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. =)


Stace said...

Congratulations! I have to say I don't think you could pass as a guy...

As to the weight issue. This is something that I have struggled with my whole life, even at 5'11" and 9 stone I thought I was overweight. Please don't start a diet though - that is the one thing I have always managed to avoid.

I'd tell you how envious I am of how slim you are, but I know from personal experience that is not going to have an effect...


Leslie Ann said...

And don't forget the girl working at Taco Bell!

I guess all the anecdotal evidence is finally reaching critical mass for you. It's about freakin' time, girlfriend! We have been telling you this for months. At least you're starting to hear us now...

Anyone that knows you as a male is pretty sure something is up with you. Those that don't know you don't automatically see a male, regardless of your clothing.

What an interesting life you lead, sister.

caroline said...

Didn't we tell you already luv?

Caroline XXX

Jerica Truax said...

gratz girl! That's so great. =)

I never did get to that stage in guy mode where i didn't pass anymore but I can imagine what it would've been like. =) Uplifting. hehe

chrissie said...

Honey, you do NOT need to diet..!

And get to pass as a guy? I don't think so, pet... You left that behind a long while ago.

Nice little experience, there, BTW.


ms.shandy said...

Thanks so much everyone! You always make me feel so encouraged. I do need to clear up some sloppy writing though. The anorexia comment was such a bad comparison and I'll have to go back and write it more clearly later. I really didn't mean to imply that I am anorexic but that I have a similar tendency to misinterpret my own image based on insecurities. Only, not about weight. WHen I look in the mirror, I tend to focus on the heavy bone structure, the too wide nose, the heavy eyebrow arch, and the hair line that isn't shaped quite right.

It's really a bad comparison to make, and its a little too abstract. It was late and I was sleepy though! :P

I'm definitely not anorexic. I've actually been letting myself gain a little weight over the last two years. :)

So sorry about the confusion.

Leslie Ann said...

I understood your analogy, Shan. But maybe it's a Kentucky thing that didn't translate. Two countries separated by a common language, and all that.

Amy K. said...

Most women focus on imperfections quite a lot. When it comes right down to it, you may be your own worst critic. And I LOVE not passing as male! So welcome to the club. :)

During the Summer of 2006, my parents and I went to NC to visit my daughter. Once we got down there, we went to a local restaurant where a waitress was calling me ma'am through the whole dinner. On the way back up, I got ma'am'ed at another eatery. Unfortunately, I had to use the men's restroom at rest areas because my parents were around. I got a lot of scary looks from guys in there, and on the way out, a man walking in saw me, stopped, and backed up to look at the sign, making sure he was going into the right restroom! All this with no makeup, shoulder length hair, male jeans and a plain t-shirt. To this day, my folks tell me they didn't notice the waitresses calling me that. Yeah, right! Denial anyone? So I just figured I'd share. Keep up the good work on being yourself! :)

ms.shandy said...

@amy Maybe your parents thought the waitress was really hip. "Can I take your order man? Oooh, parmesan tilapia! Totally tubular!"

Seriously though, I never eat out with Mom and Dad. We do travel together some, but Mom is very fond of grabbing fast food and eating in the car. The first time something like that happens in their presence will probably be really emotional.

The men's room is already a bit scary for me, presenting male. I've got some really weird looks, and some other things have happened. That is actually an upcoming blog.

The thing with someone checking the door sign gave me a smile. I've experienced the opposite. I was at Cracker Barrel once, and as I left the bathroom, a girl approaching the restrooms glanced at me on my way out and started toward the door I had just left through. She realized she was stepping into the men's room just as she was about to touch the door. Hehe!

Also, another bathroom story! I was at a McDonald' once, in boy mode, and everyone there was looking at me. As I approached the restroom an older lady waiting in line nearby was staring at me like I was a demon or something. There was a tiny janitor's closet between the two restrooms, less than 3 feet deep. She made me so nervous I got confused, opened the janitor's closet and I just stood there a sec before I figured out what was going on. LOL!

Leslie Ann said...

No one should have that many bathroom stories...

ms.shandy said...

There's one left, but that is another blog. LOL

Calie said...

As I was reading this post, and got to the ma'amed part, I almost said out loud...YES!! To be presenting as male but validated as female, well that does tell me that you are one lucky girl.

The incident with the friend of Sophie's was, indeed, strange. Perhaps he is trans. Perhaps he is an admirer. Perhaps he is both. As Alice Novac said in her book, Alice in Genderland, "Inside every admirer is a tranny" (paraphrased and written as I recall it).

Calie xxx

ms.shandy said...

I got a very masculine vibe from him. I've really not figured out what that was about. I just thought it was so odd. The other guy was noticeably uncomfortable around me, yet he followed me out to talk to me. I think it was kind of brave to do that. The other guy probably made fun of him for talking to me when he got back.

I like that paraphrased quote thing. As much as I generally dislike blanket statements, there seems to be a lot of truth in that one. A lot of guys who approach me online eventually admit some form of gender dysphoria, or if not, then some strong bisexual tendencies, or both.