Doubts 4 - Becky's Friday night with Janice does not go as planned.
Janice is waiting for me at La Madeline's. I'm late. I spent too much time at lunch with Frank and had to stay longer at work than I planned. She hates it when I'm late but she seems delighted to see me. We hug, not like a man and woman or lovers, but like two mature female friends would. Janice doesn't like any public show of affection. I understand; as a card carrying life long lesbian she has lived with marginalization, fear and hate. She has told me she doesn't need to prove anything, doesn't have a political agenda.
We go through the line getting our food, chatting like girls, giggling. No one notices us. We find a table near the back. We have some privacy. Janice is wearing a shirt and sweater with loose fitting slacks and her lace up shoes. She is so cute with her Tinker Bell haircut and soft blue eyes, no make-up except a soft pink lip gloss. She reminds me of my best friend in high school. Except for the barely noticible outline of breasts under the sweater they would look nearly identical. Janice is as boyish now as he was then.
When we are settled Janice tells me how nice I look. She loves what I am wearing; she whispers she likes the bra I'm wearing, the one designed to be seen through the fabric of the blouse. I try to be discreet but can't keep from blushing. I know Janice and what turns her on. Later she will enjoy touching through the blouse, then unbuttoning and unhooking and playing with the girls. I do like how she looks and what she is wearing but don't say that. Instead I tell her I dressed this way just for her and that her attraction to me, and my assets, confirms who I am.
Janice and I understand each other. At least I think we do. She knows my insecurities and I think I know her's. The problem is that I am in a relationship with a therapist and sometimes it feels like one long continuing therapy session. I talk, she listens. I never hear her emotions, her insecurities. Somehow I begin to tell her about the last two days of my life. I've told her so much, given over to her things I have withheld from my other therapist, the one I am paying. They have both heard details about how I was raped, the molestation, countless situations with men I didn't seek out or want, the demand for oral sex from my brother. I've only told therapist Janice of my plan to perform surgery on myself, my plan to remove the two testosterone pumps I no longer can live with, even though their function has been severely curtailed by female hormones I gladly consume. I've researched it; know exactly what to do. She wants me to find a doctor who will do it for me.
Without crying I tell Janice about the Thursday meeting and how I feel I will be forever assigned to a gender neutral restroom at work. Then I tell her about the incident with Gary, the son of the woman I rent from. Janice laughs hysterically when I paint the image of his grabbing my right breast as he saves me from falling. I tease her that he saw me in my bra and panties and that she needs to be nice to me if she wants a peek too. Janice tells me how funny I am.
Of course she must ask how I felt when he held me for that instant, and if I wasn't being a little coquettish and brazen opening the door so he could check me out? Was there some subliminal female to male attraction for me, she prods therapeutically? It's a dangerous subject and she knows it. I've discussed at length about how averse I am to the male anatomy. She knows how sensitive I am about being perceived as a gay male, an impersonator, or more frightening, an impostor. I've been through this so many times with her and my real therapist so I resent that she is going down this road again. I tell her that I am definitely not attracted to men, period, but a little male attention, a look or flirt, a door held open, reinforces everything I have felt about my gender my whole life. It's natural, I claim, for me to want some of that. It doesn't mean I want sex with a man.
Janice has challenged me before about any connection between past sexual abuse, my current presentation, and my staunch anti-male attitude. She's not the only one. I’ve questioned it myself. The question is: was I sexually abused because I was an thin girlish effeminate boy, teen, young man? Or did I slip into cross-dressing and subsequently full gender insanity as a defense mechanism, rejecting my own maleness while developing a deep phallic phobia?
This isn't all just about me. Janice has her own issues about men. She claims she has never been with a man. I believe her, but she is just a little too enamored with my unique anatomy. To my casternation she enjoys what I have between my legs and I sometime wonder if she may be slightly disappointed it never approaches the size and firmness of the dildo she occasionally asks me to wield Sure she has never hinted that our intimacy is anything but lesbian sex, never pushed for coitus and respected my absolute resolve never to be the penetrator again. This conversation is different. It isn't about what she and I do in bed; it's about the natural arousal someone, of either gender, might feel from the closeness of the opposite sex.
I try and change the subject but mistakenly ask her if she ever felt the desire for male attention, not sex, but just the natural attention a man might innocently advance toward a woman. Now she perks up. It's almost like she hoped we would talk about the energy between men and women. Actually she has, she tells me. She doesn't say it but hints that because of me, and her first ever phallic experience, she has become slightly curious about men. The way she says it is we should both at least experience sex with a man at some point. She is so matter of fact, blasé actually, almost as if sex with a man could be as casual as trying caviar for the first time. You wouldn't want to pass up an opportunity. It doesn't work that way with me. I don't have good memories of men and sex. She is quick to point out that she doesn't question my orientation, nor her own either, but then asks if at least I have not fantasized about it after surgery, finding someone like Frank to take it for a 'test drive'.
I laugh. She has put me on the spot. I don't want to have this conversation; the timing isn't right. Bad things can happen and I know what they are. My emotional health just won't allow me to perform acts that are universally seen as gay male. I look her in the eye and tell her what she wants to hear even though I doubt it. I tell her that yes, after I heal and recover, physically and emotionally I do want to experience it but I know I sound unconvincing.
Then I make my second mistake. I resort to my go to defense mechanism, humor. I suggest that perhaps we should enlist some guy and have a shared experience, lose our virginity together at the same time with the same man, but foolishly add unless she can't wait until I exchange my ‘outy’ for an ‘iny’.
What she says next causes me to go ballistic. Janice tells me she is meeting a man on Monday, at the National Gallery. She placed an ad in the personals, 'women seeking men', got a response and has had a two-week phone relationship. She explains he is her age, divorced, an attorney for the FCC and does not want a serious relationship, just a date and perhaps more. I think it is the 'more' that bothers me the most.
I am shocked. She is serious. I have so many questions but I can't ask. I have no standing to be upset with her. We have made no pledge to be faithful, nor have we vowed love. There is nothing keeping either one of us from having other relationships. The thing is though she has a history of serial relationships, affairs really, and I do not. Regardless, I feel betrayed and I am hurt.
Janice, the card-carrying ultra-dykish lesbian, therapist to the lesbian community, the woman who relishes my femininity is going to explore intimacy with a non-cross dressing man, supposedly one with a fully functioning eager penis, complete with hairy legs and chest. I'm speechless so she continues to explain. She tells me she respects that I can't or won't give the fulfilling experience she desires so she thought it would be better for her to find it herself. Her final insult is that she claims it will have no impact on how much she cares for me. She doesn't consider how it will impact me.
I manage to hide my anger. Janice doesn't know men like I do. She has no idea what rape is like. She has never had a man ply her with beer and violently push inside her, doing damage that never heals. Her brother never forced her to perform fellatio, coerced actually. My anger is, however, much deeper than the sexual abuse I endured as a teen. I'm angry at my situation, at who I am. I don't want to be transgender, hate the label. I hate that I was born a boy, lived as a man and now cannot lead any semblance of a life without that past dangling over me. And I definitly don't want to be a woman with a penis. I doubt Janice understands how deep the pain is.
I have to run, or explode. I say nothing but stand, pick up my purse and coat, and walk away. Janice is now the shocked one. She calls after me, comes after me leaving our half finished food and her coat. She catches me at the door, begs me to come back, employs her therapist skills. Don't be rash, she advises. Let's talk about how I feel, she suggests. Take a breath, she recommends. I look at her and wonder who she is, why is she in my life. I silently question her professional ethics. I really want to relent, want to hold her, want to be in bed next to her tonight. But I can't. I'm not in a good place and must leave. I make it to my car without looking back and she does not come after me.
I'm crying so hard I can barely drive. The parkway is blurry through the tears but I'm able to make out the road construction signs, the ones cautioning drivers to slow down. I see the new concrete column ahead and instead of slowing I consider the benefits of going no further. What's the use? Surgery is as elusive as ever, I'm a freak at work, my family has rejected me and now Janice wants to try a man, just for fun.
This has been a mistake; life gave me enough benefits that I should have just accepted it, continued my life as a man, father, husband. Transitioning just upended so many lives, and with the concrete just before me now, I ask what have I gained and if it is worth it? A slight turn of the wheel is all I need to do. It would be an accident, no questions. Janice would know, of course, but would she really be upset. Everyone else would benefit; life insurance payouts and relief from dealing with someone like me in their life. My last thought, at the point I must decide, is the fear of surviving, of not dying but being maimed and disfigured, paralyzed, forever a burden, forced against my will to live as an invalid male. The car slows and the wheel follows the road. The concrete column is in the rear vision mirror
I arrive at the house where I live, still shaken. I don't want to be here, or anywhere really. I'm relieved that the house is dark. Maybe they are all out, Ruth and her two sons. I don't want to talk to anyone, don't need human interaction.
I unlock the front door and see the flicker of the TV in the darkened family room in the rear of the house. I know Ruth is out for the evening so it must be Gary or his brother, perhaps both. I don't say anything but start upstairs when Gary calls to me. He thinks I'm his mother coming home early. Before I answer he flips on a light and is standing at the foot of the stairs just below me, looking up. He says he's surprised it's me and that he thought I wouldn't be home tonight. I don't want to explain and am on the verge of tears again. He knows something isn't right and does not press the issue. Instead he tells me he has rented a couple of movies and asks if I would like to join him. He smiles and suggests he would let me choose the movie.
I start to decline looking down into the eyes of the man I intimately and accidentally started my day with. He's looking up at me through the rails of the bannister inches away from the hem of my skirt. He coaxes me saying he will pop some corn and he'll let me have the recliner. His eyes smile. He's lonely; I'm on the verge of a depression. The image of me standing in just my bra and panties just hours before and how powerful I felt then flashes in my head. It’s an immediate anti-depressant. Why not, I tell him, but first I must get out of these clothes. He looks delighted as I race upstairs to change.
I have no desire for anything other than some diversion from aloneness, darkness and depression. Gary is nice but he is a man, a safe one. He's married but separated, living with his mother and brother in the house where I rent a room. There is nothing for me to fear.
I quickly undress and am happy to get out of bra and pantyhose. I pull a nightgown over my head and let it fall, not the one Gary's mother gave me but the pretty one I was going to wear in bed with Janice. It feels so wonderful and free with just panties underneath. I brush my hair and touch up my lipstick. With my terricloth robe around me, I step into my slippers and head toward the smell of popcorn.
Gary is in the kitchen finishing with the popcorn. He tells me to go sit in the recliner and get comfy, and points out the two movies he has rented. He claims he knows which one I'll pick. Gary carries a gun for a living so I'm surprised one of the movies is a romantic comedy. He didn't know I would be home tonight and could not have guessed we would be watching a movie together, alone in the house. Perhaps there is a soft side to this man's man. The other movie is a Denzel Washington testosterone laden, fist fighting, gun firing, death defying, weak woman rescuing, action packed thriller.
As he serves me a bowl of buttery popcorn and a drink, a soft one. I tell him he wins but offer to watch the movie I know he really wants to see. He pops the romantic comedy in the VCR and the movie starts. Fifteen minutes into the film and I think I would rather be watching Denzel. In the romantic comedy the protagonist, an innocent young woman with perfect makeup, even before she is awake in the morning, and with the most elegant wardrobe, thinks her fiancé is interested in another woman. He, the fiancé, reminds me of Janice and I find myself unable to hold back tears. He pauses the VCR and reaches over to console me. He touches my arm and I turn toward him. I'm aware my robe has fallen open slightly and know he can see my nightgown, see the lacy material cupping my breast. He's going to think I am teasing him, coming on to him. I pull my robe back around me trying to regain modesty. He asks if I want to watch the other film but I tell him that I'm just a little fragile and will be fine in a few.
I'm not expecting any understanding or comfort from someone like Gary; Catholic, gun enthusiast, homophobic, telling me once he had no problem with 'gays' as long as they kept it to themselves. I have no idea how he reconciles those views with the person sitting next to him in panties and a nightgown who shares the same xy genetic configuration. The words he now softly speaks in his deep voice cannot be from the man I thought he was. He tells me he admires me, what I have done and how I have carried myself. He says he can't begin to imagine what I have been through, smiling slightly as he adds he also can't relate to what I am planning to go through, a veiled reference to radical surgery. I'm touched. Then he adds that I am attractive and dress so well. It's the first time in days anyone has been kind, sympathetic, genuine, not to mention flattering. I take his hand, our chairs are close enough for that. He squeezes my hand and it is a sweet, endearing moment when we look at each other. I feel something that I want to avoid, must avoid. I want him to hold me. I need his strength, his protection, his comfort. In this instant I understand that unique dynamic between a man and a woman, the temptation, perhaps need, to give yourself over, to trust, to release yourself from iniabitions, to purge past pain and exchange it with warmth and love. I've never felt this before.
There is a tortuous long moment, holding hands, looking at each other, seeing more than before. His hand is so large, strong, meaty; mine soft, thin, nearly delicate, with long nails and bright red polish. Together they are clearly the hands of a man and woman. He has a round gentle face, heavy five o’clock stubble, and warm smiling amber eyes. He squeezes my hand again, sending a signal of warmth and acceptance if not on some level love. If we were close enough I'm sure there would be a kiss and for the first time in my life I would welcome a kiss from a man. I'm feeling wonderfully vulnerable and weak.
I'm also terrified at the same time. I didn't grow up with girl-like fantasies dreaming of becoming wife and mother after some prince swept me off my feet. Romance in my formative years rarely emerged and it never cast me as the weak vulnerable female. I grew up resisting my girl dreams, fighting them. Even if there ever could be a relationship for me with a man, I could never be a wife. I wasn't trained for it. That and I still had an incurable phallic phobia
The moment is broken with the sound of the front door. It's Carol coming home. Gary quickly releases his grip, hits the play button to resume the movie. Reality floods the room and envelops us. My robe is pulled tighter around me as Carol enters and sits on the couch. Gary and I greet her nonchalantly. She suspects nothing. Why would she?
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