It calmed me down to feel like the Earth was one big room; it kept me from drowning in my panic. Alcohol slowed my heart and let me sleep until terror woke me up in the morning, the thumping in my chest that meant I had to begin another day. Counting my breaths, my steps, my body parts. Scalp, one. Ear, two.
Grace is a year-old female growing up in a small, southern community where notions of femininity, sexual identity and survival are starkly at odds. She is mourning the suicide of her best friend, Andrea. Grace's single mom, Lisa, is too preoccupied with her own troubles to be. Raised by a single mother, a bullied 17 year-old girl seeks guidance from her best friend and the girl's older sister. Meagan Good, Raven-Symoné, Garcelle Beauvais. An aspiring ballerina, after a knee injury, ends up in a new career as a video girl.
Ear, three. Brow, four.
A friend told me that every time I felt the urge to slip outside myself I should look for the color red. Let it fill you up, they said. Let it hold you down. As it turned out, red was always there. Lines of red neon light out my bedroom window, highways drawn out into the valleys.
Red bougainvillea petals on Future Street, on Isabel Street, in all the tight alleys in the neighborhood. The red frame around the picture hanging above my bed, a distorted photo of my torso. The blood under my fingernails when I picked my head. My red denim jacket. Red lights on the horizon all the time. The objects of my desire seemed smaller and more mundane than ever before. I fantasized about walking down the hill in my neighborhood in a T-shirt, with a flat chest and nothing binding my breasts, the wind flowing between the fabric and my skin.
I fantasized about sleeping on my stomach, without breasts between me and the mattress. I fantasized about driving in a convertible like the teen-age boys in tank tops I remembered from my childhood.
I started having dreams about walking behind my childhood self. Her small hand fit perfectly in mine. Sometimes I lay on my back while she read to me from a picture book and stroked my hair. She wobbled through words, asking me the meaning of unfamiliar ones. I walked around with her on my back, her arms gripping my neck, her legs gripping my waist. In February, I drove up to Oakland with my two best friends for a consultation for a bilateral mastectomy, or top surgery.
My partner wanted to come, but I said I needed to go without them.
My own feelings about the surgery were too convoluted—a lust for something wordless and new. They told me they understood. Our relationship was open; still, I wondered if it could withstand the newness I was looking for.
We left the party and walked around Lake Merritt. We kissed leaning against a railing, next to a drained-out part of the lake caked in goose shit. Without thinking, I told a story in which someone addressed me as Grace. I took off my socks and my glasses and put them inside one of my boots.
I stepped ankle-deep into the frigid water, my jeans rolled up, my coat still on, then lay in the sun and tried to concentrate on my breasts, scanning for nostalgia, fear of loss, attachment. What I felt was desire: I wanted them gone. Was wanting enough? I needed the surgery, but I was always trying to make the need disappear. Did getting rid of my breasts to become more masculine mean that I was accepting the very conventions of gender I felt trapped by? I sat in the waiting room with a girl who looked fourteen or fifteen.
She was there with her mother. I told myself not to scrutinize her gender, not to look for proof that she had undergone transformation, but my eyes travelled to the parts of her body that would reveal the truth—whatever that meant. The size of her hands, the width of her neck. This was a gender-confirmation surgeon, after all. Why would a fourteen-year-old girl in ballet flats and lip gloss, the kind of girl I would have fantasized about as a teen-ager, be waiting for an appointment?
The consultation was brief, maybe ten minutes.
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The doctor, handsome and charismatic, a chest tattoo peeking over the top of his shirt collar, had me undress from the waist up. My breasts were white lumps. They pulled my attention away from everything else. A hundred and fifty-five days before my surgery, I wrote a succinct e-mail to my parents. My confession implied that my identity was simple and fixed. That I had been born in the wrong body. The truth was something harder to explain: some days, I felt like a man.
The day after I wrote the e-mail, I heard back from my father. The word made me nauseous, filled me with shame.
I had known that the definitiveness of my announcement would make my parents listen. But I wished I could have written more, could have let them into my confusion without making them doubt my conviction. I had made the choice to sacrifice nuance for legibility. My surgery took place at the beginning of July, four months earlier than expected. A slot opened up after a last-minute cancellation. My friends had planned to take care of me after the procedure, but I felt too guilty asking them to take off work or change their plans in time for the new date.
Still, they came. We stayed in an Airbnb with a picket fence. There were framed family photos all over the house: a white family of four in pastel clothes. Parents, two daughters. The drive to the hospital was eight minutes. I turned on the radio, and thought about asking him to turn around. I reached my hands under my shirt and squeezed my breasts.
In the operating room, the nurses laid me down on a crucifix-shaped table: arms outstretched, legs spread. Thank You Jesus? Actually Grace was not our choice. We have a son and my hearts desire was to have a daughter even though I was already 41 at the time I was out running and talking to God about it and I felt I heard in my spirit that I was going to have a daughter and to name her Grace and she would be a gift and bring a season of favour into our lives.
We prayed until I conceived and it was a girl and she is perfect and we definitely need so much grace in this season with our 2 year old having some developmental delay challenges. Grace has been such a blessing. I named her Grace because I was never able to get pregnant before. I finally settled down with a man that loves me beyond words and I truly believe God was showing me His Grace when I got pregnant with her.
When my husband and I first started dating 10 years ago, we had a random conversation about what baby names we liked. We both immediately said if either of us ever had a baby girl, we would name her Grace. Flash forward to 9 years later, after we were married and found out we were expecting a baby girl of our own, there was no question about what we would name her! So, my hubby came up with the inspirational idea to combine 2 of them into one name. Like many people, we mostly had Grace planned as a middle name, because we felt it was too popular of a name.
But I was But everything worked out with such beauty and support from the universe, that we had this moment almost 2 weeks after having her and the pressure was on to get her name figured out where we tearfully discussed the miracle of the whole process of having her, and we realized she WAS Grace! It fits her perfectly and I love having her have a name with meaning.
Grace is our second daughter. She is almost 6.
She has a fire in her. She can be stubborn too. She has a more subtle sweet side. Some day she may take over the world… or at least run a household efficiently. Her middle name is Michelle. Your email address will not be published. Starts With. Ends With.