Hello my darling readers, it is your beloved blogger and transwoman extraordinaire, Emma. As many of you are probably aware, today is my first day going to work as Emma. On Friday I sent out an email to the law firm I work at announcing that some changes were going to be coming and that on Monday (today) I would be coming to work as Emma instead of Robert. I informed them ever so briefly that I was transgender and that I identified as a transwoman. I let them know to expect me dressed and appearing as a female, and that I kindly requested they started calling me Emma and using female pronouns.
For the sake of simplicity I am just presenting as female to them and want them to treat me like one of the ladies, rather than delving into the deep and oftentimes shifting or confusing realm of my non-binary gender identity. There is no need for most of them to know that I am really somewhere between male and female (and sometimes both), and that I won’t always feel particularly girly; nor will I always present as the high femme that they are going to see during working hours (sometimes a girl has got to wear some androgynous/men’s clothing at home). Perhaps one could say that I’m aiming to “pass” or go covert, but I think of it as more a decision to allow others to assume something about me that’s not entirely true for the sake of keeping my business life simple. It’s hard enough to explain my dysphoria in the male gender to those who ask as it is, let alone to try to coax them further down the rabbit hole of gender identity to introduce them to the concept of non-binary or, really, dual-spirits. For now, it is easier to just be Emma, a binary female in their minds, even if I told them I identified as a transwoman. I don’t expect most of them will know what that means, let alone the nuanced definition I’ve created for it.
Anyways, so far my experience with coming to work as Emma has gone fairly well. It started off well with several people replying to my coming out email with positive, kind, and accepting words. The most surprising part was the fact that almost all of the responses I got were from people who I never would have expected to be supportive. Once again, for the hundredth time, I’m finding that you truly cannot predict how someone will take the news.
That’s not to say, however, that all is going 100% super-duper!! Some of the responses I got from my email were much more along the lines of the “good luck” and “I hope it works out” train of thought. You know, that “I’m saying something ambiguously nice, but really I’m judging the hell out of you” kind of email? They might as well have put “freak” at the end of their emails. I would admit that I was possibly misreading their tone or seeing judgment where there was none but the reactions I’ve received from these people upon coming to work today has only further solidified my interpretation of their emails.
While some people have been very kind to me about the way I look and have talked to me about the transition, or at the very least admitting that they will do the best they can to call me Emma instead of Robert, others have taken very different approaches upon seeing me. The worst so far was the look of horror and disgust that I got from a person in the accounting department who I suspected might prove to be difficult. She is a deeply religious Christian, and from what I understand her husband (who is a photographer) has been known to blatantly turn down wedding gigs on the grounds of their religious beliefs if the people getting married are gay (gay marriage is legal in MN, as an FYI). That’s right, this person is essentially on par with the “I won’t bake a cake for a gay wedding” kind of people who’ve made headlines in the last year or so.
The second to worst reaction I’ve had today was from one of the other paralegals I work with who, upon seeing me walk past her during her conversation with another co-worker, stopped mid-sentence and just gaped at me. I tried to say good-morning to shake her out of her shaken state, but it clearly wasn’t enough, and I didn’t get a good-morning back either (which she always says good morning to me). Lucky for me, the coworker she was talking with is one of my most staunch supporters at work, so I’m hoping that if this gaping-paralegal made any comments or rude faces that the coworker didn’t tolerate it or tried to set her straight. It’s impossible for me to know, however, as I continued to walk away and couldn’t hear anything that transpired afterwards.
Still others have taken to avoiding eye contact or passing me in silence without a word. One of them, I think, even turned around at the sight of me and walked the other direction to avoid an encounter with me. I won’t lie and say that I’m completely unaffected by these reactions. They definitely hurt and make me second-guess my decision to come to work as Emma. At the same time, however, I know that I’ve done the right thing for myself. The only solace I can find is the hope that maybe one day these people will get over their initial aversion and will warm up to me as Emma. I have no hope for the religious-scowl-lady, but that’s because I know there is no reasoning with a person like that. She is far too set in her ways and beliefs about how other people should act that she cannot even see the hypocrisy of her actions. It never ceases to amaze me how some people who claim to be devote followers of a teacher that spent his life teaching love, kindness, forgiveness, and non-judgment (even towards those who were different than him or were called “sinners”) can be the most un-loving, most unforgiving, and most judgmental people walking around. But I digress before I get on my anti-religion soapbox.
So far I have spent the majority of my day holed up in my cube, chipping away at the seemingly never ending pile of things I have to do. I feel reluctant to venture too far out of the safety of my cube, primarily because I don’t want to encounter any more of my coworkers than I already have. In times past I could care less how many of them I saw in a given day because our passing was almost exclusively unremarkable in nature. They would smile at me and I’d smile back. Maybe we’d even exchange the typical one or two word sentences that basically just communicate, “I see you. I don’t find your presence objectionable, but I’m not interested in engaging further unless absolutely necessary. Please let me just go get a glass of water without talking to me about something I don’t care about or something that I have to do for work.”
Today, however, every interaction is out of the ordinary. Every person I pass by is going to have a visible reaction to seeing me, whether it is good, bad, or unsure. Every time I step outside the safety bubble of my cube where no one except for the adorably cute French paralegal behind me can see me, I’m putting myself at risk of an anxiety-inducing social situation. I assume the risk of running into someone who hasn’t seen me yet. I risk encountering someone who has seen me but has had a poor or less-than-favorable reaction already.
I don’t want anyone to think that me being brave and saying “fuck it, go big or go home” doesn’t come without an extra helping of “oh god, what have I done?” sometimes. I don’t want to brush this experience off like it isn’t really fucking nerve-wracking and somewhat exhausting. I was honestly ready to call it good and go home 90 minutes after I arrived. Seeing a dozen or so of my coworkers felt like enough of a stepping stone for me, but the unfortunate thing is that by choosing to come to work as Emma I’ve set myself up for about a dozen stepping stones all in one day. A person doesn’t just magically overcome all their fears without some struggle, hesitation, and regret along the way. I’m still terrified to use the women’s bathroom, and I’ve already used it once today. Thank the gods that no one was in there, but now that almost everyone has arrived at work, the chances of me getting a trip alone to the bathroom are almost zero. WTF am I going to do if religious-scowling-lady (that’s her nickname from now until she repents of her ridiculing ways, as an FYI) is in the bathroom too? She’s probably not going to stand for that, even if the company and building say that she has to.
Okay… deep breaths Emma… deep breaths………. No need to freak out…….
Okay, I think I’m calm again… maybe… probably not, but you didn’t come here to read about me freaking out, so the show must go on! Needless to say, today has been a trying day so far, and it is only half over. I’m sure there will be more updates as I want to document this experience as best as I can, but for now, I think I need to step away and process things. Plus, I really need to pee… (aka, the worst possible thing to need to do right now).
Much love, and check back soon.