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Many people have few regrets, me, I have tons. By the way the name my parents stuck me with is George Thomas Wolfe. Horrible, right? They really must have wanted a boy. What they got was me and I’m not a boy but I play one on TV (when it’s my 15 minutes of fame, right?) and unfortunately every day of my life. But the name that I really want to be called is Joanna. One reason that it’s infrequent for me to be called Joanna is that it is infrequent that I have a female gender presentation and I’m being Joanna..
I’m the one who seemed to peak in high school. While I would never have been voted most likely to succeed, I could have if only I had made the right choices. It seems that what ever was best for me, I always did the opposite. I went to a prestigious college after high school and flunked out. I had chances to get my life going right after that but I seemed to keep sabotaging myself.
After I flunked out of college, I went to work at a retail pharmacy. I still work there as a merchandise manager or a glorified stock clerk. I know the entire store and have even been trained in house as a pharmacy assistant but I’ve always been passed up for even assistant manager much less manager.
With a less demanding job, longevity gave me plenty of paid time off and free time that I could depend on. While I could be filling for relief in at almost any counter in the store, even cosmetician, there were few times that anything urgent happened in my job. My free time was plentiful and dependable.
There’s no easy way to say this. I’m a Trekkie. Being somewhat of an ‘alien’ myself I really connected with their 'infinite diversity in infinite combinations philosophy. That brought me to science fiction Conventions and the fan club tables. After considering the possibility of joining a fan club over a period of three years of conventions, I finally joined one of the Starfleet International ships in Atlanta, the USS Pleiades.
There were a couple of things that I like about being a member of the USS Pleiades. First was that it was named for the Seven Sisters . And second, the captain of the USS Pleiades was a transwoman named Tina. She knew that even though I was too timid to permanently transition that I like to cross dress on Halloween and conventions. She’s okay with that and so are the rest of the USS Pleiades crew.
The big convention in Atlanta each year is Dragon*Con and our club booked a couple of motel rooms for us to stay in during the convention. However a glitch in booking meant that for this year we were going to stay at a hotel at the airport. We had transportation to the convention figured out without driving downtown since we could get a shuttle to get us to the airport and from the airport We could take MARTA’s rapid rail to the Peachtree Center station where the convention was being held.
I’d gotten dropped off at a MARTA Station and ridden MARTA to the airport. I had to wait for Tina or Nadine to arrive so I took a seat in the Delta area to wait for a call to find out where to meet them to go over to the motel. I’d not been there long with my luggage along side me including a feminine pink suitcase where Joanna’s clothes were packed. An attractive woman came from the direction of the MARTA station with short black hair dressed professionally all in white and came right to the bench where I was seated.
”May I sit here with you? My name is Naadiah.””
”Yes, of course Naadiah. My name is George, George Thomas Wolfe.”
”I’m waiting for a call from my partner. She’s supposed to be meeting me here and we are going to be flying back to Toronto together. “
”That’s great. I’m also waiting for a call from the Captain of the USS Pleiades.”
”I’m hoping you mean the president of the fan club where you are a member.”
“Yeah, her name is Tina and she’s great. Our ship is going to be staying together at a motel at the Airport and riding MARTA to Dragon*Con each day.”
On cue Naadiah’s phone rang. “Excuse me please while I take this.”
I was quiet while she talked softly into her phone. While I did not overhear much, I could tell that the news wasn’t good by the way that Naadiah was frowning. She finished with a smile and then turned back to me.
”That was my partner. An emergency has come up and she won’t be able to meet me here. I was looking forward to spending my time with her today.”
”How long before your flight?”
”Eight hours. Perhaps we might spend some of that together?”
”I’d like that, Naadiah. At least until I have to go to my motel. I certainly will look forward to getting rid of my luggage..”
”I’d imagine that you have some interesting stories behind your luggage, especially that pink suitcase.”
”That suitcase contains clothes for my alter ego Joanna. I’m a transwoman so I need chances for female gender expression. This is a good time for me between Dragon*Con, Halloween and the transgender convention, Southern Comfort. I’ve never been strong enough to just let Joanna out permanently so these times have been what kept me same but as time goes on it’s not enough.”
”Why do you think that you can’t make the breakthrough of letting go of your male persona?”
”Choices that I’ve made and that have been made for me all have made me a coward to deal with something even as important to my life as this. What people think about me is way too important to me . Survival by attempting to blend in by avoiding those who will use violence towards someone different. In America, my birth condition isn’t taken seriously in medicine and the treatment we need is only available to those who can pay full price for it without insurance.”.
< p>”Can you tell me about some of those choices?”
”From early childhood, I knew that I was different but it wasn’t until puberty when my body rebelled against my mind and openly started displaying male characteristics that it dawned on me that the difference was that I was really a girl and everyone was trying to cast me in the role of a boy. I could have expressed those differences but I learned to get along by going along with the role that they had picked out for me. Instead of being true to who I was, I covered it up so that I could avoid ridicule and persecution at home and at school.”
”And if you had a chance to do it over?”
”I would have told them and got it over. I may have had to go further undercover like what happened later but I would have at least had some chance before I’d faked it for so long to let them know from an earlier age that it was real.”
”I learned in Junior High Biology how puberty worked and that there were others like me who had taken charge of their life and through hormone replacement and surgery became the people they were inside on the outside. I was too afraid to initiate telling my parents about who I truly was for fear of their reaction. Daddy reacted violently when ever I would slip and my girl self showed. It was easier to put it off than to face it and the consequences.”
”So this would have been another chance to tell them earlier instead of your covering up being revealed. Next?”
”The summer before Junior High, I had earned spending money cutting grass and walked alone to the store 2 miles away and bought a shirt dress and put it on under my male clothes and walked home. I made the mistake of washing the dress in the washing machine and my mother discovered it. I tried to explain that I was really a girl and a girl was entitled to wear a dress. When Daddy came home he yelled at me for my ‘perversion’, forbid me to do it again and then gave me a beating on my behind with his belt. I wanted to have better explained the realness of being trans to my parents when they caught me and that not dressing as a woman would not solve anything but make me search for other outlets but I just kept quiet.”
”So a different tact, go after their reaction rather than their disapproval to mitigate the effect. What else?”
”There were times when my own problems and discomforts led me not to use my female perspective on how girls react to things. I didn’t want to have a relationship with a girl since I was a girl myself. What I failed to consider is that the non macho way I conducted myself made me very safe boyfriend material for a girl who was doubting her own self. I wish that I would have talked with Dee Dee, the Junior High cheerleader, instead of about her in expressing my discomfort of being the object ofher public attention by saying hurtful things publicly”
”What you really would have liked was for her to see beyond the façade and still want you to be her girlfriend. Next?”
”I would have liked to take the chance to have come out as Joanna to my Grandmother the summer I spent in the lawnmower shop with my Grandfather in Brunswick. I’ll never get the chance now since all my grandparents died a few years ago.”
“That must be really tough to never be able to show her who you really are inside. What else?”
”I wish I could have made better use of confessing being trans to my HS counselor so that I could have been helped. I know that they could do only so much without getting my parents okay but I would have like to stretch to the edge what help that they could have given me.
”You see yourself as not taking full advantage of the limited help that you received, but one must be ready to act on that help and we can’t do that until we are ready to take even bolder steps. Go on?”
”I’m ashamed of having taken the hard bible thumping line with a girl wanting to be chaplain for a club. It was all about Dad’s voice in my head quoting that scripture about women being silent in church. That’s nonsense of course and when properly interpreted it was clear that Paul was giving that as an example instead of a hard and fast law. In the giving the example itself he was breaking a hard and fast law where the women could not be present in church at all. Above all I should have support Beth knowing I was really a girl too.”
”I had a chance to blow the lid of the secrecy about my being female, when I was discovered buying a dress by an unknown sibling. I should have told both of my brothers no matter which of them was the one to see me the truth in the open. Keeping secrets has poisoned our family (keeping it in the family) and it has become a wedge that broke us farther and farther apart.”
”Secrets like that have been known as symptoms of a dysfunction. They let shame multiply and become a great obstacle to healing the hurts that lie within. Is there more?”
”I wish that I would have moved out of my parents house once I had a job so that I would not have had that commitment to keep things under cover. Without the having to do things in secret I could have pursued being whole.”
”Just making the hard decision to leave the security of being in with your parents would have signaled that you were ready to do other things that were difficult for you to do. Others?”
”The time that I spent away from home in college where they were not going to immediately report me to my parent that I was truant or skipping class. I should have realized that completing college would have given me options to have escaped my parents influence for good. With that escape from bondage, I could have the means to deal with the trans issue for real instead of hiding it in fantasy. Instead I skipped class just rebelling against what I was supposed to be doing.
”Any other regrets about what you did in college?”
'I wish that I would have only used the computer in my school work and not let it interfere with College. When I learned to program, I loved to play games and I loved to program games. Then I met Richmond who was a games programmer for the Textile Engineering’s programs they let High School students play to get them interested in Textile Engineering instead of a prestigious major like EE.
”But that wasn’t all?”
”I spent as much time I should have been in class programming games as I was off wondering about aimlessly in search of knowledge a gender therapist would have at her disposal. If only I would have chosen to go to class instead of skipping class to do research being trans on my own instead of getting a gender therapist.
”But you did find counsel of a sort?”
”I would have liked to have chosen a real therapist in college instead of ’Suzy the Psychic'. She was sympathetic and could see into my inner being to know and accept me as a female. But she had problems of her own and she just was not equipped to aid me in my journey towards wholeness. She was just a detour on that road.
”Was there anything else during College?”
”I wish that I would have never gotten involved with Mags romantically. I guess what I really wanted was to as a girl be a girlfriend. I was never attracted to her sexually but I got really attached by our closeness. It was only on false pretense that courting her would first throw others including my parents off by my appearing to take the role expected of a male and in the back of my mind I held out some hope that it might cure me being a transgirl even though now I know that that’s not possible.”
”But that was not the end of it?”
”Eventually, she figured out that our relationship was not real, even though she did not reveal me as being really a girl too and she broke up with me. Instead of learning that I should not court a girl on false pretence I got involved with Thea on the rebound from my breakup from Mags. I finally had her end it too when I confessed to her that I felt like I was a former transgirl and that I had been cured. She dropped me as a result of my confession. I know now that it was a false confession since I know now that no one ever gets over being a transwoman.
”I wish that I had confessed sooner to my pharmacist friend about my desire to take hormones and to pursue getting help to transition from that point. Instead of destroying the out of date hormone samples in the stockroom, I self medicated knowing that even with their not having full potency the drugs still worked only a little weaker than their printed strengths. It was the best of times since it terminated my already suspended male puberty and sent me into a female puberty. I had all the signs but I ran out of my supply so my changes stopped.
”That must have been distressing for you but even the strain of stopping suddenly did not get you to publicly seek the means to transition?”
”Not to this day. I have to express myself but if I do so in ways like Dragon*Con, it’s been enough so that I have not reached the crisis that I understand is coming where I won’t be able to live a lie. By waiting till then a lot of people in my situation just commit suicide. I’d like a chance to make it easier for me to do the right thing without doing it in front of so many disapproving eyes.”
”George / Joanna Wolfe, would you like to change your life? In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity. – Albert Einstein “
”Yes. Yes I really would, Naadiah. But how can I do that?”
”You admit that you are in a dead end job which you could pick up the equivalent anywhere. Your birth family shuns you. You have some nice acquaintances but no real friends. And where you are now with the people who do know you, you are too afraid to transition. Even if you were to transition the medical system makes it very difficult to get the full treatment you’ll need to lead a normal life. So drop everything and come with me to Toronto. I’ll get my partner’s ticket issued for you. You can get a passport with a same day ticket, before the flight. I’ll help you in Toronto get a job and a place to stay. All you have to do is let go of your life here”.
”What if I get to Toronto and even with the change of venue and promise of medical support, I still can’t transition?”
”Even allowing your self to hit rock bottom in the attempt will be progress instead of playing it safe. Here in Atlanta, the phoenix rising from the ashes is a symbol you are familiar. In Toronto if all else fails you could be that phoenix, Joanna.”
”So it is to be a fresh start?. Leave now with just what I have packed? Leave Dragon*Con behind, quit my job, cancel my room agreement, have someone do a yard sale and sell or donate all my stuff? Isn’t that a bit extreme?”
”How are you going to face your challenges, with having an easy escape?”
”Naadiah, I’ll do it. I’ll call Tina to tell her, I won’t be attending Dragon*Con. Maybe Tina will agree to help me sell my stuff out of the room I have been renting and sell my car. I’ll call and tell my house mate that I’m moving out immediately. I’ll call and tell my work that I’m quitting.”
”Right, George. I feel that everything I need to get the ticket changed is on your ID. Please let me borrow it?”
”Of course.” I pulled out my wallet, extracted my ID, and handed it to Naadiah.
”Thank you, George. While you watch our luggage, I’m going to see about getting this other ticket changed into your name . Once that is done we can check our luggage and see about getting you the documents you’ll need in order to get through security and on the plane with me.”
”Okay, Naadiah. Thanks.”
Naadiah left to go to the Delta service counter and I got out my phone and began to make some calls. The toughest one would be to Tina who came the closest I had of having a friend.
”Hi Tina, this is George. I’m not going to attend Dragon*Con and instead I’m going to fly to Toronto with this lady that I just met, Naadiah for free. She’s promised to help me get a job and a place to stay there. With no one there knowing me and being able to become eligible for medical help the only obstacle to my transitioning will be me.”
”Are you sure you can trust her, Jo Jo? Are you ready to just up and go like that?”
”For the first time in my life, I believe that I really am ready. Listen, come and meet her and talk with her. If you get a bad vibe off her then I’ll cut my losses and stay, if you don’t will you sell or donate my stuff here in my room and sell my car and send me the money?”
”I’d hate for you to quit your job and cancel your room anyway but you’ll have Dragon*Con to get them back or find others. Okay, I’ll meet her and if I get the same vibe from her that you do then I’ll gladly sell your stuff and send you the proceeds.”
”Thanks so much Tina, you are a true sister to me. We may be in the International Terminal by the time that you get here. Just call either when you get here or if you can’t make it within the next 4 hours. I’ll hold up going through security till then.”
”Okay, Jo Jo. Checking on you won’t take long and I have to be at the airport anyway to get to the motel. I’ll be able to be there long before your deadline but I’m not sure when yet. I’ll call you when I get to the airport. Bye Bye.”
”Bye Tina, thanks.”
The call to my house mate and to my boss both went thru quicker without any questions. They both understood that picking up and moving to Canada was a big adventure. They both let me have a Dragon*Con cooling off period before the terminations became final. They both asked for an email after Labor Day weekend letting them know if I really went thru with it to finalize the terminations.
Naadiah came walking up and handed a ticket to Toronto in my name and my ID to me. She smiled back as she saw the grin on my face as I accepted them from her. She also gave me some print outs of instructions for International flights.
”Here are your ticket and ID, George. You might like to scan this document for what you’ll need to do to get thru security. Of your luggage, anything that can’t be shipped on the plane , we can mail to my address in Toronto. You’ll want to select what you want as a carry on and repack it with the things you’ll need for the flight and your first day. If you don’t have a personal item pack like in the regulations we can buy one for you in one of the airport shops and throw away what you packed for yourself for the weekend.”
”That’s a lot to do, I’d best get started getting me sorted”
”Great George! Once we get our bags checked here, we’ll need to go to the International Terminal to get your passport sorted.”
”Okay, Naadiah, thanks.”
I went through the documents and found that my trek items which I wanted to hold onto would pass luggage inspection. I had to dispose of my personal items and either get some at the airport or once we landed in Toronto. I had one bag which was carry on sixe which I repacked with the things I wanted for the trip and the next day. I let Naadiah know I was ready and we both took our luggage to be checked.
”How did you do, George in finishing up things here?”
”I resigned my job, canceled my room and canceled me going to Dragon*Con. Tina has agreed to help me sell my belongings and car but she wants to meet you first. I guess she is a better friend than I thought since she is both happy for me and concerned for me. It would help her to meet you so she can feel more confident that I’m doing the right thing.”
”I’m glad to meet your friend, George. We’d better get going to the International Terminal to get the paperwork out of the way.”
We did everything that was needed for me to get on the plane with Naadiah. In the beginning I feel that we both were confused about what was required. I was assured by the official we met that what resulted was sufficient. I might have to do more paperwork in Toronto should I decide to overstay the terms of my paperwork but that was something that could be worked out.
Tina phoned when she arrived and she followed my directions to the place that we would be waiting for her in the International Terminal. After a little while she was walking up and I began to introduce her to Naadiah.
”Naadiah this is my trek friend, Tina. Tina this is my new friend, Naadiah.”
”Naadiah, I’m delighted to meet you. Jo Jo doesn’t open up often and I’m really glad that she’s found a receptive friend in you. “
”Likewise, Tina. Joanna thinks very highly of you even to deferring to your request to get to know me. Of course it is a proper request since I’ve only just met Joanna but I assure her that all I want to do is give her a chance for her to catch that dream that she’s been chasing her entire life. But it is only a chance, and the result that she has is up to what she puts into it. I pledge to facilitate what ever efforts she makes as well as making sure that she has a roof over her head and the means to support herself.”
”There is a very truthful aspect to you, Naadiah. I like that you don’t give guarantees since life doesn’t have any guarantees. Jo Jo has mucked up the rest of the chances that she’s been given so I hope she’s ready to grab hold of this one with both hands and hold on!”
”I am, Tina. I really am running to something instead of running away from my failures.“
There is a difference between running to something and running away from something. And the only way one knows the difference is what one does when they arrive.”
”Okay, Naadiah. I trust you with Jo Jo. You may not guarantee results but you seem to have her best interest at heart.”
”Thank you Tina for being such a good friend to Joanna.”
”Jo Jo, what do you want me to do?”
”Please Tina, take my house and car keys. If you could sell or donate the contents of my room and sell my car, I would love you forever. Oh right, I already do. Anyway, once you’ve done that, please email me at [email protected]. I’ll let you know what do to send me the funds. I will have set up a paypal account or something.”
”Okay sweetie, I’ll do it.”
Tina took my keys and I felt like she had lifted a burden from me. She smothered me in a hug and broke it with a kiss on my cheek
”Jo Jo, and Naadiah, I’d love to wait with you to see you off but I have loads to do with the convention and the room. Jo Jo, do me proud! Take care of her Naadiah. Second star to the right and straight on till morning.”
Somehow we had ended up at the beginning to the security check point so Naadiah went thru first. I looked back at a smiling Tina waving to me and then turned to follow Naadiah into the unknown country (for me at least).