Sunday, August 29, 2010

The Partial Answers To My Paranoid Questions

Just dropping in a clarification here.  When I wrote up the last blog, I forgot that outside the United States a "truck" means a really big truck.  Some comments referred to a trucker, and Mandy mentioned one as well in an email and it reminded me!  Here, what is called a baki or a pick up in the rest of the world passes as a truck.  The "truck" in question was just a full size pickup.  For the record. :P

My presentation and physical appearance has shifted a lot this year.  The fact that its all possible, I haven't lost my job as a result, and that most people in my community still treat me well feels nothing short of miraculous.  Sometimes its almost to hard to believe.  In part due to that disbelief, my lifelong inferiority and insecurities are still there, festering beneath he confidence that has grown as I've begun to assert myself and open up to the world.

At one point my insecurities literally ruled my existence.  Now weaker, they do not rule my life, but the insecurities to exert their own subtle influence.  Like, the baby I was afraid to talk to the other day, because I assumed the grandmother viewed me as some kind of weirdo.  I've just always felt inferior, and like my presence is burdensome, and though those feelings are weakening, they still surface at odd times.

Mostly though, it just takes the form of questions whispering through my mind when I'm in the presence of other people.  What do they think I am?  Do they hate me? Are they disgusted by me?  Do I look like a girl? Do I look like a guy?  Do I look like a joke?

I've had lots of encouragement lately.  All my friends tell me I look okay, and not at all male.  There are signs that lots of people here support me,and fairly neutral reactions from most, but the questions are still there.

Monday I got a text message from a friend.  He had overheard a conversation about me.  Basically he said that the consensus in this group was that I was turning out to be a very pretty woman.  He said no one was laughing or joking, and basically that the tone was light and conversational.

My friend has a lot going on right now, and I'm touched that he took the time to write it up.  He knew I wondered where I stand with the people around me at this point and realized this conversation would be a comfort to me.

The opinions of normal people talking privately without any reason to sugarcoat anything.  From the things he mentioned, it seems common knowledge that I am transitioning, the physical changes were evident to the people in this conversation, and at least this particular group seemed to have no problem with what I am doing.  All very reassuring! =)

If AT&T had delivered that message Monday instead of Thursday, maybe I would have felt less stressed all week. But that's okay.  I had quite possibly my last laser appointment Friday and I'm looking a bit rough.  I can use all the extra confidence I can find this week so the message is very timely.

If things continue as they are, September will be the month of my name change and officially coming out at work.  I anticipate very little trouble with the process now.  Everyone already knows, and I'm mostly already presenting right.  As I said in an earlier post, this really amounts now to a change of pronouns and shoes. On top of that, apparently it is a change people are already expecting.  It's still going to be scary, but nothing like I used to imagine.

I think I am more proud of this community than I have ever felt in my life.  So many people have been so sweet and supportive.  Some subtly so, and others more direct.  Here I am in the middle of a highly controversial process that mostly people haven't had a reason to think about here.   But for the most part they have made me feel at home.  (With the exception of a few certain students.)

I'm just feeling so happy and grateful to everyone right now. :)

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Wheel Bearings, a Couple U Turns, Mistaken Identity, and Such

Today I left work around noon to go to a neighboring community for a car repair appointment.  It seemed a straight forward task.  Dad stopped by the office to ask if he needed to go with me so I could have a drive home if they needed to keep the car.  I told him if they needed to keep it, I'd call and let him know, then kill time in town until he could arrive.  I really wanted him to along, because mechanics always understand right away that he is not someone to try to cheat.  He knows his way around cars better than most people who work on them for a living.  Still, I didn't want to bother him with it so I went on my own.

When I arrived they took the car in on schedule, but there was one problem.  I intended to eat lunch while they had the car.  The dealership is on a busy stretch of road with a few fast food restaurants.  I forgot though, that the service department was on a completely separate property about a half a mile away on a short seedy looking side road that is generally deserted.

I suppose hunger controlled my decision in the matter.  Despite being a lone, annoyingly androgynous looking pre-operative transexual woman dressed in a mixed assemblage of men's and womens clothes, in a town I'm not terribly familiar with,  I found myself walking the half mile to a Wendy's.  I felt uneasy.  I was alone.  My pepper spray was locked up in my car.  A couple of guys weed eating the first strip of road turned to look at me with unreadable expressions- both were wearing tinted goggles.  In my head I started running through the options available to me if someone found me offensive and started harassing me.  Run? Call 911?

That short road dead ended into another, and I turned right.  From there it is only a short walk to town's main drag.  The road is fairly well traveled, but there are no businesses in the section I was on.  The road was empty.  Then one truck came toward me.  Inside I could see the driver was looking my direction and  the vehicle was clearly slowing.  My heart began to race.  If he could tell what I am and he wanted to hurt me, there would be no witnesses.

He stopped the truck in the middle of the road and shouted something that got lost in the engine's loud idle.  I waved and smiled then continued on, walking much faster, but trying not to look scared.  At first it sounded like the truck was accelerating to leave behind me, but then the engine slowed audibly.  With a toss of my head I stole a quick glance behind me and found the truck was sideways in the road, in the middle of executing a U-Turn.

Both my heart and my stride quickened even more.  As I heard the truck behind me I couldn't think of anything to do except keep walking.  Then it was beside me in the median.  He stopped with his passenger door next to me.  The window was down.  I stopped and faced him with what I'm sure was an uneasy smile.  Either he was to oblivious to realize he was scaring me, or to rude to care.  At that point I got a close look at him for the first time.  Lightly built, darkly tanned.  Brown eyes and greying brown hair.  Something about his facial expression and posture seemed a bit suggestive.

He spoke in a slow, low drawl.  "Lookin' for somethin' to do?"

Odd choice of words.  Was this whole thing a poorly executed pick up attempt rather than a hate crime in progress then?  "something to do..."  Did he think I was a prostitute, or a tramp, or an assassin?  Maybe he had yard work for me?   Errrrr....

At any rate, I really wasn't sure what to think or what he expected.  I was scared and didn't know what to say.  Despite that, I was talking uncontrollably just moments after he finished his question.  It all came out fast and high, and nervous sounding I think. "Actually, my car is being serviced and I'm just trying to get to Wendy's for lunch while I wait."  I blurted out.

"Huh?" he said, clearly confused by my rapid fire explanation.

I started over, trying to answer more comprehensibly, but it came out much the same.

He drove on, executing a second U-turn to get back on track.  As je came back past he waved.

After lunch and the car stuff, I dropped by a store in my home town for a snack.  In line a grandmother held her young grandchild with his head leaned agains her shoulder facing back.  As we waited in line, he kept smiling at me, and eventually said "hi."  Then, he looked at me with the prettiest little blue eyes I have ever seen, and said:


His  grandmother told him I wasn't his Mommy and they were going to see her now, but throughout our wait in line, every now and then he'd reach for me and call me Mommy again. I would have loved to just hold him for a second.  Such an adorable child.

In a similar situation any normal person could have held out a hand for him and told the grandmother how cute he was and talked to him a bit at least.  But this is my home town, and everyone knows I'm genetically male.  I have no idea what his grandmother sees when she looks at me.  Maybe she sees a pathetic confused man, or a dangerous pervert.  Maybe she sees a demon or a 21st century version of Jezebel.  Perhaps she just saw me as a tall, oddly dressed, really quiet girl.

I decided I'd  give them space.  In case she did see me as something threatening, I didn't want to worry her.  I know if I had a baby or grand baby with me and someone approached that I was wary of and I was forced to take it politely, I wouldn't like it.  Plus, there's jsut the awkwardness of knowing how odd it would seem to anyone for a male to ooo and ahhh and coo over a baby who jsut called you Mom.

There are jsut so many variables in any situation when you don't know how other people perceive you.  I just talked to him from a distance, very quietly when he called out or reached toward me.

The good news is that despite the awkwardness caused by my gender presentation situation, the experience still felt really positive.  The bad news is that I doubt I'll ever have anyone to reach out for me and call me Mommy on a regular basis, and that is too bad because it was such a nice feeling.


Monday, August 23, 2010


Its been a crazy time since my last post.  I've continued to push my work presentation in the last couple of weeks, and still things seem to be going okay.  My last few classroom visits have barely caused a stir at all and most of the teachers seem fine with me.

I'm still getting encouragement and compliments occasionally on my hair, makeup and clothes.  A co-worker actually gave me an Avon catalog last Thursday.

Today was moving day and I spent most of my time moving all my stuff from my old office to my boss's former office, as he is moving on to another building.  For the move I wore a men's button up partially buttoned over a women's tank.  But the air conditioning is out still so my office is still 85 degrees, and the furniture was really too heavy for me to move alone.  As a result I ended up feeling very warm and the men's shirt ended up spending most of its time wadded up on my desk.  No one really seemed all that freaked out! :P

I'm still not officially out, but I have researched the Kentucky process for the name change and I'll probably  take action soon!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

A Summer With A Twist

 I spent yesterday in Lexington with Mom and Dad. We went to shop for a particular hardwood floor cleaner, and ended up having a really great visit with an aunt and uncle I have there.  There was some computer work involved, but it was still such a nice visit.  The truly wonderful part was that I was treated so nicely.  I think it is the least tense visit I have had with any of my aunts and uncles since I started transition.  I credit my own growing confidence partially, but they seemed to genuinely accept my appearance, which felt so nice.  I was greeted very warmly, and from that point it is like a wave of calm just picked me up and carried me through the day.

This relaxed weekend was so welcome, because while the rest of my summer has been nice, I would not consider applying the word relaxed.  Summer is usually my respite from students, but this year my department has nine summer workers instead of the usual two to four.  While they have mostly been nice to me, it has left me feeling on edge.  Also, summer break was short because of all the missed instructional days this winter, and now the school is packed with lots of kids again.  Kids who have not seen me in a while in most cases, or ever in others.  The same is true with the staff.  Lots of new hires and familiar faces returning from their summer break.  And of course work volume is suddenly up, and I find myself constantly racing through halls of people.

Anxiety is fairly high, as I constantly wonder what people think of me and what is being said behind my back.

The first day the kids were back in, I was chatting with a few teachers in the hall.  I was facing a sixth grade room and the conversation's other participants had their back to the open door.  Inside a bunch of young boys were waving and smiling.  One even gave a thumbs up.  I waved and smiled back, knowing full well that these kids were new to the building and would probably be laughing at me once they find out a bit more.

Walking the halls of the high school is pretty rough now.  Girls laughing.  Guys talking loudly about me.  "He's wearing makeup!"  "He's got boobs!"  Walking into classrooms, teachers have to silence kids within seconds of my arrival almost without fail.  Eyes are on me, there's constant whispering, and lots of laughing.  Occasionally some boisterous guy will start to address me, or say something loud enough for the whole room to hear.  A teacher is always kind enough to cut them off though. Still, leaving rooms, there is usually a wave of laughter as soon as the door closes.

I am feeling defiant lately.  Instead of discouraging me, the social issues make me want to push further.  Over the course of the summer and the early school year I have phased in full makeup, women's jeans, and largely due to my busted air condition and 85 degree office, phased out layering shirts, and phased in  a few better fitting ones.

The result is that I'm pushing far toward the feminine edge of androgynous appearance.  A few friend's tend to say I've crossed out of androgyny all together.  Perhaps I have.  There is evidence for it.  Like the men's room for instance.  I have mostly become confident enough to stop using it when I am out of town, regardless of presentation.  But in town many people know my past, and I haven't said anything officially so changing is awkward.  Still, men who don't know me tend to stare if they come in and find me at the sink washing up.  Last Thursday I was leaving the Hardee's restroom as a guy was entering.  He looked so embarrassed as he started to apologize for intruding on my privacy and explaining that he had taken the wrong door.  I told him three times before he turned to check the sign again.  I walked out briskly, with no really good direction left for the conversation.

There are other sorts of evidence too, that the jig is pretty much up.  I walked past the cafeteria after school last week, just as the football players were coming out on their way practice.  After I am past by a few feet, (its amazing how often kid's act like you are safely out of ear shot when you are a few feet away) one says "That's what I'm talkin' about!"  to which another boy replies, "Duuuuuuudeeee, that's a boy!!!!!!"  This gets an "Ewwwwwwwwww!" from the first kid and a lot of loud indistinguishable chatter picks up as I walk away briskly.

I know this probably all sounds terrible and awkward, but I'm very happy.  I think I am actually pretty much out.  Making it official is really down to just paper work and a few awkward but less than shocking meetings at this point.  Presentation wise, it will be a change in shirts and shoes, and not much more.  And though a few kids are annoying now, many are still supportive, and adults have never been anything less than polite to me.

One moment really stands out in student interactions.  I walked into a classroom to look at a messed up laptop.  The teacher had to remind the kids in no uncertain terms that they needed to be working on their quizz.  The chatter died, but I continued to get stares.  I was having a hard time holding onto my smile.  The room felt so unwelcome.  On my way out the door one boy said "Hi Shannon." in a tentative, uncertain voice.  I think he could tell I was a bit down from his classmates and was trying to be nice.  I said "Hi." back, but I'm sure it sounded cold.  After I got in the hall I wished I had been nicer.  The kid's peers think I'm a joke, and its probably really going out on a limb for him to be nice to me.

Of grown up interactions, my favorite would have to be a conversation I had with one of the high school's cooks.  I was in the cafeteria's back office working on a computer and she came in to give me a little encouragement.  She told me that she loved my makeup, and that I was "gorgeous" and to just keep doing what I am doing.  I was just elated.  Really it's one of the sweetest things anyone has said to me locally.  And she is always lovely, with flawless hair and makeup, so coming from her the compliment meant a lot.

I took another step forward in terms of presentation last Friday.  I went for my dye job, and afterward, my stylist suggested that my hair was doing great, and that I should perhaps try wearing it in its natural curls instead of flat ironing it.  So after the rinse, she just put something in to lock in my natural curls and we dried it on a very mild setting.  It was fast, and the end results are just so "me." In the included photo most of my hair is tied back and I'm a bit disheveled but that's still my basic look.   Most people at work haven't seen it yet, so I guess Monday will be another interesting day.  :P

Whatever happens, I feel more confident, and more myself right now than I ever have in my life.  The people who continue to treat me nicely make everything possible, and the people who don't like me don't matter right now.  I feel safe, unthreatened, and to the extent that I need to, I feel somewhat accepted.  I don't feel like I'm holding back any more.  I'm so close to living free and genuine.  It's just exhilarating.