Thursday, September 30, 2010

The Results Are In, But Am I Out? Mixed Signals.

Last week, it was on Topix that I had undergone SRS already.  Even in my work clothes new acquaintances are much more likely to call me she than he.  Further back I had a co-worker kindly offer to be my Avon rep.  Some co-workers have said some extremely supportive things on my looks that border on telling me that they know.  Then there's the text message I got from my friend telling me that he had overheard a conversation where some people were saying I was turning out to be a beautiful woman.  I ran into a guy I used to know a few days ago at a local business and he had no idea who I was and actually started hitting on me.  When I told him who I was he seemed very surprised.  Then there was the talk with my boss a few blogs back.

The evidence was adding up, and I've been living under the assumption that most people know or at least strongly suspect that I am trans.  Well, then there was a fire drill Tuesday and I ended up out on the parking lot with a couple of ladies I work with. We chatted until the drill ended, then took the conversation inside.  At that point I mentioned I would be out Friday, one thing led to another and I told them everything.  

One was just wonderful.  She wasn't comfortable with it, but she had a very open minded attitude.  She said she was convinced that transgender people do have something biological happening, and that she understands no one would subject themselves to what we go through without a real need.  I think she started crying in the conversation even before me.  

The other girl was incredibly annoying.  She's like "but you have had relationships with women."  Er, lots of women have had relationships with women. I've discussed that topic at length in earlier entries so I'll not get into all that.  But my specific circumstances disregarded, a lot of genetic women choose to have relationships with women.    She said "So you're going to wear dresses and things?"  My other co-woerker pointed out that not all women wear dresses.  At one point she actually ask if I would "actually be wearing bras to work?"  It was very obvious that she considered the notion laughable.  I guess the most annoying question was "Can you really pull it off?"  She sounded extremely skeptical.  I explained that I never have trouble anywhere I go.

She even managed to somehow throw into the conversation that there was no way I would ever have bigger boobs than her.  She said it jokingly but something about it felt like she was wanting it to sting.  I innocently explained that I had considered implants but decided a sleeker look works better for me.  She made a poor attempt at seeming supportive even while managing to throw in several rude comments. When my other co-worker hugged me and offered to listen if I needed anything, she followed suit, though with decidedly less sincerity.

Her attitude was fairly annoying, but really the most shocking part of the conversation was that both seemed completely caught off guard.  They each said they noticed the makeup, and that I seemed a little changed physically,  but that they had not heard the rumors and that neither had ever considered I might be trans.

Could it be that I'm not as out as I think?  After all the stuff that has happened in the last few weeks this was so confusing.  It was like I had stepped into the twilight zone or something.  My confidence in my appearance was shot.  The whole understanding of peoples' perception of me was suddenly called into question.  Many of the events of the last few weeks suddenly made no sense at all.

Wednesday I woke up feeling better though, and determined.   I threw on a stretchy bright red crew neck tee, distressed skinny jeans, and a tasteful amount of makeup in subtle tones.  Then I styled my hair into sharply defined intricate curls and sprayed and teased it for high volume.  One co-worker told me I was beautiful and the hair got several compliments.  The rude girl I came out to even complimented me, if  "Your hair looks better than yesterday." counts. LOL!  Still I've struggled for confidence since that conversation and their apparent surprise.  

This morning she had the gaul to ask me to move six very light projector boxes for her. We work in the same department, but she is certainly my supervisor by no means, and moving boxes doesn't fall into either of our job descriptions.  Yes, she just decided that since I'm a man, I should be carrying boxes for her.  I masked my anger well I think but she must have noticed, because she felt compelled to add a few seconds later that she was on her way to a meeting and didn't want to leave the projectors in the hall.  But please, how long does it take to carry 6 boxes from an adjoining room?

I was angry but I didn't feel confident enough to express that.  In her mind, I'm a guy.  I'm still technically presenting as male.  I was caught off guard, nervous and couldn't think of anything better to say, so I told her I would do it though I had no intention.  I just left them in the hall to see how long it would take for her to figure out she needed to move them herself.  Eventually she did, or had someone do it.  

I was walking through the high school office this evening and a co-worker was discussing a pageant with a student competing in it.  I just overheard them discussing how she should walk when they noticed me.  "There's just the person we need!"  And yes, they asked me very nicely to teach her a nice runway walk.  If I were feeling more confident, I would have loved to help.  I was just so flattered!  It just made my day.  

Anyway, I'm in a much better mood now.  I still feel I'm mostly out and that people will respond well to me.  As for the rude girl, I can still be nice to her.  My confidence is back and she can't touch that.  

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Now I Know

I've always wondered when I would end up on the gossip sites and dreaded the possible backlash.  Monday night the first question was finally answered, and  I have waited nervously since, wondering what would happen once the conversation was open.

I've been checking this site for months now  looking for my name.  During all that reading I found some pretty disturbing threads which made me worry more about how harshly I would get treated.  Due to that worry I've been watching very closely since Monday.

SO far there are only 18 posts.  Two or three adolescent jokes, with no real malice.  A few corrections to my name.  One person who implied I should do what I want, but somewhere else.   The rest of the replies are all defending and supporting me and my family.  It is listed as the second hottest discussion despite the low number of posts.  I'm assuming that means it is getting read pretty often.  There have been no further comments in the last 7 hours though, so it looks like people are content to let this go.

People are still treating me basically the same at work and in town.  Yet again it seems I've underestimated my community.  

Monday, September 20, 2010

Red alert.

Well this has been coming for a long time.  I finally made the most prolific local gossip serving our little community here.  They got the first few letters of my first name wrong; probably to make sure I wouldn't have the right to look up their IP and sue.  The comment was short and to the point.  It basically says I had a sex change.  It just states it as a fact.  Not anything truly insulting.  Maybe stating that was supposed to be an insult in and of itself.  LOL!

I check the site twice a day, and oddly the post came 7 minutes before my check.  Already there was a reply though saying basically that it was true, that the person writing the reply had seen me.  Hopefully it doesn't go totally out of control from here.

This is so distracting.  I keep wanting to check back and see how long it takes for someone to say something stupid.  It's not like I can possibly defend myself.  I don't know why I bother looking.  Eventually someone will say something that will upset me, then others will pile on.  I'll have no idea who any of them are and won't be able to do anything about it.

My heart is racing.  I really shouldn't even look...

Sunday, September 19, 2010

So Close

I'm under the gun, around here...
-Counting Crows

It's been a fairly uneventful week here.  Work was busy, but normal. Things were okay at home.  A few silly things happened related to transition and my presentation; as always.  The weekend was slow and relaxed.  

There is lots on my mind though.  I could decide to go to the courthouse soon and file for a name change.  Before that, I have to explain to my parents that I am going full time.  Then there is the matter of communicating with the next and final tier of management at work and deciding how to handle communication to the rest of my coworkers.

In two weeks I have my annual endocrinologist visit and  hope to  work in my first electrolysis appointment while in Lexington.  I've decided  facial laser hair removal has cleared what it's going to.   I'm hoping after one electrolysis appointment I'll have an idea of how long skin recovery will take after each session, and how many sessions it will take to finish my face.  Laser has done a fairly thorough job clearing the hair and I'm hoping a few electrolysis sessions will finish the job. :)

Transkentucky meets that same weekend, so I'll get to catch up with a few friends.  I can hardly wait!

The first weekend in October seems like such a long wait.  My existence here gets more awkward by the day.  My work presentation gets me identified as female anywhere else I go.  My constant worries about  perception at work continue to make social interaction awkward.  Its difficult existing between genders.  Right now I'm in a mood to burn bridges.   I want to change my name, go full time, and let everyone know.  Things will still be awkward, but at least I will be through trying to mix presentations and will finally be able to drop my guard and be myself.  There will be some degree of initial shock but going full tiem and finally living as my true gender will be much more comfortable than this peculair gender limbo I exist in now. 

The beginning of October is the next step.  Until then its a matter of waiting and my awkward dance on the border line between male and female.  

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

The Big Talk - And An Attitude Change

Yes, this post is about my finally opening a dialog with my employers.  Unfortunately though, I just can not bring myself to write it efficiently because the back story absolutely must be told, because there is a change in attitude that is really even more important than that dialog.  But it all kind of goes together, so it gets one composite blog.

So, to the attitude part.  I've always been highly aware of two elements in my situation that have potential to be a dangerous mix.  First I live in a very conservative area.  Second, I work in a school.  If you put that in a beaker and stir in a gender transition, its hard to guess what you'll get.  But to me, it's always looked liked an explosive combination.

When you see articles about conservatives fighting agaisnt transgender rights, the message is usually the same.  We are different and perceived as deviants.  Then there is the ultra-conservative assumption that as deviants we are dangerous perverts.  A favorite scare tactic for transphobic ultra-conservatives is to point out how tragic it would be to have legally protected transgender employees roaming free in our schools.  Apparently these people see it as a nightmare scenario.  Partly because they tend to see us as contagious.  Partly because assume that as demented perverts, we are all high risk.

Of course that is all ignorant and completely illogical.  But when you here such people making it sound like a transgender worker in a school is the ultimate travesty, and you are a transgender worker in the school system, it really starts to effect your psyche.

For the last few years I have felt more than ever like I'm on the defense-like the extremely conservative elements in my community are probably sneering at me behind my back and making up wild accusations and rumors in private.  Every anti-trans article I happen across or anti-LGBT rant that I encounter on local gossip sights scares me and entrenches me further.

It varies from day to day, but sometimes I'm so worried about what people think and how anything I do could be misconstrued that it can be socially crippling.  I tend to be flighty on such days and you never know what my trigger absolute terror in me.

Nothing scares me like kids though.  They are what make the transgender education worker such a scary notion for ultra-conservatives. I've always been afraid to interact with kids much.  But last summer someone compared my appearance to Michael Jackson and something in me snapped.  Obviously working in a school, you do not need a lot of Michael Jackson comparisons floating around.  I was terrified and became even more convinced that people would decide I was dangerous.

Shortly after that, I got to a point to where being called "fag" or giggled at by kids caused much less stress than having one of them start a conversation with me.  I've always tried to keep student interaction to a "Hi/Bye" sort of efficiency as a result.

Then half way through the year last year one child became very social.  At first she seemed awkward around me, but she kept getting braver and pulling me into longer conversations, much to my dismay.  By the end of the year, she had become so gabby, and I had become so paranoid that someone would get the wrong impression that I lived in fear or running into her in the hall somewhere.  Still I couldn't really say anything to her about it.  She had not said anything inappropriate at any point, and I didn't want to hurt her feelings.  Its not like there's an easy way to tell someone "Hey,  I think everyone believes I'm a weirdo, so I don't like to talk to kids because I'm afraid people will get the wrong impression.  So please stay away from me."  So I kept being polite.

Well this year, things got much worse.  Almost from the start of the year she began to drop by my office with increasing frequency.  Usually with friends.  At first there was always a technical problem to go along with the visits.  Then she got braver yet and just started dropping by whenever.

After I had allowed this to go on a while, trying to be polite, but not to seem overly inviting, she suddenly popped into my office with a note last week.  She was asking if I would be willing to listen if she needed someone to talk to this year.  I decided writing back would be best.  I didn't really feel like hurting her feelings face to face, and I wanted documentation at this point because I had become completely terrified, so I wrote her back, explaining that she would be better served by our school's counselor.

Next is the stupid part.  I'm such a pushover.  If someone happens by my office and asks for a complicated favor totally outside my job description, I always say yes.  If the UPS guy drops by my office and asks whether I'll take a package to a co-worker who moved to another building that he doesn't have the address for yet, instead of telling him he's the one payed for delivering to the write place, I say "Yes."  So of course, against all prudence, when a child dropped by my office and asked to borrow a wadded up old shirt that I used to use as a cover up because she claims to feel cold,  I said "Yes."

The question caught me very off guard.  The same old shirt has been hanging on the back of my chair all summer.  It was a very dubious request, and her motivations were suspect now at the very least.  She kept getting braver all last year and now here she was at a point where she was comfortable asking to borrow clothes.  I should have shot the request down undoubtedly.  But still, it wasn't overtly flirty, so I couldn't really just tell her off.   She's a kid exactly the right age to be the daughter I'll never have.  I definitely don't look like a man anymore by most accounts and I'm definitely not the sort of person you expect a teenager to become enamored with.  I mean quite a lot of her peers laugh at me on a daily basis.

So I decided maybe it was an innocent request and let her borrow the shirt.  It was the last class period of the day and she said she would return it immediately after.  I knew it was a mistake but on the surface it was an innocent request and I just couldn't find the words to say no because I was terrified and my brain was just spinning.  The best I could do was something like "You don't want to wear that wrinkly old thing."

The next day I got a call from my supervisor and we met about the whole thing.  A teacher was becoming alarmed and had called the superintendent. It seems the girl had asked for a moment in class to read the letter from me.  So of course the teacher found it odd that I would be writing a student, especially since she was unaware of the contents.  And of course later in the same week, when the student asked to be let out of class to return a shirt to me,  it looked extremely alarming.  It's not some sort of anti-trans prejudice.  It's just sensible.  Really, how many legitimate reasons can you think of that a child in a school is getting letters and borrowing clothes from a staff member?

I explained everything to my supervisor and gave him her original letter and a copy of the one I typed in response.  Before this situation came up I was already terrified that my co-workers think I'm weird and scary.  With this,  I figured he would just assume the worst, and the notion of having someone thinking that I would pursue a student romantically is so disgusting to me.  No matter how much he tried to convince me that no one thought that, I couldn't stop crying.  According to him, the teacher just thought the student was getting over attached and getting the wrong idea about the nature of our friendship.  But if that were the case would calling the superintendent really be the first course of action that would come to mind?  He said he would talk the the superintendent,  talk to the counselor about calling the student in, and explain everything to the teacher for me.

He was very reassuring and I left feeling a bit better.  The next day though, I was a wreck.  Walking in the hall I couldn't stop wondering if any of the people talking to me thought I....

After a few fairly normal seeming interactions the paranoia started to lift.   Then I ran into a teacher in the hall who I had needed to contact about a service request.  She was very blunt and cold, and I coudln't get it out of my head that she probably thought I was some kind of pervert.  I couldn't handle more social interaction.  I was emotionally crippled, totally unable to get out and do my job.  I just sat at my desk and cried until noon.  Then I drove to my supervisor and asked off the rest of the day.

I looked a wreck and he asked what was wrong.  I told him about my morning and he continued to reassure me.  I explained why someone "like me" is very sensitive to this type of situation.  He told me that people have wondered what is going on with me and wonder about my appearance and my mode of dress, but that most of what he has heard said about me was based in curiosity or humor, and that no one, to his knowledge thinks I'm dangerous or a liability to have around children.

During the exchange I kept away from assuming he knew I was trans and danced all around it awkwardly.  As the conversation wound down, the topic left the situation that brought me there and back to the overall public opinion of me and the rumors.  He said he had heard many, but mostly people thought the same thing.  I told him if he wanted to know, I didn't mind talking about it.  He told me that he sees me as a friend and that anytime I want to talk about anything the door is open.

I told him I am not a man, but rather a pre-operative transsexual woman.  I told him I am mid-transition and that I have been on hormones for a bit over a year, that I intend to stay on the job for now as I continue my transition, and that I eventually want to transition in place.  I explained about the "real life experiment".  He told me his wife, who is from California, once had a co-worker transition at a previous job and had already explained lots of this to him when the rumors about me started.

He asked when I would go full time and I told him that it would be before the end of the calendar year.  From there he explained that he thinks I'm a good person with a big heart, and that I do excellent work.  From a professional stand point he sees me as an asset.  From a personal standpoint, he is not sure I will be strong enough to handle the public backlash that will almost inevitably come with my officially going full time.  

It's a valid concern.  After all, I was crying over the mere possibility that someone could think ill of me just moments before this conversation and was so upset I wanted to go home.  Really I'm not sure that I'm strong enough to do this without moving either, but I do want to try.

Really the most important recurring statement in the conversation was that he feels I should have much higher self esteem than I do,  and a lot of people do like me and care about me.

After that I did go home early to settle my nerves.  Then I had a three day weekend on the lake with some of my best friends.  I returned to work today feeling completely revived,  with restored pride and confidence.  I didn't worry about what people thought mostly.  I just stayed calm, kept my poise and went on with my day, which was fairly productive.

That student dropped by my office with a couple of friends again.  They were all smiles and polite as usual.  And so, as usual I couldn't settle on exactly how to throw them out of my office.  I left for lunch and doubled back to ask another co-worker for advice on how to handle it nicely, but her advice went a totally different direction.

She told me, very correctly that you can't be too nice to people or they'll just use you, and offered to take care of it if I wanted to step out for lunch.  She laid out her plan and I agreed happily.  While I was gone she ran them all out of the office and told them that if they want to visit me they must first stop by her office for permission.

"I don't think they like me very much.  But I don't care."  she said.  There would be a lot less stress in my life if I could adopt that policy in general.  It's a bit embarrassing being such a pushover that you can't even send children out of your office.  I've got so much growing up to do.

I guess the irony in all this is that I've worried that all the conservative people around me were looking for some excuse to write me off as a dangerous weirdo.  Then a situation like this comes up and instead no one has jumped to conclusions, as far as I know.  In the end, who has been stereotyping who?  I feel awful about it except that by stereotyping them, I've mainly hurt myself with all this irrational fear that they were out to get me.

Now if I could just grow a spine.  I'm going to need one in a few months after the name change.