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[the gender train]

March 29, 2013

On my morning commute, I ended up walking directly into a very interesting conversation. I take an open seat near 3 people (2 college students and a middle-aged woman) who are having a discussion about the children’s gender identity clinic here in Chicago. The theme of the conversation seemed to be, “kids don’t know what they’re doing, therefore, shouldn’t medically transition.” They continued talking, seemingly focused on the idea that if a child is trans, it’s because their parents are forcing them to be trans in order to protect them (yes, because nothing says, “life will be easier, kid” quite like being trans…). and finally, the middle-aged woman said, “since none of us are transgender, we don’t know what goes through their heads at a young age.”

This is where I decided to join the conversation, as I had a viewpoint that none of them could directly relate to.

“I think I’ve got some perspective here,” I say.

They look to me, and the middle-aged woman said, “yeah, I bet growing up you were a tom boy, right? Aren’t you glad that your parents didn’t force you into being a boy?”

Oh, wow. Um, hmmm… she thought I was just a masculine cis woman. 

“Well, actually, I’m a transgender woman. Honestly, I first knew this at a really young age, but out of fear and societal conditioning, I repressed this. Honestly, I wish I would have just run with this when I was a kid instead of waiting 26 years into my life to do anything about this.”

Nearby, there’s a woman with a 6-8 year old daughter. The woman is staring at me. She turns to her daughter, and says, “try not to listen, okay? Some people are just sick and confused.”

I’m not about to get into an argument with a stranger, especially in front of her kid, so I just turn away.

Back to the original conversation, the 3 people discussing gender seemed to settle on their original thought (“kids shouldn’t transition, even if they say they’re trans”), but at least I was able to provide a little more perspective on the topic to people who seemed interested in diving down the gender well.

Ding. It was my stop. I told them all to have a great day, and went off to work.

Lately, I’ve been feeling worn down. I guess I didn’t take into account just how much being out at work would take out of me energy-wise or emotionally. Again, people have, overall, been nice. That’s not the issue. It’s the train ride to/from work, the strange looks by people in other parts of the office (who may not be aware of my transition, but certainly remember the guy I used to pretend to be), and just a sense that I’m being overlooked for things I’ve worked really hard for.

I just want to live up to my work potential. I like my job, but I don’t want to be stuck in this low-level position forever. I know that there are a few supervisor positions opening up, but I don’t think I’m even in consideration for them. I sent a manager an e-mail asking what I need to do to be in position to be a viable choice for any of these openings, but he never got around to responding. Oh, well.

In the past, I’d never go to after-work events as trying to keep the “guy” appearance any longer than absolutely necessary was mentally anguishing. Now, though, finally feeling a little more comfortable in my appearance/personality/true-to-self-ness (I know that’s not a word); I still find myself either not going to these events (mostly due to schedule conflicts or just wanting to be home with my partner & dog) or I just won’t be invited. A bunch of my co-workers are friends outside of the office. I don’t know. It’d just be nice to be friends with people, but for the moment, I’m just trying to gain basic acceptance.

I certainly haven’t kept up with updating my blog, and it’s for good reason: I’m now able to be me 24/7. Do I feel relieved? Certainly! Do I feel anxious? Yep! Overall, though, I’m happy with the decision to transition when I did.

Work has been… work has actually been pretty okay. Roughly 4 weeks ago, I stood in front of my team of co-workers and told them that I’m trans. I don’t quite know what I expected (management had made it clear they had my back, so I knew nothing terrible could happen), but really, nothing happened. As the meeting ended, I figured that a co-worker or two would say something positive to me about the meeting, but instead, everyone just filed out, went back to their desks and continued working as if it was just any old meeting.

I’m okay with that.

During my first week of presenting female at work, I went through an emotional roller coaster. Getting my name changed on my email address was more of a challenge than had been anticipating, leading to some embarrassment, as I asked people to call me Parker in spite of my email still using my birth name.

Eventually, though, the name situation worked itself out. The only issue that frustrated me about the process was when an employee in human resources ignored my desire for certain things to remain confidential (which, at the time, they agreed to). This employee went on to inform someone in senior management of everything I said, which I feel was taken out of context and interpreted in a way that makes me look bad, professionally.

Other than that particular situation, work has been fine. I have been coming in earlier than usual, staying later. I’m determined to not let my trans status prevent me from climbing the corporate ladder. Months ago, I was told that I was one of the next in line for potential promotion, and I am going to hold my employers to that. I know I can do my job just as good, if not better, than many of my co-workers.

Deep down, though, I am afraid that my trans status may lead to me being overlooked for positions that would have been available to me as a cis male. This isn’t based on anything specific, but it is a fear I have.

Here’s hoping those fears are unfounded.