Tuesday, December 6, 2016

How I Live Now

Today I was sitting at my desk and broke down crying. Actually, the emotional break down was at my desk. I managed to not actually cry until I had ducked into a nearby conference room. Having nowhere private to run to, I contemplated barricading myself in a stall in the ladies room for a while, but instead went outside into the chilly air and found myself a bench in a public park. I sat down and I cried. It wasn't anything specific, it was just everything.

I've been full time now for a little under three weeks. And if you asked me how it's been going I would tell you, in all honesty, that things have been going wonderfully. They have. Everyone at work has been fantastically nice, I'm way more comfortable working as a girl than I ever thought possible. Going about my life; my commute, grocery shopping, grabbing lunch, running errands, has been no big deal.

And yet it has been. It's been harder than I realize, because I hadn't quite realized what was going on. I'd not really been processing this. In fact, I've been so caught up in my day-to-day life, and I've been so busy that I haven't really stopped to even think about things. It's a super busy time at work and it's been a super busy time socially. I'm a natural introvert and can only take so much social activity before I break and have to cloister myself away in me-time for a while to recover. So, it's been introvert social exhaustion, it's been my fast-growing work to-do list, it's been the fact that I've literally changed my gender, it's been worry about financial stuff, it's been lots of things. And I've been too crazed and frantic and busy to really even notice the change.

It wasn't anything specific. It was everything. Though I haven't noticed it, it's been building up. Little stressers like worrying that my wig looks fake, worrying that my makeup is wonky, worrying that my style is too feminine or not feminine enough, worry that my voice isn't good enough, worry that I'll give myself away by making too manly a pee sound in the bathroom, worry that I'm wearing the same clothes too many times to work, or that I don't have enough clothes or that I need new shoes but I can't afford them if I want to take a trip to Europe next year. Worry, worry, worry. All the time.

And even though on the surface everything is going gangbusters in my life, I've started to carry all these extra worries around with me, and all this extra stress. I can feel the stress knotting up the muscles in my right shoulder, I can identify it from dreaming about potential work screw ups, I can feel it in the existential dread I get at the thought of having to spend an evening hanging out socially with people.

Finally today it got to me. I sort of stopped working for a minute. Instead I just made a pile of all the papers for the work I have to do and stacked them on my desk. I'd look at them later. I tried to slack off but the internet wasn't helpful. All I really wanted to do was run away, lock myself some place quiet and cry. I wanted to go home but I had meetings later I couldn't miss. Still, I wanted out, to run away from everything.

Then, someone stopped by my desk and started to ask a question. It was too much. Right away, I could feel the tears bubbling up, feel my throat clench and I turned around. I didn't want a coworker to see me crying at my desk. So I mumbled a "I can't right now, sorry" and before they could respond I ducked into a nearby empty room and tried to compose myself. No luck. So I grabbed my stuff, hoping no one would see me, and got out of the office as quickly as I could.

Honestly, crying made me feel better. Maybe just letting it all out was what I needed. I don't know. But I felt better.

After about ten minutes I decided to go back up to the office. Luckily, crying didn't mess up my eye makeup too much. Sure, there were some smudges on my eyeliner and a little bit of a grey shadow under my eye, but it was easily fixed with a quick trip to the bathroom and a few dabs of foundation.

And if you asked me again how full time was going, I'd probably still tell you it's going really well. Because it is. But it's also something I still haven't had a chance to really deal with or reflect on. When I had my first talk with my boss about coming out at work, he had said "And if you ever need to duck out for a few minutes feel free." Thus far I hadn't needed to, but who knows, maybe in the future I will need to duck out again.

It's a big life change, but in a way, I kind of haven't let it really be big yet. We'll see how this goes and how the process of processing this progresses.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

My First Trip to the Hair Salon

FYI - There will not be too many pictures like this posted. Still not in love with this look, though it is finally my own hair.
You know, I hate wigs. I really, really, really hate wigs. They're hot, itchy and delicate. When they mess up they look insanely awful and they tend to get messed up pretty quickly. I've tried serious quality, I've tried what the YouTube tutorials recommend for maintenance or de-tangling and tried plenty different products. And still wigs are awful and stupid and I hate them, hate them, hate them. And I'm still stuck with them.

And now that I'm full time I'm really stuck with. Like every day stuck with them.

But there is hope.

The reason I don't have my own long, beautiful silken locks is because of my hairline. My hairline receded a little bit, starting back when I was 16. It only receded just a little bit, but it was enough to make me panic. I fretted about looking old or losing my hair and eventually shaved it it all off. Better to have the shaved head look than be bald right? For the better part of a decade or more I sported this look.

It worked for me for a while, but sadly it meant that when I decided to transition, I wouldn't be starting with nice long hair like some people have. Instead, I'd be growing my hair out from scratch. That was about a year ago. It's getting long, but even with drugs and hormones, my hairline hasn't really improved. I worried that I'd be cursed with wigs forever. When my partner and I talked about my then-pending transition she pointed out that lots of cis women wore wigs all the time and I'd do fine. But I decided, I didn't want to transition if it meant wigs for the rest of my life. I'd rather live as a guy with dysphoria then as a woman who had to wear a wig every day to pass. Yes, I really hate wigs that much.

As I approached full time, I decided I'd give my natural hair a shot. It was, after all, getting kinda long-ish. I figured I'd make a hair appointment and see what a professional could do with the hair I did have, short though it may be. Luckily for me my laser place shares space with a hair salon, so before my most recent laser, I called ahead and asked if the stylist could do me a quick consultation. I wanted to know if there were anything that could be done or if my hair was just hopeless.

The stylist is a cool lady, in her late thirties or early forties, kinda a little punky with dyed red hair and Betty Page bangs. Plus, she was bubbly, upbeat and unflaggingly positive in a way that helped me free more relaxed. I explained that I was trans (because I was in boy mode at the time) and wanted to know what a professional could do to make my hair look okay and hide my hairline issues. Like I said, she was positive she could manage such a task, and so I made an appointment to come back the next day.

This was the Friday before I came out full time. And knowing that I would likely come out of the salon with something of a feminine haircut, I figured I'd head over in girl mode, but wigless. I think it was my first time trying it. I brushed all my hair forward to do a kind of emo teen look, which sort of looked okay. It didn't look super feminine, but it was hopefully enough that I didn't look super ridiculous.

My hair appointment started with her explaining that she was going to trim the back to make it look clean and nice (and not scraggly like a mullet) and then trim it into a sort of pixie cut for me. Yay! A pixie. Back in March, I wrote a piece about short hair, and wondered if I could in fact pull off a pixie cut. Well, I was about to find out.

First up was the hair wash, which ended up being done by the super cute hair apprentice I guess. Is that a job? She had a perfect looking bleached blonde pixie herself, perfect makeup and was skinny in the way that only twenty-two-year-olds can be. I was super jealous of her and felt somewhat ridiculous in comparison. This happens to me sometimes. I see a pretty girl and get really jealous, then feel bad because I'm a giant, oaf of a boy in comparison and I have a stupid hairline and big honking feet. Well the hair apprentice was nice and friendly and I bet she feels jealous too sometimes.

After my washing, I headed back over to the other chair and the stylist started her work. It didn't take long, but she cleaned up the back by my neck, evened out my bangs and gave me some tips and tricks to make my hair look good. The key for me is chaos. It's true. Messy works really well for me now. Also, messy gives me body and body is really good for my look too. I learned what a teasing comb was (it's the opposite of what you want with a wig).

Well, apparently I have great hair with lots of body, which is fantastic and makes me super happy. Once it grows out I can do a nice look with bangs and curls and make it look great.

So yeah, I'm just gonna steal Zooey Deschanel's look. 
The other upside is that in about three or four months I'll be able to get a style that definitely looks 100% feminine instead of being kinda androgynous. And my hair will be long enough for extensions. That'll be just in time for warmer weather. And then once I have that style, I can take every wig I own and burn them! Except I probably won't actually burn them because I bet the synthetic fibers probably give off all sorts of nasty fumes.

After my hair appointment, I texted a friend who lived nearby the salon to see if she wanted to go out for a late afternoon drink. She did. So I went out in Brooklyn, to what turned into a couple drinks and then dinner when my partner met us after she got off work. And I didn't wear a wig! I just wore my own hair and it was wonderful. It really felt great. Even though it's not quite feminine enough and even though the longer hair helps me pass better, it felt good.

Well for now, I'm sitting here writing...one year and three days on HRT, a couple weeks of living full time and being a working woman in the city, and I'm still wearing the wig. But, soon I won't be. That'll be nice. That'll be a wonderful, beautiful moment in my life. Because the wig still kinda feels like "dressing up as a girl" rather than just being a girl. Once I say adios to the old store bought wigs there'll be no more dressing up. There were just be me, a girl, living her life.

I can't hardly wait.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

My Website Version 2.0

So, it's Thanksgiving weekend and with four days off I thought I'd tinker with my the website a little. I'm actually quite happy with it; new header, new colors, new design, new fav icon. Lots of fun stuff. Plus I resisted the urge to include a hit counter, sparkly gifs or music.

Hope you like it. Let me know what you think!

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

A Transgender Girl Comes Out at Work

This weekend, I was running errands in a kind of androgynous mode. No wig, light makeup, girls's jeans, girls' hoodie, girls' jacket. Not quite presenting totally dressed up female, but definitely not male either. Walking down the street in my Brooklyn neighborhood I thought to myself "I guess I'm full time now." It wasn't some grand big thing, me coming out full time. It just sort happened. Well, more like it evolved over time. If you had asked me ten years ago what I thought my coming out full time would involve I would have imagined grand ceremonies, burning boy clothes, a giant party, who knows what. Instead, in the end, it just sort of happened. Another mundane thing on a mundane day.

Yesterday, was Monday, November 21st, 2016. It was a huge, amazing day for me and in the end it felt mundane too. Yesterday was my first day working at my job as a woman.

Settle in. This is gonna be a long one...

My regular readers will know that I came out to HR recently, and started working with management, HR and Legal on how I would come out. There were meetings. There were plans. There were documents to review. There were panic attacks. In the end, I decided on November 21st as my first girl day, partly because it was, at the time, pretty far away, and also because it was the week of Thanksgiving. That meant that if it all went horribly, I would at least only have a three day week to worry about. In the end, it was determined that they'd send out a memo organization-wide, and then conduct some other training for key staff in the coming months. Since the memo was going out on a Wednesday, I took that day, plus the following Thursday and Friday off. Honestly, I just didn't want to be there when the memo went out. I could imagine it showing up in inboxes and suddenly every head turning to stare at me.

Plus hey, five day weekend. It was a busy weekend. I went and saw Letters to Cleo play live. It was amazing show and they've been one of my favorite bands for practically two decades and I'd never seen them play. Good times.

How shining is Veda? Veda is very shining. 
I went and got a my hair styled, got a new manicure, hung out with friends, went to a co-workers' birthday shindig so she could meet girl-me ahead of time, and spent a bunch of time nervous, anxious and gripped with fear because on Monday I was going to put on a skirt and a wig, do my makeup and then walk into my office and expect people to take me seriously. There was dread and there were nightmares. There were doubts, fear, anxiety. It had gripped me for months, inspiring worry about getting fired, ruining my career, or ruining my life. I worried that I wasn't even transgender, that this wasn't something I could do. It all led up to Monday morning.

Monday morning. I'd set the alarm early, for 6:45am and promptly hit snooze a couple times. Yes, my first decision of the day was to continue in an unconscious state.

Eventually I did get up out of bed. I put on my clothes; a professional looking skirt with black tights and ankle boots, a nice red top and cardigan. I did my makeup in the same kind of basic, light makeup look that I've been practicing and I opened up a brand new shiny wig, fresh from the package.

And of course, this happens...

And then the temperature drops to freezing. You know, it was 70F like four days ago. What the hell, universe. Give a trans girl a chance! So, I bundled up and headed out the door.

Honestly, there wasn't much nervousness as I headed to the subway. I resisted the urge to snap selfies along the way. A part of me felt the day, a day this momentous, needed some serious documentation. But then also, stopping to snap selfies would do nothing but draw attention to me. Plus the light probably wasn't even good. Certainly none of the other commuters were stopping to take souvenir photos of their slog into work. So, my morning would go unrecorded.

After a half hour I got to my building and wouldn't you know it, my card didn't work. I worked this hard to come out as me and now I can't even get in the building. What if they fired me over the weekend and that's why my card doesn't work? Actually it was my old boy card. So I had to go up to security and yes, my first activity of my first girl work day, was showing someone my boy ID. Lovely. Well, security gave me a temporary pass and said my new card was waiting for me upstairs. 

Up the elevator I went and into my office. Really, there was no nervousness. It had all gone. Maybe my brain figured it had worried enough, the Rubicon had been crossed, and it was too late to worry. So I was kinda blank, just whatever, as I walked in. Same as I always walk in.

First I got a gigantic, surprised smile from the receptionist. "Hi, Faith!" she greeted me excitedly as though she had been waiting forever to see me. I smiled back, did my best girliest "hi" back and headed over to my desk. Generally, I'm one of the first people in the office, so it's not uncommon for me to come in and find a ghost town. So, there was a ghost town. It was empty. That was nice. And there were flowers waiting for me at my desk. That was nice too.

Flowers! The first time I've ever gotten surprise desk flowers!
Well, sat down at my computer. I'd been out for five days and had plenty of voicemails and emails to catch up on. Only I couldn't log in. My password didn't work. Maybe I was fired after all. Maybe they were "you're fired" roses. Apparently not, because then the head of HR came over and said she had paperwork for me to fill out. If there's one thing I've learned about gender transition is that there is paperwork involved. HR said they wanted me to feel welcome and I resisted making any snarky comments about building IDs or passwords. She said my coming out email went well and that everyone was super supportive.

As people came in I got a lot of big smiles, a few hugs, many, many compliments on how great I looked. There were a few people who came by my desk specifically to meet the transgirl or to officially welcome me, but everyone was really nice and friendly and cool about things. Everyone called me my new name and gendered me 100% correctly. A few people even pre-preemptively apologized in case they messed up accidentally.

It didn't take very long at all for people to shift from "you look fantastic" to "where's the TPS reports?" So that was good. I did what I always did and sat down and started working. Actually I got a lot of work done. My partner says having a task helps relieve anxiety. You know, you're brain is so occupied with work that it doesn't have time to worry about things.

There was however one thing I did out of nervousness. I limited my liquid intake. That way the bathroom wouldn't be an issue. Well, that sort of worked until about 11am and then I had to go. Now the problem was that I didn't have a code for bathroom access. So, I had to walk into HR and ask them. Having the code for the ladies room given to me definitely made me feel better. You know, it was like I actually belonged there. I even ran into coworkers at the sink and they were super nice and friendly. Plus, I must admit that I do much prefer the privacy of the stalls in the womens' room. So much more user friendly than the gross mens' room. 

Then around 3pm or 4pm in the afternoon, I kind of had a feeling come over me. It was a feeling of like "this has gone great. Today has been fantastic." What I think I loved about it was that it felt so utterly ordinary and mundane. Like it was just another day at the office and the only thing different was that I was a girl now. And even me being a girl seemed sort of like a non-issue. It was a non-event. The whole day felt like a non-event. That made me super happy. It was another ordinary day in the office, only I was rocking a skirt! I sort of couldn't even believe I'd ever worried. 

And of course I worry about things and will keep worrying. People's attitudes can change, their opinion of me can change, who knows what the future holds. But for now, it feels nice to be at work and be me. I feel good about this.

In fact, I felt so good that around 4:30pm or 5pm I stopped for a few minutes, found an empty office, and snapped a bunch of selfies (you can see them throughout this post). Not for more than two or three minutes. But enough to show that I was here, enough to document this experience. It's real. It happened. I did it. I overcame my fears.

And then I showed up today and did it all over again.