Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Working and Leading as a Woman

I've talked a little in some past posts about my job.  One of the more important parts of my job is just leading.   Leading is a made up of two critical parts.  First, you need the knowledge and experience to make more right decisions then wrong.  Enough knowledge about the team's functions to gain everyone's natural respect.  Second you need a sense of confidence to make decisions and stick to them.  To focus the group and maintain the teams steady and direct forward progress to the goal at hand.

Nothing in my transition has changed my knowledge or experience set in any way.  I still know just as much as last year.  I have one more year of experience then I had last year.  There is no doubt in anyone's mind that I have the knowledge and experience to do what needs to be done. 

But the confidence of last year has slipped away.  I'm no longer rock sure of my decisions.  I worry about the consequences of each movement,  I allow myself to be talked into and out of ideas.

I lead two teams right now, the first are my employees.  They rely on me for their paychecks.  They rely on me for direction and instructions.  In this team my leadership skills have not been affected.  But this team is a group of women who have been with me for a long time.  There is no questioning of my decisions, there's no hidden agenda.  Decisions here are mine and mine alone.

I lead a second team too,  this team is a group of men whose main job is to deploy the software the first team has developed.  This team is more difficult to lead.  First they are not my employees, then for the most part they have only been with me a few months.  There are hidden agendas here, most of the men in this group are striving for job titles and responsibility.   My decisions and input in this group are questioned and ignored.  It's in this arena that I've struggled this year. 

I took most of the month of October off.  This time off allowed me to review my work and accomplishments of the previous year.  And I was force to admit to myself that my leadership skills in the second team had evaporated.  I had some how relinquished my leadership role in this team to others who were looking to take it.  This happened in several areas.  Big things like not forcing my ideas and thoughts to happen, and questioning my own ability to make the right decision.  Not keeping focus in the team to accomplishing the task at hand.  But little things too, letting others drive me, handling my bags for me, or even picking out a wine for dinner.  Even talking about my transition hurt my abilities to lead this group.

The common thread here is 'me'.  I allowed this to happen.  Sure the men in the group took advantage of all of the E in my system.  Sure they stole my ideas, or just ignored them.  Sometimes even convincing others in the group that their ideas where better and that I wasn't capable of making the right decisions to insure success.  But I ALLOWED all of this to happen.

This lack of leadership on my part resulted in a failure of our task.  My lack of leadership had cost this project any chance of success.  I allowed the entire team to deviate from the path I knew lead to success.  I allowed others with less experience and less knowledge to make decisions and determine direction.

Since my vacation I've spent the time trying to regain control of this second group, trying to lead them out of the hole I allowed them to dig for themselves.  In that time I have noticed a difference in how the men of the team react to a woman's leadership role.  I've seen managers out and out present my ideas and proposals as their own.  I've seen them even take these ideas as their own in meetings where I just proposed them, as if no one there heard me say it in the first place.  I've seen the workers go to less knowledgeable people to find answers to questions only me or my staff would know. 

Curiously even when I have control of the situation or if we a debating a point, the men of the group consistently and constantly fall back into male pronouns and names.  It's as if they refuse to debate or be lead by a woman.  It's a strange pattern that has run through out the last few weeks.   I'm not sure any of them have ever worked for or reported to a female authority, and they simply are not used to being lead or debating points with female pronouns.  It is rare that I'll correct pronoun usage around me.  I figure everyone there is treating me personally with the utmost respect and everyone is trying hard to accept Dana.  But in this case as the wrong pronouns are used in debates and leadership roles I may have to start correcting them.  In the heat of a debate, or the middle of status meetings, it's 'maam' not 'sir', it's 'she' not 'he'.  Female military officers don't put up with it and I'm not going to either.

The surprising thing here is not that the men of the group tried to take leadership roles and advance their ideas.  After all that's what people in our positions do.  We are all paid to have ideas, push for solutions and we all have our egos to deal with. 

The surprising thing is that I allowed this to happen through my inaction.  The difference between leading as a man and leading as a woman is for me, within.  Yes, men want to lead and succeed.  Yes they use strategies and tactics I find offensive.  But they use these same tactics against other men.  They used these same tactics against Rick in the past too.  As a man I was given the gift of confidence, confidence I used to achieve success in this life.  But now as a woman I find it's all gone.  I need to keep telling myself over and over again I'm right, my ideas are strong and correct.  Over and over again each day I have to resist the urge to make sure no one is upset about my strength.  Rick would just say get this done without a care if someones feelings were hurt, now I find myself explaining why I want it done so that I don't hurt any ones feelings. As Rick I neither needed or wanted praise for my decisions.  As Dana I crave a review of my thoughts and decisions.  I find the praise is needed to keep me on this path.  BUT, I must learn to live without it.  My leadership role requires me to be able to critique myself , either good or bad, without any outside review.

I've written this post over the course of the last few days.  Sometimes late at night in the quiet of my hotel room, sometimes alone at breakfast an hour before everyone else arrives.  I wrote this as a private post more to vent and clarify my thoughts then to publish on this blog.. But I've decided to publish an edited version of it.  For two reasons, the first is selfish.  This is my journal of my transition.  And that includes the transition from a man who leads, to a woman who leads.  This is an important step in my transition.  It needs to be a part of my journal.  This post was written in the quiet of the night with my thoughts clear and still.  In the near future I will need to reread this to understand the feelings I'll have during the turbulence of the day. 

But more importantly, I posted this for others that will go down this same path behind me.  As I read the blogs and search the Internet, there is a lot of talk on how unfair it is to be a woman.  How men treat women in leadership roles.  But there is little self analysis on our part of the leadership dynamic.  No one said life is fair, men are filled with T and that T gives them strength, egos and confidence, even if it is not well deserved or even earned.  Women are filled with E and we are gifted with empathy.  But confidence and strength are a large part of leadership roles, and like it or not empathy is a much smaller part of leading a team. 

Before I even started this last trip H told me I'd have to work 10 times harder, that I have to be 10 times better then the men in order regain control. 

This is only partially true.  Yes I have to be better then before because the men in our group will not just give me respect, I'll have to earn it.  Rick could walk into a room and be the one in minutes.  But Dana has to prove herself and prove that her knowledge and experience is greater then anyone else's in the room.  Yes, I have to be the first up and the last one to leave.  Yes, I have to know the answer to every question.  But also I have to increase my self confidence ten fold.  I have to continuous tell myself 'confidence'.  I have to work ten times harder on the leadership parts that come after the decision is made.  To stick with my direction, enforce the decisions on others who drift, and not ask for or need approval for decisions that are mine to make. I have to work ten times harder on HOW I lead, not on leading ten times harder. 

It is a subtle distinction but a critically important one.

Some incomplete thoughts from my private post :

... H is my de facto boss.  He is the one I report to.  He is the one I'm tasked by.  I am a colonel in his army.  He  points to a place on the road map and says take me there.  That's it.  He doesn't tell me how or manage me or provide daily feedback.  The only review I get from him is pass/fail at the end of each project.  We've been together for a long time and I've been able to delivery many more passes then fails.  I've earned his respect and he trusts me.  Nothing in this transition has changed in that regard.  He treats me exactly the same now as a year ago.  (H if you are reading this Thank You.) ...

... Using words I detest, I, Me, Mine even Thank You Everyone.  We are a team, we work as a group, each more then capable at what we do.  Each needing little more then a direction and support.  In team contexts leaders use words like Us, We, Ours, and laugh at dinner, leaders allow others to express their opinions with force.  As a leader the credit is for everyone to share, and the failures are mine and mine alone. ...

... I will no longer tolerate the wrong pronoun in leadership roles or debates.  This is a crutch they use to relieve themselves of being lead or corrected by a female...

...  J and I head off to the woman's room ... In the privacy of the woman's restroom we compare notes, and it doesn't take long before we are both venting not only about the meeting but about the entire week.  A week of conflict and hidden agendas.  A week of being dismissed.  A week of struggle over control of the group.  ...

Friday, November 11, 2011

Back when I first started down this path I mostly worried about the physical changes E would bring to me and the effects it would have on my relationships with the people in my life. I read all the blogs, I read the research and the papers from the doctors and I had a good idea of what would happen.

The physical changes, I had a general idea of what would happen to my appearances. These changes were the exciting part. These were the changes I looked forward to, the ones that couldn't happen fast enough. My only worry about these changes was getting stuck in the middle. Stuck somewhere between woman and man. Even today, these changes are still happening and even now not fast enough. In this regard the Internet was right, the changes they said would happen did, and the ones they said would not haven't.

The body changes too, I'm not talking about the outside changes, I'm referring more to how my body actually works. I was prepared for these changes too. I knew the sex drive would decrease. This was originally one of my largest concerns. Indeed it has decreased, dramatically I might add, but It's not gone and I actually don't miss it. But there were small changes that I was unprepared for too. My strength has dropped dramatically. It still surprises me how much more a gallon of milk weighs now then it did a year ago. My tastes have changed too, foods I used to love are no longer that great. Foods I'd tolerate before are now my favorite. As M would laugh at, I actually look forward to a Greek salad now. The Internet was mostly right about these changes. Most everything that the Internet said would change did, but it seems my body threw in a couple extra that I didn't see coming.

But it turns out the mental changes ended up being the most important. And the Internet did a poor job of preparing me for these. It been said that E makes you think as a woman. And, man does it. I was prepared for a little, the crying and the moodiness, but these are just side effects of the brain working as a woman's. I see the world differently now. I have different cares and worries. I've lost the aggression and the ego. But I've lost my confidence, too. But all of that has been replaced with compassion and an empathy I didn't have before.

In the end it's the mental changes that make you a woman. Sure the physical changes are important, they allow the outside world to see you as a woman. But, it's the internal changes to your brain that actually make you a woman. I suppose when I started on this path if you had told me my body would change 45 degrees, but your mental state would change 180, I would have been disappointed. At the time I believed it would be the physical changes that mattered. But I would have been wrong. It's the mental changes that matter, it's how my mind wonders down the path of life and how it processes the world that make me a woman.

As a side note, M's blog was on the front page of t-central last week. She has a big heart and an unique voice for our community that she's decided to share with us all. I encourage everyone to read her blog and experience her world as only M can describe it.

When you read her writings you'll understand why she's the love of my life and my best friend.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Life is good, and the days are too short

It’s Friday morning and I’m having coffee with my FF friends at Starbucks for the first time in a few weeks.  I’ve been traveling a lot lately, both work wise and to enjoy a nice vacation. So, this is the first gossip hour lunch I’ve had in a while.  As always we talk about the usual stuff, kids, TV, clothes, just everyday things.  Towards the end of the hour one of my friends asked how M and I are doing.  Normally this is just a throw away line and you’d just answer fine and move on, but I know she means ‘how is M doing with my transition’.  I tell them M is doing great and that the vacation was just what we needed.  That it was the first time in the transition that we were really taken by everyone as just two women who happen to be a couple.  That it was nice to have a glimpse of our future and that no one so much as looked at me twice.  I told her that no one on our cruise ever thought I used to be a man.  So she tells me that I seem to be blending in to everyday life, that no one in the store has looked at me funny and that she doesn’t think anyone even suspects.
Needless to say I was thrilled to hear that.  A little later on I was thinking about that and then it occurred to me, I didn’t notice.  I was sitting there at Starbucks surrounded by housewives laughing and giggling for over an hour and I never once looked around the store to see if anyone read me.  And it’s not the first time.  More and more I don’t seem to care. 
I’m not sure ‘care’ is the right word.  It’s not that I don’t care; it’s more that it’s become a needless chore.  It’s only been a few months now but people just don’t see it. It's like why bother.  I suppose I mean my brain has grown tired of scanning rooms and faces for that telltale giggle or double take.  If no one is noticing, why spend all the effort to look for it? 
And if I back up and look at the bigger picture, I can see it happening with everyday life too.  More and more I’ll do some simple thing, some mundane thing thousands of women do every day, and afterwards I’ll look back and think oh my God, I’m a woman.
For years now, getting through the day meant analyzing every move, and every thought, to filter it through a man’s filter.  To make sure I lived as a man would, acted as a man would, and talked as a man would.  I don’t think I ever realized how much effort it took from me, how much effort it drained away. 
But now, just a few months into full time that effort is gone.  More and more I just walk through my day.  I spend less and less time everyday making sure I’m doing the right thing, saying the right thing, walking the right way.  My filter is gone now, and I just do what I need to do. 
I've said before how much happier I am now,  how I'm happier now then I ever knew I could be.  Life is also just easier now.  I'm not talking about work, or M, or the kids, or any of the things you work at throughout the day.  Sure I have bad days at work.  I still have thousands of things that need to be done yesterday.  But I'm not working as hard just to get through the day.  'Being' is easier now.
H was asking about me a few days ago.  He just wanted to know how I'm doing and if I was still OK.  A curious thought popped in my head.  I'm actually looking forward to the rest of my life.  I go to sleep excited about tomorrow and I just want it to hurry up and get here so I can do another day as Dana. 
Life is good.  I'm happy.  I have my bad days, and there is still a long path ahead of me, but the days are too short and I'm excited about doing it all over again tomorrow.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Life As A Couple

M and I finally got to go on a vacation last week.  It’s been about two years since our last vacation alone.  It’s funny how you realize how badly you needed a vacation only after you get back from one.  Obviously, a lot has happened since our last vacation and this one was badly needed.  We decided to go on a nice long cruise of the Caribbean and do a lot of nothing.  And that’s exactly what we did, nothing.

The thing is I wasn’t sure how we’d handle this.  It was our first vacation as M and Dana, and I was wondering how we would handle the little things.  How would we get our pictures taken, as two friends on a cruise together or as a couple?  Would we introduce each other as our friend, or as our wife?  Even things like would we walk hand and hand and touch each other as a couple would?  Could I live a week and a half with the same people on a confined ship and pass without worries.

As usual all my worrying and planning went for not.  Walking on the ship for the our first picture together, M grabs me in a big embrace and our first picture is one of two people obviously in love with each other!  Our first dinner with 6 strangers and within 5 minutes one of the wives asks if we’re sisters.  M tells them without missing a beat that we are a couple.  I had planned all different responses to the question and she just blurts out that we’re a couple.  

Even, ‘could I pass for a week and half?’ was answered the first morning.  M ordered room service for our first breakfast on the ship to be delivered at 8:30 thinking that we’d be getting up at our normal 7:00.  But we seriously slept in and woke to the sound of the steward knocking on the door with a ‘Room Service’.  As M scrambles out of bed she just opens the door with me lying in bed wearing nothing but a T shirt and my hair in a mess.  If there’s every a time where it’s more Rick then Dana it’s the first few minutes in bed.  But the steward just walks in the room, looks at me and says ‘Good Morning Madam’.  That’s it, if I can be Dana at 8:30 in the morning lying in bed with just a grungy old t shirt from a 10K race 7 years ago, I’m Dana.

Just goes to show you all the planning and worrying is just wasted time and energy.  Within 12 hours of getting on the ship M’s just blown through all of my concerns and acting like the world is full of transgendered couples.

But even with all of my planning and pondering different scenarios for us on this cruise, one of the surprises would be how the world sees us together.  There’s no doubt we were taken for ‘that cute lesbian couple’.  Toward the end of the cruise we would be getting ‘hi girls’ and ‘it’s the girls’ from our table mates.  The crew treated us as a couple everywhere we went. 

I talk a lot about this path we are on, how we sometimes feel lost on it.  How neither one of us know where it’s going to lead.  Sometimes not knowing how we are just going to get to tomorrow.  But this cruise answered one of our fundamental questions of ‘Who will we be?’  We’re going to be that ‘cute lesbian couple, down the street’.  That’s how the world is going to see us.  And other then a few tight*ss people who can’t accept the world as it changed out from under them, being a lesbian couple is just no big thing anymore.  I think some where even excited to get home and say the hung out with cute little middle aged lesbian couple. 

It’s kind of a relief to know that’s where we are heading.  That it’s OK and that no one blinks an eye at us.  That people are genuinely happy to sit with us at dinner.  And excited to see us and be seen with us.  It’s a relief to find our place in the world and to know we’ll be accepted without hiding our love for each other.

One more story then I’m off to Key West for a last few days in the sun.  Over the last year or so neither M nor I have been wearing our wedding rings.  There’s no deep hidden message there, it’s just one of those things.  I guess it just didn’t feel right for either of us.  We’ve both had friends notice and worry if it signaled troubles with our marriage.  So on one of our stops in the Caribbean as we were walking down the tourist trap streets of St Thomas the rain starts coming down in buckets and soaks everything outside in seconds.  We duck into a small jewelry store just to get out of the tropical downpour .  To kill time and stay dry we start browsing the jewelry and checking out at the store’s wares.  Then as the rain starts letting up, M tries on a small ruby ring.  It looks beautiful on her ring finger.  In a moment of simple love she asks the jeweler if he has two because we both need a wedding ring.  The rain stops and the sun comes out as we leave the store holding hands with a beautiful ruby ring on our wedding ring fingers,  tears in our eyes, and smiles from one ear to the other like a teenage girl who just said ‘YES’.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Why this is so hard

I'm tired.  It's late at night and I've been gone from home awhile now.  Work is wearing on me and E has her grips on me right now.  I struggle to keep at this.  I'm tired of always thinking of this.  I don't want to talk about it anymore.  I don't want to worry about who knows what.  I don't want to 'Write a book'. I just want to be normal.

I need M's warmth by me.  I need the normalcy that K gives me.  I need time to just be a woman.  Time to learn her ways.  Time to stop thinking so much. We finished work late tonight.  I've been struggling with E all day and she's winning.  I just manage to get to my hotel room before the crying starts.  I sit in the dark crying just wanting all of this to become easy.

I can't even tell you why this is so hard.  But it is.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

So now what?

So let's see, I've been on this path now for a little less then a year and as I look back on it I can see the tremendous changes that have occurred in that time.  I'm living my life as Dana now. My life is so much easier now.  I no longer fumble in the morning deciding who I'm going to be.  I no longer worry about slipping up and exposing my secret.  I'm happy.

In the beginning of this journey I wrote about not knowing where the path would lead or the steps I needed to take to get to where I wanted to be.  Turns out I just didn't look at the sign posts right in from of me.  The instructions for the path where simple I just didn't read them.  Take 2 pills twice a day, change your patch twice a week and wait.  It turns out E does all the hard work all I needed to do was wait and take life as it came. 

So now what? 

What do I do now?  When I first started down this path my biggest worry was being stuck halfway.  Stuck somewhere between Rick and Dana.  Not a male and not yet female.  But that worry was entirely physical.  I was worried about my physical self.  About how the rest of the world would see me.  But that's not the case.  I'm halfway between Rick and Dana in my head.  In my head, how I perceive myself, I'm certainly not a man anymore but I can't really say I'm a woman either. 

If someone were to ask me right now am I a man or a woman my totally honest answer would have to be that I'm transgendered.  I still see things as a transgendered person does.  Does a woman really walk through the supermarket and wonder if the person looking at her thinks she is a man?  No, I think the thought never even enters the mind of a woman.  Does a woman worry about using the restroom in a crowded airport because she might be confronted about using the wrong bathroom. No, never.  Does she worry about her voice, about using the right mannerisms, about who opens the door, or sits down first, or any of the thousand of subtle differences between being a woman and a man.  No, she doesn't.  But I do.  I worry about all of these things. Why, because I'm not yet a woman.  I'm still learning.  I'm still coming to terms with seeing the world as a woman.

I find myself filtering the experiences I have during the day though the lens of being transgendered.  Every new experience is something to be examined and analyzed.  Does a woman really get home and tell her spouse, 'guess what I used the woman's room at work today'?  Do her and her spouse have deep 3 hour talks over who orders dinner first at restaurants?  Or, how to handle friends who don't know or don't agree with who we are as a couple.  No, straight spouses don't do that, but M and I do.  We have to or we'll quickly be pulled apart by external forces.  I am not a woman with a wife.  I'm still a transgendered woman with a wife. 

So now what?

I wait.  I wait for time to do her work and change how I see myself. It's not a matter of confidence.  It's deeper then that. It's a matter of actually changing my view of my myself.  To actually see myself and the world outside of me in much the same way women do.

Will time and E finish the job?  Will they completely change my mental image to that of a woman's? I doubt it.  As I said before I won't ever be a genetic woman.  I don't have the past of one,  I don't have the shared experiences most woman my age would have.  I've never been a mom, I've never been some one's daughter or wife.  No, the real question is how far will E and time take me.  Far enough so these thoughts don't even matter anymore? 

So now what?

So now I just wait, I wait for the thoughts to become less important.  I wait for all the new experiences to pile up.  I wait for Rick's old experiences to become less powerful then Dana's new ones.

So now what? 

Now I wait for E keep doing her job.  To change me mentally.  M and I keep working on our new dynamic until it becomes us.  Until it becomes our new normal.  I use time to learn the ins and outs of running a business as a woman.  I wait for K and  all my FF friends to not see Rick anymore.  To see their friend as Dana, and remember Rick as he was.

I wait for the time when I don't frame my experiences through the lens of being transgendered but through the lens of being a woman. 

Saturday, October 1, 2011

It’s been a year now since I first went to the doctor to start this whole trip.  I’ve been on E now for about 8 months.  With that, I thought this would be a good time to just let you know where I’m at and where I’m likely to go.

First the big ones, I’m living as Dana now.  I have been her for 3 or 4 months now.  When I first started, this was my single biggest fear would I be able to pass as a woman and would I be able to live as Dana.  I’m happy to say I pass most of the time, and I truly love being Dana. My worry now is not so much do I pass but more along the lines of do they know.  I can blend into a crowd at the airport and not so much as get a single look.  But as I interact with people when do they know?  I struggle with the question, 'If someone knows but treats me as a woman with dignity and respect, does it matter if they know?'.    I suppose the answer will come to me shortly or I'll give up caring sooner or later. 

M is doing better.  This is still hard but she makes progress every day.  Every day she works at it.  And some days she has big realizations about her life that make it easier.  She’s had more troubles with her friends and co workers then I have.   People feel freer to give her unsolicited advice then they do to me.  I'd have to say most of the advice is hurtful and counter productive.  People seem at a loss to understand she is going to stay with me.   She's stronger then most people give her credit for and it surprises them. 

M and I are both learning how to live with each other again.  I make this sound like I left and came back and I suppose I did, Rick did leave and Dana did arrive.  Now that it's Dana and not Rick there is a lot to relearn.  Mostly little things, mostly how we interact with each other in public.  As we introduce ourselves to others in public are we wives, friends, partners, or just something else.  We're still trying to find the right vocabulary to explain who we are together.   For years M would refer to me as 'my husband'.  It was just who I was.  But now, obviously, that doesn't work anymore.  It's the same for me as well, she was 'my wife'.  Even though she's still my wife, it seems awkward in public.  I guess we're just not used to being two women together.  It will come, I'm sure of it now.

The boys are doing well, so well there isn't much to say.

Work is going exceedingly well.   Everyone treats me as a woman and works hard to see me as one too.  I too am getting used to working as a woman.  I've needed to learn how to lead my team as a woman leader rather then a man.  It's easier as a man, you point the way and everyone goes in that direction.  If you disagree with someone you argue over it, Rick was even said to have argued with others agreeing with him.  Nothing is personal it's just business.  Things are different now, I struggle with how to be the boss and be a woman.  How to disagree without arguing.  How to not take it all personally.  I'm just now coming to terms with being a woman boss and leader.  The lack of role models in my life make all of these things harder.

E has changed me.  Physically, I'm smaller, and 'fairer' if that's a word.  When I first started down this road my largest fear was would I be stuck in between a man and a woman.  I had been cross dressing in public for years and I know I never passed as a woman.  It was inconceivable to me a year ago I could go out in public as Dana without the entire world coming to a stop to stare.  But E gave me just enough physical changes to blend in. 

But more importantly, E changed me mentally.   You read all the information about how E rewires your mind, you read about the changes to expect.  You hope against hope for them.  But I can't describe how different I've become. 

A year ago you could blindfold me and put me in any airport in the country and I could drive from the rental car lot directly to the hotel with just a rental car map.  Now I can't get out of the parking lot.  Last year I could count the number of words I'd say in the day.  Today I lose count before I've finished my morning coffee.  Last year life was just so damn serious, now I laugh at the smallest things.

Life is easier now, the constant worry is gone.   The constant struggle to be Dana and Rick at the same time is gone.  As I've said in the past, it's as if Dana sees colors where Rick only saw grey.  I am a 'happy' now that I didn't even know existed a year ago.

I grew up and went to school on the east coast.  I lived in Boston for 5 years.  Six months after moving here to the west coast I knew this was home and I could never go back.  I've lived as Dana now for 3 months and I know I could never go back.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Parents Again

I told my parents the news last weekend and now I’m heading back to spend another weekend there to answer the first set of questions I’m sure they have.  I leave alone this time.  M is not with me, I figure this will give my parents a chance to ask questions or bring up sensitive topics without her around.  We plan on M taking the boys there in a few weeks to give them time to talk to her without me around.

The flight is less stressful this time, there’s less unknowns over what will happen.  I rent the car and drive out to visit my parents for the second time in a week.  The last time I was there was 3 years ago.  Now I’m back twice in one week.

Again I arrive with a bottle of wine and dinner on the table.  Once again we make small talk and retell the same stories as we have every time we see each other.  I catch up on my bothers’ lives and we go over my parents’ health.  Mostly what I want is to answer their questions.  I want to talk about the elephant.  I want them to know this is important to me.  To know M and the boys will be OK and we will always be a family.  To know it’s not going to go away.  I want them to know that I waited a long time for this.  I want my mom to not think any of this is her fault.  I want my dad to know I’m worried about disappointing him.

From a selfish point of view I want to talk about the elephant so that I know they care.  So that I know they’ll try.  That they’ll try to do what it takes to see me through this journey.  I, more than them, can see the path before them.  M just went down it.  I know what’s about to happen to them and what they are soon to start thinking.  I saw how hard it was for M and how hard she works at it each and every day.  I want to think they are able to go down this path.  I want to think they will try and stand by me as I transition.

I know that soon, sooner rather than later, I’ll need to tell my brothers.  I also know I’ll likely lose one of them to the righteousness of his religion.  And that I will be putting my parents in a position to choose between me and his religion.  I know sometime soon I will make them uncomfortable.  I know the easy path.  I want to think they will try for the harder path.

Again, I can feel my Mom is uncomfortable with the whole thing.  She’d prefer to not talk about it, I’m not sure if she wants me to go back to the other coast and pretend all is well or if she just wants to put the transition part of all this behind and just jump to the end of the story.

I ask a few times during my stay if she’s OK, if there’s anything she needs, and each time she pushes it aside.  Then at the end of my visit, after my Mom has gone to sleep I get a few moments alone with my Dad.  It’s the end of the day and we are on our way to bed.  The house is dark and locked up for the night.  I ask him if he’s OK, and if Mom’s OK.  He sits down in his big easy chair in the dark and chooses his words carefully.  And so starts a three hour long conversation on the whole process, what’s ahead for me, how M and the boys are doing,   He wants to know how my work is taking the news, how my life has changed.  We talk about my Mom and my brothers.  He tells me he can’t and maybe never will understand what I’m going through.  That he struggles with the ‘Why’ of it all.  I tell him I’ve been working on the Why for 45 years now and still don’t have the answer.  We talk for three hours in the dark.  Three hours of a real honest, open and true conversation.  I learn more of my dad in this one trip then the 30 years since I left home.  I’m sure he learns more of me then he even could guess existed.  I keep from crying the whole time, yet feel the weight of 50 years lifted off my shoulders.

The next day arrives quickly and I have to leave their small town in the country for one of my weeks away at a city across the country from the both of us. I hug them both and tell each of them I love them.  I leave closer to my dad then I have been since I was a child.   I leave worried about my Mom, I’m worried it might all be too much for her.  I’m worry about my Dad and the choices he’ll soon have to make to keep his family together.

I know I’ll always be their child.  I have two myself and I know they will always be mine.  But I wonder if it might be too late now to take this all in.

I wonder if they are up to the path ahead and if they’ll make the effort required to see me as their child, Dana.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

More On My Parents

If Sunday was one of the harder days on this journey, Monday was one of silence.  After years, decades actually, of therapy one thing M and I have learned is to talk about the elephant standing in the room.  He isn't going away so you might as well learn to ride him.

Rick told my parents the big news Sunday night after dinner and now it’s Monday morning and I’m looking in the mirror.  Dana looks back and smiles at me.  She’s happy to be back.

So there I stand in the guest bathroom looking at Dana thinking I’m going to have to go out there and make my entrance as Dana.  I’ve struggled with this my entire life.  I’ve hidden Dana from my parents for 50 years.  I spent the first 20 years ashamed of her.  I’ve lived in fear of them finding my secret up until last night.  And now I have to go out and audition for the part of Dana to my parents.

So much of this path is mental.  The E changes you.  Yes, it changes your body, but it transforms your mind.  As I look in the mirror and see Dana, I see her as a woman sees her.  My view of the world has changed from one of greys to one of colors.  I’m a woman because I see the world as a woman does, not because I wear her clothes.  But for my parents it will all be visual.  I’ll be a woman because I look like one.

This first impression is going to tell them more in 30 seconds then the entire night the night before.  If it goes well, it will tell them that this transformation is going to work.  It will tell them that we can go out in public and I won’t embarrass them.  It will tell them this is me, and I’m comfortable as Dana.  That Rick is gone, and I’m happy as Dana.  That I am happy, a happiness I never thought possible.

I turn the corner and my Mom say’s ‘Good morning M’.  I smile at her and she sees Dana for the first time.  There’s a tiny bit of shock in her eyes and she hugs me.

My Dad says ‘Good morning, can you get me some coffee’.  And there it is.  The first thirty seconds are done, 90% of their opinions are formed and the real process of telling them starts.

We spend the rest of the day walking around the elephant.

This transformation has been hard on M.  She’s watched Rick die, and be replaced by Dana.  Every day she has had to process this transformation and learn to let go of Rick.  Learn how to love Dana.  She has worked hard every day for the last year and half on this journey.  This is not something you do in one day.

So our plan all along was to tell them on a weekend, fly home to work the week and fly back the next weekend to continue the process.  This would give them time to process the news and let the mind see clearly.  We’d follow this up a month later by staying the week.  But this transformation is not one you do in a week here and a weekend there.  My parents live a continent away and I can’t afford to fly out to see them every weekend for the year and a half it’s going to take.  So we leave.

We leave with no big blow up, no tears, no hard questions and no plan.  The elephant is standing in our room and we’re ignoring him.  At this point my Dad seems OK with it, life just goes on.  My mom seems distant and worried.   I hug my Dad, and for the first time in years he hugs me.  We say our goodbyes and I work a week from home 3000 miles away.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Not Enough Wine

Sunday was one of the harder days in this whole journey.  M and I flew across the country and then drove another hour to go back home again.  Home, to see my parents.  Home, to visit and catch up with things.  Home, to share a few meals and drink some good wine.

Home, to tell my parents their first born son is becoming a woman.

The closer we got to my parents place, the higher the tensions between M and I.  We started the trip before the sunrise on the west coast and M slept most of the way on the first flight out east.  She woke up somewhere over Texas jolly and light hearted.  I, however, was nervous and getting more so as the trip wore on.

Our plan was for me to change into Rick at the Starbucks near their house.  Head to the house, eat the good meal I’m sure my Mom would cook, and drink some very good wine I had brought.  All of this as Rick. 

The only thing about this plan I wasn’t worried about was the wine. 

As we drove that last few miles M did her best to keep me sane and smiling.  Starbucks is a great place to change from one gender to another because most of their bathrooms are single stall bathrooms with a lock on the door.  It’s been a long time since Rick was out and changing back into this abandoned persona was harder than I had planned.  More and more as I look into that mirror I see her.  I see Dana looking back, I see the face I think belongs there.   In that Starbuck’s bathroom mirror I see Rick, the old, tired man I used to be.  To think I could just change my clothes and have his face stare back at me was a shock.  My eyes swelled up and tears started flowing.  E steals your ability to control your emotions; once the tears start it’s hard to stop them. 

So Rick and M drive the last ten minutes to my parents with red puffy eyes and a nervous smile.  As usual my Mom has dinner ready as soon as we walk through the front door and we go right to the kitchen to eat.  I pull out the bottle of wine I brought with me to celebrate the news and grease the gears.  I had forgotten how much my Dad knows about wine and one look at the bottle told him this was not an everyday bottle of wine, this was a bottle to mark a big day.

Dinner went well, the steak and potatoes my Dad still loves.  I’ve given up meat long ago to get my body in shape for this path, so I didn’t eat much.  That and my nerves were killing me.  As dinner neared the end there was a break in the conversation, and with some hesitation I finished the wine in my glass, and I told them the news.

Then, just like every other time, stunned silence. 

The news was clearly bigger than they could process and all my Dad could say was he loved me no matter what and it would all be fine.  I had given up my position in the family as the first born son and as much as I hate the expression, became their only daughter. 

We didn’t have enough wine.

Friday, August 19, 2011

The path leads back home.

I'm flying home again.  I travel a lot and these flights home always give me a chance to slow down and ponder my life's big mysteries.  An hour or two at the airport with a multi hour flight home usually means a quick meal and a blog post or two.  These last few weeks have been rather non eventful.  I spent some time in Chicago where more then a few seemed to see the old Rick.   I'll be honest it did shake my confidence.  It seems to effect me the most after the day is over and I'm in the hotel room alone.  Late at night all the worries come out.

Over the last few months I have manage to tell everyone in my life about Dana.  I venture I've had to break the news to somewhere between 50 and 75 people.  Most over the phone and a few in person.  It never gets easy, but it's easier now and I've gotten better at it.  M knew all along of course, she knew as I knew.  K knew too.  Next came my FF friends.  Telling them wasn't a huge shock for most of them.  They knew for years I was crossdressing almost daily so the transformation to Dana wasn't a huge surprise.  Telling the boys was hard.  M and I raised them to be open and fair.  For the most part I knew they'd be OK.  I was a little worried about the shock of the news, and I worried that somehow they'd think less of me for it.  They took it well, very well actually.

M told her brothers.  Not sure that went as well.  Her family is pretty well spread out across the states and so we're pretty disconnected from them.  So this kinda of news is huge and right out of right field.  It most have hit them like a sledge hammer.  I think most of the people M has told are surprised she's staying with me.  But that's M and she works hard at our marriage, as do I.

As I posted a few months ago, I told work about Dana.  This seems to be completely non eventful.  Again, I think the shock of the news is a bigger thing then the news itself.

So I've been Dana now for 2 months or so, and I feel great.  Everyone in my life knows and no one has abandon me, I still have a job, I still have great friends, I still have my family.  It's hard to believe and if you had told me last year at this time this would be the case I would have laughed at you.

So there you have it, everyone knows.  Everyone except my parents.  Yup I haven't told my parents yet.  And because I haven't told my parents, my brothers don't know.  As with M's family we're pretty spaced out.  The last time we all got together was a family reunion cruise almost two years ago.  I hardly ever talk to my brothers, and rarely talk to my parents.

It's hard to explain really.  M and I moved to California 20 some odd years ago and we just never looked back.  I'm not really sure of the reason I've separated myself from my family.  I'm sure my struggles are a large part of it.  I think the distance makes it hard and I just never put the work into it.

More and more of the last year I find myself missing them.  And as with H, I'm worried about the fallout of telling them.  Except with H, I was worried about my livelihood, my career and my business.  With my parents I worry about disappointing them.  I am certain with enough time they will come to understand one of the reasons for the disconnect is the struggles I've endured.  I'm worried they will be disappointed that all these years things could have been different if I had had the courage it took to tell them back then.  Would we be closer as a family if I had?  Would they have understood the distance and difficulties if they had known the whole time?

How do you tell two people in their 70's that their oldest son is changing, no make that has changed, genders.  How do you tell them you have struggle your whole life with this as a secret.  How do you tell them that 45 years ago you knew?  You knew things were wrong.  That you wanted to be a girl even back then.  Back when my mom was in her 20's.  How do you tell them of the struggles throughout your teenage years.
Does telling them now explain a lifetime of mysteries and difficulties to them.  Is there enough time to go back and fix things?  Is there enough time to make up for that time lost?

Will they be upset at not knowing for so long?  Will my mom understand?  Will my dad be disappointed?
As I tell people I have not told my parents yet, the common refrain is 'wouldn't you want your boys to tell you?'  And, yes I would.  I would want to know.  But our family is different, and times are different.  It's not fair to compare myself in the 2010's to my dad in the 1960's.

M and I have talked about this awhile now.  M finished the conversation with just one question, 'Are you doing this for yourself or for your parents?'.    I've struggled with this question for months now.  Why am I doing this?  Is this just to make my life easier?  Is it so I don't have to rush to the phone whenever my parents do call so that they don't hear the voice mail message?   Or even worse so I can have a Facebook account with MY name on it?

I don't have answers for any of these questions.  There is no way for me to know these answers, and if I did, the right course of action would be obvious and I wouldn't struggle with them as I have.  But, once again I do have Karma.  And as I posted many months ago, I am going to rely on Karma to help me out.  And once again the Karma here is pretty simple.  If you do the right thing for the wrong reasons bad things happen.  If you do the wrong thing for the right reasons good things happen.  So as I type away, 31,000 feet in the air it occurs to me what to do.

'Are you doing this for yourself or for your parents?'

Yes, I'm doing it for both them and me.  I've been separated from them for 30 years now.  Both emotionally and physically, both by distance and by my secrets.  The struggles have claimed my relationship with my parents.  Telling them now is really my last chance to expose these struggles to them and hope to repair our relationship.  By doing this now, I still have time to enjoy my parents as me, and for them to enjoy me as me.  Things may not work out, any of my worse worries may come true, but by trying now I still have time to right a wrong.

I'm still walking this path I'm on.  But I've come to a small 'Y' in the path.  The way forward is starting to become lit.  And I'm just started to come to terms with my fears about this trip.   But that way forward is blocked.  And the only way around the blockage is down a small, dark and abandoned driveway.

A driveway labeled 'Home'.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

“Can I help you ma’am?”

“Can I help you ma’am?”  I still love hearing it.  It’s all I ever get anymore, but it still brings a smile to my face every time I hear it. 
I was reading through my usual list of blogs the other day and I came across Kathryn’s post about ‘Unremarkable '.  She offered how her transition has become 'unremarkable', no great anguish, no drama, just everyday things and adjusting to the day to day things women do every day.  And that is in effect how my transition is going. 
Work has become down right routine.  Everyone addresses me as Dana, I work as a woman, and I’m treated as one too.  There are a handful of guys who seem to stumble on the pronouns, and the whole gender thing, but they do try and they do mean well.  And, there are one or two who obviously have a problem with it and have become quite cold.  But everyone who matters to me tries hard and seems to have adjusted to the new me. 
Since my name change and receiving my new IDs TSA has become completely stress free,  no more ‘Random’ pat downs, no more interrogations about my id and how the picture doesn’t look like me.  All I have to worry about now is to remember to remove my earrings. 
My family has not only adjusted but seems to be excited.  The birthday extravaganza from last week was a huge success and I’ll remember it always.
When I’m out and about, I seem to fade into the background of life.  I just seem to blend in.  The world sees me as just another woman doing whatever needs to be done. 
But I’m not, I’m still transitioning, I’m still changing, both mentally and physically.  Yes, I have moments where everything is just right and I’m shocked to find out I’m a woman.  But I have moments where I still see Rick’s ways.  I glance at a mirror and see Dana, but I stare at the mirror and see Rick.   
I walk down the street and wonder if he knows, or if she sees?  I still find myself scanning the faces and the reactions of everyone just to see if there’s that double take or secret whisper to friend, or the dreaded trail of giggles I used to get all of the time. 

I ask myself why do I do this.  I’m treated as a woman by everyone.  I check into a hotel and it’s good evening Ms. Dana.  We all go to dinner and the waitress takes my order first.  Doors are held open for me.  People smile and say hello.  Yet in my mind I’m wondering if they see and know, but still out of respect treat me as I wish to be treated.  If complete strangers know that just last year it was Rick, and they are just being nice? Do they see Dana’s hair and her clothes and know enough about gender to interact with me as a woman out of respect.  Or is it possible they really do just see Dana?
What is the difference to me if someone sees the old Rick in me but treats me as Dana versus the same person only seeing Dana and treating me as such?  The end result to me is the same.  Why does it matter if they treat me as Dana but see Rick?  Is it important to me that I’m treated AND seen as Dana, even if the end result is the same? 
Yes it’s important to me, and it does matter.  It’s important because it is still a gauge as to how far down this path I am.  While it’s nice to be treated as Dana, and believe me it’s more than I would ever have thought possible just one year ago, it is not the ultimate goal of this whole endeavor.  The ultimate goal of this is not to be treated as Dana, but to BE Dana, to transform myself from Rick to Dana.  This whole process isn’t complete if the outside world has to stop and pause to ask themselves if this is a man or a woman. 
It’s a mile marker on the path, it’s a gauge of the distance I’ve gone and the success I’ve had.  As shallow as it might seem, it is important to me to be seen as Dana.  Not just treated, but seen as her.  Yes, the journey is so much more than just looking like Dana, but at the end of the day, it is the critical piece of all this.  The internal conflicts, the emotional turmoil, the mental changes will all be worked out by me alone.  I will know when these subside.  But will I know when the outside world stops seeing Rick?
The path is funny, I can see the path I've taken up until now quite clearly.  And I can see things around me and I have a general idea I’m heading in the right direction.  But I still can’t see what lies ahead, I’m still wary of all that is ahead of me.  I'm still not sure of how far the path leads or how long it will take to finish.  Still not even sure if this path takes me to the point I’m trying to reach.

But, I'm still in a far better place now then Rick was last year.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

The Perfect Con

Last week was my birthday, “49+1” as M called it.  As a surprise M arranged a small vacation for us just to get away and spend some time together.  She had told me earlier to take the week off, but I had no idea where we were going or what we were going to do.  She had arranged the whole trip as a surprised. 
I must admit I’m pretty good at ruining surprises.  I seem to have a knack about figuring out what my presents are long before I get them.  And once again I had deduced Las Vegas before I even got home from my last trip.  So I had to act surprised when we got to the airport and checked in for Las Vegas.
Acting job complete, we were off to Las Vegas.  I have to admit there was a small part of me that was a little sad it was just going to be M and I.  It was my (49+1)th and it was just going to be the two of us.  But it was just a little cloud floating around in my head and I was still excited to spend the week with M and just enjoy her company. 
Once we arrived in LV we made our way to the hotel.  All the while, M keeps talking about the dinner reservations she’s made for us and how we need to get ready for dinner.  I’m going to admit right here, I had a zero, there was no part of me that saw it coming and I’m disappointed in myself that I was completely and totally caught off guard.  Off to dinner we go and the maitre d’ points at our table and says they’re right over there.  Now, I eat at nice restaurants 4 or 5 times a week, and I have a certain level of service I expect and having the maitre d’ just point to our table was completely not acceptable.  But M took the lead and off she went, I’m following her thinking that we should have made him seat us.  Then M arrives at quite a large table with two empty seats and holds a chair out for me, and I’m thinking I’m not eating at a restaurant on my birthday sitting with 5 people I don’t know.  So my brain is sitting there stewing the fact the maitre d’ didn’t sit us at our table, I have to sit with 5 people I don’t know, and at the same time it’s processing the faces of the people at our table.  I’ll be honest it took an embarrassing long time to realize those faces were my family.  My two boys, their girlfriends, and friends were sitting at the table staring at me waiting for the light bulb to go off.
It was quite the surprise and M had pulled it off perfectly.  It had all of the elements of a classic con job.  The head fake, letting me think I figured out the surprise of LV, the redirection of going to a nice dinner for my birthday.  Followed by confusion at the critical moments right before the surprise is revealed. 
But there was more to it than that, if I had known I’d be having dinner with the whole family, the boys, their girlfriends and friends I would have been a basket case the whole day.  It was the first time the whole family has gone out with me as Dana in public.  I would have been nervous the whole flight, and had the jitters through most of dinner worried how everyone was doing with me. 
But instead I was shocked, there were hugs all around and everyone was smiling from ear to ear.  Thoughts of family, and friends, and surprise, and shock just completely overwhelmed any thoughts of nervousness or worry.  That first few minutes of Dana in public with all of my family was spent smiling, and laughing, and hugging instead of worrying and doubting myself.  It was the single best gift I have every received.
M had giving me exactly what I had most feared losing in this whole transition.  She gave me a happy, loving family who’s behind me every step along this path.  She gave me this gift in the best way possible, as a surprise with no apprehension about it.
Years from now, as M and I are sitting on a park bench looking back on a life full of love and joy, I will remember this gift and still not be able to repay her for all she has done for me.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Yup it's official, my new name is Dana Anne

"THE COURT ORDERS The name of Richard Scott is changed to Dana Anne."

Yup it's official, my new name is Dana Anne.  Hard to believe.  Really, it seems like just yesterday my name was Rick and now it's Dana!

The day started at the court house at 8:30.  Turns out the court proceedings were the easiest part of the day.  All I had to do was wait in line and say 'Yes' when asked if everything I submitted 6 weeks ago is true and accurate.  Next thing I know I have 5 certified copies of a piece of paper telling the world my new name.

Then it was off to the Social Security Admin office.  You can't do anything in this new post 9/11 era with your name unless it matches your SS record.  So they were the first to know.  Everyone told me to get there early and be prepared to wait a while.  Turns out, once again, everyone was wrong and there were only two people in front of me and it only took a few minutes to get to the front.  I got the nice lady and told her I'm here to change my name and gave her my paperwork with the nice raised seal.  Then, a few keystrokes later the U.S. government knows me as Dana.

Next it was my local DMV office.  Now that line was out of control.  Turns out I got there right at 12:00 and everyone else in my county was there on their lunch break.  So I decided to head to city hall and get a new passport.  The paperwork I had only allowed me to change my name but not my gender at the SSA office.  But I got a nice hand signed letter from my doctor telling everyone who cares, I now live life as Dana and should be treated as a female.  The court ordered name change and the letter from my doctor was all I needed to change my passport to "Dana Anne, F".  How cool is that!  A valid US government issued id with an 'F' on it.

The passport lady was so cool about it all.  I came up to the counter and said I'm here to change my name on my passport, I have a court order with my new name and a letter from my doctor.  I'm still not sure what went through her mind as I'm telling her I have a letter from my doctor, but I quickly let her know I needed to change my name and the gender on my passport.  She looks at me and says 'Oh my God, you're the first one I've ever done'.  And with that she had no idea what to do.  So I had to wait while she called the regional office to figure out how to handle the situation.  But it turns out to be easy and off we went to get my picture taken and finish all of the paperwork.  She was very excited through the whole process and made me feel like the queen of her day.  Picture taken, forms filled in correctly, documentation submitted, and all that was left was to sign my name on the bottom line.  Turns out they want Dana's signature, damn, never thought of that.  I need a new signature.  So right there I sign my new name for the first time on my passport application.  She laughs and asks how times have you signed your new name, I lie and say twice.

With the passport done it was back to the DMV for my drivers license.  The line was still a mile long but by now there was nothing else to do but wait it out.  After waiting forever my number was finally called and up I went to talk to the friendly DMV agent.  Hand her all my paper work and let her know I'd like to change my name and gender on my license.  She smiles a little and says 'Wait right there honey, it's been a long time since I've done one of these'  and wait I do.  A few minutes later she returns with a binder about 12 inches thick and starts to read it page by page.  I'm thinking this is going to take a year just to read this book.  But she flips around a little and opens up a flow chart looking thing and there's the whole procedure on how to change the gender on a drivers license.  Couple of clicks and a picture later she hands me a piece of paper and says your all set your license will be in the mail in 4 to 6 weeks.

On my way out I look down at the piece of paper and it says:


Dana Anne
HT: 5-11     WT:170    HAIR:BRN    EYES:BLU  SEX:F

I've waited my whole life for two lines on a small piece of paper.  Two lines and my life starts over again but this time as the person that 4 year girl thought she was 40 some odd years ago.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Glimpses of my future

I saw her today.  I was at the hair salon getting my hair done, and I caught a quick glimpse of her in the mirror.

A few days ago I saw her toes, I looked down and there they were cute toes, in a new pair of sandals sticking out of her jeans.  I heard her giggle the other day.  K and  I were in the car and I heard her giggle at some silly thing. Just a little while ago I saw her smile.  M and I were having dinner out and I saw her smile.

Just fleeting moments, but they are there.  Moments where I'm not thinking of anything, not worried about how I look, how I'm perceived, how I'm treated, just simple moments where I'm just a woman.  Flashes of it, flashes of time where I'm a woman.   Each time I've stopped myself and smiled and cherished the moment.  I've lived for these moments my entire life.  Moments where I don't just look the part, act the part, or get treated as a woman, but feel it.  Actually feel like I'm me.

I've tried explaining it to M, and K, and my FF friends, but they just don't understand.  I don't think I have a way of explaining the sensation.  How do you describe being what you've always dreamed of to someone who has been that their entire life?  How do the colorblind describe seeing colors for the first time to someone who has seen them their entire life?

I see her now.  Not all of the time, actually hardly ever.  But she's there.  I see her in the mirror, but it's not just how she looks.  I see her toes, but it's not the shoes she's wearing.  I hear her giggle, but it's not her laugh.  I see her smile, but it's not her face.  It's me, it's my eyes, my vision of the world.  It's seeing the world from her eyes for the first time.  It looks different in ways I can't explain.  

I see all of my FF friends and smile at their kindness.  I see K and she looks so different now.  I never noticed before but she looks like me, not physically she is after all 10 inches shorter then me, but inside we could be sisters.  M makes me smile in a new and completely different way.  Rick was always proud of M's smile.  He took pride in a happy M.  It was as if it was Rick's job in life to make M smile.  But I've had glimpses of M's smile that just warmed my heart with it's love and devotion.  Smiles that were given freely from her without the pride of Rick to interrupt them as success.  Don't get me wrong, Dana will work just as hard to make M smile, harder really, but the return is different.  The love back is not a reward but a gift.

You hear how powerful E is and you think you're ready for all of the changes it forces on you.  But I wasn't ready.  How could I prepare for a world that looks different, tastes different, feels different.  And different in a way that there are no words to describe.  I mean after all words are meant to convey common thoughts between two people.  How common can these changed emotions be.  There are only a few thousand of us, and it's not like we get to make our own vocabulary just to describe the differences in how we see the world as a woman now.

It's been 7 months now.  The physical changes are more then noticeable.  But the mental changes are huge.  I've had glimpses of my destination.  Glimpses of moments I knew I wanted but had no idea what they would be like.  Not that I knew I wanted them because I knew they would be right, but moments I wanted because I knew what I had wasn't right.

I guess that's what makes the trip so scary.  I knew what I had was wrong, but I didn't know what was right, or that what I'd get would be right.

I've had glimpses of the destination and it's right.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Lost Confidence

It's been a long two weeks and I don't really have much to say. It wasn't my best two weeks that's for sure. I spent a lot of the last two weeks in front of a lot of new people. And seemed to have lost my confidence somewhere along the way. Just having to deal with new people everyday seems to have taken a toll on me. I can't help but wonder as I'm in front of them, just what exactly do the see. Rick in costume, or Dana as I'd like to be?

Don't get me wrong everyone is very nice and treats me exactly as I would want to be treated. I just don't have the confidence I need to not worry about it. With every new person I have to deal with I wonder, what do they know? Are they just humoring me?  Do they go back to their office giggling?

I still get the auditioning feeling with every new encounter.  I seem to start each day with my confidence in tack and then as the day goes on I feel it slip away. Maybe it's just that I'm tired, but by the end of the day I just want to head to the hotel and cry myself to sleep.

Dinners alone with my team seems to help and I feel Dana come out and flourish. Dinners with the local staff or other corporate staff just seem to crush me. I lose whatever was left at the end of the day and I can feel myself hiding within my fear and uncertainty. These long days leave me feeling ugly and mannish. Without confidence I'm sure every stranger that passes me sees Rick and laughs. Every coworker can't wait to get back to their group and ask who the hell was that.

It's all my own doing. There is not a single occurrence of someone treating me badly. Not a single time did I hear a giggle or any gossip of any type. There is nothing in any one's demeanour that signifies any of that. Yet I'm certain I see it. I'm certain they're just barely able to withhold their laughter at me. I'm certain I'm failing.

This last trip away really showed me the support that M, K and all my FF friends give me while I'm home.  Just spending a few days with those I don't question seems to recharge me and lifts my spirits.  It seems as if M's personal mission in life right now is to drive my self confidence, and make me see myself as I am.  As hard as all of this is for her, she's still my biggest fan and my steady foundation I've called on more then a few times in the last 6 months.

Even in the best of times this is a hard path to follow, but when you're tired and E has her claws in you it can seem dark, scary and impassable.  M's leading the way right now and I need her reassurance that we are still going the right way.

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.


Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Well I did it, I'm out at work.

Well I did it, I managed to gather up enough courage or lose enough sanity to finally tell H of my plans.  A few posts back I posted some thoughts and worries about the ultimate risk of telling H and coming out at work.  But I did it.  I'd like to say that I did it because it was becoming obvious,  that I was getting maam'd and that the changes were becoming hard to hide.  All of that is true of course, but the real reason is because it was just to emotionally hard to keep switching back and forth from Rick to Dana every week.

Ultimately this was one of the most selfish acts I've ever committed in my life.  I was about to ask the people around me, people I respect and care about, to share my burden just so that I have less to carry.  I was to ask my coworkers to become comfortable with sliding gender roles, to have to explain to others what's happening, to ignore the whispers and rumors I've heard my entire life. To live with things I, myself, find difficult to live with. Just for the sole purpose of not going through this all alone.  Just to keep the burden that is uniquely mine under control.

But I did it.  H showed up on a trip a few weeks ago and I asked for a few moments of his time.  This was after another day of constant worry about my health and weight loss.  Again I'd like to say it was all in my plan but it wasn't.  I just felt trapped under the weight of the lie.  I knew his concern was that of a friend and I just couldn't handle the deceit of it all any more.  So there we were in downtown Memphis at 10:00 at night walking the streets with the homeless asking for handouts and the partiers coming home from Beale street and I drop the bomb on him.  It went well, it really did.

Shock, that's how I'd describe it, shock.  He knew it was something big, he knew of the doctors visits, the weight loss, he had seen the effects of E on my body.  He'd seen it all over the last 6 months.  H has an active imagination that's for sure.  For he had thousands of ideas of what it might be.  Thousands of things going through his mind between the time I asked for a few minutes of his time to later that night after dinner.

My timing wasn't all that great, I'd ask for a few moments of his time a littler earlier in the day.  He knew right away this was it, this was the answer to the question he'd refuse to let drop.  But we both had commitments that day, and then dinner with the local staff and visiting corporate staff as well.  That only left time after dinner and the business of the day was over.  Plenty of time to let his imagination run wild.

Thousands of things, he said.  Thousands of things it could have been and yet out of all of the thousands this was not one of them.  He never saw it coming. But he handled it perfectly, held the shock in check, didn't say anything wrong, and realized this was not my idea of a joke.  I'm sure he could see the worry in my eyes, the worry I'd lose a friend and a job in the span of a few minutes.  The worry of ruining my life with just one sentience,

   'I'm transitioning to become a woman.'

But I did it.  And, he lived.  I lived.  It's only been a few weeks but I don't remember how the rest of it went.  I don't remember how he took it.  I remember we talked about a few of the logistics and he told me I was important to him, but I don't remember much of anything else.  But, I also know that one's initial reactions to events this large can be and often are deceiving.  That the news shocks the system and the brain goes into instant defensive mode.  The brain knows it doesn't have the right thing to say so it just doesn't allow you to say anything that might be used against it later.

You can't drop a bomb this large on someone and judge their true response to it on the initial reaction.  It's only after you let the news sink in, allow their brain to work through all the ramifications, that the you can judge the response.

Since then it's been a blur, H took the weekend to ask questions, think it all out and let it all sink in.  After that he took the lead and made it all happen.  Setup a conference call with the team and let me repeat the speech to everyone in our group.  Teams always take on the characteristics of their leader and this one is no different.  He was going to be OK with it all and his power and rank were going to protect me at all costs.  This altitude instantly filtered down through the group.  Everyone was confused for sure, but everyone was determined to make it all work.

The support, the care, the love from everyone involved was and still is orders of magnitude more then I ever thought possible.  Everyone has made huge efforts to get the pronouns right, to get the name right.  To stand up for me, to let those around us know that this is who she is and it's OK with them. To show others that this is OK, and that actions and words to the contrary will not be tolerated.

I am overwhelmed by the support from everyone and more then once I've been brought to tears by their love and support.  I cannot begin to describe the impact this has had on me.  I could never put into words the relief I feel.

This path is not easy, and this part of it was scary.  For I had no idea what would happen and I had so much at risk.

But I did it!

Monday, June 6, 2011

Small minded idiots

The worst part of being lost are the decisions you face.  Every decision is critical, do you stay where you are and hope to be found?  Do you head out and search for rescue?  Stay and you risk running out of food and water and dieing a lonely death.  Leave and risk never finding a way out.

Decide to venture out and you're faced with the decision of which way to go?   Head one way and find the river that leads to the road that will take you to civilization. Head the wrong way and venture further into the woods to never find your way out.    You know the ramifications of each of your choices but you just don't have the information or the experience you  need to make the right choice.

We've made the first the decision, M and I.  We've decided to stay together for this.  Which ever way we go we'll go together.

M is tired, she's worried about each of the decisions we have to make, critical of each way out of this mess.  She's tired and wants to rest, but I keep moving on, sometimes walking sometimes sprinting but not stopping.  M is torn, she doesn't want to slow our progress or go back to where we came from, but she needs time to rest.  Time to survey the land and make her own decision about the path to take.  Time to figure out how to follow me where ever this path leads me.  She's looking for a way to follow her own heart all the while staying true to herself.   To find a way to stay together and fight the struggles as the two of us have always done in the past.

I'm tired too, I know I need her strength and clarity of vision to get me through all of this.  I know together I can give her the love and happiness she wants and needs, but the pressure to separate grows with each day.  Internally we both know what we need to do, we need to take time for each other.  Find each other's hand and hold on.  I need to stop and give her time to change directions and see her own light house.  If the world was just the two of us, that's what we'd do.  If it was just the two of us, our path would be one and we'd be walking it hand in hand.

But it's not just the two of us, we're surrounded by friends and family and work and all the things that push and pull you in a thousand different ways.  Each little factor pulls in it's own direction and with it's own hand.

The trick to walking your own path is to make sure to be pulled by the voices important to you and to ignore the ones that aren't.  But being lost, which voices are right?  Which ones are you meant to follow and which ones should you leave behind.  There's not enough information to know.  When you're lost in the woods, every way seems like the right way out, and every way seems like the dead end.  You can't stay where you are and you can't possibly know the way out.


I wrote this a few weeks ago but I didn't post it right away because it didn't feel right.  I edited it several times trying to find a way to acknowledge how hard it is to stay together in this.  And yet write it in a such a way to give M's point of view justice.  Something happened a few days ago to change this post.

I've been home and not travelling for the last few weeks and M and I have had time to connect and be together for more then a day or two at a time.  It's been her first few weeks with just Dana, Rick is gone now.  And, M is actually starting to feel better.  She's smiling again and laughing at my jokes.  She has a few moments where she's enjoying life again.  Me being home has put us both back into a routine of taking care of each other again.

We even had a chance to go out together on a 'date'.  Nothing fancy just the two of us having dinner out on the town.  We live in a small town, the kinda place where you may not know everyone in town, but you can't go to the grocery store without running into someone you do know.  Dinner's nice, M is nicer.  On our way out we run into an old acquaintance, someone we both know.  Not quite a friend but we'd say hello and ask about the kids and life in general.  This is his first time meeting Dana, I know he knows of my transition.  It's immediately obvious he's uncomfortable with me.  Never makes eye contact with either of us.  Tries to abandon the situation as quickly as possible.

Well that went well I tell M afterwards.  I'm embarrassed by the situation and feel embarrassed for M.  I apologized to M for putting her through that and I feel bad about cheating her out of a nice night out on the town. You know what she says?  She says 'F*ck him'.   'He's a small minded idiot.'

As I look back on it I think that may be our turning point.  The point years from now I'll look back at and think that was the point I knew we'd be alright.  That this was going to be OK.   I'm sure M will have her own personal turning point, the point in her life where she'll know it will all be OK.  But for me that was it.

It will never be easy for us, not with so many of our friends pulling us apart, or small minded idiots judging us and our relationship.  But 'F*ck them'.  We love each other and I'll do what ever it takes to show that to her every day.

'F*ck them'.