A moment of douch-baggery on my part.
I was reading a post from a friend about the trouble that transgender people run into in the health care system. There were a lot of problems with the writing and structure – using personal experience as the sole metric for evaluation being the primary. And I let that get in the way of the writer’s larger point.
To wit: a friend of mine goes in for chemo, and the nurse says, “So what did you used to be?”
Um. I’m sick. I’m not dead. I’m not in a halfway place. I’m not isolated. I’m just sick.
So here’s Anthony, lying in a hospital bed in his own room. The tumor has had some affect on his volume, so he always speaks in a whisper now. Sometimes he free-associates a bit, and between not hearing and not knowing the context, it can be hard to follow his thought process. But he’s still himself. On Saturday, my last day to see him, I walk in, “Your mom says you’re full of piss and vinegar.” Anthony: “Damn straight.”
He’s not the Anthony I grew up with – but realistically, he wasn’t that by the time he was 30, when we were seeing each other pretty sporadically. His wife speaks to his personality changes due to the tumor more eloquently than I can. All the same, I’d wager that while the majority of the changes are physiological in nature, some are contextual – how I reacted to getting cancer. How I’m reacting to still having cancer. And so on.
There’s the Anthony I do and don’t know lying in this bed, and here’s the line I’m trying to walk:
No kidding. You are sick. You are dying. I feel for you.
You’re not dead.
I think (I want to think?) that he doesn’t want pity. He wants sympathy. He wants his television (we moved it). And why wouldn’t he, trapped in a bed in a room? Visitors are exhausting.
Here’s the thing that the transgender writer was getting at, that my other friend articulated, that I want Anthony to feel: I’m still a person. Just treat me like a person.