Friday, December 30, 2016

I Hate Being Misgendered

Misgender (verb. mis·gen·der \misˈjen-dər\). The action of describing a person using the opposite gender pronouns of the gender in which they are presenting. Often done unintentionally, though sometimes done intentionally by stupid asshole jerks.

So, my second day of work I was still feeling fantastic. The first day of work hadn't been a fluke, people were still nice. All was well. My happy soul was bouncing on clouds. And the clouds were made of puppies. Life as good. I was really living my life as a girl!

But I was still wearing a wig because my hair still hasn't grown out enough. Wind makes wigs look at shitty mops and of course my first two days of work we had had wind advisories (50 mph wind gusts and what not). So my hair wasn't looking too hot. And on top of that I lost of my hat. My cute green knit beret is gone!

Goodbye, old friend.
So I needed a new hat. After work I popped into a cute independent boutique in my neighborhood that sells exceptionally girly stuff; all lace and faux fur and jewelry and cute little candles. I went in and found a hat by the door. Yay! It had faux fur and was exceptionally girly. Then I went to check out and there is a younger girl with insanely good makeup working the register.

She's super duper friendly and talkative and I'm about to compliment her makeup when suddenly she's like "Do you want to wear this out?"

And i'm like "Sure."

And she's like "Oh, yeah, I figured 'cause when you came in I thought 'he-'"

And she just stops. Mid-word. Stops. And shuts up. Her eyes go right down to the counter, she wraps it up and I can tell she's mortified. She's not looking at me, not talking and just quickly cuts the tags off my new hat for me and hands it to me.

Yeah, and hey, at least we both ended up feeling like crap, so there's that. I told my partner this story and wouldn't you know it, she feels bad for the clerk. Erg. I do too to a point, but sadly even her feeling bad about misgendering me doesn't make me feel any better. It means that I left my house, commuted on the train, went to work, worked all day and didn't pass. That makes me feel awful. Even someone as wordy and long winded as me can't adequately describe the feeling of dejection. I've built my life upon a house of sand and that house has been washed away by one incorrect pronoun said without thought and in haste.

Oh my gosh, it's like spending your whole life working on a paper for class only to show up and be told you got an F on it, not 'cause your paper's no good, but because your shirt is ugly. It's frustrating. You're doing your best and then someone casually points out that your best just simply isn't good enough.

Well, no one ever said transition was going to be easy.

Shut up, Kim Petras. I didn't ask for your opinion on this.

Then later I had a fun one at work. I was talking to a colleague, let's call him Billiam, and the conversation basically went like this:

Billiam: Hey, Faith, did you get cover sheets on all the TPS reports before they went out?
Faith: Yes, I did and they all went out two days ago.
Billiam: Great, thank you,'m.
Faith: S'okay.
Billiam: Um, uh, huh, huh sorry- gotta go. Love you,  bye.

Ah, the flustered habitual accidental "love you." While I've managed to avoid that, I have both accidentally texted a gushy love you to my boss instead of my partner. And I've ended countless texts to friends with a habitual xoxoxo.

So, this misgendering was someone who I'd only been out to for a week and who'd known me for several years as a guy, so in this case it was kinda funny. I can be more forgiving in that situation.

The other thing that I'll forgive is the tricky past-tense misgendering. Seriously, I don't think there's any actual guide as to what's the proper thing to do when you're telling a story about something that a transgender person did before they transitioned. Do you use their new name and pronouns?  Saying something like "Four year old Faith cried because she got a boy bike and she really wanted a girl bike" doesn't quite tell the right story does it? I guess you could use the old ones but then you're potentially outing them.

I don't know the answer. Probably I guess I'd side on the factuality of narrative and use the old name to refer to the past. But then since I also use made up words like factuality maybe I shouldn't have the final say on this question. 

When it comes to linguistics I'm definitely a Descriptivist.
Well, the truth is I get correctly gendered much more often than not. I get my "miss" and "ma'am" and "ladies" when I'm out with my friends. I know for a fact that I can pass and judging from how polite and friendly male sales clerks have suddenly become I must look at least okay.

And I guess that's really what sucks about being misgendered. You can get a thousand she and hers but it feels like it all gets swept away by a single he. It's like how air travel is actually super safe, but one plane crash dominates the news. It's a common error we all make. We notice the things that stand out, especially when they're so emotionally jarring.

So if you're a transgender person reading this (seriously I'd be surprised if I had cis readers), try not to let yourself get down when the misgendering happens. I know that's much easier said than done. Lord knows I'm not that good at it either, but I promise to try too.

Ultimately, I hope cis people will realize how much misgendering hurts. Hopefully in a few years (or who are we kidding - decades), everyone will realize how totally and utterly hurtful it can be to misgender someone, how it can ruin their day or their week and hopefully people will learn to be more accepting and nicer. Hopefully.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

2016 My Year in Pictures

Despite a lot of things that might have made 2016 a bummer of a year from our world and for the USA, I had a great year. It was full of parties, adventures, a bit of shopping and lots of exciting times. There were so many huge steps for me in 2016; coming out, starting work, celebrating one year on hormones and beginning to live my life as a woman full time.

It was a big year for me and in the tradition I started last year, I thought I'd post up a year in review and share some of my adventures. Thanks for reading my blog and for all your kind support and comments. Wishing you a great 2017!

New Year's Eve party. 2016 being only a few minutes old at this point. 

Going out in my new favorite dress. And doing my best to ignore the February cold.

Stopping for a quick post-Callen-Lorde shopping trip at the Brooklyn Industries store in Chelsea.

Visiting the Natural History Museum. 

Celebrating my birthday with champagne at the Met. 

Finally getting to go to prom as me! Or at least a grown up prom-themed party. 
Shopping at Housing Works and really trying to rock the ordinary girl style. I love how normal I look in this picture. 

Soon after the Occulus opened in Lower Manhattan. 

Finding a store with the absolute perfect lighting in the dressing room. 

Trying a short hair look and enjoying the effects of HRT.
Exploring my short hair look. And enjoying the May weather that finally warmed us up.

This June sunset pic is totally going to be my album cover one day.

Not a super flattering pic to say the least, but hey, I wore a dress and marched in the pride parade with the governor!

Picnic with friends on Governors Island.

Flying a helicopter!

Looking right down at the Statue of Liberty. How cool is that?

I just love this pic. I feel like I should photoshop it into a shot from Star Wars.

Visiting Snug Harbor in Staten Island.

My first time at the beach as a girl!

Enjoying the water and sand on my first time visiting the beach as a girl!

Okay. This picture doesn't look that great. Just a subway selfie. But this was actually a huge day for me. This was a day I took off work and just lived as an ordinary girl. A few doctor's appointments, some errands and living as me!

All dressed up to go out and celebrate coming out to my sister and her supportive response.

I was feeling really down about my life, transition, and going full time. Then I got dressed up, saw her in the mirror and thought "I can totally do this." It put me in such a great mood. 

Trying a no makeup look (there's actually the tiniest bit of makeup)

Taking part in a Callen-Lorde photoshoot.

My Halloween costume and soft coming out at work. Yep, I dressed up as Rey for a work event! This was also the day my name change became 100% official. 

Visiting the Unisphere.

Celebrating my new drivers licence with my new name and gender marker on it.

My first day working as me! It went so well. 

One year on hormones. 

Hanging out with coworkers at the office Christmas party.

Me dressing up in winter.

Me a month full time and enjoying life thus far.

Friday, December 16, 2016

How to Come Out Transgender at Work

Coming out transgender at work is an important step in our lives and an exciting change. But it can also be a frightening, frustrating and anxiety-filled time as well. As I am an expert on coming out transgender at work (having done it exactly once), I thought I'd share some of what I learned, and some of the mistakes I made, in the hopes that it might be helpful to people who are thinking about coming out at work. 

One thing I can't give advice on is whether you're ready to take this step. You'll know when you're ready. For me, it was the daily frustration of living a double life and the trapped feeling I had from being forced into a role that I didn't like and didn't feel right. Eventually I just couldn't take it any more and I knew it was the right time for me. You'll know when it's the right time for you. 

Prior to Coming Out

1. Develop your own plan. This is important. When I first went to HR, I was expecting the organization to know everything and be ready. You know, I was half expecting the head of HR to press a button on her desk and announce "Okay we have a trans employee. Launch protocol delta-epsilon 6." But, the head of HR was actually expecting me to have a plan. After all, I was the transgender employee and (as far as this office is concerned) the resident expert on all things transgender. So save yourself that awkward step by developing a plan in advance.

Your plan should include:
  • Key dates (when you plan to start work as your preferred gender, when you might take leave, when your transition should be communicated to the organization). 
  • Identify point people and key employees who will need to play specific roles in your transition. Legal may need to review the company's HR policies, HR may need communicate with staff and answer staff questions, if you have clients they may need to be notified by a supervisor. 
  • Draft a communication plan. Be sure to make your thoughts clear on what language you would like used and how you would like any announcement to be made. You may want to make it clear when you would prefer communication be sent. Would you be more comfortable being there to answer questions, meeting with people one-on-one, or with a company-wide memo? 
  • Prepare a list of records that will need to be updated (insurance, email, company IDs, organizational charts, etc.).  
2. If you haven't already, start a personnel file at home. Collect every performance review, every email where your boss says "Great job!" and any other documentation that clearly shows that you're competent at your job.Hopefully you won't need it, but if you find yourself being treated differently for being transgender, you'll want to have a handy-dandy folder ready to show that everyone at work thought you were competent or doing a good job. Of course, if you're not good at your job, I can't help you. Maybe try harder.

3. Start working on your documentation if you can. Transition may be easier if you've already legally changed your name and gotten your new driver's license and Social Security Card. Some organizations may not want to update your personnel records unless you have legally changed your name.

4. If you have a cool co-worker, get their support. Coming out in advance (even to one or two people you trust) can help give you an idea of how the rest of your co-workers might react to your transition. Plus sometimes it just helps to have someone you can go grab a coffee with or hit happy hour with to vent frustrations or get advice.

5. Consider the option of starting a new job as you. If you're already looking to shift to another organization or looking into alternate career paths, it may be a good option. Starting fresh at a new place where no one knows you as your birth-gender may be easier for some people. Even if you think you'd like to stay at your current job, it doesn't hurt to send out feelers or even go on a few interviews to see how things go. Not only will you maybe find a great new job, but interviewing as your true gender may give you a good confidence boost.

6. Update your resume. This is something you should do routinely as it can be helpful in a number of ways. If you end up needing to jump ship, you want to be ready. Plus, having your resume on hand when meeting with your supervisor can be a helpful way to show your value to the organization.

7. Wow, based on the above, it looks like you've been doing a lot of prep. Maybe take a break from work transition planning and grab a pint or a coffee or some candy (whatever works for you) and relax. You can do this!

Coming Out

1. Be courageous. It's normal to be terrified. In fact, in certain situations it would be abnormal to be calm and collected. Remember that the greatest moments of your life are going to be those times when you overcame your fears. You can do this!

2. Start with a simple conversation. Depending on your workplace structure, the initial communication may be with your supervisor or it may be with Human Resources. This might be an email you send or it might be in a quick face-to-face meeting. For me, it started by making a quick appointment with the head of HR. I preferred to have the actual conversation in person. Personally, I think face-to-face is a better option. Unless your organization eschews face-to-face meetings for some reason or you'd be more comfortable documenting every single step, I would say be courageous and actually talk to someone. Sure, it's a heck of a lot easier to send a drunken email at 3am, but c'mon, you're about to come out to everyone. It's time to screw up your courage and have that first conversation, rather than sending an email.

3. Be professional and courteous. Don't start the conversation by talking about your legal rights, or what the employee handbook says, or that loophole you found in the dress code policy that doesn't specifically exclude men from wearing skirts. This is a time to be polite and listen. You're about to bring a big change to the organization and you're about to give a few people like Legal and HR a lot of work. Your employer has to figure out how to respect your rights, but they are also going to be thinking about how they're going to deal with the rest of the people in the company and their clients. Yes, this is your transition, but this isn't going to be all about you.

4. Now, that doesn't mean you have to shut up and go along with whatever the employer wants. Empower yourself to speak up about things that might make you uncomfortable. My place of employment wanted me to lead a Q&A session for staff. I spoke up and said that would make me uncomfortable and that I didn't want to be the center of attention. They also wanted to have a "welcoming breakfast" for staff and I spoke up to nix that too as I wanted my transition to happen with as little fanfare as possible. I was polite as I pointed out specifically why while those might seem like good ideas on the surface,  in both cases they do make the transition seem sort of like a big spectacle. Now, you may want a big spectacle, but you've got to speak up about that too. If you disagree with something, carefully explain your reasons why and always offer an alternative.

5. Listen and be open to working with your employer. This is collaboration, a project that you and your organization will be undertaking. Accept that your employer may be sympathetic and supportive, but also have no real idea how transition should work. They may be expecting you to take the lead or to have a plan developed. This is where having a plan prepared comes in handy. Chances are your employer has no idea what specific steps to take, so if you present a fully formed plan then that puts you in control. Even better than that, it puts you in control and makes you look really helpful. Double bonus!

6. Take some time off before you start work as your shiny new gender. This will give everyone a little time to process the news and will allow you to step back so you're not bombarded with questions or unwanted attention. Some people choose this time for surgery if that's part of their plan, but for me I just took three extra days off and a got a manicure and my hair styled. Do whatever works for you, but some breathing room before the change will be super helpful.

7. Take lots and lots of time planning out the perfect first day outfit. That's what I did. Okay, maybe that's just me.

Starting Work

1. Dress professionally. Take some time to look at what your co-workers are wearing. Not a ton of time. Don't stare obviously. But take note of your workplace's clothing culture. What are other people wearing on a day to day basis? How dressy are they? You might find it good to dress up one slight level dressier than the standard, just to start. It's always better to air on the side of more dressed up. You want people to take you seriously so avoid any clothing that's too wacky, too sexy, too slutty or too casual. Some people suggest starting out in more androgynous clothing if that makes you more comfortable, but for my own transition I felt more comfortable and passable in more stereotypical feminine articles. Do what works for you, but dress up, be professional and look like you're taking this seriously.

2. At work be your regular professional self. Or if you're not generally professional, maybe it's time to give that a try. Do your best, be helpful and take your transition and gender seriously. Sure, you're going to be elated to finally be you in the office! But while that is a cause for celebration, don't let the celebration distract you from your work. Now is the time to show how responsible you are and to demonstrate your value to the organization.

3. Give people the benefit of the doubt. It's really easy to assume that people aren't going to accept you, that they'll mock you or preach to you to lose respect for you. That's a totally normal fear. But don't let that fear influence how you live your life or how you treat to people. It's like John Green said "Imagine others complexly." It's a great truth and one I try (though often fail) to incorporate into my daily life. I thought the religious people with Jesus and Mary pictures on their cubicles would despise me for being a sinful weirdo. I thought that blue collar type guys would look down on me for being a girly faggot. I thought that the women would see me as an interloper, a colonizer, or worse a pervert. But, it turned out much differently in reality. Everyone was accepting and super nice, even the blue collar guys.

4. My experience is, unfortunately, not universal. I know people who have been demoted, been put into scheduling purgatory or had their workplace become hostile to drive them out. While your workplace transition will probably go well, if there are any issues document them. Put them in a written log (date, time, what happened, who was involved) and keep it. If there are labor laws in your state that protect you, familiarize yourself with them. Know your rights and work with your employer to the degree you can. And if it gets to that point, document everything, as much as you can. Keep copies at home or on the cloud. If it gets really bad, start looking for other jobs immediately. You don't have to take one, but having another option can be important.

5. Know that a lawsuit probably isn't going to work. They're expensive. They take years and years. They will drain your soul. But, don't be afraid to talk to legal counsel if you think you need to.

6. Keep going. Don't give up. Believe in yourself. You're strong and you're brave. I know it's cliche but it's also true.

Even if everything goes really well at work, accept that you are going to have extra stress. This is a big change. This is a huge change. For me it was probably the biggest change I'd made in my life since going off to college or moving to New York City from the suburbs. As strong as you are, your brain can only physically handle so much before it just stops functioning.

Take breaks. Take breathers. Allow yourself to process the change and give yourself time to adjust. Do what you need to do to calm down, de-stress yourself and relax. And remember how awesome you are for having the courage to come out. Remember how awesome it is to be the real you!


Lambda Legal
ACLU- Transgender Rights 
TS Roadmap's Guide to Coming Out at Work
US Labor Laws

Monday, December 12, 2016

Being a Girl Full Time

As the old saying goes "being a girl full time is totally different from part time." Okay, that's not an old saying. It's not even a saying. I just made it up. But, it's true. Now, as I barrel toward my one month anniversary (lunaversary really), I've had some time to really think about how things have changed in my life. Here's a few specific ways:

1. First off I love not wearing guy's clothes. Seriously. I hated shirts and ties and all that garbage. Guy's dress shoes? Ugh. What's funny is that I didn't get rid of all my guy clothes actually. I kept one pair of jeans and a handful of T-shirts. The T-shirts are all from concerts and non-replaceable, so they have some emotional weight to them. I didn't want to throw them out, but I also haven't worn them. I have plenty of girl T-shirts and I've been trying to find girl shirts for the bands I like, but haven't been having much luck. Girls' tees are cut differently and thus they're more expensive and most of the female fronted indie and punk bands I like don't have the money for expensive merch. Also I still have guy sneakers because I haven't bothered trying to find feminine sneakers. How feminine can they really be? Well, my sneakers are pretty busted now, so they'll need to be replaced anyway. Either way, my closet is 100% girls' clothes like it should be and my dresser is like 95%. It's nice.

2. I've been really bad about documenting my life now. You know, when I first moved to NYC and was finally free from my family I started dressing up like a girl openly and more often. Back then, what I'd usually do is get dressed up then take a lot of photos. This gradually shifted to videos. In fact, when I finally got my very own apartment, I actually bought a photo backdrop and lights so I could take the best possible pictures and make the best possible videos. Eventually though, I just shifted to selfies and the occasional full body shots when my partner is nice enough to snap a few shots for me. But now that I'm "dressing up" every day, my desire to endlessly snap photos has waned pretty heavily. C'mon, when I first started this blog all my posts were like "here are new photos!" and now they're like "Here's my life." I'll let people choose which they like better. And I'll still try and find time for adventures that are worthy of photos.

3. Somehow I'm still getting up at the same time every morning and only managing to leave about ten minutes later than I used to. My makeup is now down to a 20 minute process. So the great question is, what was I doing with my whole morning before? I don't even remember. Also, I've pretty much gotten my daily makeup look down pretty well. I've been going with basically the same look every day; neutral eye, basic black eyeliner, basic brownish-black mascara, light contouring, wine-with-everything lips and no gloss. It works for me pretty well and dang if I haven't gotten some compliments from coworkers are on how good my makeup looks! Yay!

4. As my partner and I discussed in one episode of the critically acclaimed podcast, The Gender Rebels, it's hard to shift from crossdresser to average girl. For me specifically I finally see why girls don't actually have tons and tons of fancy cocktail dresses. You never wear them! In fact, I organized my closet thusly; cocktail dresses > casual summer dresses > work dresses > tops > skirts >  coats. That left hand side of the closet is going mightily unused. And I wish I had more basic work clothes. But, it's really nice that I can now justify clothing purchases because the dress I'm buying is literally for work!

5. Also, once upon a time I thought that when I finally went full time I'd just wear dresses. "I'll wear nothing but dresses and skirts for the first year," I'd think to myself "No pants at all!" I'm wearing jeans right now as I type this. Ah well. There went that. But c'mon seriously, it's below freezing out there. A girl can only be so girly. Sometimes you just gotta rock the jeans.

6. I want more laser. Or possibly electrolysis too. I don't know. What laser I've had has been good. I mean, I can manage only the lightest of cover up and I can go a whole day without worrying about any hair showing up. But I still feel like I have to shave every day for passabilities sake. I still have one more laser session but I doubt it's going to completely rid me of hair. To really get to the point where I have no hair on my face, I am going to probably need electrolysis at some point.

7. As for any surgery...I'm still okay right now. Not having the money for surgery helps make that an easier decision obviously. I've seen good surgeries and bad when it comes to FFS and breast implants. I'd like to get my nose fixed at least, so my profile doesn't bother me (then again how many times do you really see your own profile?). As for boobs, I'm leaning toward them, but I've heard that you should wait until you're at two years HRT before deciding on that, so there's lots of time. FFS I think I'm lucky enough that I can skip that. And bottom surgery is something I won't be making a decision about any time soon. There's so many costs and potential complications and long recovery time and dilating. Seems like a decision better made down the road. Also, we just put up a podcast episode about bottom surgery and you should check it out!

And as for living my's been good. I don't think I pass super well but I haven't had any problems, work is going really well, my voice is sort of okay, though I've been getting way more practice. Wigs are something I just have to deal with for now and honestly right now the fact that my passability is dependent on wearing wigs is my biggest source of trans-stress. But in a few months that'll end and I'll be able to go out with my own hair. That'll be a huge step and I'm really looking forward to it.

In the mean time though, full time is good. It totally feels normal to me. It's kind of hard to explain but it's not as big a deal as I thought it would be. I still wish my voice were better, I still wish I was skinny and petite, I still wish I had long curly chestnut locks of my own. Some things I can't change but some things I can and hopefully those will be changing for the better as I progress. But in the mean time I'll be getting up every day, putting on my makeup and girling the hell out of this world!