CHILD OF THE HEART
Written by Katherine Tomlinson
Illustrated by Mark Satchwill
Some of her clients had complained when Tina told them the yoga studio was going to be closed over the holiday weekend. “But you never close,” Marianne McSweeney had said accusingly, as if Tina were running some kind of bait and switch operation.
“I’m closing this year,” Tina said, without giving her an explanation.
“I think you’re being selfish,” Marianne had said and Tina had nearly laughed. Marianne McSweeney was the most singularly self-absorbed person she’d ever met and she wasn’t even an actress.
“I’ll see you Tuesday,” Tina said to her.
“Whatever,” Marianne had said and left in a huff.
Tina hated people who said whatever.
The truth was, Tina never had closed before. This was the first year she’d had enough of a financial cushion to even think about taking a three-day weekend. She’d opened the studio the year the economy had taken a dump and by December of 2009 she was sure she was going to have to close it and go back to doing medical transcription. And she so didn’t want to do that.
The work wasn’t particularly hard and the pay was okay, but she’d been working for the doctor who’d overseen her transition. He’d been wonderful during the process but she felt that every time she saw him she was taking a step back in her personal journey and not a step forward. She’d felt like she was playing it safe, hiding from reality, not really being the strong and independent woman she was born to be.
Her mother had loaned her a thousand dollars to keep the bills paid and then Tina had landed a job as a personal yoga trainer to the soon-to-be ex-wife of a major movie star. The ex-wife had paid her an outrageous amount of money to come to her Brentwood house twice a week and the gig had paid the studio rent for a year. She’d been sorry when that client had moved to Sedona, claiming to be in search of inner peace but actually in pursuit of a handsome artist who’d caught her eye.
It had been a lean couple of years but since the early spring, things had started to change. All of her classes were suddenly full and she was booked solid with private clients as well. Tina wasn’t sure what was happening—gas prices were still high and food prices were still going up and it wasn’t as if yoga lessons were a necessity—but for whatever reason she suddenly wasn’t having to kite checks to keep the lights on and the doors open at the same time.
And she really needed some time to herself. Since her mother had died in September, she’d been too busy to grieve. But getting through the first Mother’s Day since her death had been brutal. Every time she turned on the television there’d been some commercial with mothers and daughters. Or mothers and sons.
She had once been her mother’s son.
The name on her first birth certificate was Travis, which everyone thought was a trendy choice but which was actually a family name. Her father had named him for his older brother, who’d died in Viet Nam when he was only 20.
Travis had died when Tina was 16 years old.
By then she’d known she was a girl for more than half her life and after years of denial, her parents had realized she was not just “going through a phase.”
Her father had had a hard time dealing with her choice until the day she got beaten up in gym class by the boy who’d been her best friend since first grade.
Her dad had gone over to Drew’s house and stayed for an hour and when he came back, he called her Tina for the first time and told her that if Drew gave her any more shit that he would personally turn him into a smear on the sidewalk.
From then on he’d dedicated himself to being the best father a daughter could ever want. He overdid it a lot—for a while, every present he bought her was pink—and he sometimes slipped and called her Travis, but he tried really hard.
Her mom had cried a lot when she thought Tina couldn’t hear her but she’d known a girl in high school who had killed herself because the nearest she could come to what she’d been born to be was being a lesbian and she just couldn’t live with that.
“You’d tell me if you were thinking about suicide,” she’d asked Tina earnestly, “wouldn’t you?”
I didn’t,” Tina thought but she’d said, “I’m fine.”
“That’s not an answer,” her mother had said.
“I would tell you,” Tina reassured her.
Tina had won the parent lottery.
She knew how unusual that was for anyone, much less a trans person, and she was profoundly grateful.
The transition had not been cheap. A sympathetic shrink had helped them get coverage for the mandatory counseling and her mom’s cousin, a gynecologist, had finessed the Hormone Replacement Therapy. Tina had worked part time at a medi-spa to pay for the electrolysis.
Her father had cashed in some bio-tech stocks and would later joke that it was the best financial move he’d ever made because the stocks tanked the following quarter and he would have lost a fortune.
The rest of the money came from the savings account opened by Tina’s grandfather and meant to pay for college.
“I can get a scholarship,” Tina had insisted. “Or I can work my way through school.”
There hadn’t been a choice in the end—the final bill had come to something like $100,000, even though Tina had skipped the breast augmentation operation. She had a slim dancer’s body that was a little on the androgynous side, but she loved it.
And she was working on a nursing degree, taking the prerequisite classes at Valley College, going to school at night with all the other adults who were looking for their own kind of transition.
She paid for her classes in cash because after paying off her mother she had a horror of getting into debt.
Her mother’s illness had been mercifully brief. She hadn’t worked outside the home but Tina’s father belonged to a union with great medical coverage and he hadn’t had to beggar himself to get her benefits.
Tina was going to surprise her father with a visit over the holidays.
She just hoped his new girlfriend wouldn’t be there. The first thing Jo had ever said to Tina was that she hardly looked masculine at all. If she’d stopped there it would have been fine.
Well, not fine, but acceptable.
But of course, she hadn’t stopped there. Of course not. She’d just had to share her belief that Tina was an abomination before the Lord.
“I’ll pray for you,” Jo had promised, “because you are going to hell.”
You’ll get there before me, Tina thought and wished that her father had been in the room to hear how hateful she was being.
She wanted him to turn Jo into a smear on the sidewalk.