Friday, June 24, 2011

Still coming out at work...

The last post I talked of coming out at work and the initial reactions. Since then I've come out to more and more people. Because of the nature of my job I'm pretty much never in the same city for more then a week at a time. That means each week I have to come out to a whole new group of people. Typically, we do this on a conference call with the station ahead of time so that no one is surprised by Dana Monday morning.

That has given me the opportunity to 'perfect' my coming out speech. There are a few things I want to convey in the 'speech'. That the call is about me personally, that the news is large, an 11 on a scale from 1 to 10. That any initial reaction is OK, that it will affect their day to day work environment. That I will answer any question they may have as honestly and completely as possible. That I'm in the process of transitioning into becoming a woman. That I'm Dana, and Dana will be arriving Monday morning.

The first couple of times went just like this. I've found the problem with this approach is that by the time you get to the actual news, the transitioning, people have a 100 things rattling around in their heads. None of them good. Most of them involve me dying. Then you're left with the awkward silence for a minute or two when you have nothing more to say, and everyone is still trying to process it all.

So I refined the 'speech' to be backwards. First thing I say is I'm transitioning and then I offer all the caveats and conditions. This doesn't give the audience time to jump to the wrong conclusions and also gives me something more to talk about while they are trying to process it all.

So how has it gone? It's still hard. I've yet to have a problem, but it's still hard to be on a conference call with 10 to 20 people. Some who know you well and some you've never met before. And then give them this news. More often then not most people just want to do their job and just want me to do mine. They just want to know that I'm going to show up on Monday morning and try and fix as many of their problems as I can in one week.

But I'm not naive enough to not realize that some in the audience will have a very hard time with this. It will conflict with their morals and their backgrounds and upbringing. That they will have strong opinions about this, that it is morally wrong and unforgivable.

I'm also not naive enough to think that that's the end of it all. That no one will talk behind my back, that I won't be the rumor of the week.

Now every week when I arrive somewhere I feel like I'm auditioning for a part all over again. That I'm trying out for the part of Dana, and that the first thing that must be decided then and there is if Dana looks like a woman or not, or if she ever will. Is it really possible for her to pass as a woman.

My little travelling group has been great about all of this. I'm sure everyone wants to ask them what's up with me. Plus, it's been Dana at work now for the last few weeks and they've been great about it. They treat me better then I could ever imagine, or could have asked for. They don't seem embarrassed by me in public, they consistently use Dana and she and her.

I know they must have to answer questions from coworkers. What happened to Rick and who's Dana? Is that a man or a woman? What's up with HIM.  Yet, they continue on and strive to make me happy.  It's still a debt I'll never be able to repay.

The bathroom is still a sticky question. I'm still torn about this. Let's face it even if I can pass as Dana for a day or two, by the end of the week everyone knows who I am. The news spreads through the station like wildfire. I'm too embarrassed and skittish to use the men's room. I just don't belong there anymore. Yet, I'm also too embarrassed and skittish to use the woman's room. I just don't belong there yet.

I usually try and ask upper management what the best bathroom to use is early in the week to avoid surprises. Once it was wherever. Like they didn't want to confront the reality of the situation. Once it was a small utility bathroom in the back. Each trip to the bathroom made me feel like a misfit. Each walk through the dust and garbage and empty shipping boxes felt like an insult. There is no answer here and it's a constant worry.

I've been trying to change my appearance slowly so as not to shock the systems of my little traveling group. Slowly switch from men's clothes to woman's clothes. Slowly add makeup, jewelry, nice blouses, shoes. Slowly change my hairstyle. Each week I add another piece to the puzzle. I think it's helped them process the change. But each week it's a bigger and bigger shock to the station we show up at next.

As we've traveled together we've managed to keep a sense of humor about it all. Over the last few weeks we've had dinner with each other more then with our families. Without fail we've been able to laugh and giggle with each other over my changes and my new place in the team. The humor has helped all of us deal with it and relive the stress of worrying about offending each other. Them me, and me them. The humor, the ability to laugh at myself is the single most important tool I have to put them at ease. To let them know I appreciate everything they do for me. And, I appreciate their feelings in this too.

Of the four of us, only one is a typical straight white guy. The rest of us are all a little broken in some way. He's been the one nominated to keep tabs on my appearance and report all dress code violations to H. All in good humor, and it adds some levity to the days work. I enjoy the attention.

I'm happy about work, I'm happy about home, I'm happier then ever.  I have M, K, FF, H, and all my friends to thank for this.  In case any of you happen to be reading, I owe each of you more then I can ever repay, and no words can describe the gifts each of you have given me on this journey.


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