Robyn's Perch

Wednesday, July 05, 2006



When I first went to see Kurt, I was a real basket case. I knew the shit was going to hit the fan at school and consequently that I had no idea of what the future held for even the next day. I was highly stressed because of that, emotionally glued to a relationship that was falling apart, and quite angry at both myself and the rest of the world that I had waited until I was 44 years old before seeking help. To be honest, the only thing that was keeping me going was the knowledge that the alternative of death would at least end the pain I was feeling and that it was perfectly alright to check out whenever I wanted or needed to.

I think my first words to Kurt were something like: "I know I am transsexual. I didn't come here to have you tell me that. I understand that I am required to have a therapist for at least a year before I can have surgery. While I am here, we may as well use the time wisely talking about the fact that I grew up in an emotionally abusive home because my father was an alcoholic, that I grew up in the wrong gender, and that I have been in an abusive marriage for the last 23 years." My tone expressed anger, I'm sure, because that is what I felt.

Remarkably, Kurt didn't toss me out of his office. He smiled that little buddha-like smile of his and spoke to me calmly. By the end of that first hour, I knew that I had found a true friend, someone who would hold on to me while my world was shattered to bits.

Over the course of our meetings, first weekly and then later every two weeks, Kurt told me about himself and his philosophy of life. I knew that he was gay. Ralph had told me that. He told me he was buddhist and I found that to be an unexpected bonus. He told me that he had treated only two transsexual people in the first 18 years of his practice, but that in the time surrounding my first visit to him, he had four transsexual patients. I never asked and never found out who the others were. When I found that out, I started bringing Kurt little tidbits of information that I gathered. When I got online, that grew to a steady stream. He provided me with information in return that he got from other sources, always asking for my comments on them as he picked my brain about my thoughts on my condition.

At the same time, we dealt with the issues I stated at the beginning. Additionally, he helped me eliminate my driving and money phobias. I had not been a driver ever, having only once had a driver's license, during my time in the army, when not passing the military driving test would have resulted in me being sent to infantry school and sent onward to Vietnam. Kurt helped me change I love to drive.

His examination of my relationship led him to remark that it was the most abusive one he had ever seen and that my behavior was the worst case of codependency he had ever seen. Much of the problem stemmed from my phobia about money which we discovered traced back to my having to lie on the phone to creditors about my parents being home. When I married, I let my wife handle the money, which was like letting Imelda Marcos have access to the Home Shopping Network. My wife was a user of people and lived in a reality where everything existed merely for her benefit and she required someone else to bail her out of trouble when everyone else's reality collided with hers. My life job had been to keep her out of trouble, to pay for her mistakes, to shield her so that her reality could exist. With Kurt's help, I learned to untangle the poisonous vines that had bound the two of us together for so long.

I have memories of some of the days I spent visiting with Kurt that will be forever etched in my mind. I remember the day he had his first "breakthrough" to understanding what it was like to be me. That was when he realized that even though I was 45 at the time, I was going through puberty and that needed to be factored in to our discussions. I remember the surprise on his face the first time he realized that I was a lesbian. The look was priceless...I don't believe I have ever physically seen a jaw drop before except in cartoons. I remember the first time I wore a shortish skirt to his office, when he admired my legs. I remember discussing life and death with him, from my taoist perspective and his buddhist one. I remember the times when he would be playing his piano when I arrived. But mostly I remember his hugs at the end of the sessions. He was one of the best huggers ever.

Towards the end of our sessions together, his health started deteriorating. While at a buddhist retreat in California, he had to be rushed to a hospital for emergency stomach surgery. He had to cancel a Caribbean cruise because he was sick. Our visits became a bit more special to me. He never told me exactly what his condition was, but I knew. I could see the AIDS literature in his living room while I waited for him to finish with another patient in the den. I saw the condolence cards that he received from his friends. None of them said, "Get Well Soon."

Finally came the day when I asked him to write my surgery letter. He told me to write whatever I would like and that he would sign it. And then he told me that he was retiring and that this would be our last professional visit. He asked me to keep in touch though. I'm afraid I wasn't very good at that. I wish I had done better.

Last Tuesday, at Ralph's therapy group, I found out that Kurt had died. I kept my feelings inside until last night...I'm a teacher and teachers never get sick until Friday. For the last few days, though, I have felt myself spinning downward. I know that Kurt would not want that. So I've been letting the tears flow and trying to fight my way back up.

I'll make it, Kurt. And I'll always remember those hugs.

--February 9, 1994


  • At Fri Sep 21, 09:40:00 PM, Blogger lezlie said…

    my heart goes out to you, Robyn.

    I lost my best friend to AIDS in 1995. He was my confidant, my buddy, my playmate, my travel companion, my love. He taught my Hannibal,MO husband, Larry, that gay is not contagious... he and Larry became the best of friends. We all went to Vegas together and while Larry gambled Barry and I had long talks, shopped, or listened to music at the hotel. Then after we all had dinner together, Barry and I were off to see the Moody Blues and Larry to the casinos.

    When Barry got sick and I was diagnosed with PAH the prognosis was not good for either of us. We made trips to the Buddhist temple in California and spent hours chanting. We spoke to the priests about death and came to terms with our mortality. Yet we still railed against the diseases that were destroying our bodies. We loved life and wanted to live.

    When Barry died and I got better for a time, I had raging survivor's guilt. For the next few years I tried to live for both of us until I made myself worse again.

    Now I have a second chance to get better... a new drug for my condition from Canada. Now I chant with such gratitude because I realize that as long as I live I can remember Barry and chant for him... sometimes I use his beads while chanting... that comforts me.

    Every straight woman needs a gay friend and a husband... it's the best of both worlds!

    Kurt will always live in your heart and I believe you will meet again, in a different form at another time... just as Barry and Larry and I will.

    I haven't shared this on a blog before, just felt I wanted to share it with you.

  • At Thu Sep 27, 11:34:00 AM, Blogger Diane said…

    I am with you today. I read about your loss @ DD, and finally wandered over to read this, and the rest of your postings...

    Girl, you sure write right to the heart of things!

    We lost my cousin Jim & his partner Brent Lee to AIDS over 10 years ago. Its a hard way, your own body betraying you.

    I don't know what else to say, dear, but don;t let the fear back in. Ever.

    L, Diane W

  • At Sat Jan 05, 07:41:00 PM, Blogger Lori said…

    i remember you so very vividly...

    i was in your college algebra class the year that you started your change. i remember when you walked in...wearing a skirt and make-up and your nails all painted...everyone looking confused...

    and then you calmly explained that you WERE a woman...and then turned to the board. you are the most brilliant mathematician i've ever come across.

    you may not know it, but several of us complained when they removed you from our class. the new instructor, while head of the department...was nothing compared to you. our throwing a fit did nothing, of course...but in trying to "save face", UCA made a huge mistake.

    thank you for showing us that there are multiple ways of looking at things, all it an equation or a gender issue...


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