Monday, March 29, 2010

Gettin' There

"Welcome to the fallout,
Welcome to resistance,
The tension is here,
Then tension is here,
Between who you are and who you could be,
Between how it is and how it should be."

-Switchfoot, "Dare You To Move"

Friday night I was in Lexington staying with friends after a laser appointment.  At one point I decided to go by Kroger and get chips, dip, and some Coronas .  I didn't really know exactly where the store was, so I used GPS and ended up at a Kroger I had never been to, just a few minutes farther than the usual one.

It was late and the aisles were nearly deserted, which was just as well.  There was less hair for laser to effect this time, so the skin irritation and darkening of the hair were a little less noticeable than usual, but it still left me insecure.  It was impossible to shave the remaining hair close enough for makeup, and my skin probably wouldn't respond have responded well to either, so I was stuck presenting male, and looking a little more convincing than I care to.  I had dreaded too much public exposure in such a state; my baggy, oversized, careless male guise I've described here so often, with a worn leather bomber jacket over, and my freshly lasered face.  The solitude was welcome.

I found the items I needed quickly, then wheeled my cart to checkout and found there was one open lane.  The cashier eyed me as I approached.  He was tall and athletic, and really too young for me to be concerned with his opinion of me in the least. But suddenly I was thinking about the way I looked and feeling incredibly insecure.

I am in the habit of unloading carts from the front, but I stepped into the lane with the cart ahead of me.  As I started to step around to the front, I realized that the lanes were oddly narrow, so I had to slip past the cart awkwardly.  Then when I reached the front and looked at the cart, I realized that instead of a huge load of groceries, I was just buying a few items loaded, of course, from the back.  Rather than myself look even more stupid going all the way around the cart again, I just stretched to reach across the whole cart to unload, probably again looking like such a dunce.

After he scanned my items and the guy bagging the groceries placed them into another cart, (mine is still sillily behind me after all) he says "Ma'am, can I see your ID?"  I had been stressing  over being perceived as male (and a weird looking one at that), and let it make me nervous enough to do the ditziest, grocery checkout imaginable, only to find out that apparently was not the perception at all.

I was elated, for a split second, but that quickly gave way to another wave of anxiety as I realized what would inevitably happen next.   I fished a men's wallet out of my pocket to provide my ID, and stepped close enough that the lasered hair would have to be noticeable. He took it all in stride, and didn't seem taken aback by any of it.   I payed, and as I stepped over to take the other cart, the employee who had bagged the groceries spoke.  **Made up name in all this stuff below. :P**

"Hey, do you know someone name Sophie?"  **If you have to make up a name, I say pick something interesting!**

At this point I'm really noticing him for the first time; I'd been so nervous about how much of a weirdo I must look like to the clerk, and so preoccupied with fighting the cart.  A bit shorter than me, thin and wirey.  Dark hair, brown eyes.  He's got a series of heavy, matching silver hoops in his ears, and a goatee. Overall he presents a really gothic vibe.

"Mmmmm, Sophie Scarborough?" I ask.

"Um, yeh." he says.

A this point, it is obvious that he has pegged me as a transgender woman, because Sophie Scarborough is a local trans girl.  As I step through the doors into the entrance, he follows me out, talking about Sophie.  "He's a friend of mine, we go way back." he explains.

At this point he looks a bit disappointed at himself and embarrassed about referring to Sophie as a he.  He tells me they were friends in high school, and that its a bit of an adjustment.  "Back in high school, we always called her Neo.  Do we call her Trinity now?", he jokes casually.

We talked for a few moments there in the entry and I told him that me and Sophie occasionally see each other at support groups, and that she's always seemed pretty cool to me.  He tells me he's been trying to get up with her for a while and asks me to let her know if I get a chance to mention.  He says I'm welcome to come by and hang out. "... as long as you don't torch the place." he jokes again.

He tells me to have a good night, and I say "You too."  I don't think I showed any nervousness, but I was caught off guard enough by the whole thing that I forgot to get his name.  I don't really know Sophie well, but I'll probably message her on myspace and let her know she has an old high school friend there looking for her.

I was sleepy that night and didn't think about it a lot more.  I did tell my friend's the short version of the story though.

In the morning I woke up wondering if I was wrong about the believability of my male presentation.  I was physically and stylistically as masculine looking as I ever get that night, and I'd been ma'am'ed once at fairly close range, and clocked as transgender.  So basically, I came in contact with two people, and 0% had seen me as a normal genetic male.

I talked to my friends about it, and I said I'm wondering now how passable I am.  "As a girl?", "No, as a guy.", I clarified.  Everyone started laughing and I suddenly felt like I had hit a major milestone.  No one seemed to think I had much of a chance passing as a guy.

I've said this before, but one of my major goals is to get my physical appearance sorted out well enough that no matter what I wear, people will generally assume I'm a woman and not need secondary things like gender specific hairstyles or clothing to help make the identification.  I mean, I enjoy clothes, but I want them to be something I enjoy, not a prop I rely on to help people gauge my gender identity.  Its starting to look like maybe I'm approaching that goal.

As my friend's encouraged me, I thought back over the last few months.  The tech from one of our vendor's at work, who called me miss.  The server at Cracker Barrel last weekend who asked me and Robin "What would you ladies like to drink?"  The trip to the theatre the same weekend, with the stares in the lobby, the standoff-ish ticket checker, and the teens in the restroom.  "That dude looked like a girl!" (There's more to that story, but that is another blog entirely.)  And of course, all the things students have said at work.   I guess really all the evidence is there.  I'm through passing as male! =)

I think maybe I've been a bit like an anorexic person.  As the condition is usually described,  no matter how much weight they lose, when they look in the mirror, they see too much.  I hated having to look like a guy, and sometimes its been pretty dramatic.  Really no matter how much I change, the remnants of the way I looked back then are the features that same most pronounced to me.

When something happens that implies I'm doing better with my transition than I thought, I might take notice for a while, but in the long run, I decide I'm fooling myself to think anyone is perceiving me as anything other than a man.  Eventually I write each thing off as an isolated incident.  And when my friend's compliment me, I tend to think they are being optimistic.  But its starting to look like its all true! I really am well on my way!

There is some tension that comes with this though.  If my male presentation is that off, what are people thinking at work?  The state department just interviewed me a bit ago.  I wonder what their perception of me was now.  I just hope my job is safe.  I guess the positive side of this though, is that if I'm that unappeasable as a guy, and its not caused a lot of friction at work yet, I am probably safe here at least until I'm ready to go full time.  Perhaps even after.

If it does cause me trouble, it will be worth it.  I just want to be me, and I want my appearance to reflect who I am, and I want to feel comfortable in my own body.  I'm closer to all those things than ever before. =)

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Time for a change... Oil that is.

My car is overdue for an oil change, so yesterday I went out and bought some oil and a filter.  Believe it or not, I can change my own oil! :p  Generaly Dad does most of the work, and I just do this and that to make the process faster and easier.  Still I have seen it done often enough I'm quite sure I could do it though.  but my great automotive prowess is beside the point.  Ha!

So, back to the car parts store!  I walked in and the guy at the counter asked if he could help me.  I explained that I needed 5 quarts of Mobil 1 5W-30 and a filter appropriate for a 2007 PT Cruiser.  In a flash, he had the oil on the counter and had recommended a filter.

In past blogs I have mentioned that my middle name is Shannon, and that I use it pretty much everywhere. My first name I inherited from my Dad.  It is not nearly as androgynous.  No one ever uses that name, and its no longer even on any of my credit cards except for one. That particular card was the one I chose for this purchase.

Let's hypothetically say my given name is Jim Shannon Smith, and that this particular card says Jim S Smith.  When I handed it over the clerk checked the name and said, "Oh, Jim Smith! Is that Jim Smith from  Ziguflia?" (I'm not really from Ziguflia, thats hypothetical again.)  The clerk was a bit older than my Dad, and that's obviosuly who he was referring to.

I'm in guy mode of course, so I reply "Yes, I'm his son."  At that point he looked a bit puzzled and asked me to repeat, so I told him again.  He looked more confused than ever.

"Uh.. hmm... uh... Well!" he eventually replied.  "He's a fine fell'er."


Then I remembered the other two times I have bought oil, both at this same store.  The first time, I fumbled for a way to carry 5 quarts of oil.  The second time, I noticed there were baskets at the door. But never has anyone asked me what I wanted when they saw me standing in the oil section and started getting it for me.  Also, it was odd to assume the card wasn't mine, but rather a relative's.  The total confusion at finding out I was his "son", after I had handed him the credit card he presumed was my Dad's.

It seems to add up. I think he perceived me as female right up until the moment when I used the word "son."  I left soooooo happy!

A few weeks earlier I called for Mom and Dad to close their satellite internet account, since we are finally able to get DSL here.  The subject of my gender never came up, as I only stated that I was calling to close Jim Smith's account.  He was super sweet to me, and in the end he explained that he was sending a pre-paid box for some of the satellite gear.  "Where is the dish mounted?"

"On the corner of the roof."

"Will your husband or someone be able to climb up and get that down for you?" :):):):)

In both instances I'm extremely happy  that they got my gender right.  (Presumably in the oil instance.)  Friends have been telling me that my days as passing as a guy are pretty much over, but I never really believed.  Now I am starting to see it and I'm thrilled!

But does anyone see a pattern here?  Apparently I should need help picking out my oil? I admit I had to look it up in the manual right before I walked in the store, but still!  And have my husband climb up and take down a piece of metal held by a few bolts. Oh really?  What an assumption.  For the most part women are more graceful than men.  Plus we don't have that invulnerability complex that men have in most instances  All in all I'd say I'm safer on a roof than most men. I'm not super strong but I think I could probably unscrew some bolts holding a satellite dish too.

If women are supposed to be helpless and inept at all skills other than changing diapers and curling hair, I'm going to have a hard time passing. LOL!!  Still its all very flattering though.  I'm so happy, and I'm very convinced everything is going to work out.  Maybe someday I really will have a husband.  And if he insists, he can do all the ladder climbing, wrenching and oil changing. I won't miss it.