Operation Teacher Transition

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A couple of weeks ago, Nancy suggested that I do something for myself to mark the one-year of my suicide attempt. So I did – I came out at work.

Well, no. I didn’t actually come out yet. But I did get the ball rolling. It felt like the right time to do it. After all, there wasn’t anyone else to tell, really. My family knows; my friends know; my neighbor even knows. I still have a lot of progress to make in life (name change, gender marker change, losing more weight, growing boobs), but that’s all just a matter of time. And some of that stuff, like the name change, gets more complicated if I’m not out at work. So I decided that it was time.

It was a Wednesday morning, and I spent an hour in my office working up the courage before knocking on the door of Elizabeth, the dean I report to. That Elizabeth is also my best friend at work made this moment a little easier, but only just. I sat down and started talking about the impending anniversary of the suicide attempt, mentioned that I had never told her everything about that situation, and said that it was finally time to reveal everything since it “will probably start affecting my work in the future.” And then, like a chickenshit who can’t just come out and say it, I asked her, “Do you know what transgender means?”

She wiggled an iffy hand. “Kind of. It means like someone who thinks they’re born in the wrong body, right?”

“Sort of. Well, that’s me. I’m transgender.” And then I proceeded to tell her everything. The suicide, the transition, the hormones, the need to change my name, to change my life; I put it all on the table for her, fielding any questions she asked along the way. I explained to her that transition meant eventually making the change at work, and that I needed her support to do it. And I told her I had at least the beginnings of a plan for how to do it.

And Elizabeth, who is a completely awesome human being, got on board with it right away. We ended up talking for a full hour about everything, including how the work transition would go and what our strategy would be to get there. I was able to relax talking to her, and we even shared a few laughs over everything. It was absolutely the best case scenario for the meeting. Not that I doubted her … too much. One can never fully tell how someone will react to the whole trans thing. But she was golden about it. [Did I mention she's awesome?]

Right now, the plan is to get the campus president and HR involved soon so that everything can be in place for a fall quarter transition. The target date is September 1st, 2014. I am officially in countdown mode! Less than five months from now I will flip that final switch. I will be me twenty-four-seven, head to toe — through and through — boobs to bones. And I can hardly wait! I also can’t control the shaking in my hands …

Incidentally, this kind of steps on the toes of my little Operation Gamer Girl plans. I still plan on going to Gen Con this year, but as that event will be a mere three weeks or so before September 1st, it’s no longer going to be the focus of my attention moving forward. I have a bigger moment to build to. Operation Gamer Girl is no more; now it’s Operation Teacher Transition!

 

 

 

Catching Up and Coming Out

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The last month has been something of a whirlwind. My dad’s death pulled me away from work at a very busy time, made busier by a project I was involved in, and I’ve been rushing to keep up ever since. On top of that, I have been making preparations to move back into the house I own now that my ex has moved out of it and in with her new husband. Additionally, there’s been my usual role as a parent, of course, and a schedule change at work that has eaten up a second evening every week. Life isn’t bad, but it’s definitely challenging at the moment.

Oh, and on top of that, I came out fully to everyone outside of work. Which is kind of a big deal.

After returning from my dad’s funeral, I had a fresh perspective on my identity (not to mention a fresh haircut that is more difficult to pass off as anything less than androgynous). If I could be accepted by people who loved me in a difficult moment like a funeral, than what was I still hiding from the people in my everyday life who still didn’t know about my identity? So I resolved to change that. It’s hard enough having to flip the gender switch between work and home; but having to continually switch it on and off all weekend and every evening depending upon who I might see was becoming burdensome. It was time to own my Self; it was time to be Alison all the time.

The key events were the reveals to my two gaming groups. [Well, really my one-and-a-half gaming groups, since half of us are part of both groups.] These are the groups that I used to refer to as “Ericas gaming groups,” because I came to them through her (and because she really is the Queen Mother of our D&D table [in a good way]). But I think after nearly a year of friendship AND the revealing of my gender identity, I can safely claim them as my groups. And on both nights the “big reveal” went just fine. Things were given as a combination of face-to-face telling and email. Reactions ranged mainly between “Explain what transgender means, again?” to “We’ll do our best, but we’ll probably make mistakes.” And there have been a few mistakes, mostly in the pronoun area; and sometimes I am slow to respond to Alison (still not used to hearing it spoken out loud); but overall we’re playing like we always do. The dice continue to roll.

I’m also starting to feel confident in using my real name in interactions with strangers, sometimes. For example, I ordered a pizza and when they asked for a name I said, perhaps a little dodgy, “Put it under ‘Alison.’” I used similar phrasing when I picked it up (“It should be under ‘Alison’”). Okay, so it’s not perfect, but it’s a start. I was dressed for work and being sir-ed, so I wasn’t going to push it.

Speaking of work, there’s been a positive development there as well, but I am going to save that for the next post. ;-)

The night that I came out to the last of my gaming friends — which just happened to be Transgender Day of Visibility — left me feeling unusual. I wasn’t quite sure what to do with the feelings I had as I sent that last email. I had, in effect, told everyone. There was no one left to be nervous about; no one left to react badly; no one left to reject me or to hurt me over this. At least, no one important; there are always strangers, but if I were worried about the reaction of every random dudebro or conservative Christian on the street I would never have stepped out in a skirt in the first pace. As far as people who mattered, I was done. I was out. I was me.

I was also lucky. Apparently, I have been able over the years to surround myself with good people; and as such I have not been hated, rejected, insulted, or assaulted by those who matter. I know that this isn’t a common experience in the transgender community. There are heartwrenching stories out there about men and women who have lost everything to the transition, who no longer have friends or lovers or parents because they chose to be themselves. I have not been one of those women — so far! It may come. At this point, though, I’m prepared to handle it.

The feeling I had that night, I realized after a moment, was a feeling of relief. Relief that I wasn’t hiding anymore; relief that there was no one left to tell; relief that I was finally starting to be me. I don’t know that I’ve ever felt such relief in all my life.

No more hiding, no more lies. I’m out, I’m happy, and I’m moving ever so slowly towards the Self I have denied myself for long. Relief? You bet.

Overpass III

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One year ago today, April 4th 2013, was the day I almost killed myself. The day has been looming in my mind for a couple of weeks now. Not because it depresses me, not because it scares me, not because I’m afraid of the anniversary triggering some sort of spiral; but because I cannot believe how far I’ve come since that horrible night.

I can still remember the decision I made with clarity, though I can no longer relate to the emotions that drove it. My actions that night were the death throes of the man I thought I was, a man who had seen all that he had built to define him, all of his self, crumbling to dust. In a lot of ways, I lost my identity that night, and despaired because I had nothing to replace it with. I was driven by depression. I felt isolated, empty, worthless.

That I am alive today is a fact I attribute to the people who have become my support structure in the last year and enabled me to renew myself. Robin, my ex, has remained one of my closest friends and my emotional lifeline when I have bad days. My kids have never stopped loving me, even as I’ve changed, and they remain the most important things in my life. My therapists, Nancy and Cecilia, have been essential in helping me navigate my transition and enabling me to let go of my past. Erica, who took me under her wing and has never left me adrift, has helped my new self build new relationships and confidence. My parents, who did not reject me, have constantly reminded me that, son or daughter, I am still their child. All the family and friends who have, in person and online, rolled with the changes and treated me like a human being.

I am a lucky woman. It is humbling to know that so many have been so understanding and treated me with so much humanity, especially since there are other trans folk out there who are not so fortunate – men and women who have been rejected and derided by those they thought were there for them, who struggle to access competent professional help, and who live every day in dark and damaging thoughts. The world can be a terrible place for a trans person sometimes.

Tonight, I am taking my daughter to her school’s Daddy/Daughter dance, arguably one of the biggest events on her six year old social calendar. I will be in “dad mode,” and people will probably call me Brian all night, but I don’t care. I am alive, and I am happy, and I know who I am. Tonight, I am my daughter’s dad; and I can think of no better way to spend the evening.

Sometimes Endings are Also Beginnings

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I feel like I’m dwelling on my dad’s death too much. It’s clogged my thinking and my blogging for the past month, and while I need to tell some of what happened there I’m not really capable of doing it right now. That last post was a bit of a disaster, narrative-wise. Besides, there’s stuff I want to write about more recently. So this is my last post centered on my dad’s death. I’m just going to drop the narrative pretense and say what I want to say and get it done with.

Short version: The week my dad died was terrible, a tragedy that I will always hurt from. But for me personally and for my transition, it was also a really, really great week. And I feel like a terrible human being for writing that, but it’s true.

Part of transition is about worrying – about what people will think, about what they might say, about how they’ll act when they find out who you are. My transition has been no different. Part of transition is also about normalizing — making this something you are instead of something you do. My transition has been no different there, either. I’ve struggled with the worrying, and I’ve struggled with the normalizing.

But my dad’s death was just so much more important than any of that. It was distracting, and heart-wrenching, and clarifying, and devastating. An unanticipated consequence of it, though, was that it forced be to set aside the worry. I had more important things to fret over than what other people thought of me, and so I didn’t worry about what I was wearing, or how people would read me, or how I was acting. I just let myself be myself and haters be damned.

And you know what happens when you stop worrying about being trans? It just becomes something you are. It normalizes.

Over the week I was in Mississippi I saw family I hadn’t seen in years from all over the country. Some of them were aware of what I was going through from Facebook posts; others only found out about me that week. A few of the younger ones are, as far as I know, still in the dark about it all. But all of them, in on it or not, were there with me. They saw me, saw the changes, saw the wardrobe, saw the hair (which did get cut, by the way, in a small country salon by the wife of a retired preacher). And they all just rolled with it. They all just treated me normally. They didn’t go so far as to switch name or pronouns — I wasn’t going to demand it, not in that moment — so maybe it made it easier. But I wasn’t hiding it, wasn’t denying it, wasn’t worrying about it.

I tried to set up this whole thought a few posts ago by rambling on about the Tarot, probably as a way to assuage some of the guilt I was feeling in the wake of my dad’s death. But the point was simply to point out that sometimes endings can also be beginnings. And for me, my dad’ death was one of those moments. I came back from his funeral saddened, but also renewed. I began to ask myself the question: if I could endure this tragedy and still be my self, what was holding me back from being my self every single day?

Honestly, the weeks since I got back from Mississippi have been literally transformative for me. They have helped me become happier with myself; they have helped me become more comfortable around others; they have allowed me to let go of my fears and just be me. And while I have no doubt that I would have reached this stage eventually, there was something about the terrible tragedy of my dad’s death that pushed me forward.

My dad lived a rich, full life, and I loved him dearly. He was a generous man in life, and so I don’t think that he would begrudge me finding some good in the events surrounding his death. I’ve got to let the guilty feelings go. This is like his gift to me, and the worst thing I could do is squander it. So I haven’t.

As a final note: on the night my dad died, my mother asked me to do one thing in regards to my transition: she asked that, in some way, I keep my middle name. You see, my given middle name is actually my dad’s first name (a tradition I continued with my own son). She wanted me to keep it, in his memory.

The moment she said it, I knew that I couldn’t reject her request. I’ve toyed with middle names in the last year, even mentioned a few here, but none of them has really stuck. I just never felt motivated to choose one, and I even thought about not having one. But now, I have a middle name that matters. It’s Paula, in honor of my dad.