old fashioned, but I liked Helen. I liked her a lot. So, I ended up moving in with her in a small apartment across the road from the coffee bar.

It was never my intention to take hormones, but the closer I got to Helen the more I felt that I needed to share what she as going through. I took hers to start with, but then I went to a doctor to get my own prescription, just simply telling him the story Helen had told me.

I had wondered whether I might be the husband that Helen was looking for. Maybe after the study when all this was behind me I could help her have the operation and help her live the life she wanted. She was pretty and tidy around the apartment, and she would be devoted to her man, I knew that. But somehow, I knew that it would not be right. And it was not just because I needed to correct myself for losing objectivity.

But I am getting ahead of myself. I need to go back to when we presented the proposals for our study before Christmas and my research program was due to start in the New Year. I went home to see my parents and I outlined the whole thing to them. I assured my father that I was not gay, but that I would be going deep into this and I might appear a little effeminate. He thought it was a great joke.

My mother was a little concerned, but she told me that she would love to see me dressed as “Emily”. She said that she had always wanted her youngest to be a girl after my two older brothers. That is actually where the name came from – that was the name I would have had. She remarked that she thought that I would make a very attractive woman, which is not really what a guy wants to hear.

My brothers were also amused. Rich, the oldest was a lawyer in another state, but Gerry had an office not far from the coffee bar I would end up working at. He had even been in there, with his girlfriend “just for the coffee”. He told me that he was looking forward to seeing me in drag.

So, in the New Year our study group got together and Jill and Diedre helped James and me get ready. We shaved down our bodies, close shave our faces and put on dresses, make up and wigs. We went down to coffee bar and it was not long before Bella came over to meet “the new girls”. She was able to direct Jill to somebody in the male to female transgender community, and after that we only saw Jill at our own research “note exchanges” every couple of weeks.

James explained that he wanted to be “Jessica” and that he would love to be in the nightclub show. He surprised me by being full on, and explaining that he could dance and mime to music. As it turned out, he could. He was introduced to Delphine and he seemed to fall into that role.

I could not claim any such abilities. I said that I could work in a kitchen. Bella said that she did not have much work on, but I could work some hours and get something. I told her that I was not interested in prostitution. She introduced me to Helen.

Helen suggested that I get rid of the wig. I had quite a bit of hair as was the fashion at the time, and she said that something could be done to style it in a feminine fashion. She suggested that a wig was not practical if I was working in the kitchen. A headscarf would be preferable. She also suggested that I tone down the makeup, and concentrate on improving my skin. She also advised that I consider wearing jeans or leggings rather than dresses, but that I look at body shaping garments. She introduced me to corsets.

On the whole, her policy was that “less is more” when it comes to femininity. Like her I had fine features, and while a little larger and stronger than her, I found that I could pass as female in public. As long as I kept my mouth shut, as my voice was way too deep.

So, she and I ended up working together and sharing an apartment, and we ended up sharing the experience of transition. It was exactly what I wanted in terms of fully understanding what this was all about. We went through the electrolysis together, we learned to cope with the hot flushes and the moods from the hormones, we talked about the problems that might see us found out, the fear of being found out, without support at hand. These are the things I wanted to explore. How the transgender communities like the one I was observing, dealt with the issues.

But I was so busy observing I hardly even noticed how far I was transitioning.

Later in the spring my brother Jerry came to call on me. I was actually filling in for one of the waiting staff (my hours had increased to almost full time). I was wearing a gingham dress and apron and I had a matching hand band with a bow in my dyed and curled hair. I went right up to him and he still did not recognize me. I used the feminine voice that I had been working on with Helen to take his order. Still not a flicker until he looked directly at me.

His mouth just fell open. He could not believe that it was me. I grinned at my success. He said that he could see that a couple of the staff were men in drag, but he would have thought that I was a real girl, just like the other one – he was nodding towards Helen. I did not disappoint him by saying he had that wrong as well.

I cleared it with Bella and then I sat down with him to chat for a bit. He told me that he was driving up home for the long weekend coming up and did I want to come. I agreed to go with him. Before he left I introduced him to Helen. She was smitten by him. I could see it.

A few weeks later we went together on the long drive back to our home town. I stripped off my makeup and slicked away my curls, but I did not want to cut my hair so I tied it back in a low ponytail. I still looked like a girl. I thought that the problem was that I had thin eyebrows, so I wore a cap. I still looked like a girl. I seriously thought about a false moustache.

The hormones and the corset had also reshaped my body after only a few months. I had the first signs of breasts and hips, and my penis seemed very small. Clothes would conceal that, so I put on a rough shirt and a dirty old pair of jeans. The shirt felt so rough against my smooth skin and my nipples that I decided that I needed to wear a camisole under it. The clothes hung off me. My arms and legs seemed to have lost all muscle.

My look caused trouble at the roadhouse we stopped at for lunch. Men stared at me and muttered “Fag” under their breath as they walked past. One even deliberately knocked over my soda. Gerry was furious but I calmed him down. He asked me whether I got this a lot while I was “in disguise” but as I explained to him, nobody thought I was a fag when I was dressed as a girl. They just thought I was a girl.

Even though I was dressed like a guy I could see that my father was unsettled by my appearance. I handled it by acting as manly as possible with him. Strangely I felt that this was more than an act than being Emily. I guess after months in the role I was just living her life. My mother made no comment. I suppose like all mothers she just looked straight past my appearance at her son.

Gerry and I spent most of our time just hanging around the house and helping my father clean out his garage. I wore rubber gloves to protect my hands and nails, but otherwise I got in and worked with them. We did go up into the hills for one day on a hunting trip. I used to like to do this. I was not as keen as my brothers on the shooting, but I always liked the outdoors. But now I felt strangely out of place.

On the way home I got the “fag” comment again when we went to the gun shop to buy a replacement sling for Gerry’s rifle. My father was upset and was ready to pick a fight with the guy, but Gerry and I pulled him back. We had a great time in the woods that day, but it was silent and awkward on the drive home. I knew that if I had been wearing a dress I never would have been mistaken for being gay. I might have even got a wolf whistle.

On the last night we were to go out to dinner at the restaurant that we thought of as a second home. Dad and Gerry were now reluctant for me to appear in public, so my mother suggested that I go as Emily. She suggested that I find something in her wardrobe that I would not be ashamed to wear. My father said no, but she said that she really wanted to see Emily. She ultimately had the power over my father to get her way, so he agreed. If anyone asked I was to be Gerry’s new girlfriend from the City.

So that afternoon I washed my hair and put it in curlers. Helen usually did this job, but I had observed (that is what I did) and learned. I did a good job. My hair looked great. I put on some makeup and I found a dress of my mother’s that was youthful and stylish enough to wear. A pair of her shoes also fitted me.

When my mother saw me she just burst into tears. She hugged me a whispered “Oh Emily, Emily” over and over again. It was as if she had a daughter who had returned from the dead. I have always known that my mother loved me, but I felt more loved in that moment.

I expected a different reaction from my father. It might have helped that Gerry said: “You look great, Sis,” and then laughed out loud. But my father was just wide eyed and dazed. Then he too looked as if he was about to cry. He walked up to my mother and me and offered us an arm each, which we both took as he walked us to the car.

My family was well known at the restaurant. Everybody but me that is. Nobody recognised me, even though I knew them. I had to stay silent through the introductions. My father told them that I was a relative from out of State. The first time I used my girl voice to greet people, I could see that my father was knocked over yet again, but he was happy the whole night. He was with his family in familiar surroundings. There were no “fag” comments. We all had a good time.

When we packed up in the morning my mother said I should keep the dress, and a few other things that she said were “too young” for her, including two pairs of shoes “better suited to the city.” Gerry agreed with her that I should take the trip back as Emily. I did not know it then, but that is how I would be forever after.

I was happy to get back to the coffee bar and to my research work. I was ready to pull together things. I did a huge amount of work on my study over the next few months, stuck with my PC well into the night. The only release was occasional visits to the Bella’s nightclub to see Delphine and James - now Jemma, but sometimes appearing on stage as “Jezebel”. She had been off the stage for few weeks just working at the bar, when I was invited for “Jezebel’s big return.” Imagine my shock when Jezebel stripped off her top to reveal two huge breasts. James had got implants. And our studies were almost completed. So, what was he going to do with those?

James had become too involved. He was a gay man who had always said that he wanted to be with a man like himself. Instead his current sexual partner wanted a “shemale” – somebody who presented as female but functioned sexually as a gay man. I did not really understand this, but that was his project. In fact, he never finished his thesis. He found true love instead.

Gerry came around to see me a few times, but really more to visit Helen. I learned that they had been out on a few dates, so I felt that I needed to check with Helen that she had told Gerry that she was not really a woman. She had not. I did not feel I could tell him, but rather than insisting that she did, her problem became another object of my study. This dilemma is central to relationships between transwomen and men. Cruelly, I barely considered the implications for my beloved brother in observing as I did. I was the opposite of James – He had become involved but I just stood back without much thought for the feelings of the people involved. I can see the coldness in that now.

As summer ended the research was nearing completion, and Deidre re-entered the picture. James had dropped out of our group, and Jill was done with her research and writing things up. She was letting her hair grow and said that she was so pleased to be getting back to being a girl again. It was strange, but all the things that she said she missed about being a girl were things I liked about being one. She borrowed some of my girl clothes and I was happy to help her. I even did her hair and makeup once or twice, I was that good at it.

Deidre had been involved in wider “gender studies”, in particular the sexualising of women by men, and attitudes of men toward women in general. She asked whether I would consider staying on for a further study, possibly with a view to a doctorate.

Both of them had read my draft thesis and I also had positive feedback from the head of faculty to key elements of the study. It was agreed that I was a shoo-in for Masters. But Dierdre had work to do on hers and she was missing the observation element, even after immersing herself among feminists for the past year. The problem she had was that she carried the clear bias. She was a woman judging the behaviour of men. She said that to be truly objective, what she needed a man, a normal heterosexual man, immersed as a woman, observing the behaviours that she was studying.

This could be more than a study, it could be a great book. It could be something like “Black Like Me”, by John Howard Griffin, a journalist who went undercover as black in the 1950s. He was able to speak about what it was like to be treated as black from the point of view of a white man. A book written by a woman could be added to the pile of feminist literature, but a book by a man who had experienced life as woman, and been treated as one, was something else.

Diedre said it could only work because I had already established that I could pass convincingly as female, not just a transwoman. I needed to enter a male dominated industry or workplace as a woman, and record the attitudes and actions of men that might impact upon my progress. The industry she had in mind was finance. That is where I had the idea to ask Gerry for help.

But initially I was not easily won over. I thought that I was looking forward to throwing off my disguise and going back to campus next term as me, to complete the work on my thesis for submission after spring break. But there was a part of me that did not want to cut of my hair and throw out my nice clothes. The truth was that I found myself relieved that I had an excuse to keep going as Emily.

I told Gerry and we took another trip home for Thanksgiving to talk things through with my parents. This time I did not bother to dress as anybody other than Emily. We went to the same truck-stop and this time I got admiring glances and flirtatious comments.

Neither of my parents were surprised to see me on the doorstep in a dress. Maybe my father a little bit, as it was a bit low in the front and he clearly saw that I now sported a pair of breasts. These were not implants, but purely from the estrogen I was habitually taking. I had come to enjoy the way the drug made me feel, in addition to the desirable effects of limiting male hair and keeping my skin, flesh and hair healthy and smooth. The time would come when the breasts would need to go, and I was aware that surgery might be needed.

I valued my parents’ opinion as to what I was doing. They were both supportive of my academic endeavours. My father’s only comment was to express concern that I could not have a proper relationship with a woman while this went on. He was right of course, but the hormones had reduced my urges and I was busy with more than two jobs. In addition to working at the coffee bar, helping out in the nightclub and completing work on my thesis, I was boning up on finance and securities with a view to seeking at trainee position at Gerry’s trading house before Christmas.

That was our plan, Diedre’s and mine. The finance industry at that time, was totally dominated by men. It gave me the opportunity to assess how Emily might be disadvantaged in that environment. We had presented the study plan to the faculty, hers for completion of her masters paper and for me another two year’s study grant for a doctoral dissertation. That anticipated at least one more year in dresses, but this time as a woman, not a transwoman.

My father suggested that I speak only in my feminine voice. He said that I needed to practice, but he also said that it unnerved him a little when a male voice came out of his daughter’s mouth. He said it with a smile, but around the table we could all see that he was quite happy to have a daughter, even if only for a little while. I slipped easily back into the higher tone, and I have stayed there ever since.

Diedre and I both went to work for Gerry’s firm a few weeks later. Gerry had pushed hard for his little sister but Diedre got there mainly on her numerical skills. We both had the benefit of coaching by Gerry.

It was about this time too, that Helen came out to Gerry as trans. It was a heart-breaking time for both of them. Coldly, I recorded both sides in my notebook, and included details in my thesis. Helen was deeply sad, so my last days at the coffee bar were spent helping her through it. I agreed to stay in her apartment despite having an opportunity to move downtown, just to be with her at this difficult time. I ended up moving in.

I had assumed that it was over for Gerry. Once he knew that she was male he would be disgusted and that would be it. I was wrong. Within a few weeks he had called her. He wanted to know whether she was alright. A couple of weeks after that, they were together again, planning for surgery that Gerry would pay for.

I suppose that I understood for the first time that it might be possible for a transwoman to find love and a lasting relationship with a heterosexual man. Somehow, I had just assumed that this was at best, improbable. I understood that James’ relationship was a gay one, and perhaps might not be long term. Delphine had sexual relationships with both men and women, and anything in between, and she seemed happy with it. Bella was unattached and seemed to be reconciled to living life alone, but with a large loving family of trans-people giving her life purpose. Helen wanted and needed a husband. Gerry was to be that person.

I was so happy for them. It made me think about my own circumstances. Sure, I my libido was low, but I still craved intimacy. Who could understand. I did not find Diedre attractive at all – I am afraid to say that not many men did. Jill was quite pretty, but somehow that would not work. If not one of them then how could I find a woman unless she was a lesbian?

And at the office I was getting a lot of attention from men.

I must say it – I was appalled. Diedre had prepared me for some of it, but as a man I had always thought that women were well treated by my sex. It is not until you are on the receiving end of lustful leers, overheard exchanges of a disgusting nature, and overt approaches way too lewd to be called flirting, that you begin to understand the problem.

I made the coffee, and did the fetching, despite it not being my role, simply because I wanted to observe rather than confront. But inside, I was seething. To me, it was that women like me could be treated this way, and the men doing it thought it was so totally acceptable. It was so like “Black Like Me”. I was so ashamed I did not want to think of myself as a man anymore. I let that slip more than once when complaining to Gerry, who fully understood the problem.

He suggested with a smile, that I might as well book in for surgery with Helen. Not very funny.

But everything changed when Miles came into my life.

Miles Granger was the poster boy of the firm, now leading the Private Clients Section. He was tall, handsome, rich and popular, especially with the ladies. Even women that I thought of being strong and immune to his subtle compliments and clear sex appeal, seemed to swoon in his presence. I just observed.

As a man, I could secretly admire his skills. I think that the key to it was respect. I had the feeling that he had been brought up properly, possibly even by women. He admired and respected women, and never assumed that they were stupid. I think that shone through. I think that the one thing that annoyed me about him, and this seemed to confirm that he may have been close to women in his childhood, was his assumption that he could persuade them. Not demand, but persuade. He never expected women to do what he wanted, so he was not sexist like that, but he assumed that he could charm them into doing what he wanted.

I responded without waiting for him to use these skills, because that was my policy. Persuasion did not work on me because I was observing it. He found this perplexing, and fascinating. He did not know what was behind this. He did not know that I was not a woman. Not then anyway.

He had a strict rule about relationships in the office. It was good policy. He would bend women to his will as he liked in the workplace, and he could socialise with them after work, but no relationships. Yet it seemed surprising that he was unattached. He could find a glamorous partner when circumstances required, but it was well known that he lived alone, in his own expensive sub-penthouse bachelor pad.

But rules are made to be broken, and strict rules, utterly destroyed. He started to put serious pressure on me to find a chink in my armour. He asked me out on a date. I was aware of the significance of it, so I said I would think about it.

I think Diedre had fallen for Miles. She had started dating Caleb, a good man from an engineering firm in the same block as us, but she had eyes for Miles. She urged me to accept the offer of a date, but go double with her an Caleb. I would get a chaperone and she could feast her eyes on Miles all night – Caleb be damned.

I just could not see the benefit. There was nothing to be learned from the night out. My study was workplace oriented. Diedre said that I should just treat is as a night off. A night off dating a guy just did not seem the kind of relaxation I was looking for. But I was wrong.

Miles agreed to the double date, and he got an extra couple of tickets to an off Broadway show. We went for a meal beforehand and after a little wine Miles started to open up. I was right, he had been brought up by three women, his mother, his aunt and his grandmother. He knew and liked his father, but he had not been in his life and played no big part in it. I found that I liked him. A lot.

I also found Caleb more interesting than Diedre had described, and so did she. She ended up barely looking at Miles all night, she was so deep in discussion with Caleb.

After dinner we went to the show. It was hilarious, and involved audience participation. Honestly, it was the funniest night of my life. I was double up crying with laughter at the end of it. Miles and I had to be husband and wife in the audience – Miles and Emm. We were given lines to shout out on cue. One of the cast members had a video camera which played onto the screen behind the stage, so we got in shot some of the time. It was very clever.

And then towards the end of the night, the camera moved to us, and the cast called for Miles and Emm to kiss. I laughed and waved them away, but the whole audience started shouting out for us to kiss. Miles looked at me and shrugged his shoulders, he took me in his arms and kissed me.

Now, we have all seen the life changing moment in the movies, the kiss that shakes the world, but I have never believed it. It is a sentimental fantasy. A cinematic or literary device. I thought that there was no such thing. If there was such a thing, it could never make a heterosexual man pretending to be a woman fall in love with a man. That would be impossible.

So where did the power in that kiss come from? What made me go limp and surrender to him? What made it go on so that even after the cast cried out that it was enough, Miles and I were still kissing? And when we finally did part lips we found ourselves staring into one another’s eyes as the curtain came down, and holding hands and stealing glances through the curtain calls.

After that kiss it seemed as if I had ceased to exist and a person named Emily had been dropped into the space I once occupied.

We went to a bar afterwards for a nightcap, and I really did feel as if I was walking on air. It was only after Diedre and I went to the Ladies room at the bar and Miles was out of my sight, that I had the chance to come down. I told Diedre that the whole thing was a bad idea and that we needed to get away from here, and fast. I felt as if the world had moved under my feet, and not in a good way.

She wanted to stay with Caleb, but it was agreed that we needed to go home, on the condition that we would do another double date next week. I agreed, but only because I needed that evening to end so I could collect myself.

I had a lot of soul searching and rationalising to do that night. It was clear to me that the hormones were playing tricks on me. I could not think of any other explanation. I had never had any gay thought before in my life. It is perhaps true that I was not a particular emotional or sexual person, at least up until that point. But there was no mistaking the way I felt during and after that kiss. I wanted this man to make love to me. As a man makes love to a woman. And for me, that was impossible.

I approached the office the next day with dread. What saved me was that I was passed over for a project in favour of a more recently hired and less experienced person – a man. I was livid. I thought that I needed to say something. I took a breath first, but I figured that I needed to get some answers and record them in my notes.

Unfortunately, my bile was up and I may have overplayed it a little. I was told to go back to my desk and cool off, which was in itself patronising and sexist. Diedre told Miles. I would never have done that, but she said later that if I had lost my job we would have been seriously set back. Miles came down and took on my boss.

He did not even look at me as he left but I followed him to the elevator and rebuked him for getting involved. I told him that I was an independent woman and I could look after myself. He told me that he would have done the same for anybody, and that there was no excuse for poor treatment of employees, female or male.

That silenced me. I just remember looking at him as he turned to face me in the elevator. He had come down and taken on somebody perhaps senior to him, for not respecting gender equality. All I could think of was how much I adored him. It did not seem unnatural. That was the thing that shook me the most. I wrote the incident up as dispassionately as I could, but when I read it back it sounded like a passage from a romance novel.

The following day was Saturday and he called me, he said it was to apologise for being short with me at the elevator. He invited me to brunch. I decided to go but to break things off with him. I deliberately dressed down in jeans and had my hair loose. It was a contrast to the look he saw every day, as during the week I wore corporate dresses or suits and had my hair up in a high bun or a French roll. I thought that if he saw me without makeup he would not find me attractive at all. I was wrong. I have to admit that when I went to the bathroom and looked at myself I could only see a naturally pretty woman. The man in me had completely disappeared.

I could not see him for the rest of the weekend. I had arranged to stay with Gerry and Helen who had rented a place up the Hudson valley while Helen was recovering from surgery. She spent the whole time gushing about the thrill of becoming a woman, and the prospect of real sex with her man. I do not believe that I have ever seen anybody happier. Gerry too, was very pleased. It made me think that all that matters in the world is to find someone to love, who loves you back. I felt as if I was a freak, not man enough to be with a woman, and not woman enough to be with Miles.

But it is hard to cry when you are surrounded by happiness. I was glad of that weekend away.

The following week we had that second double date with Diedre and Caleb. Caleb had arranged things this time, and it was a series of virtual adventures. We had a lot of fun with virtual surfing and virtual tennis. For dinner we went to a quirky restaurant with a dancefloor and a band playing ballroom dance. I ended up dancing with Miles for most of the night. I really cannot dance, or at least I could not before, but Miles amazed me again with another skill. I spent the evening in his arms and it was fabulous.

He asked me whether I would go to his apartment, but as it was a Thursday I declined. But I knew where this was headed. He wanted to have sex with me. I loved it that he wanted me that way, but clearly it could not happen. Somehow, I could not bring myself to say anything. We kissed as if it were sex, and I swear it was better than any thrill I had experienced naked. It seemed to me that I was completely off the rails.

At work, we did our best to ignore one another, but there were glances across the room that had me in raptures.

The best way to describe how weird this was, is to refer back to my notes. I kept copious notes to support my study, but when I read back over this period I see that rather than objective observation it was like the contents of a teenage girl’s diary. I even found not just exclamation marks, but double exclamation marks, several on each page. I started to serious question my sanity, as it was clear that my adherence to logic and scientific analysis had been completely forgotten.

That Friday night following drinks after work, when he asked about my plans for the weekend, I told him. It would end things. I told him that I was sorry but that it could never be. When we were together alone in a quiet place in the bar, I said that I had been concealing a secret. I apologised for not telling him sooner, but he had to know that I had a penis. I was not a real girl. That was that. I did not cry. Not in front of him anyway. I turned and ran. It was only then that the tears started, and they did not stop all night. My pillow was soaking wet in the morning, but my eyes were still running.

Gerry called me later in the morning. He said that he had spoken to Miles, who had told him that it was “horrible and disgusting”. The words slashed my guts open. For the first and only time in my life I felt like killing myself. Gerry sent Helen around to stay with me.

I thought that this would be an end to the study. I had effectively terminated it by falling into the trap of becoming too involved. It was probably for the best. I had plenty of material for the study, and as for the book, if I took Miles out of it, how would it end?

I could think about the future. I could tie up the loose ends, then I could just cut off my hair and see somebody about removing the breasts, that were now quite large. But I was too upset. Instead of planning my extraction from this, Helen and I dealt with my issues as girls do – a two-day sleepover with chick flicks, nail polish, doing one another’s hair and talking endlessly. Somehow it seemed to work. By Monday I was ready to go back to the office, with only the dread being seeing Miles’ face, by now hating me.

For some reason I made an extra effort to look good on that day. Helen and I had picked an outfit that was the epitome of feminine power dressing – low cut and lacy in front, short tight skirt, tailored waisted jacket, very high heels, hair up and perfect, makeup a knockout. It made me feel that I could take whatever might happen. I was ready to resign and take on my boss, and eyeball Miles if he was ready for that.

Miles was not there in the morning. I put off any confrontation with my boss, maybe for a few days. I did not see Miles until I was getting into the elevator to go down that afternoon. He ran to the lift and put his hand between the closing doors, and I tried to push it away. We were in the car alone together and he was blocking the keypad. He accused me of trying to push him out. I accused him of calling me “horrible and disgusting”.

He looked at me with those eyes of his, and he told me that is not what he said. What he had said was that it was “horrible and disgusting” that such a beautiful woman as me, had been born with such a deformity. He said that he had been talking to Gerry, who had told him that his fiancée was a post-op transwoman. Miles explained that he had spent all that morning looking at surgery options “to fix things”.

Then he told me he loved me.

There should only be one response to those words. But how could I possibly be in love with a man?

Well, I was. I am. I always will be.

If I believed in him, I would thank God everyday that I am Mrs Emily Granger, Associate Professor of Sociology and published author, happy wife to Miles and mother to our three adopted children, and 100% a woman.

The End

© Maryanne Peters 2018



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