Trans Twins

I have long lost count of the number of blood tests I have had to have over the past few years. On average I think I have probably had my blood tested every 6 or 7 weeks. Not only do I need to regularly monitor my levels of testosterone, estradiol and luteinizing hormone, amongst others, but I also need to closely watch my liver and kidney function as cross sex hormones may place undue pressure on them. Every change in hormone, dose or application method has required a before and after test to monitor the effect.

Most visits to the phlebotomist have passed without note. If I was lucky, I received a friendly smile or a concerned frown to break the utilitarian nature of the visit, but most visits consisted of a 15 to 20 minute wait followed by 5 or 10 minutes of friendly chit chat as my blood was being withdrawn.

One visit in July 2018, though, was a little more pivotal. It provided a lovely random moment that was hilarious at the time, but ultimately introduced a lovely new human into my life. 

I was 2 years post Epiphany. I had been taking cross sex hormones for 16 months. I had been known as Roxy socially for about 6 or 7 months. I had only received my new birth certificate 5 or 6 weeks earlier. Medicare had been my second name change (after the Registry of Births, Deaths & Marriages update). More significantly, though, it had been my first gender marker update. My shiny new Medicare card had only arrived a week or two earlier, so I was pretty keen, though also quite nervous, to show it off.

My 15 to 20 minute wait passed without note. My name was called out. I followed the phlebotomist into their room and sat down. The phlebotomist looked startled when he saw my Medicare card, which made me a little uneasy. The following exchange then unfolded:

Phlebotomist (with a quizzical look on his face): did you have that Medicare card yesterday?

Me (slightly puzzled): Um … I have had it for about two weeks I think?

Phlebotomist (very puzzled): you didn’t use it yesterday though?

Me: um … no … I didn’t … use it yesterday…

Phlebotomist: I meant … did you use it HERE yesterday?

Me (very puzzled): I wasn’t here yesterday. 

Phlebotomist (now very confused): …

Phlebotomist (becoming less puzzled): Then you must have a twin out there!

Me (shocked and surprised): a twin! Cool!

Me: …

Me (now even more shocked and surprised): um … a trans twin?

Phlebotomist (relieved we had finally sorted that out): it appears so!

Me (laughing): what are the chances of that? I would really like to meet them!

Me: (reconsidering): actually maybe that’s not a great idea … maybe the universe will fold in on itself if we meet?

Both of us chuckle.

Over the next 6 months I occasionally thought back to that morning, wondering if I would ever meet my Trans Twin. Our town isn’t that large, so it was fairly likely, but maybe the phlebotomist got it wrong? Maybe we weren’t similar in appearance? Maybe they weren’t trans? Maybe I would never meet them? Or if I did, maybe I wouldn’t realise it was them? That thought made me a little sad, so I tried not to dwell on it. I really wanted to meet my Trans Twin.

Six months passed. I found myself another new friend on Facebook. She was also transitioning . I looked forward to having a close friend that understood intimately the emotional, social, familial and physical upheaval that I was experiencing. A day or two after becoming Facebook friends, my new friend mentioned how many people had been addressing her in her daily life as Roxy. I was briefly puzzled … then it suddenly dawned on me …  I had found my Trans Twin! Or more accurately, she had found me. And the universe hadn’t folded in on itself. Winning!

Nearly a year has passed since our first online meeting. She is now firmly embedded in my life as one of my dearest friends. It is an absolute privilege, and the utmost honour, to watch her blossom to become the woman she was always destined to be, sans any filters sometimes employed for conversations about transitioning with less intimate friends. I simply can’t imagine walking this journey without her and I am so very happy that we are able to be there for each other through this most difficult and easiest of journeys.

Much More Than A Safety Net

A few weeks ago, I received a message from the super lovely dynamo that is Jyllie Jackson, CEO & Creative Director of the Lismore Lantern Parade. There was, apparently, “something” in their new(ish) shed that Jyllie was sure that I would be interested in seeing. Her message was so super vague that I was of course super intrigued. I had only ever been in their shed once before … the old shed that is … I had spent a few hours there with many others that had laboured for entire days after ex-Cyclone Debbie had heartlessly attempted to drown all of the lanterns. We swept filthy contaminated floodwater from the shed floor with push brooms and tap water. We gingerly lifted paper lanterns, upending them to rid them of their toxic edemas that had collected after being submerged by metres of flood water.  We triaged sometimes sodden, sometimes disintegrating, lanterns onto various piles outside, ranging from the surprisingly healthy to the sadly irrecoverable. It was heart breaking work … countless hours had been invested by countless community members in birthing these once gorgeous lanterns. When Jyllie invited me on a tour of the new shed that weekend, I eagerly accepted. 

Jyllie bounded up from her desk to meet me at the front door before I had even had a chance to open it. She was clearly very busy, but also clearly very keen to show me everything … and something. The shed is a fascinating place … a community within a community. Jyllie danced me slowly through the shed whilst recounting stories of the lanterns and of her incredibly committed volunteers. She showed me the open plan administration zone and the wheelchair accessible bathroom. The ethos of the shed was clearly to be as inclusive as possible. I was shown the technical area where all of the batteries and cables are maintained and stored. I was shown where the constituent lantern parts were stored. There were lanterns crammed everywhere in various stages of health and recuperation.  I was impressed at how neat and tidy the shed was, but I also sadly realised that I had been comparing it to the old shed where I had seen dozens of sodden lanterns washed off shelves onto the ground. I was super impressed with their recovery, and awed at how much work must have gone into that recovery.

I was led past the more-carefully-than-was-expected sorted and stacked collections of lanterns, weaving backwards and forwards across the shed, all the while edging gingerly towards the rear of the shed. It was clear by now, if it hadn’t been already, that I was being led towards … something. As we moved closer to the rear of the shed, Jyllie began recounting the story of a local CBD shop owner that had created two rooster bust lanterns and one heart lantern that lived for a time in his shop window during the Enchanted Windows program. The shop owner and his friend had asked Jyllie if she could make the roosters “paradeworthy”, by adding bottom halves to them, including a pair of legs each, and adding carrying frames. Jyllie agreed, but shortly afterwards realised that two roosters simply wouldn’t be able to cohabit the shed, as they would be constantly fighting. Jyllie broached this subject, first with the roosters themselves, and later on with the shop owner and his friend. Everybody was in agreement: one of the roosters needed to transition to become a hen. Right on cue we came to an abrupt halt in front of a towering handsome avian couple … a rooster and a hen … just as Jyllie, whilst beaming as only Jyllie can beam, said “I would like you to meet Rene and Roxana … Roxana the rooster that needed to become a hen”. I was quite stunned and utterly lost for words. I felt like I needed to cry, but tears weren’t to flow just yet. My mind was still grappling with the inter-connecting layers of Jyllie’s story, and what those layers meant for each of the story’s characters.

I have lived in 17 towns and suburbs in my (so far) 49 years. It took me 34 years to get to number 16. All but 1 of my subsequent 15 years have been spent in my 17th town, and if I have any say in the matter, I am pretty sure that there won’t be an 18th. I live in a town where everything that can possibly be named after someone, is named after someone … streets, bridges, carparks, buildings, parks and playgrounds … all named after those that have contributed somehow to our community. Of course I had never expected anything to be named after me. I had spent my whole life until my transition commenced remaining as inconspicuous as it was humanly possible to be. Yet I now have the honour of having a beautiful lantern named for me … a much more auspicious naming than a carpark, I reckon.

Jyllie and I went back to her open plan office and talked for hours about life and love and volunteering. Walking out of the shed heading home afterwards, it became clearer to me than ever that my community was so much more to me than a safety net … a safety net only protects you if you fall … after you fall … what we have here in Lismore is more like a community-sized 3D bamboo, cane & wire support structure, covered with paper for a modicum of privacy and containing an internal light for illumination, providing support at every turn and wobble for many who need it. When I arrived home I sat quietly to consider, and attempt to place into perspective, what had just unfolded. Tears finally flowed.

Six months to go!

I have so many things to achieve over the next six months. I haven’t counted, but it’s a lot!

Watching Marissa Farmer’s video this morning I realised, though, that I hadn’t noticed that I had shifted my focus to the practical simply to stop myself being overwhelmed by my to-do list. It was beautiful to hear Marissa describe not only what was happening to her, but how she was feeling at the time.

The protocol for Marissa’s surgery sounds like it will be fairly similar to mine, though I will be in hospital for 6 to 7 days (until after the equivalent of her first post-op checkup), then stay in Melbourne for another 10 or 11 days before I get the final okay for the flight home. I believe that there are also checkup trips back to Melbourne over the following year, but I’m a bit hazy on that. First things first.