It was late 1993 and my whole world had fallen apart. Yes I was a complete mess. I packed all my belongings from the house on the central coast and managed to fit it all in a Hiace van I hired. I didn’t really have a plan as such because I wasn’t really prepared for what had happened, however I had somewhere to go for the interim until I made a few decisions.

Leaving the coast was hard, I was saying goodbye to what had been home for a good three years. The hardest part was leaving behind the beautiful garden I had invested so much time in, oh and the man I thought was the one. Hey that’s life, nothing lasts forever. As much as we would like it to I was fast learning it was one thing I had to work on accepting. I cried for weeks, but in true Suzie style I eventually got my shit together and made a few decisions.

I stayed with my friends where Ali had passed away. I could feel her around me, sending me strength and guidance to get my shit together. It was at this time I decided rather than going back to Sydney it was time to make Newcastle my home for a while. I stayed with my friends for about two months before I ending up flatting with a friend right near the beach, beautiful spot, very handy location, and the men…………….. I say no more.

It wasn’t all sex, sun and sand. I wish loll. I had to find a job. My friend suggested I try the nursing home where he worked. I thought why not. Let’s give this a bang. Helping Ali pass gave me some confidence in finding a new direction. The scary part was it was my first job in main stream real world. A daunting thought.

My friend had arranged an interview for me and we were off to meet the Matron. Mrs. E was a wonderful woman. We had a 20 minute conversation and it was all systems go. The home itself was a grand old terrace that had been converted into a small nursing home with about fifty or so residents and faced the bowling green across the road. I started with some small shifts, two to three hours at a time while we would learn all about anatomy and the procedures within the home. I still today believe the best way to teach a nurse is with practical teaching. You can do all the theory in the world but it’s when you learn in a real practical environment that makes the difference. People experience is a powerful thing.

After 2 months working at the home and getting settled I started to question a lot of things, I was twenty-five and thinking where is my Trans journey going. I had been Trans now for the best part of eleven years. I honestly sat down one day at the beach and decided it’s time. Time for me to have SRS surgery. After all I had been through I thought, it’s time I did something for me. It was time to complete my physical Trans journey. I think I felt this way too because I was on my guard all the time at the nursing home, there was some chatter and gossip spreading around about my sexuality. To be expected I suppose. I could have let it get to me but I didn’t.

After a few weeks I went to see Mrs. E and talked about it. She was ahead of her time this lady; she said to me that I had something to teach them just as much as I was going to learn from them. Gossip will pass she said. She was right. It took time but in the end I made some wonderful friends at the home and we are still friends till today.

The residents were the ones that made me happy and I loved making them happy. I remember dear old Mary very well. She was in a room upstairs and when I would arrive at the nursing home in the morning I would let out a loud chicken call, just like a rooster in the morning, she’d hear me and say “with a big smile on her face”, the Chicken woman’s here. Getting used to a rotating roster was hard. Mornings, Afternoons, Nights all mixed into a fortnightly roster. I got used to it in the end a really enjoyed working in what I called the normal world.

Residents came and went. They either stayed for a short while waiting for another placement or passed on. I delved deep in learning a lot about the process of death and dying. If one of my favorite residents was about to pass I would do special things for them just to make that final part of their journey special. We all deserve a peaceful death.

Working in the home helped my spiritual side a lot. I knew I had a sixth sense. Nana M has it too. We always called her the witch. I could sense things. A funny thing happened in the home one day. I was working with a lovely nurse named Lyn. She scared me a little when I first met her. I soon learn’t she just had a very strong personality. It was later on that I ended up performing at her wedding for her. People do accept you just need to give them time.

We were doing rounds upstairs in the home and went to attend a man that was quite ill and would soon pass. We were about to reposition him in the bed when all of a sudden he started to sit up and looked me straight in the eye and called me Steven. I looked at Lyn and said “how did he know”. She quickly put her hand over her mouth and gave me a quizzical look. The universe works in strange ways.

After making the decision to proceed with SRS surgery there was a lot to prepare for. First port of call was getting my approval from the psychiatrist. What an enduring procedure. I was told I had to live with shaving my face and legs on a daily basis. Scare tactics. I have never shaved my face in my life. I thought come on. Throw everything you have at me. I’m ready to take on the challenge. It took me 10 months to get approved. I had a few things going in my favour. I had been living as a female for over ten years and I held down a full time job as a female. It took about 8 visits and one I had to take my mum with me. Now our relationship at this time wasn’t the best. Mum was still coming to terms with it but god love her she had an answer for everything he threw at her. When her consultation finished with him he called me in and said you have your approval. I just gave mum a big hug and we went to lunch.

Step two now, I decided to have the surgery here in Sydney. I did a little research and a few consults and I had made the choice of surgeon. After two consults with him the date was made. September 26 1994. The hard work still wasn’t over though; I had to work hard for another five months to save the final amount for the surgery. It’s not cheap being Trans. I got to work one day and asked Matron for a chat, I had to get the time off work because I needed six weeks to recover from the surgery. She lowered her glasses down and looked over the top of them and said see you when you get back. It was all becoming a reality. I was overwhelmed, sad, happy, all at the same time. Amazing how making such a decision can affect you so much.

Time flew, I moved away from the beach and moved in with 2 gay guys in a house at Maryville and it was time to head to Sydney. I went to Sydney on the Sunday before the operation on Monday. I was really nervous and anxious but I got myself to the hospital for check in. I was scheduled for surgery at ten am September the 26th and alas, Princess was born. I woke up after the surgery and thought wow; I’ve been hit by a bus. For the best part of Monday night I slept and only woke for more pain relief from the self administering gadget next to the bed. I’d pump that thing within in an inch of its life. Day two and three things got better. My appetite improved and I was finally starting to get a grip on all that happened. It’s huge surgery. The surgery itself isn’t too bad looking back on it; it’s the recovery that can be hell. I learn’t here that physical pain is only momentary, it’s the emotional pain that you have for life. I spent five days in hospital and everything went with flying colors.

If I remember correctly I was going to go and stay with someone after the surgery but it wasn’t to be and I ended up staying at a good friend’s house re-cooperating. Just because you’ve undergone the surgery it’s not over that quick. Still a lot to go through ahead. I am so grateful to my friend for allowing me to stay with him. It’s a lot to burden someone with.

Adjusting was the hard part. I was experiencing phantom pains but the most painful part is dilating. It’s extremely important, if you don’t do it you lose it. And I wasn’t prepared for that. Smoking pot was a huge help, I would take half a Valerie (valium) and a smoke, pop my headphones on and then dilate. My new best friend was the bath. That’s where I got my most comfort. As time rolled on day by day I was getting stronger.

I soon returned to Newcastle and re-cooperated at home for the rest of the six weeks before having a final check up and all was well, inside me I could feel myself coming to terms with what I had decided to do and finally felt happy. I wasn’t allowed t have sex for 9 weeks, I must admit I had that anxiety before the surgery that I wanted to use it as quick as possible, like a child with a new toy, but after the surgery, it’s the last thing you want. You have to heal.

Having SRS surgery for me helped me complete a physical Trans journey to become the person I was finally happy with. I say one thing when making this decision. Do it for yourself. Not for any other reason than to make yourself happy. It’s a tough journey but one I would do all over again tomorrow if I had to. Live your journey; follow your dreams because anything is possible.

Some of the images below are from my dear friend Lyn’s wedding. Not long after my surgery and the others are from the next chapter co producing Les Girls Newcastle and the correction.

All content is copyright to Suzie St James. No part may be copied or reproduced without my consent.

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