ReadingRoom

BookBubble podcast: Kyle Mewburn

Stacy Gregg and Nicky Pellegrino continue their BookBubble podcast series with an interview with Kyle Mewburn, the transgender author of children's picture books.

Kyle Mewburn's impending autobiography tells the emotional and powerful story of her journey to realising her true self as a transwoman.

In this episode of Book Bubble, the author of picture books for children recalls the lengthy physical ordeal of facial feminisation surgery, growing up in a household without love or books, and coming to terms with what being an author, and being transgender, means to her now.

An extract from Strawberry Jam in a Spinach Can by Kyle Mewburn

Voices seep into my consciousness, gentle as osmosis. They heave me slowly out of darkness like dragging a buoy from unfathomable depths. I open my eyes. Faces hover overhead, distant. I blink the world into focus. I am in the operating theatre. Of course.

"It is over," a smiling face informs me.

As my muddled brain deciphers their meaning, relief floods through my body. It is over.

"Come, you must help us. Wake up. That is good."

I feel bewildered, yet lucid enough to obey. I wriggle myself onto the gurney. An eye blink later I drag myself onto my bed. A young guy, employed to stay with me and act as interpreter, introduces himself. He applies an icepack mask to my face, then I plunge into sleep.

An alarm jerks me awake. It takes a few seconds to remember where I am.

"I must replace the icepack every two hours," the interpreter explains. He gently peels the limp plastic from my face. My face flushes with a pleasant numbness as the coldness of the fresh icepack washes over me, wafting me back to sleep.

My sleep is dream-less. Death with breath.

As the night wears on, I realise the interpreter is swapping between two icepacks. The two hour interlude is hardly enough to restore them to full frozenness. 

I awake with a warm icepack sitting on my face like a dead jellyfish. I yank it off and gasp for breath. Dawn is beginning to filter into the room. I can hear birds and distant traffic.

A nurse comes to check my signs and enquire whether or not I've peed. I've been forbidden to have any liquids the last 24 hours, so it seems a bit of a tall order. She gives me a glass of water then sternly presses my bladder.

It soon does the trick. I peel the tepid icepack off my face and glance at the interpreter. He's snoring loudly in the neighbouring bed. I slide out of bed and gingerly stand. I've never been under anaesthetic before, so I'm prepared for anything. There's no vertigo or drowsiness. In fact, I feel incredibly stable.

I set off towards the bathroom. The wheels of the drip stand lock. I lift it and, holding it before me like a staff, shuffle past the snoring interpreter. I'm surprised how fit I feel. How normal. Apart from my head, which feels like an overfilled balloon.

When the nurse returns I'm able to honestly report a successful visit. She accepts my assurance without question. I sigh ruefully. If I'd lied earlier, I might be home by now.

A white coat appears - it's the surgeon who re-made my nose. His bedside manner is smooth, his English polished. He gently removes the casing, considers my nose from every angle. "Perfect," he says, allowing no room for doubt.

He tweezers a 50cm long tapeworm of blood-soaked padding from each nostril with élan. "I'm a magician!" he quips.

A light protective cast is placed over my nose and my face is bandaged for the journey home. Don't want to scare the natives. I'm now less Frankenstein's monster and more invisible man... woman, I mean. 

An hour later I am discharged. We wander into sunshine.

Strawberry Jam in a Spinach Can by Kyle Mewburn is due to be published by Penguin Random House in February 2021.

* Made with the support of Arts Council NZ Toi Aotearoa - Creative NZ *

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