She remembered. It was a Saturday morning over 30 years ago. Must have been early winter, steam billowed from car exhaust. Sitting alone, in a diner on Vandeventer Avenue, a plate of eggs and bacon in front of her, she made a decision.
Hardly able to pay rent and utilities, she nevertheless allowed herself the luxury of breakfast at cheap diners on Saturdays. She was just entering adulthood. Happy to be away from her violent father, she saw no way out of poverty. From her job putting triptychs together at AAA, she barely survived. She needed to make more money, she must go to college.
Unconscious trains of thought, drove her to make a decision. How would she get hormones? How could she afford the surgery? Who would want her as a half man, half woman chimera? She knew she was in the wrong body. And, consciously, she knew few people would hire an effeminate, pretty young man for a responsible job. Until now, she walked a tight rope, balancing on a narrow ledge. On one side, she had to become masculine. On the other side, she would transition to female. On the one side, she could go to college, get a good job, maybe even travel to Europe. On the other side, she would know only more poverty, be humiliated by society, and live a desperate life.
When she was in school, people frequently confused her gender. She wore men’s clothing, but her hair was long and she wore makeup, Mama gave her a makeup kit when she was 12. She kept it all through her teen years. As a senior, she finally began to wear it. Once when sitting off stage at a rehearsal of Oklahoma! a young woman asked her if she wore makeup. She denied it.
Once when she exited a Men’s Room, a man walking to the door looked at her embarrassed saying, “I’m sorry, Ma’am.” Then, he saw the word “Men” on the door, and looked at her with disgust. Even so, she loved being mistaken for a girl. But now, at long last, on the brink of adulthood, she must put all that behind her. No more wanting to be female. She would be a man. She would put her energy and acting abilities into the effort. She would do it. She would watch her movements, pay attention to her voice. She would force herself to be masculine.
She remembered looking up from her plate at the darkened windows of a shuttered bar across the street and wondered why this decision made her feel so bad. Why did she feel as if she had just sold her soul?
Sitting here in the surgeon’s office, she remembered these things. Three decades ago, she forced herself to be masculine. But, now, finally, after decades of watching every movement, listening for any feminine lilt of the voice, wondering at her inability to urinate standing, or to allow anyone to touch her sexual organ, she finally gave up. She would take the name of her cousin, the girl she always wanted to be. She would be Glenda. From now on, anyone calling her Denny, would be doing it as an act of hatred.
When she decided to transition, the first difference she noticed was that she no longer had to pay attention to her gestures. At first, she had to work to stop controlling herself. But now, here she was, with Susan and Will, waiting for the surgeon to change her life.