Monday, 6 February 2006

On My Way

I just received it on Friday, and am making arrangements to start work on the 13th.

Dear Ms Brain

I am pleased to offer you admission to a program of study at The Australian National University.

Program : Doctor of Philosophy, College of Engineering and Computer Science
Annual Program Fee : RTS place allocated

In addition, you have been awarded:
An Australian National University Miscellaneous Scholarship of $28,000 per annum, funded by the College of Engineering and Computer Science.

"RTS place allocated" means I won't have to pay any tuition, it's funded by the Research Training Scheme.

It does mean putting on hold certain contingency plans I had for surgery - the earliest I could qualify for it under the rather relaxed rules of my chosen surgeon in Thailand meant that I could have had it today. But there's a 3-month healing time, so the date I'm booked in for surgery is November 15th. Any facial feminisation surgery - assuming I can afford it, a big assumption, would have to wait till November 2007.

Transition is something that takes years, the same order of time as going through a "normal" puberty. Some somatic changes can still be expected after 7 years or more. But the majority of the change, 80% or so, takes about 2-3 years on hormones. So both projects - my doctorate, and my transition - should, providing nothing goes spectacularly wrong, be complete in about 3 years.

When I was 10 years old, in 1968, I had a number of ambitions, things I wanted to achieve in my life, if I could.

I'd seen "2001: A Space Odyssey", and I believed that that was what the future was probably going to look like in 2001. I wanted to be working on a space programme by then. Probably on a Lunar base, but maybe groundside, I wasn't fussy about the details.

I wanted to be a Geek Girl, an Engineer or Scientist, Probably an Astrophysicist, but I rather liked working with computers too. I figured that the silly mistake, me being streamed with the boys, would get itself corrected when I hit my teens, and it was obvious I was a girl. I'd even picked my new name, Zoe, after the Dr Who character who was something of a role model.

Naturally, I liked the sound of "Dr Brain", so a PhD was de rigeur one day.

I wanted children, and a family. I wasn't too clear on this "sex" business, I figured I'd have to somehow acquire a husband along the way. But again, I thought it would all become clear in due course.

I wanted to travel the world, and ever since I did a school project on the place when I was 7, I'd wanted to live in Australia.

Those were my ambitions, at age 10. Now just a few years later, I found out a few fundamental biological truths, that rather put the kibosh on a number of important items that I'd actually thought were the easiest bits. I took the news rather well considering, which is to say, I was devastated. Puberty is always difficult, for me it was just all wrong. I buried myself in studies, in reading, in anything I could, just to avoid thinking about it. And then I picked myself up by the bootstraps, and tried to do the best I could with what I had. I figured I wasn't a girl after all, I was a slightly screwed-up male, so I better start behaving like one. Motherhood was denied me, but Fatherhood was a good second best.

How many of my ambitions did I achieve? Pretty much all. One disappointment, I was infertile, so have only got one child, when I would have liked more. But he's such a wonderful little boy, he makes up in quality what he lacks in quantity. My best friend, my partner, co-parent and love of my life turned out to be female, so my having a male body was for the best after all, I have no complaints.

Then the impossible happened, and I started transitioning to myself, Zoe. And am now starting a doctorate. There's plenty that can go wrong of course, from me screwing up my thesis to drawing any one of a number of short-straws healthwise. But it's just possible that one 10-year-old girl's ambitions might actually come to fruition.

Time then for some new impossible dreams, starting at age 50. The first half of my life has been extraordinarily interesting and rather unusual. Hopefully the second half will be similar, perhaps even more interesting. And it promises to be even happier, though that was something I never really sought in the first half. Sorry to end on a down note, but for a transsexual, "happy" is not a state that they really know too much about. "Joy" , yes, they get that sometimes, but "contentment", "peace", and well, "happiness", no. They don't even know it exists - until and unless they transition.

You learn something new every day.

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