As promised, I’m checking back in to update on how my first week working as Emma is going. Since I have been going, going, going, pretty much from dawn to dusk, I decided it might be best if I did an overview of the week instead of posting about each individual day. This way you can still find out how things are going, but I don’t have the burden of trying to squeeze in blog posts everyday (aka by either slacking off at work, or depriving myself of much needed sleep). This is why I amended the title of the last post to say week instead of day, so this post will be the part 2 in the ongoing series.
My first day was pretty good, overall. As I wrote about in the last post I was pretty anxious and scatter brained the entire day, and really made an effort to keep within the safe confines of my cubicle. I did not have any super negative reactions, although scowling-religious-lady is still being a total snob to me, two days later. My thoughts on the subject are, “oh well, never really liked you anyways.” Some reactions were also really positive. I am training a new paralegal who just started recently and she has been completely amazing and sweet about this transition. I suspect it’s because she only knew me as Robert for about a week instead of a year like the rest of my coworkers. Despite that, she has been absolutely darling to me and the way she says my name with her French accent has honestly gotten me a little twitterpated. I’ve always had a weakness for red hair and freckles, so add to that the fact that there is that amazing French accent and a super nice personality behind it and well… Emma has a bit of a crush. Don’t worry, I’m not about to go leaving my wife or anything. If anything, my wife knows about this crush (I haven’t really tried to conceal it), but we’ve been together long enough that neither of us is very much affected by the other one developing a bit of a crush. In the end, we really only have eyes for each other and besides, jealously isn’t something we actively engage with.
Moving on, I don’t believe I mentioned this in the last post but one of my friends at work had a great idea last week for a way that my supportive coworkers could outwardly show their support on my first day as Emma. I decided to keep it simple and spread the word to my friendly co-workers that if they wanted to participate in the idea that we should all wear either pink nail polish or some article of pink clothing on Monday. Several of my coworkers participated in the visible show of support and it meant a lot to me. I even invited someone to participate who I wasn’t sure about and she rocked the house with it by coming to work wearing this amazing bubble-gum pink dress (imagine the movie “Legally Blonde” and you won’t be far off since this coworker is blonde lawyer and has a high femme gender presentation like Reese Witherspoon did in the movie). It was actually really amazing to see my coworkers (who almost never wear pink) actually come out in support of me. It did help, at least partially, to reduce some of my anxiety.
So, “what about day two?” I imagine you are wondering. Well, day two was much like day one, except, honestly, a bit more routine. That’s not to say that my anxiety wasn’t higher than normal or that I didn’t suffer some degree of worrying about how others were reacting to me, but things started to flow a bit more normally. Work marches on. Deadlines have to be met and clients have to be corresponded with. I can’t lie, it almost felt disappointing. It’s hard for me to explain exactly what I mean because I’m not entirely sure myself, but in a way, I felt disappointed about how Same-Shit-Different-Day things were yesterday. I mean, I knew on a logical level that my work wouldn’t really change. I would still be a paralegal responsible for the firm’s largest domestic client. I knew I would still be expected to train the new paralegal and to make sure my docket is adequately handled. I knew that I’d still be sitting in a cube, toiling away on a computer, struggling to find meaning in the seemingly meaningless labor in which I am involved.
Despite that, I think that on some level I did think things would be different, even if that didn’t make any logical sense. I think I believed that I’d feel more at home in my job and that it would become this much more amazing experience. In some ways it has. I’m sitting here, typing these words on a Wednesday morning and I have pink nail polish on. Nail polish I didn’t have to remove because I don’t have to hide myself any more. I finally get to be me! I’m wearing a skirt, a wig, a bra, and some makeup, and honey, I look good! ;)
But regardless of those exterior changes, and despite feeling more at home in my body and with my reflection, I’m still just a paralegal at a boring and somewhat stuffy intellectual property law firm. I think what’s important to understand here is that just because a person goes full time, not all of their problems go away. I felt disappointment that my life wasn’t magically transformed into this fairy tale place where everything was great and interesting because I allowed myself, on some level, to believe this act of transformation would fix my life. It has certainly fixed quite a few things and I do not regret the decision even for one second, but there is still a lot of stuff in my life that needs attention. The primary issue I need to resolve is my work life. Thankfully, and I’m pretty sure this will be news to most of you, I have an interview in 5 days for graduate school!!! If I can manage to impress the panel of interviewers with my amazing charm and exceptional brain (I know, I’m soooo humble, aren’t I?) then I’ll be accepted into the program and will hopefully be able to begin my long journey towards a career I will hopefully find more fulfilling and rewarding than my current one.
Things at home have been better in recent weeks, but there is still a lot of work to be done on my marriage, and likely a lot of adjustment for my wife and I to make to this new fulltime Emma lifestyle. She seems to be handling it well but appearances can oftentimes be deceiving. I can’t really tell how she is taking things because she often doesn’t share her feelings with me about the subject. I’m hopeful that the marriage counseling we are in (which I haven’t really advertised, for obvious reasons) might pull back the curtain on her feelings and we can address them more out in the open. Until then, I’m left guessing or having my questions evaded/minimally answered.
Anyway, the point I’m trying to make is that while I am very happy with my decision to go full time, it’s not without it’s limitations and, if I’m being honest, it has come with some new issues. My doctor asked me if I had proper support for my first week going full time, and now I understand why. More than just dealing with the stresses inherent in going to work as a female when everyone has known me as a male for the past year, I now have to cope with the changes in my public life. Yesterday I went to a restaurant I’ve frequented nearly a hundred times over the last year and one of the employees that I’ve come to know and to build a sort of acquaintanceship with was my cashier. Her demeanor towards me was like night and day compared to the last several times I’d seen her. I’m not entirely sure she recognized me as me, but I’m almost positive she recognized me as trans and she was not nearly as friendly or welcoming as I’m used to. If anything, she was rather taken aback and short with me during our brief interaction.
I know it probably sounds silly that I'd be emotionally effected by some cashier I’m familiar with at one of my favorite restaurants being visibly unexcited to see me, but it really represents a change I’m not sure I was entirely prepared for. In times past walking through the Minneapolis skyways was no big deal. (for those unfamiliar, most of the buildings in downtown Minneapolis are connected by walkways on the second floor, so a person can go from one side of downtown to the other side without ever having to brave the harsh winters or humid summers) I could go to any of the 100+ restaurants nearby, or even to a target, and no one would take a second look at me when I was presenting as Robert. People walked past me as if I didn’t even exist most of the time. Now that I’m Emma, almost everyone takes notice of me. I stick out like a sore thumb, and a lot of people are actively caught off-guard or displeased at the sight of me. Instead of being invisible like I was when I was just another guy, I’m now almost as visible as a person wearing a flashing light atop their head.
I’m beginning to understand on a fundamentally deeper level why most transgender individuals want nothing more than to blend in, to pass, to go stealth. They just want to be able to buy some damn nachos without everyone in the restaurant staring, or gawking at them. They want to be able to talk to other humans, like cashiers that used to be friendly, and not have to worry about how their voice sounds, or whether or not it is super obvious that they weren’t born with the right parts. They want to be able to walk down the street or in the MPLS skyways without 8 out of 10 people visibly staring at them with confused or even disgusted looks.
I find myself being hyper aware of the way people are perceiving me and cannot deny that the desire to be “passable” is growing inside of me. I am really struggling to maintain my gender outlaw mentality by not caring what other people think and that struggle increases with every lingering stare I recieve. I really don’t care what they think, but I wish they’d mind their own goddamned business about it and allow me to just be who I am.
And the social anxiety doesn’t end with the way other people are seeing me in passing, but also includes the way in which I’m interacting with strangers. This morning is a good example. There is a street my wife and I drive down every morning during the week, and it’s one of those streets that has street-parking during certain hours of the day but not during rush hours (7-9am and 4-6pm). Every morning there is at least one person who forgot to obey this traffic law and subsequently screws over everyone trying to drive down what should be a two lane street but can’t be because they forgot to move their car (there are very visible signs all along these blocks, including flashing billboards on the traffic lights that say no parking). Most mornings these people get away with the consequences of their actions without so much as a reprimand. Some mornings, however, the traffic cops come out in force and write these people tickets. Today was one of those days, and I was fortunate enough to get to walk by as some yahoo’s expensive Mercedes SUV was getting a parking ticket.
I was so excited at this display of vindicating justice that I decided to (awkwardly, I admit) make a comment to the cop by thanking him for a job well done. I enthusiastically added to this thank you a, “I can’t stand people who park on this street in the mornings!” statement in a louder voice. The problem, however, is that Emma has not quite mastered the art of raising the volume of her voice at the same time she maintains a feminine range, so this cop essentially had a long-haired lady dressed up in an adorable skirt and red top shout like some deep-voiced guy that they hated people who parked there. I’m finally able to laugh about this experience as I type this now but you should have seen the “What the holy fuck?” look on his face. What made this interaction even fucking worse, if you can believe it, was that there was some guy standing in front of a store on the sidewalk nearby, smoking a cigarette who also was like “WTF?” and after I walked the rest of the way down the block, I very clearly saw the cop asking the cigarette smoking man if he had heard the same dude voice from the skirted lady that he had heard.
Needless to say, I was fucking mortified at my actions. How could I, one who has been so worried about their voice, shout out in my manliest of voices to a cop on a public street with visible bystanders? I felt so embarrassed at this lapse in judgment and memory that I nearly cried. I was supposed to be a lady, and ladies don’t go around shouting at random strangers in her James Earl Jones voice! **/insert Picard and Riker double facepalm meme here**
As I said, I’m able to laugh about this experience now, and it seems truly funny to me now that I’ve had some time to distance myself from it, but at the time of the experience, I felt nothing but sick to my stomach. All my morning efforts to present as female as I possibly can, and I out myself in the most absurd of ways before I’d even had the chance to eat breakfast! I guess the only thing I can really do about this experience is endeavor not to repeat it again. Whether that means just never shouting again unless it’s an emergency, or figuring out some way to shout like a girl might, I’m not quite sure, but I definitely don’t want to go through that again.
I’m sure there will be more to add soon enough, but I should probably wrap this post up. I think that the thing I want everyone to get from this post, more than anything else, is that this process of transition doesn’t end when you go full time. In many ways, this decision is really just the first chapter of my transition and everything before now was just the prologue (a super long prologue, but a prologue nonetheless). Well, my darling readers, onward and upwards we must go! And right now, that means going to the most dreaded place of all dreaded places at my work… the ladies room. BUM bum BUM!! /lightning strikes O_O