I transitioned in the early eighties in my early twenties. I guess that makes me an early transitioner. It was a time of gatekeepers and group meetings. I had been seeing my family doctor to start hormone replacement until he became uncomfortable with continuing the treatments and he referred me to the local Dallas psychiatrist that ran a group of people transitioning. Dr. May would be my first gatekeeper.
One needed to meet privately with this elderly doctor before you were allowed to go to the next step of the process. He had a set number of private meetings which was pretty straight forward. Much like the initial meetings I’ve had with the many doctors that my parents had sent to me in the past. The first was a conversation about current status, then a meeting for the tests and the final meeting was his final judgement. He approved the next step, and referred me to an endocrinologist and the transsexual group meetings that Dr. May held on Tuesday nights.
This group meeting would be the first time I would meet other people going through the process. I didn’t have a clue about what to expect. I guess that I thought everyone would be just starting out, and that there were several groups meeting on different nights for those at a different point of their transition. Of course, I was wrong. The group was a small set of people in different places of their transition and going different directions. As the newest member of the group I was also the one earliest in transition. The group very clearly expressed their disappointment that I had come straight from work and I was still in male clothes. They quickly judged my commitment to completing the process.
This group of people represented every stereotype you could imagine. There was the post-transsexual woman acting as one of the Grand Dames instructing everyone on the one and only path to transition. There was the drag queen trying to decide if she needed to go the next step and lose her career. There was the butch lesbian working the best man impression she could muster. The other Grand Dame was a what would be called a non-op. She didn’t see the need to go for that surgery, but continued to come to the group for the hormones. The two Grand Dames constantly argued and fought over who was a real woman and who wasn’t.
Also in attendance were a couple of female to male transitioning clients. These guys were amazing to me. They were well along in transition and looked very handsome to me. They were also much more understanding of the many paths than the two Grand Dames.
The group meeting was actually in two parts; the first part was the hour-long meeting in Dr. May’s office where we discussed success’s and failures of the previous week, and the second part which was when everyone would go to local gay friendly bars for drinks and ridicule. During the office group meetings everyone was on their best behavior because the good doctor was there, and he was the keeper of the path, or so we believed. It was the meeting after the meeting that I learned the real lessons this group had to offer.
Once free of the monitoring, the group would really let you know how your transition was working or not. First, they would not even allow you to come to the bar if you didn’t pass well enough. The Grand Dame’s of the group would go item by item until you felt like a small wart on the ass of a frog. Secondly, once they deemed that you were presentable (meaning that you wouldn’t embarrass them in public) each of them would lecture us on the proper way to go through transition. Each member of the group’s path was the only and true path. All others were wasted time and money.
Oddly enough, even though each person of the group believed they were the true gatekeeper, none of them were. I learned two main lessons from this group. One, everyone comes to this point in transition from a different place, and two, everyone leaves this point at a different pace. There isn’t a single path to a place of “completeness.” There isn’t even a single destination where everyone must end.
Whether it is today’s transsexual versus transgender wars, or like it was in the eighties Dallas group fight of the Grand Dames or even like the during Dies Sanguinis (The Day of Blood) on March 24th in Ancient Rome. There will always be those true believers that argue with the unfaithful. There have always been those who believe that their path is the only path. Their ideas are the only good ideas. Their pain is the greatest pain. Everyone has a path, an idea and their own pain. There is a saying “All roads lead to Rome,” but in the case of human beings reaching that place of self understanding and wholeness, there are “Many roads to Rome.” And Rome is where your heart lives.