Why did I have to pick up the rom-com book. Why did I have to start reading it, getting into the scene, almost as if I were there and smiling as the romantic ignition of two people on the first few dates sharing that magic spark. Argh. Zoom back to my life and remembering that I’ve not felt that spark in at least seven years. Dear lord, has it really been that long.
It was another warm day which itself brings out the couples on their lunch holding hands and indulging in light meaningless idle chat. Nothing greater makes me feel so old and worn. A new rut to have fallen into. I think it was this that made me phone the hospital to find out what had happened to the promised chasing up of my case and possible referral for further analysis or treatment for the gender thing. Once I had returned from lunch I found an empty meeting room. Somewhere where I was unlikely to be bothered or heard but the phone rang and rang until the automated system kicked in, “Press one to try again.” I tried once but nothing. I slouched back to work at my mundane desk deciding to try again later in the afternoon. By ten to five, once I had remembered, it was too late.
A few days later I tried again. This time after a short ringing the phone went silent for at least twenty seconds. It felt like an eternity. Had I been cut off? Was there someone there? “Hello?” nothing. “Hello?” The phone started ringing again and shortly went to an automated system, “This is the EE voice mail. Please leave a message.”
‘Whoh, I’m not doing that.’ I thought. That could have been anyones voice mail. I could imagine leaving a message, ‘I just wanted to know the status of my gender reassignment referral.’ which ends up being collected by a shocked and confused doctor in Obstetrics. I left it for another day.
Friday and I decided to call mid morning. Late enough for someone to be in and early enough to ensure no one had slipped off for a half day; a popular public sector past time. Praise the house of lords a voice. “Hello –” and some very quiet inaudible introduction to the mental health unit.
“Is this Dr Neil’s team?” I enquired.
“Yes it is. How can I help.” came the efficient and professional voice.
“At my last appointment Dr Neil said he was going to chase up the status of my case.” I kept it more than generic. Something I had rehearsed with various options in my mind. While I would happily talk about the in’s and out’s of the conflicts of my gender I suffer everyday I thought I would spare her and me the conversation. “I wondered if I could get a message to Dr Neil to ask him to chase it up for me?”
“Well Dr Neil is on holiday for two weeks. He went last week so if you call up the week after next he should be able to help you.”
This was fine. I was about to say thank you and leave it there but given how many times I’ve called over the last couple of weeks and that I would feel this was a missed opportunity to at least get something done, even if just for my peace of mind, I pushed a little further.
“That’s fine.” I said, “Would it be possible to send him an email so he knows about it when he comes back?” It felt pushy and a bit cheeky but they’re there to help me and I felt I needed this.
“Yes of course.” she said politely as if it were no trouble.
Later that day during lunch I had a missed call on my mobile. I quickly called back the voice mail and listened while my parents opposite me in the cafe watched their coffee cups seep their warmth. I didn’t even think about who this voice mail could be from and whether it would be in ear-shot from the small mobile phone speaker.
It was the mental health unit. “Oh hello I’m phoning from Dr Neil’s office. It’s just to say I don’t know what is happening and Dr Neil is on leave at the moment. I’ll ask him when he gets back and get back to you. Okay. Thank you.”
I was none-the-wiser but, despite the duplicity of the information, in retrospect I realised that this meant my call was logged. Someone was aware of me and something was going to be chased; hopefully. There was more to this call than just idly chasing for an answer. It was to allow me to get on with other things without feeling forgotten and on hold.
So this leaves me back at the park with my book and fictional romance and another week passing like the last that passed like the one before it. It means I can look to change other things but somethings can’t be changed. I can force falling in love or finding someone to fall for me just like I can’t force myself into ultra femininity or masculinity alike just to win approval of others amongst the community, friends and family.
When I’d got off that phone after listening to that voice mail all I said to my parents was “That was the hospital. Telling me exactly the same thing as they told me when I called earlier.” I realise that I still don’t talk to them about it in detail, but then neither do they ask anything. I think my Mum’s response was something like, “Tsk. Typical.” Showing understanding without understanding or questioning. Of course it’s most likely that they both know why I’ve been going there for what must be something like two years and I know they know and they probably know that I know and it’s all just exactly as ridiculous as that just sounded; the unspoken truth that one day must come out.
When I was in sessions with the psychologist, Katherine, I told her something that I’d not told anyone; which is the sort of thing we all do in analysis without realising how intimate these thoughts are. That’s how comfortable and safe it feels. I had mentioned how with some health scares my parents had at the time and I told her how I’d thought, ‘as much as I fear telling my parents about me –‘ the gender thing, ‘if something were to happen to them I would regret not allowing them to know and share that part of me.’ Katherine at that moment sighed in sorrow and placed her hand on her heart. It was at that point, seeing the effect it had on her as a psychologist, that I saw the reflection of my own sadness and state of mind. The pressure that was on me to make a huge decision in my life that would effect me forever. The very core of who I am and how I might lead the rest of my life if I ever get out of this rut of fear and guilt. The fact that I want to share the feminine side of me as much as the person they already know – even if they can see some of the femininity now, there is so much more. Seeing the way Katherine reacted made me hear what I had said as if I’d heard someone say it about themselves and feeling sorrow for them of what they were going through – but the reality was that person was me.
Until next time.