Cole Gately

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Special Series: Fast Forward

Betwixt and Between

By Cole Gately

I’ve never been caught injecting drugs in the parking lot behind the Cancer Centre on the mountain brow, but I’ve done it. Here’s the low-down:

Listen to Cole’s story:

 

When I was born, it was obvious to everyone that I was a bit outside expectations. I was a tiny, wee, brown baby girl in a white family. Not adopted, but clearly not brought into this world by my Mum’s husband — the guy I call Dad.

Cole Gately at home (David Kattenburg)

Cole Gately at home (David Kattenburg)

But Dad accepted and loved me unconditionally from Day 2. The evening of Day 1, he needed time to process the fact that he hadn’t been given the heads-up about my biological roots (In fact, neither had my mum … Click on the SoundCloud link above).

Dad took less than a day to collect himself, and then showed me in so many ways how much he adored me, which lasted until he died a couple of years ago. My decision to come out as transgender gave him pause. He never was fully comfortable with my new identity, but he loved me nonetheless.

Fast forward to 2008, the year I realized I was ready to take the leap of faith, into the gender gap.

On my way to the doctor, down Cootes Drive — probably for an allergy check-up or something — I decided to ask her to start me on testosterone. T for short. Although she had never had a trans patient before, she agreed to start me on a topical drug called Androgel.

Elizabeth Beckett & Cole Gately (David Kattenburg)

Elizabeth Beckett & Cole Gately (David Kattenburg)

Androgel is a weird substance that actually seeps into your body through your pores. The instructions say do not rub it on thighs, feet, hands, breasts, genitals, torso (back or front), neck, face or head, and to keep it away from eyes. “Patient should not rub this body part on any part of a woman’s body,” the fine print says.

This was going to be tricky! After much contemplation, weighing the pros and cons, I opted to apply the gel to my upper right arm with my left hand, because I’m right-handed and didn’t want to inadvertently touch any of the restricted areas with it, let alone an unsuspecting woman who didn’t want to travel down the same road I had chosen.

I did this for a few weeks, probably a couple of months, and the only change I noticed was that my upper right arm became very, very hairy. Time to up the ante!

I called up the doc and asked for injections. All my trans buddies were injecting, and I figured I was up for it. I was going to become a real T-boy!

I’ve never been sure at what precise point I became who I am. When did I stop transitioning and become indisputably Cole? The fact is that my woman-self leapt into the gender gap and met up with Cole long before I ever started on T.

Now, remember my doctor had never done this before, but we went through it together. She didn’t know much about trans health care, but was willing to read the stuff I brought her. She became a co-learner with me on my journey to hormonal and emotional masculinity. She prescribed the T, and I had my first injection at the clinic. Since I don’t live in Dundas, I suggested that my friend, a nurse, could teach me how to inject. She agreed.

My nurse friend and I met up for our first session on a Friday morning at, like, 7.30. She showed me how to prep the syringe and the injection site, and injected me in my thigh. She was the best nurse in town, in my opinion, and adaptable to any conditions. The night before the 3rd Friday of my T-career (which I’m still on, and will be until I die) my friend called me to say she had to see a client on the mountain early in the morning, so could we meet up there somewhere? I agreed, and then came up with the brilliant idea of turning this into a boy’s own adventure, meeting clandestinely, with James Bond-like stealth in a parking lot overlooking the city, behind the cancer centre!

So, all cloak & dagger like, as if we were doing a drug deal, we rendezvoused in the parking lot. She came to my car and got in. I smiled at her excitedly, pulled out the syringe, and let her know I had done my homework by drawing up the T before leaving the house. She pulled out the alcohol swab and I pulled down my jeans. I unfastened my pants and pulled them down a bit, (I was wearing shorts so don’t get too excited!) so she could stick me in the thigh muscle.

She inspected the syringe, and told me I had done a good job getting rid of bubbles. Then we looked around one last time to make sure there was no audience, no CIA operatives lurking in the bushes, and I was feeling the thrill of transgression.

I’ve always hung out on the margins — on the ‘Mountain Brow’ of all existence, with all the other misfits, freaks and queers; on the edge, the border between femininity and masculinity, between brownness and whiteness, a standpoint that offers me a unique worldview.

In five minutes it was all over. Nothing bad had happened, no arrests made, and then we left each other to head off to work. She asked me where we should meet next week and I suggested, “Same place, same time!” She giggled indulgently, rolling her eyes and agreed.

That was about eight years ago. I’ve never been sure at what precise point I became who I am. When did I stop transitioning and become indisputably Cole? The fact is that my woman-self leapt into the gender gap and met up with Cole long before I ever started on T.

I’ve always hung out on the margins — on the ‘Mountain Brow’ of all existence, with all the other misfits, freaks and queers; on the edge, the border between femininity and masculinity, between brownness and whiteness, a standpoint that offers me a unique worldview.

Every Monday morning when I inject the T (yes, T-day has migrated across the weekend), I think about my beloved nurse who passed away last Fall. She also occupied the margins with me, choosing for the past thirty years to work the streets, helping injection drug users, sex workers, and homeless people feel some dignity in a hostile world.

I dedicate this story to Suzanne.

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Fast Forward: Stories of Challenge & Change is produced with the generous support of the Government of Canada, the Social Justice Fund of Unifor, and the Community Radio Fund of Canada. Cole’s essay is adapted from his presentation at this year’s First Unitarian Church of Hamilton’s Six-Minute Memoirs series. Musical interludes in this story by Shaun O’Halloran, Dan Weisenberger and Eliya. Thanks to Roger Dumas for his wonderful human brain ‘sonifications’, one of which appears in Fast Forward intros/extros. For more information about Roger’s Pieces of Mind CD, go here.

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