Now (February 2011): Waiting
The saying that money can’t buy you happiness has always rung a bit hollow for Maya. Growing up, she had almost everything she could possibly want, thanks to her father’s income and her mother’s tendency to give in to her demands (albeit nicely phrased demands; Rupinder Koothrappali took no nonsense from her children). Now she’s no longer considered a Koothrappali child, but money is still figuring hugely in her happiness, namely Amy’s fiancé’s money. The agreement has been made; Faisal will pay for Maya’s gender confirmation surgery as soon as she can arrange a surgery date, partly out of generosity and partly out of the desire to see what research results Amy can come up with.
But the one thing money cannot buy is time, and the earliest that Maya can get into the clinic in Philadelphia is August. In February, August seems an eon away, Philadelphia light years from Pasadena. But she is bound and determined to wait it out as patiently as she can. She still has therapy to go to and electrolysis to undergo (painful, but more efficient than laser hair removal, and posing less risk of depigmentation of her skin), not to mention her local trans support group to back her up as well as her friends.
Then of course there’s Stuart. Stuart and his unexpected kisses and his unwavering support of her and his willingness to do everything her way, the safe way, the careful way. Fortunately, Maya’s body shyness is matched with Stuart’s lack of confidence; they can learn together, slow and steady, what works and what does not. There are a lot of things that work; some surprising, others less so. Not just in the bedroom, either, but in their day to day lives as they incorporate each other into their routines. She’s learning more about the other side of the counter when it comes to New Comics Day, for one thing, and Stuart has promised to come and visit her at work if he has a quiet day.
She just has to be more confident about herself, is the problem. At first she didn’t realize it was a problem, but she’s scared of scaring Stuart off, and of alienating her other friends, not to mention the rest of her family. Her therapist, Cecilia, has been telling her that she’ll gain more confidence as she progresses in her transition, but ironically Maya has very little confidence in that statement. She spends more of her time than she really should worrying; at least some of that time is worrying about whether or not she’s worrying too much, which is more or less a self-fulfilling prophecy.
One of the things she still worries about is coming out. It’s an ongoing process; she keeps remembering friends or colleagues or distant family members who don’t know that she is her and not him anymore. Even after the great Facebook Self-Outing Incident there are still people too oblivious – sometimes on purpose – to her status. She’s been asked if she’s her own sister, for heaven’s sake. At least Priya has her back on that front; Priya’s very clear about the number of brothers and sisters she has these days.
Maya just has to wonder, though, whether the process will ever be over, whether the world will ever truly know her as Maya and not Rajesh. Every time someone mentions her old name it grates a little more on her. She is coming to understand how some of her friends can refer to their old names as “slave names”. It’s horribly ironic considering that none of the servants from back home, not even her old ayah Mercy, will use either of her names anymore; her father’s rule held firm in the face of Maya’s long history of almost-friendship with them. She has mixed feelings about this; apart from anything else she feels guilty now that she ever crowed over the fact that her family had servants. Hiring a cleaner once in a while to go over her apartment is one thing (and it’s really only when she absolutely can’t bear to do the dusting); having actual all the time servants and calling them servants, well, that’s an entirely different story.
She thinks she is running out of people to come out to, though. New people that she meets are meeting her as Maya, not as Maya who was Rajesh, and although some of them are skeptical it’s still a step forward. A big step, considering her first hesitant step back in December.
Then (December 2010): Outing
Leonard stares at the door through which Raj – Rajya; the time of Maya is yet to come – has just disappeared. He can hear voices in the stairwell and that’s a bad sign; one of them is Penny’s and it’s raised indignantly or something, and that’s worse.
She comes into the apartment without knocking, still in her uniform, well and truly riled. “Which one of you put Raj up to this?” she demands. “You know he’s vulnerable. You shouldn’t be messing with his head like this. Or mine.”
Howard opens his mouth to say something, probably something crass, but Leonard gets there first. “She isn’t as vulnerable as you think,” he says, pointedly stressing the pronoun. Some of his social skills might suck, but he knows from experience that trans people (and Rajya is trans; it’s going to take some getting used to) hate being misgendered, and if they’re going to get used to it they need to start now. “She had the nerve to come out to us tonight, and you’re the only one who’s not cool with it.”
“Why would – I’m – are you serious?”
“Of course I’m serious! Cross-dressing at Comic-Con is one thing, but this is no joke. It’s the real deal.”
“I wish he’d told us sooner,” Howard says. He still looks a little like Rajya smacked him with an anvil, instead of just turning up in girly jeans and makeup.
“She,” Leonard corrects him, not for the first time. He’s thinking of people his mother has counseled in the past, the few people she softened her harsh exterior around just a little to let them know they were safe. Little Leonard, six or eight or ten years old, watching Beverly Hofstadter sitting at the kitchen table, doling out tea and coffee and biscuits and tissues to men and women just discovering themselves.
Now he watches Penny’s face soften with realization, if not quite understanding. “Oh God. I should go after her,” she says, twisting her fingers together.
“You probably should.”
She leaves, not bothering to change out of her work clothes, or even to close the door behind herself; Leonard listens to her running down the stairs and watches Sheldon cross the room to wash out his tea mug as if nothing has happened. Maybe, to Sheldon, nothing has. Howard still has the smacked by anvil look on his face.
“Maybe I should go with her,” he starts.
“No, Howard. Penny’s got to do this alone.”
“Oh, for... this isn’t Labyrinth, Leonard!”
Leonard thinks, maybe not, but it’s the start of a big quest anyway. He doesn’t try to explain this aloud, instead settling for, “I know, but I think Rajya would be more comfortable explaining it on her own instead of with any of us hovering.” He has to remember to be careful about the name and the pronoun; all childhood experience aside, it’s still a bit of a shock now that it’s someone he knows.
Sheldon returns to his spot. “Not to mention, Wolowitz, you aren’t exactly an expert on the social skills required for a conversation between women.”
Howard bristles. “Oh, and you are?”
“Guys, guys,” Leonard hastily interrupts. “Penny’s gone, it’s a moot point now, and we’ll all hear how it turns out soon enough, I’m sure.”
Just to be safe, though, he pulls out his phone and texts Penny with Don’t yell at her.
The indignant response a few seconds later is, Y would I? she needs support! Leonard just hopes Penny wasn’t driving too fast at the time; her habit of texting while driving is bound to cause trouble one day. (He assumes the single punctuation marks are indicative of her keeping at least one eye on the road; she usually peppers her texts with exclamation marks.)
Howard and Sheldon snipe at each other a little longer before Sheldon announces his intention to go to bed, Howard announces his intention to go to bed with Bernadette, as if having a girlfriend he actually sleeps with somehow better qualifies him to know more about women, and Leonard does not announce his own intention to wait up for Penny, but just goes to make a cup of coffee and settle in at his computer.
After Howard leaves, the Vespa engine noise blending into the usual night noises of Pasadena, Sheldon gets on Skype and starts talking to Amy about Rajya. Leonard is too tired, and too realistically minded about how rumors spread, to shut him up. Better Amy hears it from Sheldon, who at least seems to be somewhat accepting of the situation, than from Penny, at least if Penny’s still being strange about it.
He hears Penny coming up the stairs an hour or so later, well after Sheldon’s gone to bed, and goes out to intercept her in the hallway. She looks exhausted and her mascara is streaky, but she smiles at him.
“Everything okay?” he asks.
“Apart from me being a total idiot to a good friend? Yeah. I feel awful, but I think she forgave me.” She sounds like she’s being careful with pronouns too. Leonard knows that it’ll come more naturally with time.
“Sheldon told Amy over Skype, and Howard’s probably told Bernadette by now.”
Penny grins and rolls her eyes. “Howard’s probably trying to talk Bernadette into some kind of kinky threesome or something.”
Leonard is unbalanced for a moment by her smile; he misses having twosomes, let alone threesomes. “Uh... yeah, maybe. Knowing Howard.”
“Yeah, well, knowing Bernadette, it ain’t gonna happen.” Penny moves towards her apartment door, fumbling for her keys. “I really need to shower now... my hair’s all greasy.” She makes a face indicating extreme disgust. Her hair looks more or less perfect, but then Leonard’s not an impartial judge. “Night, Leonard.”
“Yeah, night Penny.” He watches her go into her apartment and close the door before he goes back into his own apartment. He’s not sure that he’ll get to sleep any time soon, so he pre-empts insomnia by switching his computer on.
One of the first hits that his Google search nets him is for Caltech’s Center for Diversity. Before long, he’s immersed in a document about transgender terminology and has Caltech’s Nondiscrimination and Equal Employment Opportunity policy open in another tab to read next.
Whatever the rest of the world might think about Rajya, he for one is planning to be ready for any reaction his friend gets, and to defend her as much as possible. He’s not sure where this sudden burst of protectiveness has come from, but suspects his mother would say it’s something to do with how he never got to act as protector for his brother and sister. They got on fine on their own. Rajya, though, Rajya might need some help. Rajya doesn’t have the enforced thick skin of a Hofstadter. (Neither does Leonard, technically, but he’s not going to let that minor detail be an issue.)
If he can protect Raj from any of the storms that are sure to come her way, he wants to be as well-armed as possible, and knowledge is power.