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'.