Friday, March 21, 2008

Thinking About My Ex

Today would have been the 45th birthday for my ex-girlfriend Glenda.

She was the last person I dated before I transitioned, and I find myself thinking about her from time to time even though she's been deceased for seven years. We had a rocky, contentious relationship that put a major chill on our friendship for a while when it ended.

It was 1991 and I had reached a crossroads in my life. The only time I was dressing in male clothes at this point was either to visit family or go to work. I was kicking myself for letting another crossroads opportunity slip by when I was 19. As the 80's gave way to the 90's I had come to the conclusion I'd made a big mistake.

Enter Glenda. She and I were co-workers once upon a time, and I was feeling the heavy breath of my rapidly approaching big 3-0 birthday the next year. She entered my life at the time I was seriously wrestling with the 'do I or don't I pull the trigger on transition' question. She didn't know I was dealing with that issue since I kept it hidden from all except a few carefully chosen few people.

As I mentioned in my Valentine's day post, I was trying to avoid getting entangled in romantic relationships, but basically what happened to me is what Miriam Makeba said about the subject in her 1987 book 'My Story'.

Love has never cared about my schedule. It just barges in whenever it wants.

And it kicked the door down in this case.

One of the things that was causing the hesitation was that I was not only working in a place where I was surrounded by beautiful, college educated sistahs, I was getting increased romantic attention from those same sistahs. They saw my college educated happily single childless and gainfully employed self as marriage material.

I knew that once I began transition, that I was taking a 'good brother' as they saw me off the market forever. I began to wonder if I was doing everything possible to be a 'guy', and felt that maybe the key to some of my troubles was that I was avoiding romantic entanglements.

And I had to admit that Glenda had a lot of the qualities "the Twin' was looking for. She was a PK, intelligent (we both went to UH at the same time but didn't cross paths there), a sports fanatic, breathtakingly beautiful with supermodel looks, was proud of and cognizant of our history, and was just short of six feet tall at 5'11" with long, shapely legs.

But at the time I was gradually making moves to begin transition and had even started taking hormones. I tried to keep our interactions at 'just friends' level but she wanted more.

Then love barged in and we spent the next two tumultuous years together. The relationship got off to a rocky start because she wasn't honest about being a divorced mother with a teenage child, I didn't tell her about my gender issues and both of us found out about the other's big secret AFTER we fell into bed.

Long story short, two years later the relationship collapsed. When you wake up looking at a woman with a caramel brown complexion so flawless she only wore lipstick and mascara and barely wore makeup, has a curvy 38-25-38 body that allows her to wear a burlap sack and make it look fashion forward and sexy, and you have you own gender issues it breeds jealously.

She had her own demons and insecurities, exacerbated by her desires to have another child with 'The Twin' as the baby daddy. It also doesn't help your own sense of femininity if you're dating someone who also looks as good wearing a dress and heels as you do and you are occasionally borrowing panty hose from the 'brother' you want to father your next child.

When we broke up I came home from work that evening to find out she'd walked with half the stuff in my apartment, including a stereo that I'd owned since the early 80's that had sentimental value for me. I'd bought it from earnings with my first job. She'd also slashed my uniform jackets. It guaranteed that the bitterness I harbored over all the arguments, lack of closure and the night she swung a glass Coke bottle at my head (and fortunately missed) wouldn't go away for a while.

But I do have to give her credit. Being with Glenda wasn't all bad, it was fun at times. She was affectionate and loving when she wanted to be, she gave me a run for my money when we fired off sports trivia questions at each other, and had a wild sense of humor. After she discovered my stash of femme clothes early in our relationship and point blank called me on my transgender issues, she helped me with my presentation and makeup issues, got me more comfortable in going out in the big cruel world out there, went on a few forays into Montrose with me, and basically told me on numerous occasions (even though she was less than pleasant about it when she said it during one argument) that I was more feminine than she was.

That relationship also emphatically drove home the point that I was on the wrong side of the gender fence and needed to correct it ASAP.

The Cold War between us lasted until 1998. One day Glenda surprised me by pulling me aside in the crew lounge and told me that she was sorry for all the negative things that happened during our relationship. She said she missed our friendship and wanted to repair it. I discovered that some of her co-workers blamed her for my transition and were giving her the cold shoulder as a result. It took us a while, but we eventually got back to the communication and friendship level we were at before our ill-fated relationship.

I remember the last time I saw her like yesterday. It was Thursday, March 15, 2001 and I was getting my hair done at Sadat's shop when she walked in. We exchanged greetings and then she asked me to give her a hug, which I did.

She proceeded to tell me that she was having pain in her abdomen area, had it checked out by a doctor friend of hers but he couldn't find anything wrong. I told her she needed to get a second opinion. She said she was planning to see another doctor after she flew a two day trip she had scheduled starting the next day.

That Sunday night something told me to call her, but I changed my mind and decided I'd call Glenda on her birthday which was coming Tuesday.

I never got the opportunity to deliver that birthday greeting. Monday night I received a tearful phone call from her homegirl DeAndria informing me that she was dead. She'd been found collapsed on the bathroom floor of her apartment and the subsequent autopsy confirmed what I suspected was wrong when I talked to her in the shop.

Her appendix ruptured.

I didn't go to the funeral. I was still reeling from my involuntary separation from the airline after 14 years a month earlier (which I found out later was initiated by a right-wing Republican state legislator) and wasn't ready to face all my former co-workers yet who were traveling to her hometown for the funeral.

There are days when I think about her, I wonder if she'd still be alive if I'd followed my instincts and called her on that fateful Sunday night.

One of these days when I go back home I'll travel there, head to the cemetery where she's resting and say my goodbyes.


belledame222 said...


my condolences.

thanks for telling her/your story.

Polar said...

The people we meet along the pathways of our lives, shape us in ways we can not know at the time.

Glenda challenged you, and forced you to choose what fork in the road to take. She altered your perspectives and took you to class. She's one of the people who've passed through your life who've made you what you are. Still, obviously had a kid or two happened, you'd have been playing single mom after her passing. The Lord was looking out for you, just as He had other, higher, plans for Glenda.

Still, it is healthy to look back, without anger, on the people who've made us what we are. May she be with the Almighty, looking over your shoulder, and sweetly and softly reminding you when you've chosen the wrong shoes for that outfit, or have put on too much eye makeup. I'm sure she's saved similar comments for others in Heaven. She gave you a great gift - the gift of knowing that you were on the right path.

Monica Roberts said...

Over the years as time allows me to look back on it, I find myself focusing more on the fun times we had and some of the conversations we got into.