Thursday, April 23, 2009


Recently I found myself sitting with a friend at Weill - Cornell, the hospital that houses my oncologist and his staff. This time I was there not for myself but for my friend: She was about to be diagnosed with chronic leukemia.

G- d knows we saw a lot during the four hours we spent in the waiting room, but I am going to tell you about one person in particular. We will call this person merely - Person.

Person walked into the waiting area about halfway through our stay. Person wore dark glasses, so the eyes could not be seen, but the face was delicate, quite pretty and framed by simple silver hoop earrings. The clothing struck me as rather cavalier for someone whose fate it was to join the rest of us on the third floor of Weill-Cornell: jaunty black gauzy shirt with three unclosed buttons at the top; sleeves about three-fourths of the way down the arms; standard jeans and the daintiest ballet slippers I have ever seen.

How wonderful, I thought to myself, to be so in-control of one's self and one's surroundings and simultaneously to carry inside the knowledge of one' s cancer! My thoughts continued: If only I could be so liberated from psychological pain - so free of despair ! - instead of being the miserable kvetch that never forgets for one second that she is walking this earth only by the greatest mercy of the L-rd above.

I continued to watch Person waiting for blood tests: I saw no anxiety; no apprehension; only self-assured ease and the prettiest, perkiest face in the room.

Then something happened: Person's hands started moving a bit, and I noticed - and I noticed - they were a pair of MAN HANDS, straight from an old Seinfeld episode. But this story has a different twist: It now became clearer by the second that Person was on the third floor (oncology, urology, hematology) because a sex change operation had recently been performed. On her. On him. Qui sait?

I waited for the receptionist to tell Person it was time to see the doctor, but she merely called out the name "Cooper;" no Mr., Mrs., Ms. or anything.

And then suddenly my envy became pity.

What of this person's mother? father? wife, perhaps? Children?

What if my own cherished son had come to me only to declare that he could no longer live in a man's body? What would I have done then?

Soon the totally inappropriate questions came to mind: Does Person have cancer? Or does she visit Suite B/Urology because of new excretory organs? There seemed to be a substantial mound of bosom on Person's chest: cancer? new boobs? Who knows?

I could not wait to share my story. I told myself this was not really gossip; it was only a natural need to unburden disturbing thoughts. I soon learned that I am about the only one with these disturbing thoughts: the rest of the world (including Iowa, of all places) has gone soft on difficult sexual matters. (Or should I say that hardly anyone cares anymore? Except me.)

This happened some weeks ago. I am waiting for my feelings to morph into guilt, the emotion that eventually replaces every single feeling I have ever had.

This time, however, it would be appropriate and welcome....

Post Script (Next Day)
I have been reminded (again) very ardently, very vociferously (again) that Hitler killed "odd" people like gays, gypsies, the crippled and JEWS. (Members of some of these categories probably did not even merit torture - just death.) Of course G-d wants us all to remain as we have been made, but, as a transgender individual asked Oprah, "How would you feel if you had a penis?" The resulting look on her face said it all.