7.03 / March 2012

A New Person

listen to this story

Please, no pity; these are facts.


My admission was immediate, unchallenged. The facility made exceptions. I renounced my name, possessions and liberties. I was allocated a private room – it was proposed as a temporary arrangement. At that point, no ward would have me.


Information was fed back slowly, as fragments. I was not yet accustomed to being the exception. There was still much to learn. My new life was reluctant to reveal itself. I had to expose it.


I spent those first days nude, learning my new shape. I trained my hands to forget, to accept the new smoothness. Though the act was complete, it seemed important that my body should commit. I had betrayed it. Only now could it catch with the plan.


Within a week, my soreness had passed. Dressings were applied two, not five times a day. Ablutions became thorough and regular. The facility’s nurses insisted on the importance of avoiding infection. They believed that I had suffered enough. The bathroom was my safe place. I learned a new method for peeing.


There, I would shave with a surgeon’s hand, picking off every hair. From a distance, I looked to the mirror: a ghoul, ridiculous. I learned to do without eyebrows, to manage the subtleties of plastic expression. I was not yet a human.


In spite of our agreement, they subjected me to a rota of professional visitors: psychologists, psychoanalysts, psychotherapists, a dietician, two dermatologists and a plastic surgeon. In memory, these figures blend to a slurry of pitiful expressions, cheap assumptions and inappropriate questions.


Days merged. Through the nights, I throbbed. I trained myself to sleep in new positions. My limbs popped and groaned. New flesh wept through the creams and padding.


The professionals addressed me in careful terms, keen to honour the seriousness of my actions. They insisted on calling it sacrifice. I informed them it was progress. I was baptised Robin, on the emphasis that I was not expected to self-identify with the title. It was purely for their convenience, for the staff’s charts and the ward listings. Robin: unisex, non-offensive and simple. They are always keen to simplify. They still insist on knowing what’s best for Robin.


I embraced privacy, training myself to move outside of gender. I discovered how it had infected every muscle, every reflex. Gender shaped the way I ate, the way I stood, smoked, grimaced. I knew that all of this was evidence. I felt sure it could be conquered.


In that room, I sculpted a robot from flesh. The professionals recorded my development. Photographs were taken. They became comfortable in my naked presence. Before me, their genders swelled. I had much to relinquish.


I was informed of life on the wards, of mounting interest and suspicion among other residents. The professionals insisted that cohabitation was their most useful rehabilitative tool. I contended that Robin was still being established. In compromise, it was decided that a few residents should come to me.


I treated the meetings as practice. These were people who didn’t know the details. The idea of me made them uncomfortable. But I felt prepared. My story was thoroughly rehearsed.


Before the first, they put me in clothes. Following sustained isolation and nudity, this felt foreign and abrasive. Through material, my skin ached for the air. Their clothes hung off of me, my figure indistinct.


Residents were seated at arm’s length, taking turns to lead the interview.


‘But, how did you manage it? On your own, I mean. Did you use a saw or a knife, or what?’


‘I can’t understand why you chose to eat it all. Surely that wasn’t your immediate priority. Did you want to hide your old gender before someone found you?’


‘Why is the facility treating you as a problem? Seems to me that you’re no more fucked than the rest of us.’


‘So, what are you?’

Alexander J. Allison (b. 1991) is from London. He is published 'widely'. A chapbook, 'Circle/Line' will be released in February. His first novel, 'The Prodigal' will published in 2013.
7.03 / March 2012