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Month 7 Summary

Sifan 20131213bI’m a bit late posting this, so Mele Kalikimaka and Hau’oli Makahiki Hou!

There are a number of miscellaneous things that happened this month:

I had to work at a secure military site – we had to pack up and move about 6 tons of computer gear (our equipment).  This was the first time I had been there as a woman, so passing the security check with my new name was ‘daunting’ to say the least – especially because I had to show the before and after paperwork plus the supporting documents.  This resulted in the guards calling me ‘sir’ – but the next time I was in they got it right.  Because this was a secure site, we were under constant guard  We had an escort and we all had to stay together – even when we went to the restrooms!   It was hard work and hot (even though it was in an air conditioned computer room).  I had to take off my shirt (wore a tank top under it) and I caught the guards checking me out!  Our ‘team’ included two other women and one guy.  This was the first time I was in the woman’s restroom with others from my work.   When my partner and I use the public restroom we talk etc. but this was the first time with others where we carried on conversations and stood around fixing our hair, etc. – it was quite refreshing actually!

Just before Christmas my partner and I went out dress shopping.  I mostly wear jeans and tank tops (sometimes with shirts) both to work and around town, so I didn’t have very many dresses and I guess I wasn’t in any hurry to buy any.  Well, given this sale and the resulting prices and the wonderful selection …. ya, bought seven dresses including one long red dress and also a red top and red skirt, both for dressing up for Christmas.  A number of the other dresses are boho – and I’m starting to really love that style.  While we were in southern California, I wore a number of these dresses.  That seems to be a change for me:  before I would only wear a dress if it was a special occasion.  Now I’m starting to ‘want’ to wear a dress when going out, more often.

My partners’ brother is in the final phases of cancer.  He came down with a bad infection so we flew over to southern California to be with him over Christmas.  It was a time for me to be caring and nurturing both to her brother but especially to my partner.  We celebrated Christmas in his bed room.  He has recovered from the infection, so we are now back home.  (Update: he died today Jan 12 – we will be going back soon – my partner is the estate executor).

It’s a little colder in southern California than it is in Maui (ya, we are spoiled). All I brought with were flippa’s – my feet were freezing! So I went out and bought my first pair of stylish above ankle boots. Nice and comfy and ‘warm’ (good thing my jeans are boot cut).  But, as long as I was there … (giggles, you know where this is going):  well, they had this awesome pair of 3″ heels (my size) on sale – yup, my first pair of 3″ heels!  I needed something to go with my red Christmas dress.   Before buying them, I walked all over the store, back and forth in front of mirrors – making sure I could do handle these.  So far I’m doing ok – haven’t killed myself – not even a bruise yet. Only problem is I’m getting nose bleeds from this high altitude!   Lisa wanted to take a walk – so I did – went about a block – up/down stairs, over curbs, uneven pavements, dashed out of the way of a truck ….. feet are a just a little sore but the heels (and me) are working out great !  After we got back home to Maui we went out to a fancy restaurant and I had another change to wear my heels.

Opening the ton of mail after we got back home I found a Christmas card from my ex.  In it she wrote “how does it feel, your first Christmas as a woman?”  Wow, that was very nice of her.

I’ve been noticing an interesting occurrence:  a sweet type of smile from other women – store clerks, waitresses, in the mall or on the street or beach.  I’ve first noticed this when I started coming out as a woman in public.  But it happens a lot more now.  This ‘never’ happened when I was a male.  At first I thought nothing of it, they were just being friendly – and I’m always friendly.  But the more it happens the more I realize it’s something else.  Then I read this book where the transgender author also noticed this and called it “the secret smile”.  So I had a discussion with my partner about it and yes – there is such a thing as a secret smile a woman gives to another women – a sort of acknowledgement of being in this together.  I watch for it all the time now and make sure I return it.  As I progress in my transition I am noticing the secret smile more and more.

Friendships are another area where woman are very different from men.  There is an extra ‘level’ – what could be called the ‘3am friend’.  This is a friend that you can call or they can call you at 3am and talk – just because.  You can’t have very many of these – I count three in my life now and feel very grateful for them.

There was a huge surprise in the stack of mail when we returned home.  A package!  I couldn’t wait to open it and try it on – it was my special order wedding dress!!  And – it fit perfectly!  I’m so happy – now on to shoes, leis/haku/kupe’e, jewelry ……  Less than four months away – wheeeee!!

External changes:

I have noticed in comparing my face from before to now that it has changed to oval.  This one ‘snuck’ up on me!  My hair is growing out a lot more – I’ll be getting my third styling soon.  I’m wearing earrings everyday now, but I still put my studs back in at night for sleeping.  I have curves: 46-40-44 which also says I need to lose some serious weight.  My breasts are still growing (still having pains).  My partner told me she saw them ‘bouncing’ …

Internal changes:

I am starting to have the feeling of being over the hump – the secret smiles, the 3am girlfriends, more comfortable in public, so much more at ease and feeling of not being afraid of letting the real me out.  There was even a time when a waiter called me sir and I didn’t even care or get upset.  I am me and I know who I am and it just does not matter if they see me differently.  It’s not going to change how I feel.  I’m more confident of myself and of being a woman.  I’m getting so much affirmation – not just here in Hawaii (which is more open and accepting) but also on the mainland.  There is still a long way to go, but I have a feeling of having accomplished so much and am therefore much more at ease.

Ke mana’olana nei au e hau’oli wale no ‘oe (wishing everyone happiness),

Sifan

Restroom issues – revisited

port-a-pottyWell, there was one woman at work that was on vacation when the original restroom issue was addressed and just now came back to work.  In my  previous post, I mentioned that there was a different woman that originally was ok with my usage of the restroom but then suddenly changed her mind and asked management to change the restroom to a unisex with a lock.  That resulted in management not only refusing (it would have been against the law actually) but they hand delivered (and posted) a pamphlet from Lambda Legal regarding a transsexual’s rights.  Well we had speculated that since these two were women were good friends  – that this was the reason for her ‘turn-about’.

Sure enough, the first day the ‘vacation lady’ came back, she talked to one of the woman in my department in the hallway – apparently trying to get all the other women behind her efforts to not have me use the woman’s restroom. She started by saying how ‘uncomfortable’ she was knowing I might be there.  My friend stopped her and pointed out the ‘LAW’ and the Lambda Legal brief on the bulletin board. Then ‘vacation lady’ said “well, I’m going to talk to management then” !!

So she went up to management and told him that she was uncomfortable with me using the woman’s restroom and that they should do something ‘special’ for me. He told her that was against the law, they are not allowed to single out trans-anything for special treatment. He also told her that it was within the law to make all employees ‘comfortable’ with restroom usage and that he could rent a port-a-potty ‘FOR HER’ to use out in the parking lot if she wished. She declined  …..

Glad I have this kind of support,

Sifan

Using the Woman’s Restroom

Of course a major issue for a transsexual is which restroom to use and when to start or switch to using it.  For me this issue ranked up there along with ‘pass-ability’ in my decision as to when to start living full time as a woman (starting my RLE – real life experience).  And this is an especially important issue to be addressed and solved at the workplace where we spend most of our day!

There comes a point where we have progressed in our transition (hormone treatment) that we can no longer effectively hide our ‘blossoming’ changes and it becomes harder and more difficult to continue using the restroom we had been using but at the same time we are not passable enough to use the restroom of our target gender.  What a conundrum!

Let me explain my situation first, as this is a bit unique.  A number of events all came together to make this a bit easier for me than what one would normally expect.  As they say, your mileage will vary, but some of what transpired here may be of use to others that are transitioning…

I’m just starting my 4th month on HRT and my body has changed beyond where I can effectively ‘hide’ it.  The best way to describe the situation at work is to say I am in a department that is somewhat out of place in the building where we are located – meaning we are a bit isolated.  I had come out to everyone in my department about 1/2 year ago – but not to others in the building as there is little interaction.    That all changed, as recently we had an all building ‘sensitivity’ training during which I was asked to explain the difference between gender and birth sex, gender presentation and sexual orientation (this was planned….).  This of course effectively ‘outed’ me and of course that is what I wanted and was the perfect setting (sexual harassment and workplace violence training – with our top lawyers giving the training).

At this same time my name change and gender change documents came through (see “Getting Legal“).  I am now officially named and have a gender of female in my state, my drivers license, social security and at my employment and my bank.

All of these events came together: progressing to a point where I needed to present as a woman full time, fully out to everyone in my department and to everyone in the building, the decision to start my RLE and all my documentation is changed – name and gender.

What was left to resolve was the restroom issue!  I was counseled to find a way to manage this independently as our HR is on another island.  So a couple of the women from my department went around and talked to each women in the building individually, specifically regarding the restroom.  I had talked to the different managers at our site to make sure this was ok.  I would then go around and say hi to each person and make sure they were ok.  All was well ….  This was about 2 or 3 weeks ago.

Then last week, one of the women, who is there only part time and usually during the morning when I’m not there, went to one of the managers and requested that the upstairs woman’s restroom be converted to ‘unisex’ with a lock.  Last Thursday was the first chance I had to say hi to her and she politely told me she requested this and gave me the following reasons:

– if we didn’t know you ‘from before’ …..

– you (meaning I) might feel uncomfortable if a woman in the next stall is having a period ….

– during public events outside people might be uncomfortable

For one, I’m an elder person – I know/have seen/been there – and how ‘dare’ she speak for me and what I might be uncomfortable with.  As far as outside woman using our facilities, I am 100 % presenting now and using public restrooms where ever I am.  As for knowing ‘who I am before’ – exactly when do you ‘not know’ and it becomes ok?  And finally as for converting that restroom to a ‘unisex’ with a lock – not only is that an inconvenience to others here, but in one way it’s sort of a slap on my face – a denial of who I am.  Furthermore, my documentation now states I’m female, I have started my RLE and it would be even stranger if I were to use the men’s room at this point!

Well, independently and unknown to me, the managers she went to, consulted with their higher authorities and came up with a brochure from Lambda Legal regarding a transsexual’s restroom rights and not only posted it on the main bulletin board but hand delivered a copy to this woman!

Now, my recommendation based on all this, is not to handle this internally, no matter what the situation is with your HR.  But to ask/demand that HR put out something official stating their policies.  Now, I do admit, I work for the state and there are policies that cover this and protect me – so you need to find that out for where you work first.  But after that – this is HR’s job, not mine or yours.  I am very grateful to the women who stood up for me, that fought for me and for the managers for taking action when they needed to.

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I’ll close with a cute story and an explanation of the accompanying image.   Back a few weeks ago when I first started my RLE we went down to the federal building to change my social security name and gender.  We parked in their garage and took the elevator up.  When we got out my partner asked if I had to use the restroom – not expecting what she was up to I said yes.  Then before I knew what was happened, she grabbed my hand and yanked me into the woman’s restroom which I had not noticed that we were standing in front of!  This was my first use of a public woman’s restroom…  It gets better:  we are using the stalls next to each other and she moves her foot over to touch mine – under the partition.  We played footsie in the woman’s bathroom stalls !  The she asks if I have my cell phone camera and states it would be great to have a picture of this.  It gets worse:  just as I take the picture, there is a sound as if someone else entered the restroom – then my phone decides it wants to use the ‘flash’ – ack !  So now I’m facing the situation where this is the first time in a public woman’s restroom, someone else might have just come in there, and I just took a ‘flash’ picture —- in the restroom.   Geeeesh.  Well, no one else was in there except us (must have been some building kind of noise) and here is the picture to prove it !

With much aloha,

Sifan