Today’s nothing very special in terms of the history books, and that’s just as well. It’s special for me, though, for a reason as personal as it gets — today marks the 10-year anniversary since I took my first dose of estrogen.
I still remember the day, the place, the simplicity of the moment itself. Me, a musty office on the east side of town, a friendly doctor. He asked a few questions, agreed to go with my initial plan to start out at the lowest dose possible, agreed to regular check-ins and check-ups. That all said, laid out, I had what I needed: A prescription. Pills to pop and propel me toward an improbable future.
Getting even that far was an adventure worth remembering fondly. My medicine man came recommended by a sex worker I’d met and befriended in the huddled collection of shabby clubs on Half Street, down on Washington’s grimy southeast side. The Nationals’ new ballpark has long since erased the site of this crumbling gay ghetto down on Buzzard’s Point. It was populated by night spots like Ziegfeld’s and Secrets and the scuzzier spots that, even if they had names, were best forgotten. Like a piece of tarnished tinsel left over from a party in the ’70s that hadn’t remembered to end, this little strip of run-down clubs had been my weekend world for more than a year, and I loved them deeply as my parallel world, the world where I gained confidence as myself as I took longer and longer breaks from being Chris of old.
I loved these places for the escape they’d provided, of course, but I love the memory of them still more for the launching pad they provided me. And having made friends there, asking the right questions of the right (and a few wrong) people, having done my homework, 10 years ago today I was ready to take the next big step: Launching my transition, beginning my painstakingly researched and planned-out move to achieve my move the gender I belonged in. Thinking back on it I know that D.C. made me; not the sunny side of Washington up by Foggy Bottom or Georgetown or Bethesda. No, whether by choice or instinct, I was shaped by the seedier side of town, by nightclubs and the night’s folk. I was helped by people on the wrong side of the tracks, and I still believe I’m the better for it; D.C.’s trans community guided me with a care and consideration I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to properly repay, but because I learned about their lives, I learned a lot about where I wanted to steer my own.
So 10 years on, let me thank everyone who helped along the way. Thanks to the drag queens, dealers, escorts and patrons, barkeeps, weekend lotharios and late-night lookers, the wonderful people of Ziegfeld’s and Secrets. You didn’t have to help a white girl from the ‘burbs, but you did. To Taylor, Gigi, Billie, but most of all to my three regular partners in crime — Jim the disco economist, Joel the real estate diva, and lost, ill-fated Franklin — thank you. I’ve come this far because you were generous enough of spirit to help someone taking her first tentative steps into a happier future, and look out for me when I put my foot wrong.
Speaking of the lost, your absence is a cruel example I wish I’d been able to avoid. But to the two who were murdered in 2004, and the four who’ve died since — driven by despair to make your own exit — I remember you. Putting a tattoo of Sleipnir (Odin’s steed to travel between the worlds of the living and the dead) on my left wrist was perhaps an overly theatrical gesture, but as a result not a day passes that I do not know what it stands for, and who has been taken from us. None of you should be gone today, but my hope was and is that this constant reminder of your absence animates something more than mourning; it demands action to help others, to pay forward the benefits of the wisdom and experience I was given.
Let also me thank my friends and co-workers at Brassey’s, where I worked at the time, 10 years ago. Starting with telling my closest girlfriends in the office — Jen, Dorothy and Alex, one after another — then my boss and then my assistant, all in a planned-out order, to universal surprise, but with universal support, I could not have done it without you. In retrospect, I could not have been more fortunate in terms of co-workers to come out to.
I must also thank my friends, partners & compadres at Baseball Prospectus, because almost to a man you proved willing to accept an unexpected surprise and keep building something as wonderful as BP with me as one of your teammates. You were challenged to demonstrate a brand of everyday courage that not everybody has, or expects to have to prove. You had it, and it is perhaps cause for embarrassment that you have never publicly been given your due, as stand-up guys and as friends. Gary and Dave, Kevin and Clay, Joe and Steven, David and Jay, both Johns, Nate, Jonah, Keith, Kathy, and Steph, and more besides, thank you. I am where I am professionally, happy and successful, in no small part because you were all brave at the outset.
Finally, let me thank my family. Having handed you a fait accompli, understanding and acceptance did not come all at once, but it didn’t need to. In the words of Grandma Kay on the day I told her of the shape of things to come, “I love you just the same.” That we all — save her — are here 10 years later, is no small cause for additional joy.
Thinking about it, I don’t really know or expect that I’ll note the completion of the next decade, or the next. In the words of the great philosopher Popeye, I am what I am, myself as I would have asked for had I known to ask Santa sooner. Even in my anxiety dreams that pull me back to some past horror — I’m forced to go back to take a high school German exam in Frau Dangerfield’s classroom, lest I lose my job or my master’s degree — I am as I am now, as if the subconscious were a willing accomplice with the active present.
But what I do know is this: That this first decade was a gift, and not one I gave myself. Instead, this time, this happiness, was created in no small part by you, by the collective efforts of friends and colleagues from every walk of life. The least I can do is try to repay it now and then, now and in every forever yet to come.