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Why the ‘Year Long Test’ to Get “The Surgery” is Kind of BS

testI’m now 9 months into what my gender specialist calls my ‘Year Long Test’, or what I simply call the rest of my life. For those who may be unfamiliar, The Test is the period of time a trans person must live as the gender of their identity in order to qualify for GRS, or as 99% of the population knows it, The Surgery. Ugh, nothing like a slew of capital ‘The’s’ to seriously aggrandize everything. Anyway, I got thinking about this and have a few bits to share.

My first thought on hearing about this requirement was, “How ridiculous. If I know, I know.” My specialist begged to differ and painted it as a huge event upon which the rest of my life would be based, if I even ever got to that point. I humored him to some degree, but took exception to every instance he brought it up. “When you start your Real Life Test…” Hmm? Oh, yeah, you mean when I’ve finally managed to come out to everyone and start living the rest of my existence correctly? I didn’t say I wasn’t a difficult patient, and I suspected he had a well justified voodoo doll of me locked in his desk drawer that he used to make sure I could not find my car upon leaving. I don’t blame him; I’m just saying.

My point of view was very simplistic as I’ve said. The hard part was the long and painstaking effort of telling everyone, but once they knew, I felt weird and uncomfortable around them presenting myself as male as it didn’t exactly jibe with what I revealed. I hated that and knew in my heart of hearts that the real effect was adding to the habit they had of calling me “Mike” and referring to to me as “him”. Once I went full time, it would be pure bliss and I could not imagine ever wanting to go back for even a second.

Well, we live and learn now, don’t we? I will say that I have never considered for a moment going back, but I do see why temptation might present itself. All the big firsts were no-sleepers leading up, like the first day of work, first presenting myself to my family, my child, and old friends. Less stressful, but still on the mind were the first time to the grocery store, taking my son to a birthday party, and my favorite hardware store. Quick note on the last one. The boys at Hector’s never blinked when I came in looking for something and were as friendly and helpful as always in finding the exact right thing to repair a steel cable the dog managed to chew through. Compared to the alternative, however, no contest.

From a different point of view, things might have been different. If I didn’t have the ability to tune out the rest of the world and walk around in a state of blissful dissociation, there is the possibility that the stares would get to me. I don’t actually notice them myself, but my spouse does. If I lost my job and went on 42 interviews where I could tell I was dead in the water just walking through the door, an element of despair may have crept in. If I had no patience for the hour it took to make it out the door after discovering I only had 1 egg left when I needed 2, I may have had second thoughts.

Although I think it may be the exception rather than the rule, I can see where a yearlong test might be useful in seeing if you are ready to live and work as the gender opposite that on your original birth certificate. I consider myself lucky for having the personality I do, not to mention the elements of sheer luck that fell in my favor. Life can grind someone down, even if pursuing something so important and integral to their identity. Now for the big question.

Many aspects of the medical intervention aspect of transition are purely for the comfort of having one’s physical attributes match gender identity. If life becomes so heinous that social transition to the gender of best fit is in no way sustainable, does this change the desire to have one’s body match what is in their head? GRS is not really going to change any aspect of my non-romantic social life. No one is going to be able to see the change and the only marginal benefit is being able to wear slightly tighter pants, which let’s be honest, I probably shouldn’t do anyway. So why the assumption that failing the social Real Life Test means a person is going to be any more comfortable with what lies below the belt?

I believe the assumption is that for those of us who feel so strongly that GRS is an absolute necessity, we will do whatever it takes to grin and bear it through that year. Failure to do so must be indicative that the person is not really transsexual, or at least not sufficiently so to also have a deep personal need to make physical changes. This looks like a big whooping case of flawed logic to me. If the WPATH goal is the alleviation of suffering and the possibility of a fulfilled happy life, taking a rigid stand on this might be hugely counterproductive in certain cases.  Life circumstances can rarely be boiled down to a cold Boolean logic scenario where if A, then B; if not A, then not B, where A is the Real Life Test and B is GRS. In the words of Dennis Miller, “That is my opinion; I could be wrong.” I don’t think so though.

If I Were Mechanical Michelle

I was attempting explain to my therapist what the tipping point was like where I realized my mind was locking up leading my pursuit to transition. As usual, I relied on a common analogy to explain a more complex issue. It’s a habit of mine, often hated by others who bank on the avoidance of understanding to curtail further discussion. I like achieving that effect, so I do it all the time now.

“It’s like when you have the Task Manager open on a Window’s machine and the CPU usage turns bright green.” The first thing he asked me was what a ‘Task Manager’ is. I should not have been surprised as I had to explain what Facebook was the previous session, and spent half of another teaching how to back up his Outlook file. He never did make good his joking threat to refund his fee that week, but nevertheless. We have all struggled through a thousand and one clumsy ways of trying to describe our feelings to cisgender people. It’s no easy achievement, and as far as I know, it hasn’t been accomplished yet. It’s harder than those fifth grade assignments of describing what a peanut butter sandwich is to someone who never heard of bread. Even if we could take that approach, the listener is as likely to tune out as quickly as old Mrs Eckert did reading, “So there is this stuff called flour…”.

I thought using an analogy would be a wickedly clever way of at least capturing tiny aspects of this, even if they were wide right of the mark. Of course I didn’t take into account the possibility of having to describe the universally understood elements, putting me right back into sandwich land. It was like explaining an exceptionally funny joke, punch line and all, but I finally got the message across. Once I did a few fancy demonstrations, locking up his PC to the point of forced reboot, he understood and felt it was as an apt an analogy as he had heard. I’m not convinced he got it though, there being a suspect motive of saving his clunky old machine from my crazy experiments, so thought I would put it out there for critique.

Computer operation over the years has come to resemble the workings of human thought. They really have to in order to make them marketable, as an operating system that mirrored a cats thoughts would be infuriatingly difficult. To make them even more intuitive, an exploratory trepanation hole was installed in the form of the Task Manager. This allows the user to see all the various process currently running, in both the forefront and the subconscious of the machine, and how many resources they are using. Each use some percentage of both the memory and  processing capability. Usually, any given process is decent enough to use only what is needed, leaving enough for all the other necessary processes. Sometimes, however, things go wrong.

No one really know why (If you do, shush! Don’t ruin my analogy, please.) some background process chugging along suddenly goes crazy and starts sucking up more and more of your resources. At first you notice things are just a bit… off… but no importance. Sometimes you don’t even know it’s there, and if so, usually it was easy to put it out of mind. The situation becomes harder to ignore when drafting a simple document takes hours because that little “I’m doing something, you are going to have to wait” icon starts popping up more and more. After a while, forget trying to start something else, or god forbid, attempt to surf the web. Now the document has turned translucent with a little “Not Responding” message at the top. Great. Just great.

You may not have been ready to stop what you are doing to go and try to address this, but it got to the point where there is simply no going forward until you hit ‘ctrl-alt-delete’ and launch task manager to figure out what is going on. Sure enough, some bugger of an application is hogging 100% of what you need to even function anymore. You try to do the easy thing and ‘end process’, but either a warning of dire consequences comes up, or the computer simply refuses to let you. This thing is way too critical, and you need to either address it for real, or throw the whole damn machine away. Such is the chain of analogous events that bring one to transition. It comes down to this if the world expects to get any further use out of you.

OK, I do admit this isn’t perfect, and might not even apply to everyone’s unique experience, but it sure does mine and I can guess I’m probably not alone in this. Any comments are greatly appreciated. Yes… I know some of you are Mac users and my little example doesn’t apply in your wonderful little land where nothing ever goes wrong and apples grow on trees.

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