Wednesday, March 28, 1990
Robert Shannon refused to come to San Diego. He'd rather hole up in his Big Apple condominium than be with eldest child. It was easier for him to blame the doctor and his wife for what was happening to his son than to man up and face the truth.
Hana consulted her attorney. In most cases, leaving one parent out of the decision-making process was not advisable. This course of action regarded Robbie's physical health so the attorney drew up the papers to allow her to proceed with the surgery on Robbie's behalf.
Hana got a second opinion on the hormone test, CAT scans and surgery. On Sandra Hart's advice, she got a third opinion and in the end, all doctors agreed that the documents were Robbie's; that he was, indeed, female; and if surgery did not proceed, Robbie's future was in peril.
Hana called her husband in New York City. She didn't rely on the doctor's assistance this time. In spite of her numerous calls, Robert only picked up his phone on nearly her last attempt and then he refused to listen to what she had to say.
Hana had Sandra Hart schedule the surgery for the next morning. The surgical team was ready to convene for the 9:00am operation. Still, Hana was nervous as she signed the papers okaying the surgery to remove the things that make people think someone is a boy, but she knew it was truly for her baby's own good.
Even though Hana was going to break the news to Robbie about the surgery, she chose to remain silent about the test results proclaiming that he was actually female. She didn't want to scare him too much and believed, with Dr. Hart's guidance, that letting him choose a gender might be the wise move.
As she suspected, Robbie began to cry. He wasn't afraid of losing his penis and testicles; he was afraid of the pain he might experience not having them anymore.
Hana explained why the surgery was necessary. She was honest and told him he would lose his little boy parts but he seemed to take it well.
“Will it hurt, Momma?”
“Maybe. A little. Honey, Dr. Hart is going to do everything that she can to make it as painless as possible for you.”
“But what'll the guys say, Momma?”
“Honey, what they say isn’t really important.”
“I don't wanna be called a sissy.”
“Sweetie, they don't even need to know.”
“Do you understand that we're doing this to save your life?”
“Yes, Momma. I do.”
“Do you understand you’ll never be able to be a daddy?”
“Yes, Momma. That's okay.”
“Doesn't that bother you, honey?”
“No Momma. When I grow up I'm gonna be a mommy like you.”
Hana started to cry.
“Why are you crying, Momma?”
“I’m just so worried about you Robbie.”
“Don’t be, Momma. Dr. Hart'll fix me. Won’t she?”
“Yes, honey, she’s going to make you better than ever.”
“Then I’m not scared, Momma. When's she gonna operate?”
“Tomorrow morning, honey. Nine o’clock.”
“Okay, Momma. Can I watch TV?”
“You sure can, Robbie. And I have a surprise for you. Meghan is coming by to see you in a little bit.”
“Yes, honey. She says she misses you. Her mother is going to bring her by around five o’clock.”
“Can I tell her about it?”
“Honey, if you want to. I just don’t think you should rush around telling everyone that you’re going to have your penis cut off. People will start to talk about it.”
“I’ll just tell Meghan, Momma. She'll keep it a secret.”
“Well, honey, just don’t be too afraid.”
“I’m not, Momma.”
“Your Daddy says to say he loves you, Robbie.”
“Does he?. Why don’t he talk to me no more?”
“Honey, your Daddy is going through a rough time. His way of dealing with your injury is by working.”
“If I work too much when I’m a mommy, will you straighten me up?”
Hana smiled and began to giggle.
“If you want me to, honey, I will!”
“I wanna love my kids like you love me.
Hana wiped a tear from he cheek and hugged Robbie.
“Daddy makes me sad.”
“He thinks sports'll make me a man. Now what’ll he say?”
“'Cause I don’t have a penis no more is he going to hate me some more?”
“Daddy doesn't hate you, honey.”
“Then why don’t he wanna see me?”
“I don’t know, honey.”
“I wish Daddy'd love me like you and Jun. Maybe when I’m better, he will.”
“Daddy loves you, Robbie. Please believe me.”
“Okay, Momma. I just wish he’d talk to me.”
When I visited Robbie in the hospital I brought him a coloring book with some crayons and a big stuffed Teddy Bear that had a red bow around his neck. Robbie asked me if I wanted to know a secret. I said that I did and he pulled my ear close to his mouth. He whispered so softly that I could barely hear him.
“Guess what, Meghan? Dr. Hart's gonna cut my penis off.”
I looked at my best friend and didn’t believe him.
“'Cause it’s infecting me, Meghan.”
“But why's she gonna cut it off?”
“I’ll die if she don’t.”
“Will it hurt?”
“It has to.”
“I hurt pretty bad right now, Meghan.”
“Sorry, Robbie. Will it change anything between us?”
“No. I’ll still be your friend, Meghan. Hope you’ll still be mine.”
“I couldn't not be, Robbie.”
“Never. I promise.”
“Dr. Hart says I’ll feel better than I do now.”
“Oh? Is that better?”
“Yeah, Meghan. I hurt really bad.”
As Robbie and I talked the nurse came in to tell my mother that visiting hours were just about over. The next time I would see my best friend he would have had his operation. I told him goodbye and he could see tears forming in my eyes.
“Wattsa matter, Meghan?”
“I don’t want you to die, Robbie.”
“I can’t die.”
“How'd you know?”
“Dr. Hart saya Jesus watches me. Says He loves me. He won’t let me die!”
I hugged Robbie.
“You know another reason, Meghan? Jesus told me I’ll be a mommy someday.”
“Yeah, Meghan. I'll be a mommy.”
“I love you. I always will.”
“Me, too, Meghan! I love you.”
“See ya soon?”
Robbie grabbed my hand and pulled my face to his. He gave me a kiss. I saw the tears in his eyes. Momma gave Robbie a kiss and brushed his forehead softly with her fingers. Before I left, Robbie whispered something in my ear that I couldn’t quite make out. I asked him to repeat what he said.
“Jesus told me I'll be a mommy someday.”
Robbie reluctantly let go of my hand. My mother and I prepared to leave his hospital room. Hana and Jun gave us a big hug. Robbie winked at me and mouthed a word into the air.
Sunday, April 15, 1990
Robbie's surgery was successful and he had little trouble and hardly much time healing. The doctor pronounced it a success four-months post-op. Robbie kept mum about the surgery for almost a year. Since I was only six-years-old, my mother and Hana didn't let me know about the results. The only thing I knew was that Robbie seemed not to hurt anymore and that he was happy.
Boy it's good to see him smile!
Saturday, March 23, 1990
Hana Shannon had just left for New York City to tend to east coast business for DaishiWorks. She was also hoping the trip would help to smooth over rough edges that had popped up between her and Robert. He was at least talking to Robbie, but Robbie would never say much about their conversations.
Jun and Robbie were scheduled to visit their father in a couple of weeks since he hadn't been to San Diego since before Robbie's surgery. Jun seemed to enjoy visiting her father but Robbie always seemed stressed out when he returned home.
Robbie had begun to grow his hair out. He didn't want to be like a sissy but most of our boy classmates were in the mode for long hair and Robbie wanted to fit in. His hair was wonderful and now touched his shoulders. It was quite different from the short style he had been wearing on his father's orders. Robert wasn't on the west coast and Hana said if her husband didn't care to see his son here, Robbie could take liberties with his hairstyle.
Robbie had just settled into our room. My mother wasn't concerned that Robbie was a boy and I am a girl. She just treated us as if we were a brother and sister who got along famously.
Robbie put his folded clothing in the drawers that were his. We shared the same dresser and he didn't even mind that it was pink! He hung up his hanging clothes and placed five pairs of shoes in the closet. He also arranged his toiletries in my bathroom. Robbie is the neatest boy I know in more ways than one!
All that aside, we moved on to the business of playing. As I mentioned before, one of Robbie's favorite activities was playing dress-up. We hadn't played that way since his operation until he announced that he wanted to do it, I didn't push him. Now he wanted to and I minded not one bit.
“You're hair looks pretty.”
“Thanks Meghan! Yours' does too!”
I began brushing his hair and was amazed how soft it was. I had brushed his hair numerous times in the past but never realized how silky it was.
“Your hair is wonderful, Robbie!”
“Momma says it's 'cause were Japanese... at least she and me are.”
“I wish mine was as pretty!”
“Thank you, Meghan.”
“Does it hurt?”
“No. I like the way you brush my hair.”
“Not that, hon. Does your operation hurt? What's it like?”
“Naw. I feel way better than when I was sick.”
“Do you miss it?”
“How do you go potty?”
“There's a hole. I have to sit down now.”
“I suppose it would be hard standing up.”
“I tried it 'cause I forgot. Momma had to help me clean up the bathroom floor!”
“But does it feel different?”
“Are you like a girl?”
“I don't think so.”
“Momma says it's not finished.”
“She says if I want, they can make me a new penis.”
“You want one?”
“I don't know, Meghan.”
“How would they do it?”
“I don't know. Momma hasn't said nothing.”
“It must be embarrassing for her.”
“She's swell and she answers questions I have.”
“Can I see it?”
Robbie blushed then he squirmed.
“You don't have to show me.”
“Some day I'll show you, Meghan. Just not now.”
We went on to talk about other things. I dressed Robbie up really pretty. He liked it when I let him wear my things. I've never seen him happier than one our dress-up play dates.
Robbie made sure I never saw him nude. I guess he was embarrassed, but he shouldn't be. He wasn't going to lose me as his friend.
As we were playing, my mother snuck in on us. She had seen Robbie in my things before but that day she remarked as to how lovely he looked. I guess it was the way I did his face and hair but my mother started calling us her twin girls. I don't know if Robbie liked it but he never asked her to stop doing it.
“Are my twins up for some ice cream?”
“I am mommy! Please!”
“Me too, Stephanie!”
“Good! I'll get Jun and we can go get a triple-scooper!”
We thought my mother meant she'd get us some ice cream in the kitchen, but she mentioned going to Baskin-Robbins. Robbie didn't look pleased at all.
“I've got a tummy ache, Stephanie.”
“That's okay, Robbie. Maybe later, but I do have some Ben & Jerry's in the kitchen! Let's get your sister and feast out!”
Robbie and I were ecstatic. Robbie didn't change the rest of the day but remained dressed as a girl.
We didn't make it out of the house with Robbie in a dress while we were in middle school or high school. He did enjoy a lot of time as a girl at home but he was very shy about letting anyone see him in his finest moments as my sister.
What a shame.
When I finally caught a glimpse of Robbie in his birthday suit, he was coming out of the shower when we were ten-years-old. I thought that he didn't look much different than me although I did notice that he didn't have a vaginal opening. I guess my naivety got the best of me.
I never told Robbie that I saw him that way. I thought I would keep his “virginity” intact. It was several weeks later that he opened up and volunteered to show me and I was amazed. He was so like, but then unlike me, that it was wonderful.
These were the times that built the bonds between us as sister and brother/sister. I am so awed by my best friend!
Friday, November 4, 1994
Hana Shannon had just finished talking with Robbie’s sixth-grade teacher, Miss Veronica Owens.
As Hana clicked her cell phone off a smile radiated from her face, she could not contain herself and giggled. Robbie had just come into the condominium after taking a walk on the beach and was heading for a warm shower.
“Congratulations, Robbie! You’re going to be the lead annunciation angel in the Christmas play at school! I’m so proud of you!”
Miss Owens had chosen Robbie to be the lead angel because, quite frankly, he looked like just like an angel.
Robbie's appearance was much younger than a twelve-year-old boy’s might be. He appeared ten or maybe eleven, as a boy, but his face was still that of a child. His alabaster skin was sun kissed and his cinnamon eyes shined like shimmering beacons. His raven-black had grown so long that it sat just above the small of his back. His bangs erupted evenly from his forehead.
Robbie appeared more a girl than a boy. Consequently my best friendship took a lot of slack about it from the children at Rouge Castile Academy. The boys were roughest on him and provided most of the crude and descriptive language thrown his way. The girls didn't know what to think.
Hana admired her son as he walked across the living room.
Usually, Robbie would wear his hair in a ponytail and he’d hide it beneath a San Diego Padres blue and orange baseball cap. Since he was home, he untied the end of his ponytail and let his hair fall over his shoulders. As his hair cascaded down his back as his mother gave him a hug.
“I want to take you out for a celebration, Robbie. It’s not everyday that you get the lead in such a special program. You deserve to be congratulated.”
Robbie flashed his mother a goofy look. He didn't know why she was making such a big deal. It was only a play, after all.
“Thank you, Momma. But I’m just going to be a stupid angel. I don’t even know why Miss Owens chose me for the part. I have to sing a solo by myself. I’m going to take a shower!”
Veronica Owens had remarked several times to Hana about how beautiful Robbie’s singing voice was. She even went as far as to cast Robbie in the 1993 performance of “The Music Man”. Robbie had to miss performing in the play because of the flu and he told me he was eternally grateful to God for making him sick.
Robbie was to have sung the part of Laurie… offstage… while Lisa Whitman mouthed the words. Lisa couldn’t carry a tune in a bucket if her life depended on it. The only thing she had going for her was that she was the prettiest girl in our class. She ended up having to actually sing the part and was awful. The whole play ended up being a disaster.
Robbie had finished with his shower and as he dressed, his mother again talked with him.
“Robbie, you’re not going to be a stupid angel. You’re going to be a beautiful cherub… my little cherub. Besides, I’m so proud of you. Miss Owens chose you because you have a wonderful speaking and singing voice. You’ve got talent. Looking at you now I’d say you could probably do a convincing onstage rendition of Laurie in The Music Man. You look so…”
“Girly? Momma, I don’t just look girly, I feel girly and it bugs the life out of me.”
Because of his surgery, Robbie’s nude body definitely looked like a budding thirteen-year-old girl. Without the influence of a natural testosterone his body was beginning the process of growing breasts. Coupling his hair length and the lilt of his voice, he’d put two-and-two together by that time and reasoned that he really would be more comfortable being a girl.
“Do you want to be a girl, honey?”
“I don’t know if I want to be a girl, but I know deep inside of me that I am one.”
“Are you only saying that because of what happened to you in Little League?”
“No, Momma. I’ve always known that I am a girl. Am I weirding you out, Momma?”
“No, honey, you aren’t weirding me out, but you have just answered some questions that I’ve had about you even before your accident.”
“Do you hate me, Momma?”
“No, honey. How could I ever hate you?”
“Your father loves you, honey.”
“Daddy loves you. He loves Jun. He hates me.”
“Why do you say that, Robbie?”
“When I visit him in New York, he acts like he hates being around me. I asked him to take me to se the Statue of Liberty and he got one of the secretaries in his office to do it. She thought I was a girl until Daddy told her I was his son. He cussed her out, Momma. Right there in front of me and everybody else.”
“Oh? Did he?”
“Yes, Momma, he did. And I asked him to take me down to Washington DC to see the Smithsonian one weekend and he said he had better things to do. He hates me.”
“I’ll have to have a talk with your father, Robbie.”
“When Jun and I went to New York together last time, he hugged and kissed Jun, but he just shook my hand. He talked to Jun and he seemed like he wanted me to go away.”
“Did you tell him how you felt, Robbie?”
“No, Momma. I didn’t want him to hate me more than he already does.”
“Does the reason you want to be a girl have anything to do with the way Daddy treats you?”
“No, Momma. It’s hard for me to explain. I just feel like a girl. I don’t have boy parts anymore, but I’ve felt like this since I was little.”
“I see, Robbie.”
“Do you hate me. Momma?”
“No, honey. I love you with all of my heart.”
“Thank you, Momma. I love you with all of mine, too!”
“Honey. There’s something I haven’t told you before today. I wanted to know the right time and I think I just got the cue from God.”
“What’s that, Momma? What cue? What didn’t you tell me?”
Hana took Robbie into her arms and cuddled his naked body. He smelled of roses and lilac, an after-effect of his favorite soap. She kissed him on his forehead and promised to help him through his ordeal.
“When Doctor Hart ran tests on you when you were six, she also did some CAT scans. You remember when you went into that tube-like x-ray machine?”
“Yeah, Momma. It was scary, but I tried to be brave.”
“And you were, honey. You made me proud.”
“Did Doctor Hart find out something about me that was bad?”
“No, honey. You remember when I told you about the operation, don’t you?”
“Well, honey, you told me that you would be a mommy one day.”
“And I started to cry…”
“Yes, Momma. I’m sorry I made you cry.”
“That’s alright, honey. Anyway, the CAT scan revealed something about you that I was afraid to tell you until right now.”
“Yes, Momma. What was that?”
“The CAT scans showed Doctor Hart and me that you really can be a mommy one day. They showed that you have a uterus and ovaries.”
“But don’t girls have those things? I’m a boy.”
“Yes. You're a boy, kind of… but you're a girl, too.”
“Momma, I’m confused.” Robbie started to quiver in his mother’s arms. Hana stroked her child’s bangs.
“You are… we discovered this a couple of years ago… what used to be called a hermaphrodite. Nowadays they call your condition being intersexed. You are a boy and you are a girl.”
“I don’t understand, Momma. How can I be both a boy and a girl?”
“Well, honey, they think that when you were born that either two eggs joined or two sperm fertilized the same egg. As a result, when you began to develop into an embryo you had everything it took to become a girl and everything it took to become a boy.”
“Yes, honey. And when you started growing, the only thing we saw was the things that made you appear male. When you were injured and you lost those defining characteristics, the things that make you female started to take root.”
“So, I can be a mommy some day?”
“Honey, Doctor Hart has run several tests on you over the past few years and she thinks that it is possible for you to one day conceive and carry a baby to full term. She’s had you on a medicine that is retarding your puberty. If you hadn’t told me about how you felt, she would have had to take you off the medication and we would have had to break your condition to you under different and more difficult circumstances.”
Robbie started to cry.
“Are you okay, Robbie?”
“Yes, Momma. I’m a little scared but mostly I’m just happy! These are what I’ve heard you call tears of joy! I can be a mommy? Really?”
“When Doctor Hart removed your penis and testicles, honey, she discovered that you have a vaginal tract, a cervix and all of the necessary female organs. She also knows that you have ova that are capable of becoming fertilized. The only things you were lacking is a clitoris and labia. She retained the nerve bundles from the tip of your penis and thought… if you wished to have surgery to convert you into a female… they could be used to create a sensate clitoris.”
“Oh?” Robbie was getting a bit confused. “Momma?”
“I can start living as a girl? I mean, is it alright with you?”
“Honey, I only want what is going to make you happy and fulfilled as a person. I love you, honey. It doesn’t matter if you are my son… or my daughter.”
“I want to, Momma!”
“Do you want to start now, Robbie? Do you want to start living as a girl now?”
“Yes, but I’m scared, Momma. I want to do it when I’m not scared.”
“Robbie, I’m here for you. You might never get to the place where you aren’t scared.”
“I know, Momma, and thank you! It’s just that I want to wait until I’m out of Rouge Castile. If the guys there knew I wanted to be a girl, they’d be on me for sure. I’d never live it down.”
“I can see what you mean, Robbie. It’s just that you have to cross your bridges before they burn up behind you.”
“Jun and I are supposed to fly out to see Daddy for Christmas and our birthdays. I want to tell him face-to-face about how I feel. I’m just scared that he might get really mad at me.”
“Honey, I’m going to go to New York with you and Jun. I’ve had a last-minute cancellation in our crucial shooting schedule. I’ve told Daddy that we’re going to spend Christmas together. He wasn’t pleased, exactly, but he knows that we’re going to be there as a family.”
Hana had suspected that her husband was spreading a little Christmas cheer to a new intern in his office and she wanted to check up on him.
“Besides, Robbie, it’s all of his girls’ birthdays. Mine, Jun’s and yours.”
“Thank you, Momma. I’m glad you’ll be there for my moral support.”
“I love you, honey. I only want what’s best for you. If you need to be my daughter, then it’s okay by me. I only want what’s going to make you the best human being possible.”
“Momma? Thank you for helping me to realize that I’m not crazy.”
“You’re welcome, honey.”
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