Monday, May 18, 2015

5-18-2015 Entry: Saying Goodbye to a Friend and Overcoming Fears


Hello my dear readers, I’m hoping you all had a lovely weekend. I certainly did, although calling in sick on Friday so I could go back to bed instead of work might have helped add that extra something. Really the end of last week was pretty good for me, despite one glaring detail of sadness. My darlings, Emma is now alone at work. Her close and beloved lesbian friend, the very first person Emma actually came out to as transgender, has left the law firm and is going to be moving away from Minnesota. Needless to say I have been quite heartbroken ever since she informed me of her decision.

From the day I met her, we just seemed to click in a way that you only find in very rare instances. In fact, we both had this surreal experience of feeling as if we had known each other forever, despite only just meeting. I cannot explain it except to guess that she and I knew each other before this life. I, like billions of others, subscribe to the concept of reincarnation. As such, I believe that there are people in our lives who travel into this physical realm with us, almost like a group of souls who’ve grown to love each other and enjoy the game of jumping in and out of lives together to see how they can play with one another in the physical realm. That is what this friend was to me. More than that though, I believe that she was meant to come into my life exactly when she did, because she, like an angel, provided me with a light and love and warmth that likely saved my life.

I know that sounds pretty melodramatic, but it’s not much of an exaggeration. I honestly don’t know what I would have done without her being there for me when all my denials about my gender fell apart. Had I not had the unconditional love and support of this person in my decision to transition to female, I honestly don’t know if I could have done it. I believe, now that I have been given the gift of hind-sight, that she came into my life precisely when she did for that very reason. My angels knew that I was going to need someone like her, and perhaps on some ethereal realm that the human mind can hardly grasp, she and I struck a bargain before we entered our physical lives. Perhaps her soul, knowing the difficult and arduous life I was about to live, promised to come to me when I needed her most.

In some ways I can see no other explanation for her brief, 8 month stint at my law firm. I know I probably sound horribly self-centered about all of this, and I’m certain her entrance into my life was just as much for her benefit and evolution of spirit as it was for mine. I, however, do not have the luxury of knowing what her time here meant to her or how it may or may not have changed her life. I only know what my path has been and the part she played in it. I’d like to hope that I played a similar part in hers.

 I know that before her employment at my firm she’d had a bad run of luck with people being really mean or petty about her sexuality. Hopefully my equal and loving acceptance of her as she was helped heal the wounds of her past. I am hopeful that her experiences here with me, and others, restored her faith that she could be accepted for who she was, and that it wasn’t necessary to hide a big part of her life in order to find friends. Whether or not that is true, I will likely never truly know, but I can hope, at the very least, that her time here was not without benefit.

So, this morning, as I sit in my cube at work, I am grieving the loss of a coworker, an ally, and a friend. I am thinking about the path that is still ahead of me and wondering how I will navigate it without that person to stand by my side. I know that her departure was also meant to be, not simply because it has already happened, but because it’s time for Emma to take flight on her own. My friend came to me at my time of greatest need and supported me along as I limped ahead until I was strong enough to walk on my own. I think it is no coincidence, then, that as I make my final preparations to begin my life living as Emma full time, both at work and at home, I find myself alone again. I, like the baby bird who has grown strong while being fed and kept safe by its more experienced and knowledgeable mother, the time has come for me to leave the nest and learn to fly on my own.

Sure, I have the support of several of my hetero-cisgender female coworkers, and their support is greatly appreciated and will likely be a saving grace in the weeks and months to come, but this departed friend understood my struggle on a different level. Sexuality and gender are not the same thing, but often they share the same burdens when they do not conform to the hetero-cis-normative standards.

As a lesbian this friend understood what it was like for others to potentially hold moralistic objections to something that came so naturally to her. She understood what it was like to never know if the people she met would understand or be accepting of her. She knew the fear that comes with being “different” from others, and because of that, her support meant something more to me than the others. We shared, at least in my mind, a sort of unspoken comradery that no one else could really grasp or understand.

My only hope is that I now have the strength to carry on alone. I believe that I have developed the courage of my convictions enough that I’ll be able to weather the storm of my on-the-job gender transition without my more experienced comrade to guide me. If the past seven days are any indicator of my progress, then I think I may just have what it takes.

Over the last week I have faced a handful of truly deep and powerful fears that I’d been dreading for some time. The first of these fears was vanquished on Wednesday, after my appointment with my therapist. My wife had taken the day off and was toiling away in our yard when I arrived at home in my new dress, heels, and wig. She informed me that we needed to go to Home Depot (AKA the Temple of MURICAN-Hetero -Masculinity) to pick up a few things. Part of my ongoing homework with my therapist is to stay in full Emma mode all day on Wednesdays after my meeting with her, so I found myself in a bit of a predicament. I knew that I was dreadfully afraid of venturing into the kingdom of middle aged bearded guys who love tools while wearing my lady clothes and wig, but I also knew that I would eventually have to make this trip as Emma. We definitely went to that store way too often for me to be able to avoid it forever.

So, I decided, “fuck it! Go big or go home, right?” and told my wife I wanted to go dressed as I was. She accepted and we left right away. A few minutes later we arrived at the Temple of Masculinity and I walked in with my head held high (even though everything inside of me urged me to be timid and downcast). That’s not to say that there weren’t several awkward interactions and “wtf?” looks cast in my direction upon entering the store, or that I wasn’t terrified out of my wits that something bad was going to happen; but nothing did, at least, not really.

There were definitely a handful of people who read me right away, but there were also a handful of people who I don’t think read me at all, which I take to be a good sign. There were also quite a few unsure looks that lingered longer than they might have were I dressed as Robert instead of Emma, but no one said anything. The only “bad” thing that happened was an interaction with one of the employees. We couldn’t find something we were looking for, so I approached a man who worked in the appropriate section to ask for his assistance. He was probably around 50 years old, and was a few inches shorter than me (even without my two inch heals on). He had a portly middle aged man who never exercises and watches too much football kind of figure, and a bristly beard filled with grey and white hair.

The look on his face when I approached to ask my question was just unbelievable. You would have thought he’d seen the boogey man or something like that. He was so taken aback by my sudden, and clearly unwelcome, appearance that he totally blew my question off with a cold “no” and rushed off like his mommy was calling him home. You see, I’d asked if they carried organic weed killer, which they totally fucking do because we found it a few minutes later, yet he was so disturbed by this transwoman talking to him that all he could do was lie about it and flee.

At long fucking last Emma has finally developed the ability to drive away shitty old men!! Oh, how I’ve longed for the days when these portly, middle-aged, small minded idiots would stop assuming I was a chummy fellow interested in admiring their experienced manliness. Now they flee upon sight and want nothing to do with me. The funny part about it is that he probably doesn’t realize that I was relieved by his reaction. I’d asked him a question a few days earlier (as I said, we go there way too often) and he’d been nothing but a pompous ass about his answer, so to see him fleeing like a scared child was almost vindicating. So much for his all that pomp and manly condescension. In the end he was just a scared little boy, so insecure about his supposed manliness that he couldn’t even handle the sight of a person breaking gender norms.

I’m sure you are wondering why I wasn’t more disturbed by his reaction, but I’m not sure I can really explain it. I guess, on some level, his reaction was the worst kind of reaction I really expected to receive, and having finally faced that reaction up close, I realized there was nothing to fear. If anything, HE was the one who was afraid, not I. The negative emotions that were experienced were more on his end than mine, which just shows that we are all the bearers of our own karma. I felt, perhaps, slightly affronted at his lack of willingness to do his fucking job by helping a paying customer, but I really didn’t take it personally.

Regardless of why I had a positive reaction instead of negative, the interaction set a whole different tone for the rest of our shopping experience. Instead of worrying that someone might freak out because I was a transwoman who’d been brazen enough to show her face at the Temple of Masculinity, I walked around like I owned the fucking place. Every time someone started to read me or give me that prolonged and probing look, I made absolutely sure to make eye contact and smile at them. Some looked away, but many of them returned the smile.

By time we left the store I was no longer afraid and my anxiety was almost completely gone. I realized that my fear was really of my own making (I knew this logically already, but knowing something and experiencing it directly are two different things). By worrying so much about how people might look at me, I created the fear and anxiety I felt. Once I stopped caring and just started living regardless of whatever anyone else thought, I felt empowered and proud of myself. I was Emma, transwoman extraordinaire, and if they couldn’t handle all the fabulous that was walking past them, then that was their problem, not mine.

The fun, however, didn’t stop there. The second fear I got to cross off my list came almost immediately upon leaving Home Depot. My wife asked if we could go to Costco to pick up the things we were going to need for our upcoming house warming and I was so excited about surviving the Home Depot trip with minimal scars that I said sure, why not?

So, we went grocery shopping at the ever busy Costco and I got to further experience the relief of just being me out in public. The anxiety decreased with every minute we were there and my confidence soared. I definitely got read by a few men, some of whom were not even afraid to keep staring despite me making eye contact and refusing to look ashamed of myself. It was glorious. I know it probably sounds truly terrifying and in some ways it was, but it was also liberating. I stopped caring what they thought. I stopped worrying about what they were thinking. I stopped feeling the desire to shrink back or to hide who I was for the sake of their discomfort. By time we were picking up our final items for the trip, I honestly wasn’t even thinking about it anymore. I was just at the store with my wife, like I’ve been a thousand times before, and nothing felt out of place. My feet hurt like an SoB because my shoes, while adorable and pretty, are little more than friggin torture devices, but other than that I wasn’t even worried about it anymore.

In the span of about 2 hours I went from being terrified of going out into public dressed in my gender appropriate clothing, to not even feeling the slightest of anxiety. Every person who saw me as Emma, whether they assumed me to be female or read me as trans, was another small victory. Each time I walked past someone I didn’t know with my head held high, my confidence grew a little more until I remembered that it was all in my head anyways. They were going to love me or hate me regardless of what I did, and the only way that could possibly affect me was if I let it.

And that’s the truth about shame and fear of breaking social norms. They are rules only for as long as you choose to play by them. They only have power over you for as long as you allow them to. Sure, there might be consequences to breaking those rules (like the employee at Home Depot who refused to be of service and fled out of childlike fear), but so what? Every action has an equal and opposite reaction. It’s a law of physics. Just because there will be a reaction, doesn’t mean it’s  going to be the end of the world, or even bad at that. The equal and opposite reaction to me breaking gender norms and not caring what people thought ended up being an enormous boost to my confidence. I turned society’s shame into my strength. Some people stared at me, trying to shame or judge me, and in the end, all they accomplished was to give me the attention necessary to overcome my fear of their condemnation.

The more people stared and the more they judged, the less I cared and the more I felt free to just be me.  I wasn’t attacked, I wasn’t berated, I wasn’t mocked or made fun of. I was merely looked at with either confusion or disapproval, and I believe that’s because I refused to be ashamed. I refused to be defeated by their stares, and so they had no power over me. Had I walked in and lowered my eyes and acted like I should be an outcast or a freak for breaking their norms, things might have gone differently, but because I was unwilling to waver in my confidence (whether it was just for show or because I actually felt confident) no one could touch me.

I know that approach may not always work, and there are a lot of factors that were to my benefit (location of the stores, my skin color, my height of 6’3” with heals on, and the fact that I was with my wife), but the principle can be applied to most situations. Confidence is always key. Act as though you are supposed to be there and 99% of people will just accept that you are supposed to be there and the 1% who don’t will likely be too afraid to call you out on it; although there are some crazy people out there, for which I would recommend some mace, a taser or even a gun to assert your belongedness. >;)

Anyways, onto my third and final fear, which was overcome a few days after the events of Home Depot and Costco. Saturday was our house warming party, as mentioned previously, and we had about 20 guests over, which included a mixture of coworkers, family members, and friends. In this grouping of guests, there were at least 3 or 4 people who either for sure didn’t know about me as Emma, or probably didn’t know about me as Emma. So, it’s probably no stretch of the imagination to figure out what my predicatment was. Did I dress up as Emma for my house warming party or not? On one hand it was my house and I am Emma at home. I’m really only still presenting as Robert at work and occasionally in public, so it would feel strange to present as Robert at my own home. On the other hand, it would inevitably be a shock to those who didn’t know about my gender issues to see Robert wearing a dress, wig, and makeup, and was I certain I wanted to do that to them? On a third hand (for those keeping count) some of my coworkers would be there, and despite all of them knowing about my soon-to-be transition at work, none of them had really seen me dressed up. On a fourth hand, because apparently I’m Goro from Mortal Kombat, my nieces and nephews would be there, and I wasn’t sure if their mother (my sister in-law who knows) had explained the situation to them. Would I be putting her in a difficult position? What about me? Was I really ready to come out in such a significant way to all of these people and answer all the potential questions that might come up?

I wish I could say that I threw caution completely to the wind and hosted my party in fabulous Emma transwoman extraordinaire mode, but I didn’t, at least, not fully. After struggling with it and mulling it over for a couple days I decided to make a compromise. I wanted nothing more than to host the party in full dress, wig, and makeup, but I also didn’t want to give some of my guests heart failure or to make it too awkward for them when they realized they’d been invited to the Rocky Horror House Warming party! Okay, maybe it wouldn’t have been THAT much of a shock, but these are people I care about after all (unlike Costco and Home Depot customers) and I definitely want them to feel comfortable coming back.

As a result of these somewhat conflicting desires I decided that I was going to present as Emma, I was going to wear my new dress, I was going to put on makeup and nail polish and I was going to wear a matching headband (I had lots of pink going on, and I loved it! sorry no pics, but I will try to recreate the outfit for this upcoming picture update). The compromise, however, was that I wouldn’t wear my wig. This was mostly for the sake of those who didn’t know so they wouldn’t see me as this COMPLETELY different person, but was also partially because the wig is a huge pain in the ass to not only eat with, but to clean should I get food in it or should I spend too much time around the fire pit we were planning to use. All of these reasons coupled together made me decide to keep Wiggy (that’s her new name BTW) on her Styrofoam head in our bedroom.

The party itself went off without a hitch. Everyone who showed up complimented me on how good I looked or how much they liked my dress. The few people who were in the “didn’t know” or “might not know” category either revealed that they did know (good ol’ grapevine for ya), chose not to discuss the matter at all, or in one case, admitted with a nervous chuckle that I looked very different than they were used to seeing me (one of my wife’s coworkers, her only coworker who didn’t know). Otherwise though, it wasn’t a big deal at all. Everyone was so kind and nice. My coworkers didn’t seem all that bothered by my appearance and were even happy for me that I’d decided to present as Emma.

My wife’s grandfather was the only one who seemed a bit awkward about the whole thing, but that only manifested in him taking a defense strategy that one might adopt should you suddenly encounter Medusa (AKA avoiding all eye contact, even when speaking to one another). Otherwise he was just as cordial as he ever is, which, just between us, isn’t all that cordial but I digress.

So, in the span of about 4 days, I worshipped at the temple de masculinity while transgressing their primary tenet (thou shall not be lady-like), I bought groceries in ad absurdum size at Costco, and I entertained friends, family and coworkers, all while rocking a dress (and sometimes heels and a wig). Overall, my confidence level as Emma has skyrocketed. I think that I’m truly ready to start coming to work as her on a daily basis and to become her full time. I think I’m finally ready to put Robert to rest.

All that is left to do is to keep accumulating clothes for my new life as a transwoman, which is going along swimmingly so far. I’ve ordered two pairs of shoes that I can wear to work and two bras!! I’m really excited to have my own bras, like stupid excited. The girls have been growing and developing a bit faster that I would have suspected after only just a couple months on HRT, so I’m almost to the point where I really should be wearing a bra. Luckily (or not so luckily) I’m still somewhat over weight, so my breasts don’t seem all that out of place when I dress like a male, but I only have to worry about that for a few more weeks.

I cannot recall if I posted about this on here, but I’ve made a decision that my on-the-job transition is going to commence in approximately a month. I haven’t picked a hard date yet because I still need to purchase more clothes to wear to work and want to keep things flexible in case I need more time, but it will be no later than July 1st. Ideally it will be June 22nd, but we shall see.

Okay, that’s enough for one post. This is why I shouldn’t go so many days without writing on here, because then I have way too much to talk about for a single post. Anyways, thank you for stopping by. I promise there will be more pictures for the 13 week HRT update, but things were too busy for me to do a 12 week picture update this weekend.

 

Much love,

-Emma

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