Some ten years ago, I got a call from a guy looking for a doctor who would renew his hormone prescription. He’d found me on the Internet. Nothing unusual about that — I was a therapist who worked mostly with trans clients. Then the guy said, ‘And, they have to be willing to not put it in my chart why I need the hormones.’
That WAS unusual. In telling me more about himself, turned out he’d started taking hormones the year I was born — 1955. We talked for a few more minutes, I gave him a doctor referral. But I couldn’t leave it at that. I asked if I could interview him, without the least idea what I would do with the information. With his permission, I later included his story in my second book, using Joe as his pseudonym.
I drove to Joe’s rural home a few weeks later and recorded his story. This was around the time I met Cristina, and we began making regular trips to visit him, bringing his favorite fast food meal and his grocery list.
Later, our visits were caregiving, cleaning and laundry and feeding the wood stove. Joe had a rare degenerative disease that gradually lessened his ability to move his arms and legs properly.
This past year, Joe’s physical incapacity had left him bedridden. But the stubbornness that got him thru transition in the 1950s also made it increasingly difficult for him to be willing to ask for help. (Caregiving nurse’s aides didn’t count, they were the hired help) In addition, he had a horror of anyone seeing him helpless. He didn’t want visitors. He didn’t want to hear about life moving on for others, feeling stuck in his own life.
We didn’t see Joe this past year. I thought of him often, but respected his distance. Though not holding out much hope he would take us up on it, we had told him in our last phone conversation to call us when he was up for a visit.
Joe died on December 24. He never wanted to see himself as a pioneer, he never owned his trans identity and couldn’t understand why anyone would. Nevertheless — he WAS a pioneer. Transition is that much easier today because of people like… it just isn’t right to use his pseudonym in this context. Because of people like Nick.