Portland

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Portland

 
By Melissa Tawn
 
A sweet story of two transsexuals, one of whom is pregnant.


 
 

CHAPTER 1. ME

The day I had my sexual reassignment surgery it rained. It also rained the day before and the day after. That was no big deal. Portland, Oregon, is one of the rainiest cities in the United States and 1993 was considered a particularly wet year. The natives like to joke that if the sun ever shines in Oregon, you don’t tan — you rust. I believe them. Anyway, on a very wet day I took the final step into my transition. I was now as close to being all-woman as I could get, at least until somebody perfects womb transplants.

The operation took place on a Thursday, which at least provided a happy end to a week which started out as dismal as the weather. I was informed by email that the departmental tenure committee had turned down my application for tenure. The reason given was the number of my publications (admittedly pretty small) and the significance (admittedly pretty minor) of those which had appeared, as well as the (admittedly lukewarm) evaluations which I had received from my students. No tenure -- no contract extension! My employment with the university would terminate at the end of next month. A formal letter would be in the mail within a few days.

I had rather expected this, and so was not overly shocked. At least I was still employed by them when I underwent surgery, so the medical insurance plan could not back out of paying my bills. Bye-bye academia. I could, of course, try to get a job teaching at some community college or other lesser institution of purportedly-higher learning, but I first I would have to change all of my diplomas and other documents to match my new female identity. Was the hassle worth it? I doubted it.

So I stayed in Portland and looked for another job. That was 13 years ago, and I am still here. I am married now, and the mother of two beautiful girls. (No, I didn’t have a womb implant; I solved the ts-motherhood problem by marrying a wonderful man whom I had known almost from the beginning of my stay in Portland and who became a widower when his wife was killed in an unfortunate traffic accident, leaving him to take care of two babies under two years old whom he was totally unable to care for by himself. After ten years of marriage, we still grow more in love with each other every day.) I threw myself into the motherhood thing, serving on the board of the Peony Place Child Care Cooperative when the girls were enrolled there and later doing a stint as vice-president of the Meriwether Lewis Elementary School PTA when the girls moved on to there.

I am a mommy then, but I was never pregnant. I tried to live this part of a woman’s existence vicariously by finding a job as a saleslady in a branch of the Mommy-To-Be store for expectant mothers. This was about two years after my operation, and after I had tried several other jobs which either bored me to tears or which turned out to be unsuited to my personality or to my spending habits. I have been there ever since, and have risen to the post of branch manager. The executives of the chain are very happy with me, and wanted to have me take over the management of a larger store in Denver, but by then I was married and so I opted to stay in Portland, which I have grown to love — rainy weather included.

CHAPTER 2. KAREN

As one would expect, the vast majority of people who come into my store are young women in the early or middle stages of pregnancy. Sometimes they are accompanied by their husband or boyfriend. On occasion I get mothers, or even fathers, looking for a gift for a pregnant daughter. A few times I have even had children coming in wanting to buy something for their mother who told them that they were about to have yet another brother or sister. In these cases as a rule, the mother was usually an old customer of mine, so her size and preferences were on file on my computer.

One day, however, about half an hour before closing time, I had a most unusual customer. He was obviously a boy, though he was dressed in what seemed like girls’ jeans and a t-shirt sporting the name of a local rock band, as well as very gender-ambiguous sandals. He had long blond hair, well combed, but no makeup or nail polish. Silver rings adorned three of his fingers. He wasn’t carrying a purse, but had a small pastel-colored backpack, more likely to be worn by a girl than a boy. He started looking at some of the dresses, keeping his eyes down so as not to make eye-contact with me. Of course, I knew what was going on. I had been there myself, when I was his age. Somehow, I needed to make contact with him.

He had taken a red-and-white checked dress off of the rack and was looking at it with a vacant stare as I came over to him. “That is a very nice dress, it fits your coloration,” I said as I approached him. “Would you care to try it on?” He looked at me like he was about to drop the dress and run. “Don’t be scared, it is quite all right,” I reassured him. “It is unlikely that any more customers will be coming in at this hour.” I pointed out where the changing booths were. “Go ahead; I am sure you will be very pretty in it.” As he slowly went to one of the booths, I pointed out that on the bench in the booth there was a pillow he could attach around his belly with Velcro straps, to see how he would look once he started showing.

When he came out of the changing booth, his visage had altered completely. He was obviously very excited — though he tried to be outwardly calm — and his eyes showed the deep pleasure he was feeling. He looked at himself longingly in the mirror. “You look very pretty in that,” I said, “it becomes you.” I told him the price. When he looked a bit crestfallen, I quickly added, “Of course, for new customers we give a 25% discount on the first item, if you agree to be on our list to receive further sales information via SMS.” That made him feel better, and he said he would take the dress, and ducked back to get money out of his backpack. I started entering his information into the computer. When I asked him his name, he obviously hesitated. “It doesn’t have to be the name on your driver’s license, hon,” I reassured him. “I just need some name I can call you by.” “You can call me Karen,” he said in a low voice. “Fine, Karen,” I answered. “I am Helen. I am sure that you will find many interesting things in the store. But I have to close now, so it will have to wait until next time. Please come back soon.”

He started to go to change his clothes, but I stopped him. “You look so beautiful in your new dress,” I said, “why not keep it on?” He looked in the mirror and sighed. “Oh, you can keep the pillow, if that is what you are worried about,” I reassured him. “The chain sends me many more of those than I actually need.” He ducked back into the changing booth to get his things, and I folded his jeans and put them in a bag with our store’s logo in bright red on it.

As I let him out and locked up the store, I reiterated that I hoped I would see him again soon, and that if he ever needed my help in anything, I would be glad to be there.

I hoped that Karen would return, but I was not positive. It was very pleasing, therefore, to see her (from now on, I am going to use feminine pronouns in speaking about her; it is more appropriate) again four days later, a Saturday, again just before closing time. She was not wearing the dress she had bought, but again was in girl’s jeans and, this time, a more-obviously girly top. She had also applied lipstick and some minimal makeup, and was carrying a plastic bag which, as it turned out, contained the belly pillow I had given her last time. This time, she was interested in buying some maternity jeans, and felt much more at home in the store. She tried on several pair, before settling on a very sexy one that accentuated both her long legs and (with pillow in place), her obvious pregnancy. I also suggested a maternity t-shirt to go with them. It was pink, and on the lower front — the part that covered her bump — was a big black question mark.

I was in no hurry to go home that evening, since my husband had taken the girls to visit his parents in Eugene and would not be back until Sunday evening. I couldn’t accompany them, of course, because I had to be in the store. As I locked up, I therefore asked Karen if she would like to join me for a bite to eat at a nearby restaurant. She nodded in agreement and we went down the street, with her wearing her new jeans (and, of course, her belly pillow). When we came to the restaurant, a young woman who was just leaving held the door open for her, looking admiringly at her bump. She smiled, and I could feel the pure happiness she must have been experiencing. For a transsexual, having her apparent pregnancy envied by a genetic woman is an unbelievable high.

When we sat down in a booth, far away from the other patrons, I asked her to tell me about herself. She looked down and said nothing. “Look, Karen,” I said soothingly. “When I was your age, I was in your position … exactly in your position. I know how it feels. I was lucky then that I had an older woman whom I was able to open up to, and I would be honored if you would allow me to be such a woman for you.” Karen looked at me in disbelief. “But you are married and have children; I saw the picture next to the cash register.” (On the wall next to the register I have a framed photo of my husband and me, together with our two girls. I have found from experience that it lends a maternal atmosphere to the store and puts many of the clients at ease when they talk about their hopes and fears — all of which leads to more sales.) “You can be there too, when you are my age, if you just want,” I assured her. “Later, if you wish, I will tell you all about it.”

And so, for the next hour, we exchanged life stories. Karen (born Kenneth), was a faculty brat, the sole child of two members of the Reed College faculty: her father was a Professor of French Literature and her mother was a Professor of Sociology. She had been born and raised in Portland. Despite her parents’ high educational and intellectual level, they were not able to understand, nor cope with, their son’s transsexual feelings. As both of them were very busy playing the academic oneupsmanship game (to which I, in my previous life, was never able to devote enough attention) they tended to leave her to her own devices. Somehow they acquiesced to the fact that she wore girls’ jeans and sandals or boots (or maybe never noticed the difference) but gave her no encouragement or support. Other than the maternity dress she bought from me, she had no dresses or skirts.

Karen finished high school with a scholastic average good enough to get into most colleges, but preferred to take a year off to “find herself” before continuing her education. At the moment, she worked as a clerk in a used-book store (and was usually called “ma’am” or “young lady” by the customers, to her great delight). She had recently befriended Selene, a girl who worked in a beauty parlor two doors down from the bookstore, and who was teaching Karen the basics of proper feminine hair care and makeup techniques. However, since Karen still lived with her parents, she still did not dare to wear any noticeable makeup around the house, though she could get by with mascara if it were not too obvious. She had no contact with transgender support groups, and was afraid to get involved with the one on campus, since its faculty advisor was a colleague and close friend of her mother.

Pregnancy had always fascinated her, and was an integral part of her female self-image. When I asked her if she ever planned to go “the whole way” and have sexual reassignment surgery, her answer was that there was no point in it, since she still could never get pregnant. When I told her about how she could still experience the joys of motherhood, as I had, she was unconvinced. To her, carrying the baby was the crux, not caring for it after it came out into the world.

3. PREGNANT KAREN

I saw Karen frequently over the next two months. She now wore her belly pillow constantly, except when she went back home. In fact, I was able to get her a better one, which had a zipper in the back so that more stuffing could be inserted as the pregnancy progressed. She bought several pairs of jeans and tops to go with them, as well as more maternity dresses. She told me that her boss at the bookstore was very understanding about her pregnancy (he knew, of course, that she was not really pregnant but apparently felt that it would be best to go with the fantasy) and would not let her lift boxes of books or even climb the ladder to fetch rarely-needed books from the upper shelves. Her lessons with Selene were clearly bearing fruit, and she now made herself up quite well. Of course, the makeup and the belly all came off before she returned home at the end of the day, but she was seriously considering renting a room of her own and moving out of her parents’ home. In fact, her mother had hinted that the experience of living by herself would be good for her social development, and offered to pay half of the rent. She had not introduced Selene to her parents, but did hint that she had a girlfriend who worked in the city.

We met quite often, and shared experiences. I told her about my transition and about the joy of raising my daughters. She told me that she hoped to be able to “go all the way” also one day. One day, I asked her what her plans were in two months time. She didn’t understand where the question was coming from. “Look Karen,” I said, “pregnancies do not go on indefinitely. By the look of you, you are in your seventh month now. In two months or so, everybody is going to ask where the baby is.”

She hadn’t really thought of that, or even worked out some sort of a story. So we considered several alternatives and finally decided that, since she was unmarried, the best story would be that she decided to “give the baby up for adoption” as soon as it was born. When her time came, she would go out of town for a week, and come back “after”, with a suitable story about how she handed over the baby to a very nice couple, who would love it and take care of it.

As the last two months wore on, I could see that Karen was less and less satisfied with this course of action. Several times, she cried that she could not possibly give up her baby. Then she would calm down and realize that, of course, there was no real baby. It was very very difficult for her. However, when the time came, she told her parents she was going to visit a friend in San Francisco for a week or two. I took her to the bus station and kissed her goodbye.

She didn’t come back.

4. AFTERMATH

The above tale was written three years ago. For all of those years, I worried about Karen. It was almost as though she was another of my daughters. Then, one day, she suddenly appeared in the store. We hugged and kissed, and she told me her story. When she went to San Francisco, she met several other transsexuals and had decided to stay with them. She got a job as a librarian in a city library and the health care plan provided to municipal employees covered her SRS operation. She was now legally a woman. Moreover, she had met a very sweet and understanding man, with whom she had recently started living. They planned to get married shortly, and she had come to Portland to let me be the first to know. As I hugged her tightly, I felt her belly and looked down. Sure enough, she appeared to be four months pregnant.



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