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.