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.


LeAnne said...

Natural hair is the best way to go sister!! That look really is you!

If I wore a hat, it would be off to you, my dear. You have so much spunk to be able to work in a high school amongst students whom are giggling at you. They are only doing that because the other person is, and the other, and so on. We know how that goes, huh? The peer pressure. I'm wondering how many of them are seriously jeolous of you because they are having to hide behind their own gender curtain for fear of what the teasing students would do to them. You never know honey, one of those students that is trying to make conversation with you, may also identify with you as well.

I am soooo freak'n happy for you though!!! You look gorgeous! You have adapted to your surroundings remarkably well!! I mean, most trans people hate passing by a group of teen-agers for fear of being teased. And look at you! Working with them on a daily basis! I'll bet that by the end of the year, their atttitudes will be different once they get to know you.


Anonymous said...

All I can say is "dittos" to LeAnn and the cafeteria really do look GORGEOUS. Onward and upward young lady. :)Suzi

Rebecca said...

What a wonderful post! You are making such great strides in your transition and it's great to see you're handling everything so well and are so happy. You are so awesome! And I agree that you look gorgeous!!

Two Auntees said...

I admire your courage and spunk to do what you are doing in a high school. I really do believe that you will change a lot of students attitudes during this school year.

There was an Army motto that went something like this; "Be All You Can Be", so be you, and keep your head high.


Tina said...

You're an amazing woman! I for one couldn't deal with the things you've been through. So glad to see people are accepting everything and you're reaping the benefits of your struggle through more freedom to be YOU. You are one tough chick! Smile lots cause you deserve it.

Oh, and I hope you didn't pay for that shirt because they printed it backwards. Ha!

Peace, <3 Tina

Lori Grace said...

The validation from the comments pushed me onward and upward as well. You're right where you need to be, though I would guess that you have a window of opportunity to get this done soon and make the final leap. At least with me, I couldn't keep any facade and was glad the court date for my name changed was the beginning of the new beginning.

Good luck, girl. You won't need it to be who you are, but you're still in for the ride of your life!

Melissa said...

Wow, your kids really did have a short summer vacation, if they're already back to school in the 2nd week of August.

Shannon, I don't know what you are waiting for. You could easily go full time right now.

Melissa XX

Leslie Ann said...

Well, the consensus seems to be "gorgeous", but I've been calling you that for two years. Hasn't changed.

Smiling in the face of adversity pretty much defines strength and bravery to me. You're my heroine, chickie baby!

Caroline said...

I lived decades in the limbo you are in, especially the bathroom one, and have only just thrown the switch inside which says " the problem is theirs not mine".

Their immaturity is sad but it is good to see that some of them have already developed into reasonable human beings. I have forgotten what exactly is holding you back from the next obvious step. Take it and fly!

Caroline xxx

Jerica Truax said...

Ugh I can imagine all of the comments and such would have me down but you seem to be taking the right attitude...that you're getting noticed and you need to move forward. I am personally excited for you to move forward at work...I hope that when you do, your coworkers are at least good about it. And eventually, I imagine everyone else will go along too once you are able to present as yourself fully! =) *hugs*

<3 Jerica

Joni said...

Sweetie, high school kids would be on someone if they had too much acne. I think the boy that said 'hi' to you was sweet. I always knew that once you were comfortable with yourself, the rest would fall into place for you. Let's hope the paperwork goes quickly so you can officially 'be' what everyone sees that you are - a fantastic and attractive woman.