Below is the latest The Pain -- When Will It End?
I spent the last week in Wisconsin,
where I was nursing an old friend through recovery from gender reassignment
surgery. You think I'm making this up? I'm not. During this week I ordered
large room-service breakfasts, took powerful illicit perscription painkillers,
laughed so hard I wept, drank soft drinks I have never drunk or even heard
of before (Shasta, Sierra Mist, and something called Verner's Ginger Ale),
and witnessed things that would make lesser men run screaming from the room.
But by far the most disturbing things I saw that week were all on television,
which I lay and watched for hours for the first time in years, and which appalled
and infuriated and depressed me so deeply that it was necessary to drink an
entire fifth of Jameson's Irish wkiskey over the course of my stay. I actually
drew a cartoon about the horror of television (a viewer, who, like Oedipus,
has pulled out his own eyes), but in the end I decided it was more bitter
than funny and came up with this one instead.
Let me just say for the record that gender dysphoria is not a slippery slope
or a matter of degree. It's a very rare medical condition and you either have
it or you don't, and if the idea of having your penis filleted and turned
outside-in gives you any qualms at all you can go ahead and cross it off your
list of things to worry about. However, my experience out there did give me
occasion to let's say reexamine my preconceptions about gender and sexuality.
Like when I was obliged to rub moisturizing lotion on my friend's back after
she'd begun to turn into a lizard in an allergic reaction to her painkillers.
She reassured me that this would be okay because she was a woman now, but
I felt that at this moment my heterosexuality might be hanging by a slender
thread. I had to continually beg her not to show me her new breasts, with
which she was very pleased. In her hospital bed she peered down the front
of her shirt and admitted, "They're bigger than I thought they would
be." "Is that good?" I asked. She looked up at me and, with
a lascivious grin, gave me the double thumbs-up. "There's some man in
you yet," I told her. Eventually she flashed me in an elevator. I had
asked her to save her old testicles for me in a bottle of alcohol so I could
exhibit them in a home Gallery of Horrors, but she said she was too embarassed.
Manhood is a weirdly narrow and tenuous
status in this culture, and if you're anything other than a date-raping frat
boy in a backwards baseball cap or a moustachioed NASCAR fan with an SUV it
seems like you're constantly tiptoeing through a minefield of threats to it.
I remember how as a boy anything from sitting the wrong way (legs crossed)
to wearing the wrong shoes (fishheads) could call it into question. Although
I have no wish to be a woman (too much to learn about fashion and makeup,
plus you have to have sex with men), I have at one time or another exhibited
all of the first four girly, sissyish, pussified, and/or fagward-leaning tendencies
depicted in this cartoon. I believe, as I have stated publicly before,
that all sports except for croquet and competitive spelling are for stupid
people or repressed homosexuals; it is true that I developed an unfortunate
addiction to San Pellegrino mineral water in New York this winter; I do wear
sunglasses that, according to Jim Fisher, make me "look like a movie
star--a female movie star"; and yes, I secretly sort of like "(Do
You Believe in) Life After Love," but only while drunk. The only factual
inaccuracy here is that when I confessed my secret affection for that song
to Jim Fisher he admitted that he also thought it was great. Shortly after
that our barteder let us know, in a friendly way, that Wednesday night was
gay night at the bar.
My transsexual friend drew the female body on me in the fifth panel of this
cartoon, and she is hereby thanked. The last panel was originally part of
a cartoon custom-drawn for her, which appears in its entirety on her website,
Jennifer Mahoney's Gender Web.
You can also learn a lot more about transsexuality there, if you're interested.