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Ever Feel Like the Elephant In the Room?

Elephant GirlYou ever just kind of feel like there is an elephant in the room and that it’s probably you? Living in full time transition, it’s a feeling you tend to get a lot. A whole lot. You can often fool yourself and pretend it’s not there, but then all of a sudden someone refers to you as ‘he’ in a meeting, by accident, and the room grows deathly silent with all eyes focused intently on anything outside your immediate area. Nice, right? Let’s talk about that for a minute.

We’ve kind of skirted around this area before, but now I think it’s time to get the elephant right in the cross-hairs of our double barreled bazooka-joe sized shotgun. I’m now almost 10 months into full time female life, and for the most part, it’s pretty comfortable. Aside from an occasional slip up here and there from a momentarily distracted friend, family member, or colleague, I feel that I’m pretty much blending most of the time. Yes, I do still get called ‘sir’ on the phone frequently, even after identifying myself as Michelle, but I politely correct their mistake, and to date I haven’t gotten any push back on this. Actually it’s kind of fun to listen to their awkward fumbling apologies, especially when they called to sell me on something. Just once I’d love it if they kept it real, “Oh?… Fuck. Yeah, I’m just going to hang up now because we both know there is not a chance in holy hell that you are going to return that pledge envelope to the Whiskey Dick Foundation for the Turgidly Challenged. Buh-bye, um, “ma’am”.”

Again, the vast majority of the time I sit there completely unaware of anything being weird. Suddenly, often for no reason at all, I’m hyper-aware that I’m presenting as female. This shouldn’t even be a thing because I do that full time and all, but out of nowhere I realize that I’m sitting smack dab in the middle of my most frequent nightmare for 30 some years. Rank fear sweat blisters onto my skin, the stinky stuff that no amount of Secret is going to handle. “Shit… they don’t think of me as Michelle at all, do they? I’m just ‘Mike in a dress’ to these people who are too fucking polite to start cracking wise in my direction.” Of course no one says anything, or even seems like they notice that I’ve come down with a full blown case of the heebie-jeebies. At those times, and only those times, I wish the world was just a little less PC and we were back in the 70’s when they would have called me ‘Tinkerbell’ or something and guffawed until I slunk away.

The good news is that this is becoming increasingly rarer and I care less and less what anyone might be secretly thinking. I do still get the sneaking suspicion that they have unkind thoughts, and worse, that they have managed to link them up in some kind of mental chat session I’m not privy to and having a good old time at my expense. By the way, I’m not the only one that has that, right? That when speaking to a group you are not addressing a gathering of individuals, but some kind of conjoined group mind that makes any illusion of one-on-one connection hopelessly impossible? No? That’s just great. Thanks. Be that as it may, I’m now content and hardly worry of this anymore. There are much worse things than elephants.

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About michellelianna

I'm a transgender woman now in the maintenance stages of transition having all the electrolysis and surgery one can reasonably be expected to undertake. While busy exploring my new world, I took to blogging about it with dubiously popular results. I don't have quite as much to say as I used to, but I'm not quite done yet either.

15 responses »

  1. I am not transitioning (yet), although I feel the girl is pushing the envelope litlle by little. Small things that really are big things, like brow shaping. Letting the hair grow. Toning facial moisturizer. Softer speech and movements, ever so slightly more presented as time goes on. Waiting for someone, hopefully one of her cis co-workers, to say something. Hasn’t happened yet.

    In the meantime, going out en femme is so satisfying in itself, even just to gay bars. But last weekend I did broach a straight place I love very much for a late glass of wine. A few other couples were there, and at one point I could swear one of the men said, “Sir?” in my direction, and then again. I was not immediately next to their party, and the couple who had been to the other side of me had vacated, so if this was NOT my imagination, then someone was deliberately trying to poke the bear, as it were. Now, this might possibly had bothered me if it was done with persistance or seriousness. But the whole reason I had gone in this establishment was precisely BECAUSE I felt I was presenting extremely well. And so I ignored the comment, imagined or not. I had not one inkling of responding to the comment, or even of turning my head, because IN MY MIND I WAS Deanna, and not someone who would be addressed as “Sir.” It didn’t hurt that the bartender called me “darlin'” and bought me a shot before I left.

    I suppose I’ve never felt more at ease or more natural in my feminine guise as I have lately. I’ve stopped seeing the boy in the mirror. He is an affectation, HE is the disguise I must put on for at least a while more in order to maintain comfort levels. My ex-GF’s mother told me that it is easy for men to be made when they’re presenting as female. I don’t expect to fool everyone, and that isn’t even the point for me. The point is BEING. Living it. Doing it the best I can. If that means paying for laser, so be it. If that means HRT eventually, well, I guess I’m in to the point of it not being dangerous for me personally. I am who I am and the world will learn that, slowly and surely.

    Reply
    • Thanks for the comment Deanna! A couple things. It wasn’t long ago
      that I was where you are now and I remember pushing the envelope as
      well and just waiting for someone to notice. No one did. In the last
      12 months prior to coming out, I was walking around in women’s jeans
      (somewhat androgynous), women’s shoes and sneakers (also somewhat
      androgynous), colorful socks (often with Hello Kitty or little
      butterflies on them), plucked brows, hairless arms, and even shaved
      legs (though not seen at work), and of the very few who noticed one of
      these, not a single one tied it to my being transgender. It’s just not
      where people go if they have already categorized you gender-wise. They
      may think you are gay though.

      You have the right attitude I think. It’s not important how people see
      you, and chances are you will be made, but how you see yourself and
      how comfortable you are with it. At the end of the day, comfort is
      where it’s all at; the thing that drives us to change. Thanks again
      and best of luck! 🙂

      Reply
      • Time results in change; it is inevitable. In the few days since I wrote the previous comment, I’ve been out in both personnae, shopping. Not that I hadn’t done that before, but there was always a feeling of doing something unacceptable to someone somewhere, watching. I have of late released, for the most part I believe, the separation of my identities. I think I’ve realized I am who I AM, and it doesn’t matter if I have boy clothes on. I’m browsing through jewelry with other girls and trying on bracelets and we’re jeeber jabbering to each other about which ones are cute or not. Or I’m trying on girl’s sunglasses and checking them out in the mirrors. Or picking through the panty bins for something unusual. Nobody is looking at me funny. Nobody is calling security to come haul me out of there. The cashiers are complimenting me on my selections, not because it’s just their job, they really seem to MEAN it.

        A few days ago, I shoe shopped, and one of the pair I picked out were gorgeous high platformed espadrilles in coral with cream polka dots. I came into work yesterday, and the woman co-worker with whom I have been getting closer over many months and who I have been feeling I want to trust with this was wearing a blouse in the exact same material as my new shoes. Universe, I give in, you win, message received. I told her. She is wonderful with it, and I am relieved to have a confederate in my office at last and not just people in other places I email and Instant Message. It is probably the first step in coming out completely one day, but right now, I am happy and comfortable.

        Reply
        • Time does change everything, doesn’t it? Yeah, I remember well the
          shopping anxiety that I had for many, many years. The fake lists of
          stuff, the bogus requests for gift receipts, and all that fun stuff.
          Like any cis guy in the world is ever going to be sent out to pick out
          shoes and a bra for his girl or think of getting them as gifts. I got
          comfortable finally as well in guy mode, but thankfully never give it
          even a thought anymore since going full time.

          Good for you telling your co-worker! I’m assuming you have reasonable
          expectations that she’s not going to share the info. If you are
          comfortable now, take your time and wait until the next step, if it
          comes, to present itself and in the mean time, enjoy where you are.
          🙂

  2. For the most part I’ve been I’ve been extraordinarily lucky. I run my own company so the work part was never an issue, just some emails to suppliers (Rowan will be handling this acct now as Tom has left the company).
    Friends and familiy have been near universally accepting. I dropped maybe a half dozen people from my social circle because they were just not worth the effort THEY were putting in.
    To top all of that, I do, as far as I can tell, pass all the time.
    And yet sometimes, I do still get that feeling of being very much on display.
    I had it the other day at a burlesque show where precisely no one way paying any attention to me. The friend who I was with, upon realizing I was uncomfortable commented to me that
    “no one cares, you’re not the only trans person here”
    My response actually surprised me because it was both true and not at the same time.
    I told her “this isn’t about me being trans!”
    It was really weird, I had to stop and think about it for a bit.
    The truth of it was, that it wasn’t about other people knowing.
    I’m not ashamed of who I am at all, catch me on a good day and I’m as likely to out myself to a new acquaintance just to see their confusion, but I do still get social anxiety.
    I’ve always gotten that and, at the heart of it, that IS about being trans. I always felt like I was hiding something. It used to be that I was hiding the fact that I’m a girl, and now, well now I’m not hiding anything. But fear and anxiety are habits that are hard to break.

    Reply
    • Rowan, I think you nailed it. The anxiety over exposure left so many of us a wreck prior to transition that it only makes sense that residual shockwaves pushed forward into our futures where there is truly nothing to be anxious about. I did, however, exchange my old nightmares of being discovered female with new ones where people know me as female but for some reason I’m in a situation appearing male. Horribly uncomfortable! I’m also very comfortable having people know I’m trans, debatable passability aside of course; it’s a much better life having nothing to hide. Thanks so much for commenting and hope to see you here again!

      Reply
  3. Jessica McIntosh

    I am the elephant at work. Too many in my department, and a few scattered about the office, take exception to my presence and have made it very clear how they feel. I expected them to be adults about my transition, but as usual my expectations for the maturity of others was severely off. Some people have even objected to using my new legal name. I am working on getting a new job so I can get out of here. Frustratingly in the five months since I transitioned here, and the months I was living as a woman outside work, the only time I feel like a guy in a dress has to do with work. Once I can get a passport ID card with the pretty “Female” marker I will ramp up the job search.

    Reply
    • Jessica, that really, really bites and I’m so sorry sweetie! It sounds
      like the culture there simply isn’t very open to our kind of
      diversity. It’s unconscionable that they object to you using your
      legal name. Seriously. Is it one who managed to poison the well, or is
      it really that kind of environment naturally? I wish you all the luck
      in the world getting out of there because I think chances are that you
      will find better pastures elsewhere. Too many have had good
      experiences and you deserve to be at one of those places. If there is
      anything I can do, please let me know, OK? I’ve fixed up more than one
      resume for people in my time, not to mention written some killer
      reference letters. Hugs, Michelle

      Reply
  4. Pingback: Ever Feel Like the Elephant In the Room? | doubleinvert

  5. Michelle, What other people are or are not thinking about me is none of my f’ing business and I like it that way.

    Reply
    • Very true Joani, very true! Can’t let it worry you, right? By the way, I’m totally OK with you just saying ‘fucking’ with the full spelling and all. So far not many nuns have written in to complain of my salty language, so I’m not planning on going all FCC on anyone. 🙂 Thanks for commenting!

      Reply
  6. doubleinvert

    I’ve been full time for a little over a year and a half, and I do still sense the elephant from time to time.

    -Connie

    Reply
  7. You’ve been doing it again, haven’t you? You’ve been living in some corner of my life and watching what’s going on without me seeing you! Yup, there are the “he”s and the “Sirs” on the phone and they do hurt a lot. I’ve found that it’s impossible to pass on the phone when you are talking to someone in a call center in India, won’t happen. A cis woman friend at work who has a gender neutral name said she gets Sired on the phone all the time. That has actually helped me feel much better!

    I try to focus on the wonderful little goofy things. When I went to Costco and waited at the service desk until the woman called on me. I walked up to the counter and took out my card and said, “I need a new card because this picture just doesn’t work anymore.” She looked at the bald scowling dumpy guy in the picture and then looked at the bright shiny faced middle aged gal there in front of her and said, “You are so right Hon, Let’s get this thing fixed!”

    Not long before I was at lunch with a friend from work. A gal we both know who had worked with us a few years earlier came up and started chatting with the her. After a bit the conversation noted that I worked with my friend and the chatting gal asked what I did there? I told her I was in the IT department and I had been for years. I didn’t add that I had sat in meetings with this chatting gal, had fixed her PC, had helped her on the phone, talked in the halls and had known her for the whole time she had been there. She made no connection and thought we must have met socially somewhere because I looked so familiar. When chatting gal left, my work friend was stunned.

    Transitioning in place, and keeping your friends and job and co-workers IS very tough. I really do get why the old wisdom had you run off to the big city and start over like a freshly sprouted seed. But I cherish the coworkers who tell me that they are proud of me. And I know I’ve changed a lot of perspectives of a lot of people. And I know that Michelle has also and that she is a ROCK STAR! I think we have a gift and it’s a gift that requires some payment. We all paid in our pasts, and we all pay still, but I know it’s the best thing I’ve ever done. Of course that could be the hormones and a BIG bunch of coffee talking…

    Reply
    • Dianne, you got me red handed! Bet you never saw the camera, did you?
      Actually just parallel lives sister. 🙂

      I’m all with you on the goofy things as well. In case you haven’t been
      able to tell, I’m positively goofy, said in a perfect Marsha Brady
      voice that I certainly don’t have. More like Peter when his voice
      changes. Ugh.

      I love it when returning co-workers (we have a lot of “boomerangs”
      here) spot me and don’t know who I am. I never notice really until
      after I’ve already said, “Hi Dave! Welcome back”, and start to wonder
      about the weird looks they are giving me. “Ohhhh….right.” Have to
      see the sunnier side of it and tell yourself they are more afraid of
      you than you are of them, just like bees and fancy executives.

      It is hard to transition in place, and as I notice below from
      Jessica’s comment, it’s more difficult for some than others. I have to
      count my blessings here. And hey, nothing wrong with paying as you go,
      right? 🙂 Hugs, Michelle

      Reply

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