Tuesday, November 09, 2010

A Meeting...

This morning I went to work feeling great, for a Monday.  Fresh off of a weekend in Lexington visiting my friends and taking in some much needed electrolysis, with a solid eight hours of sleep I was feeling ready for a productive day.  Things started out very routine.  I walked down to the library to get the specifics on a work order and chatted with the librarian for a bit about everything from hair to migraines,  then returned to my desk to catch up on email.

The phone rang.  I picked it up to find my boss on the line and suddenly things felt a little less routine and I was anxious.  For the past few months I have felt out of the loop, and my boss never calls more than once per week.

After the briefest of hellos, he asked me to come down to the office.  My routine Monday skidded to a halt.  If he wanted to talk shop, he would do it over the phone, and for most types of meetings he would volunteer the specifics unprompted.  I wanted to ask what was up, but if he didn't want to discuss it over the phone there was no point pressing the issue.  I simply agreed.  Whatever was happening, it was transition related.  Was I being fired? Was someone complaining about my appearance? Was this going to be some sort of ultimatum?

I drove to the new technology office trying to remain calm.  My heart was racing though.  I was imagining more vividly than ever the choices I would have to make if I lost my job.  My worries only solidified as I climbed the stairs to the new technology office in a former grade school building where my boss and the other technician have set up shop, their desks facing each other from opposite ends of what was once a classroom.

The distance between me and these two men has always been there to some degree, especially in the last year.  But the new office is the premier sign of the near total communication break down that has come in the past months.  They set up the move in private, told me of it barely before they intended to start packing, and didn't include me in the discussion of what resources would stay and which would go. Besides that, I was never invited.  There were a few logical reasons for my remaining behind, but it was very clear to me at the time that I was not wanted here.

I opened the door without knocking and found my boss at his desk with the other tech standing alongside looking at the same screen.  The tech nodded in my direction and announced my arrival to my boss in a low tone.  I greeted them.  My supervisor answered but the other tech did not.  They continued their discussion then the tech left to work on something.

The conversation segued into things more directly effecting my work and eventually my boss mentioned that when things are slow at the high school I can help out in the main office with network administrative tasks.  Then he suggested meeting weekly so that we can all stay coordinated.  After  these thoughts were explored briefly he mentioned the main reason for the visit.  The Board's administrative staff was wanting to meet with me about my transition.  I told him any day would be fine, and that I would send out an email to the meeting participants explaining things so that they could decide on their questions.  He said they wanted to meet right away.

At this point my fear started to dissipate.  He went on to tell me that they just wanted to find out what was going on and see if they could assist in making my transition more comfortable basically.  I wasn't sure that was strictly all there was too it, but I felt ready emotionally, even if on a more concrete level I really had no idea what to say.  Except for the shoes, I looked pretty presentable and was feeling confident after a great weekend with supportive friends. I could do this.

I walked into  assistant superintendent's office and took a seat.  My boss and the federal programs director were to attend as well, but they weren't in the room yet.  The assistant super was very kind and conversational and we chatted about some issues he had setting up a new computer and peripherals for his Dad. He said he had thought about calling me for advice on it over the course of weekend.

Then my boss and the federal programs director arrived.  We all chatted for a few moments, no one seeming to know quite how to broach the topic at hand.  Eventually though the assistant super brought the meeting to order.  During a lull in the conversation he just said he had called me in because he wanted to talk to me about my transition, which has become common knowledge.  I smiled.  It has indeed become common knowledge, and I was feeling a little silly for handling my transition in such an unusual way that they were approaching me about this instead of the other way round.

I explained that by the end of winter break I intended to go full time, and to have everything handled regarding my name change.  I didn't really get into the details of what it means to be transgender, or a history of my transition to date.  There were questions about my eventual operation and how much down time would be involved.  They asked whether I am currently being harassed.  I explained that mostly co-workers have treated me professionally and that harassment from students has fallen off sharply, basically no longer posing a problem.

The bathroom issue came up.  I explained that I don't use student facilities for either gender currently and do not intend to in the future.  I told them I would be using single occupant staff restrooms only, not bothering to mention a gender.  They didn't ask for clarification, seeming mostly comfortable with that response.  My boss mentioned that in my stage of transition the restroom situation must be awkward for me.  I joked around about the men's room situations I've had, and everyone seemed to find it pretty humorous.  I explained that outside the county where no one knows my past, such situations aren't awkward at all, as I can go into a women's restroom anywhere without it troubling anyone.

The federal programs director asked me how much more I intend to change the way I dress.  I told her that generally I dress fairly casual and wear jeans and such at work because I never know which days will be desk work and when I could suddenly need to climb into a ceiling and run wires instead.  I went on to say that on days that I wish to do something more dressy I will, within the limits of the dress code everyone else follows.  We moved on to the next topic.

In the end they asked why I expected some degree of backlash once I went official, since there was really very little further presentation change on the way.  I explained that by the time I went to the courthouse and requested a name change, finished taking the masculine elements out of my wardrobe and started requesting that people start using the right pronouns, that it probably would generate some interest.

They asked if there was anything they could do to make things easier.  Continued employment and a cooperative attitude is plenty.  I told them that I love my job and that being able to be myself without it interfering with my work was all I wanted.

As I said it I cried.  The tears were almost brimming over.  I'm glad I managed to keep them back because my mascara doesn't even border on water proof.  There seemed to be a bit of an emotional response from almost everyone at this point.

The assistant super adjourned the meeting and the federal programs director gave me a hug and said she would help me anyway she can.   I like everyone present at this meeting, but I also know things in this system tend to move with political undercurrents working below the surface and the ripples on top don't always truly imply what they immediately suggest.  After the meeting adjourned no one left immediately except me.

I am very happy that they took the initiative and opened a dialog with me.  I have been meaning to open communication for a few weeks now but have fallen behind on my timeline.  Now I am suddenly back on schedule despite my inaction.  I still need to decide how to make the staff in the district aware of the situation so that they know what is happening and how to address me.  Should I handle it myself, or should I discuss it with central office now so that they can be prepared to send out something more official in my support, if they are willing?

Off hand I am think I would rather just send my own message to everyone and then deal with breaches in etiquette casually as they arise.  To this point things have been slow and subtle, and I've counted on kindness and respect instead of trying to twist arms.  It has worked and most people have responded well to me. Changing track now and insisting that the board require people to address me properly seems unnecessary.

However that pans out I'm so excited.  No matter how things play out this is a huge step. :)


Stace said...

Sounds like a very positive meeting. Congrats.


Jenny said...

You had me slightly worried those first few paragraphs. Glad it went so well.

Leslie Ann said...

What Jenny said. You created a nice sense of dread there.

The whole world is pushing you to be yourself, it seems. If you have an HR department, you should probably talk to them soon. Sounds like you may be able to drop the Doc Martens! Purple angora sweater dresses are in your near future.

I'm delighted for you, Shannon.

Tina said...

Schweeet!!! Rollin' right along sis. Actually, I think the Doc Martens and the purple angora sweater would compliment each other nicely. Go ahead make a statement!! :D

P.S. My word verification is (fatess). I just want to go on record that I take offense to Blogger for this and am borderline offended by name calling. LOL

Caroline said...

Now do you believe us!?

I think Tina is right, don't mess with this girl boots are suitable for a girl of your age with a sweater dress.

No stopping you now.

Caroline xxx

Two Auntees said...

Your approach to transition seems to have worked fairly well, with using kindness and respect for others. By bringing solutions to the discussion and some issues you made it much easier for the administration to help support you in your transition.

Way to go girl!!

Viv said...

Wow, that is awesome! It's nice to know that there actually are people out there who may not understand us but are willing to try, or at least help facilitate what can be a very difficult process. I realize that technically it is the law, but it sounds like these people were genuinely looking out for you.

Heidi said...

I was so nervous for you reading this post! I'm glad it seems to be going so well. Thank you for posting this :)

Amy K. said...

I was nervous for you too at the beginning. The suspense really built up quite nicely. Ha ha! Anyway, I must say how glad I am that things went smoothly, and that the people involved were so understanding.

As far as how to disclose, I can tell you how I did so at two different jobs (one full-time and one part-time). You may have already read this on my own blog, but just in case, I'll disclose on my disclosure (!) here. At the full-time job, I presented the management with the option of emailing people. Since it was a small office, they preferred that I tell everyone in person (only 6 or 7 people), and the people that had to know in the corporate office in New Jersey got emails. For the part-time job, I left it up to them as well. They initially wanted to attach a memo to peoples' paychecks, but the payroll company wouldn't agree to this, so I printed out about 40 or 50 copies of a letter, since only a few people had email at this company. I handed out the letter to those who were on shift at the time, and the rest got them in envelopes to find when they came into work.

I would discuss this with the central office if I were you, since in my experience different employers will want to handle things differently. I'm so happy for you, hun! :)

Kristina Nicole said...

Well, that sounded like a positive meeting. I am so happy for you. Hopefully, things will remain positive in the future.

Lori D said...

I really teared up reading this! I'm so thankful things have worked out for the best for you. I know it hasn't been easy, but I'm rejoicing with you and know how exciting this part is! Enjoy what you can, and continue to enjoy the rest of this journey!

Melissa said...

You see? No use in pretending to be guy anymore. It's good to know you have your management on your side. I'll bet that hug sure felt great!

Melissa XX

Jerica Truax said...

Oh my gosh I cried! I'm so happy for you girl! I hope things continue to go well!!!!! *hugs*

ms.shandy said...

Yes, this is just such a good sign. I feel very much on schedule at this point. Its unbelievable almost, but wow! Thanks for being so supportive everyone. =)