April 29, 2013

The Deadline

Nancy, the local Uni gender program therapist whom I have been seeing regularly, put a challenge to me this past week: transition at work by September 1, 2014. Specifically, that would be the date that I made the transition — the one where I’d stop being Him at work and start being Ali. It was part of a larger conversation we were having about my fears of transition, and what was holding me back vs, what was propelling me forward. And work is my biggest fear, my biggest stumbling block. And so she offered the challenge.

That’s a heck of a thing to do: to set a target, to make a date, to actually plan this out. It certainly got me thinking. What would it take to transition at work in sixteen months?

Well, obviously I’d have to transition in my life before then. I couldn’t be working as Ali until I was living as Ali. I can’t just play at Ali in private; I have to become Ali in public. That means continuing the process of outing myself to friends, family, acquaintances, and neighbors. That means eventually going to the parks I like, to the restaurants I prefer, to the gas station and the supermarket as Ali. That means a thousand moments of exposure, of nervousness, of potential ridicule.

And then there’s clothes. Nevermind the spare top or skirt I have on hand to dress when I’m by myself; transitioning at work would mean acquiring a wardrobe, a functional set of work-appropriate clothing that I could wear everyday. And that’s only after building the more casual wardrobe I would need to live as Ali. Tops, jeans, skirts, shoes … how much clothing does it take to live?

And heck, before I go buying a bunch of clothes, I need to get my body in order. That means (1) losing weight and (2) getting on the hormones. The first one I’m working on, though this makes the need to lose pounds more pressing. The second one I’m dying to do, but I don’t know how close Nancy is to giving me that vital letter and doctor recommendation yet.

Then there are the skills I will have to learn. To be a working woman in a professional environment means presenting a neat appearance — so makeup skills, hair maintenance, nail care. To be a working woman also means behaving like one — trying to quell all those Him behaviors in favor of Her behaviors. Say what you like about feminism and equality, but in a typical workplace there are still assumptions made about appearance and behavior. Ali needs it all.

All this, and for what? The chance to wear a dress to work? It seems like so much effort, this remaking of a life.

My deadline is ultimately arbitrary and self-imposed; the only enforcement of it is my own will, and if I miss it, there’s no penalty except my personal failure. But it’s still a deadline. And that’s an interesting thing to have.

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  • I transitioned openly at work. There’s lots of steps to plan and sequence matters. Things like:

    – What documents your employer requires to officially change things like your name and gender marker

    – What impact changing your gender marker will have on your insurance coverage and other benefits for yourself as well as your spouse – some people decide not to do it if it the impact is overly burdensome

    – What will be done about switching bathrooms (when and what needs to happen before you can – local law can even come into play here depending on where you are).

    In addition to all the bureaucratic and legal layers there’s also the communications piece – setting the tone by who, where and when you and management makes announcements and offers additional training and support. Getting these written and distribution lists established well ahead of time keeps the process moving. Having an escalation process in place for dealing with negative responses is also needed.

    There are many moving parts here. Feel free to reach out if you have specific questions.

    • Wow. I hadn’t even thought the job transition out that far yet. Thank you for sharing that. I’m intimidated by it all, but thanks :).

  • I think you’re on the right path thinking about these things and giving yourself a significant amount of time to make small accomplishments. Baby steps! That’s something I wish I’d really thought about when I started because, while I’ve made a lot of progress, I’d be finished if I hadn’t thought I needed to do everything at once. And weight loss is a pain, but, totally achievable! I’m still working on that part myself, but I’m not doing too shabby. 🙂

    I’m not sure what you do for a living (If you’ve mentioned it on here, I’ve either missed it or haven’t yet read back far enough), but with my job I just kind of went the androgynous route on clothing. I wore jeans or slacks, casual tops that were still somewhat professional, and I just went with that until I got comfortable enough to wear more obviously feminine things. Don’t let anyone bully you into the whole if-you-don’t-wear-dresses-24/7-you-aren’t-a-woman thing. I had some people try to do that to me. Even now I’m sort of cutesy tomboy in my style, but it fits with my personality and is quite similar to the styles of my cisgender female friends.

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