It’s that time of the month, already. I arrive at the clinic and the receptionist asks about my friend. I guess she made a better impression than I did. I’m am given those embarrassingly small slippers to wear and I’m led to the room with the intense ultraviolet light and the hard flat table. As I lay there with the cold cloth over my face the ceiling starts to shift and move around. The air duct grate in the corner heaves and bends in a way that is impossible. I wonder if this is from my photosensitivity or the acid I’ve not taken in many years. Either way, I wish I’d taken my phone with me.
The doctor comes in after ten minutes of presoaking. I suddenly feel intensely vulnerable–are my boobs too obviously showing. I feel his presence over me and I am uncomfortable. I think I am ready for this as I have lost a lot of hair and the last session was less painful. He say’s to me in his broken English:”Higher setting, more pain.” He smiles and then disappears behind the ridiculous little goggles they give me, you know, the suntanning goggles. I wince even though it is not painful at first. I can see the energy from the laser shoot through my tightly closed eyes in my retinas, like red lightning. I can smell the doctor’s breath over the smell of burning hair; he smells heavily of cigarettes.
He stops and says, “Now painful part.” The pain on my upper lip is intense and my whole body winces. It is more intense than the first time.When he is done in only a few short minutes I can only see his face and his technician’s through a field of blurry tears. He chimes, “Finished,” and then disappears. The technician places more cold clothes on my face and I lay there for twenty minutes wishing that I had my phone. Instead, I worry that I won’t get enough treatments before I leave Korea in six months and then fear I will be left with some form facial hair forever. The dysphoria has returned.
Some time later I attempt to maintain my dignity as I shuffle in my slippers back through the reception area to the change room. I look in the mirror and see the intense burning read mustache that I now have where there was only smooth clean shaven flesh forty minutes ago. I think about the TERFS/RADFEMS I read about on the internet and how they think womanhood has to be earned as if transwomen cannot do so. Surely this must qualify. I then head out into the cold January street to walk home.