Theresa — Chapter 42

| Sep 14, 2009
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The Story So Far (TGF subscribers can read earlier installments): Terri has had her SRS procedure. She comes out of surgery in considerable pain but happy to have had it done – and to have it behind her. After several days of recovery (including a number of visits from Eddie before he has to return to his job in Los Angeles), she’s allowed to finish her recuperation at home. A few days later, on her 23rd birthday, Terri takes the train to Philadelphia so she can bring Jessie back to New York.
Normalcy was the state that I had some hope of achieving when Jessie and I returned from Philadelphia on Sunday afternoon. I wasn’t at all sure what comprised that fabulous and allegedly desirable condition, but I thought I might recognize it when and if it happened. Having Jessie home again was surely the first step. Returning to the stage ought to be another step, and my next play was scheduled to go into rehearsal in about four weeks. The third step, I thought, was rebuilding my relationships — some in greater disrepair than others — with my family and friends.

I couldn’t rebuild anything with the twins. They were away for the summer, waitressing at a resort hotel on Cape Cod. Mother was in and out of the apartment and sometimes out of the city, as dictated by her typically frenetic professional and social schedule. Jessie and I had the place to ourselves more than I liked — it was a little spooky at times, with just two of us rattling around in that huge apartment, so we went out frequently for walks in the parks and visits to the zoo.

It would have been nice to see other friends and relatives now and then, but there were few opportunities. The people I knew best weren’t available. Dad was working far more than full-time, directing a new play that was scheduled to open Off-Broadway in mid-September. Eddie had planned to come east for the first week in August, but he found himself unexpectedly swept up in an urgent and professionally important project and had to postpone his vacation until September or perhaps even October.

I knew a number of theatre people professionally but not socially. Most of the other New Yorkers I knew were old high school classmates, but I didn’t quite relish the prospect of regaling them with explanations of why I was as I was instead of what they were expecting. In something close to desperation, I took Jessie to Sutter & Lansdowne one afternoon. It was fun for me to say hello to my former coworkers. They seemed pleased to see me and delighted to meet my little girl, but it was far from exciting for Jessie.


Who else did I know? It was somewhat humbling to realize that I had only a few real friends, in part because I had been cautious about becoming close to anyone when I was Alan-living-as-Theresa. But there was someone who needed no explanations: Karen Lake. I called her and she came over to spend an afternoon with Jessie and me. We all had such a good time that we got together again the following week. This time, Karen brought Stuart’s car and we went for a long drive up the Hudson River valley. Automobile rides were a rare treat for Jessie the New York City Girl — she enjoyed the scenery and the frequent stops for ice cream.

I knew the Norrises, too. For Jessie’s sake, I forced myself to take her to visit them one afternoon. This was something that Mother usually took care of for me, but she was completely booked that week and, knowing how much Jessie loved her Gramma and Grampa, I bit the proverbial bullet and went.

There was no way I could please the Norrises; I knew that. It would help, I supposed, if I got a haircut, had a double mastectomy and a penis transplant, and wore a suit and tie, but even that wouldn’t be enough. Mother had explained my transformation to them, carefully and at length, but that didn’t help, either – they didn’t understand; to them, I was just being willfully difficult. I did my best — I dressed conservatively and minimized my makeup — but they received me coldly. At least they were civil, knowing civility to be the price of Jessie, but they said as little as possible to me during the ninety minutes I forced myself to stay. Even so, their warmth and affection for Jessie more than compensated for their disdain for me, and the three of them had a grand time together while I caught up on my magazine reading.

One of my most important post-op projects was to thank everyone who had visited or sent me flowers while I was in the hospital. My call to Lisa Tulley resulted in a long conversation about my new life — its blessings, its problems, and its current recuperating-with-no-work-and-little-adult-companionship doldrums. “Why don’t you and Jessie come to visit us for a few days?” Lisa suggested.


“Really. John and I would both love to see you, and we’ve never seen Jessie. It’s a quiet time here right now — summers are almost too peaceful with no students around — and it would be nice to have you two to liven things up a little.”

“Jessie’s really good at that,” I said. The more I thought about it, the more a visit to the Tulleys appealed to me, and we quickly decided that Jessie and I would take the train to Greendale Saturday morning.


I’d talked to Lisa on Wednesday. The following afternoon, Bob Squires called.

“I’ve just learned something rather disturbing,” he said.

“Oh? What’s that?” I couldn’t imagine having any legal problems.

“I understand that your in-laws are about to file a suit for custody of your daughter.”

“What!” I couldn’t believe I’d heard him correctly.

“They allege that you are not a fit parent for the child, that you engage in a sordid and unconventional lifestyle that is not conducive to her enjoyment of a normal childhood.”

“I can’t believe this!”

“You consort with known perverts and deviants. Though male by birth and upbringing, you habitually dress in female attire. You are engaged in a notoriously unstable profession, et cetera, et cetera.”

“Can they get away with this?”

“I don’t know — that will have to be determined in a court of law. Custody suits are completely unpredictable. Everything depends upon the judge’s opinion of what is best for the child. Ultimately, that means the judge’s opinion of you and the Norrises. I know judges who would almost certainly rule in your favor, and others who would almost certainly rule against you. There’s no way to predict who will hear your case, so I can’t even guess whether you’d win or lose.”

I was in agony. “What can I do?”

“I probably shouldn’t say this, but you can do anything you want to until you’re served with a subpoena. You’ve broken no laws; this is a civil case. Once you’re subpoenaed, however, you’ll have to appear in court and you’ll have to abide by the court’s decision.”

I thought for a moment. “I’m all right until I get served with a subpoena, you say? What if they can’t find me?”

“As I said, this is a civil case. If you were to leave town, you wouldn’t be a fugitive from justice. The Norrises might not do anything, or they might hire someone to track you down and serve you with the subpoena. They could do that anywhere in New York State.”

“Just in New York?”

“That’s right. The subpoena will be issued by a state court, and it will have no authority in any other state. If you were to go to New Jersey, say, and the Norrises were to track you down there, they could ask a New Jersey court to grant them custody of your child – but if they can’t find you, they can’t do anything.”

“How much time do I have?”

“I’d say about twenty-four hours – it could be a little more, but you’d be taking chances if you waited longer than that.”

“Thank you so much for letting me know about this.”

“You’re welcome. One more thing — your best bet, in the long run, might be to negotiate some kind of settlement with the Norrises. If you want me to try to work something out, call me in a week or two, and I’ll get in touch with them.”

“Let me think about that,” I said, “and thanks again.”

I had no time to waste. I’d have to decide quickly what to do – and then do it.


When the doorbell rang early the next morning, my first thought was that someone with a subpoena was lurking outside my apartment. But I was expecting Karen Lake, and there she was on the other side of the peephole. I opened the door and she slipped in.

“What’s all this about subpoenas?” she demanded.

I explained the situation quickly. “…and that’s why I need you to help Jessie and me disguise ourselves and get out of town,” I said.

“Wow! I’ll do whatever I can,” she said. “I’ve got Stuart’s car, and I can take you anywhere you want to go. What else can I do?”

“You can cut our hair.” I turned to Jessie. “We’re going to play a game,” I said. “I’m going to pretend to be your daddy, and you’re going to pretend to be my little boy. It will be fun.” Jessie looked a little doubtful. “Aunt Karen will cut our hair short, like boys’ hair, and I bought new clothes for both of us last night. And you have to call me Daddy instead of Mommy, and I’ll call you…What do you want me to call you?”

Jessie pondered. “Billy,” she said.

“Okay. You’re Billy and I’m Daddy. Don’t forget, now.”

“I won’t.”

“Do you want to get your hair cut now, or do you want me to go first?”

“You first.”

“All right.” I’d done a lot of shopping the previous evening — you can buy anything in New York at any hour — and one of my purchases was barber’s shears and clippers. I gave them to Karen, and she set to work on me under Jessie’s watchful stare. I have to admit that I didn’t enjoy losing most of my hair — I didn’t want to look like a man again, but I didn’t have any better ideas.

Then it was Jessie’s turn. I don’t think she enjoyed her haircut, either, but she was brave about it.

“Now we have to put on our new clothes. You first, Billy.” Jessie giggled. I dressed her in a T-shirt, shorts, and sneakers — a less colorful male version of her usual ensemble.

“My turn,” I said. “You wait here, and I’ll be right back.” I went into my bedroom. I’d bought myself a wide elastic bandage and I used it to flatten my breasts, feeling thankful that I’d settled for self-grown size B instead of taking the implant route to size C. I put on men’s briefs and a carefully-selected T-shirt that was two sizes too small. A loose sports shirt, slacks, and men’s shoes completed my disguise.

I looked at myself in the mirror. Clothes didn’t entirely make the man; I still looked somewhat girlish. I went to my theatrical makeup kit to make my eyebrows fuller and shaggier and to create the illusion of beard shadow on my jaw. It was getting late; that would have to do.

I had already packed a large suitcase for myself and a smaller one for Jessie. Daddy took the large one; Mommy Karen took the small one and Billy’s hand. I looked through the peephole. All was apparently clear. We exited and walked quickly to the elevator.

Karen had parked at the rear of the building, so we went out the back way. We put the suitcases in the trunk and drove away. The one-way street system took us around the block and past the front entrance to the apartment building.

“Look! There’s Gramma!” Jessie said excitedly. She was right — Mrs. Norris, accompanied by a tall, blond man who appeared to be in his late thirties, was about to enter the building.

“Don’t wave — we can’t talk to her now,” I said to Jessie. “Keep going,” I instructed Karen. Mrs. Norris didn’t see us. She and her companion entered the building.

“I think we just barely made it,” I said to Karen.

To Be Continued

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About the Author ()

Angela Gardner is a founding member of The Renaissance Transgender Association, Inc., the former editor of that organization's newsletter and magazine, Transgender Community News. She wrote the Diva of Dish column for TGF in the late 1990s and was the Editor of LadyLike magazine until its untimely demise. She is currently the Editor of TGF. She has appeared in film and television shows portraying TG characters, as well as representing Renaissance on numerous talk shows. In her idle hours she keeps busy producing her monthly TG parties, Angela's Laptop Lounge.

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