(S)now What?

I started packing a bag on Sunday night when I got the phone call from my boss – with the incoming blizzard in the northeast, once we were in Monday, we were at work until Wednesday, at least. We had talked about it before, but now it was reality. Due to the kitchen we work in being located in a major power company building, when all the crews cleaning up and working in the snow come for their assignments (some coming from as far as Canada with their giant trucks), we have to feed them.

So we were stuck. Three feet of snow was on the way, and 6 people had to feed an expected 500-600 people a day, 24 hours a day. Now what?

This is a tough situation to begin with. Everybody worked 13-hour shifts, and had to sleep wherever they could fit their cot and sleeping bag with the 8 to 9 hour breaks we got. I “slept” in the dish washing room i work in the first night. I found an empty storage room the second, after not sleeping the first. We knew we’d all end up exhausted and grumpy, and just tried to make the best of it.

But what about me? With the added stress of being trans, I had some additional things to worry about that make me not eager to repeat this experience any time soon.

Privacy and gendered spaces become even more complicated than usual when around way more people than usual, most who are not familiar with you. Bathrooms are always an issue, for one. I use the men’s room, because sacrificing a little dignity is preferable to possibly losing my job right now. If my boss let me choose which to use it wouldn’t be an issue, but the building we work in controls that, and I’m not ready for that fight. Usually it’s not a big issue. I go when people are less likely to be there, and I tried to do the same in this situation. One notable incident was when I was brushing my teeth at 4 am before a shift. An older man walked in, saw me, walked out, and checked to make sure he was in the right bathroom before coming back in. Awkward.

But even more awkward was the shower situation. My boss instructed me to use whichever locker room I felt more comfortable in, to my surprise. I don’t know if he had the authority to back it up if there was a problem. I was going to just not shower, but event eventually I caved. I once again opted for the men’s and tried to pick off-times, because once again, i felt like if something were to happen, my situation would be uncomfortable, but better than being seen as a male in a women’s locker room for obvious reasons. But that meant I had to be careful about covering my breasts, which are obviously not male anymore, but not fully developed as female, either.

The other uncomfortable issue I faced was having to work with someone corporate sent to help that I haven’t seen in a long time. I thought I was out to everyone, but it became clear that wasn’t the case when my old name got repeatedly thrown at me four times an hour, even though everyone else I normally work with was calling me Natalie and she, as usual. Finally I said something…

“You know I changed my name, right?”
“Yes. But you’re still [old name] to me. I don’t care.”

Apparently he knew, and didn’t care. It took an entire day for him to finally start using my now-legal name. I don’t know why he changed his mind. I had the same conversation with another person in a similar situation Wednesday, with the same response. Working with him today and tomorrow will see if he changes his tune, too, or gets my cold shoulder.

And though it may not seem like a big deal to most people, those thoughts infiltrated my day, making long days even longer, and me even more tired. This is an experience I’ll plan for better next time, but hope there isn’t a next time even more. The extra pay isn’t worth the extra stress.

Even in the men’s room, I fight like a grrrl.


Update: The sting of my loss is still potent, but it’s getting easier. I still miss her when I’m lonely, or when I’m sad, or when I’m happy. I still want to share moments with her that are important to me. We text still. I text her a lot more than she texts me, and I hope I don’t push her away by that, but she’s the one i want to talk to when things happen. I still want my best friend.

I also got my license in the mail with my new name, and can start the daunting task of changing everything over. One thing at a time. Moving forward…

As a side note, I noticed that people who seem uncomfortable with my gender, or still see me as male, tend to call me “Nat” instead, and avoid pronouns altogether. * squinty eyes* You ain’t slick. I know what you’re doing. 😛

Here There Be Monsters

This week’s post is purely personal, and pretty long. I hope my followers understand that it is still important to my journey, even though it’s not topic-based. Something happened Friday night, and in order to understand where I am in my transition, it’s important for me to talk about.

It’s the second time a girl I imagined spending the rest of my life with walked out the door with me bawling on the floor. And this time even though I was with her for less time, I loved her more than anyone else I’ve ever loved, and connected with her in a way I’ve never connected with anyone else. Only this time is different in another way, too. This time I’m a pre-op trans woman with no friends close enough to let me cry on except for the one that just left. And the only one I really want to talk to – to have tell me it’s okay. That I’ll be okay. But I feel as far from okay as I can get. I feel a big empty hole in my life – next to me when I sleep at night, and when I wake up in the morning, and when I come home from work.

She was the one who knew me. The one I could tell anything. The one who called me her girlfriend, called me Natalie when nobody else understood. And now, when everybody else is starting to understand, and I’m finally getting a foot in the door to being me, to being happy, I’m crumbling again. And now I don’t have any friends I can invite over to watch sad movies with. I’m just alone to deal with the hurt, the empty, the lonely. And it’s unbearable.

I think about what it will be like to not have her in my life. I think about never being with anyone else again, because who would want to be with me? I’m a lesbian with a…yeah… who has social interaction issues and an inability to even make friends. I look at all of her stuff, still here, still reminding me, and think about what it will be like when she comes to pick it all up. Will she come when I’m not home and leave the key on the table? Will she talk to me, hug me one last time before she promises to be my friend, and then slowly draws away from me until I’m just a faint memory of someone she used to date?

I think about the half-finished blanket sitting on the floor that I’ve been crocheting for her for three months. Of the way she just looked at me, not saying anything, when I handed her the papers in her own handwriting that I wasn’t supposed to find, talking about how she knew it was over, and that love alone can’t make a relationship work, and that we were incompatible from the beginning. I wish I didn’t tell her I found them. I wish I hadn’t found them. The conclusion would have been the same, but maybe I would have gotten to wake up next to her for a few more mornings.

I think about her watching me cry, of her packing a bag at midnight while I watch, bawling. About how she tells me I should go to bed because I need sleep, that I couldn’t sit on the floor all night. Was it because she cares, or to make her feel better about what she was doing to me? Maybe both. Maybe it doesn’t even matter. I keep wondering what I did, even though she keeps telling me nothing, that we just don’t work. That I can’t change who I am or give up my progress to make her happy. But what’s my progress worth without her? How much more can I possibly make without her supporting me like she has?

She’s gone, and I’m left with a giant hole in my life, and her things everywhere I look. How do you get over that? How do you get over someone so important, so crucial in your life? It took years last time. And this time, well this time it hurts even more, and the hole feels even bigger. This time I was actually happy despite all the challenges in my life. Now I realize that transition alone isn’t making me happy. She’s been there the whole time, and I can’t separate it from her. She held my hand when people laughed at the boy wearing a skirt. She was the first person I ever felt comfortable enough to wear a dress in front of, even though I’d only known her for a couple months then. She helped me shop as I tucked myself behind her, ashamed to be picking out bras when I still don’t pass. She shared her clothes, and helped pick out what would look good on me. She held me as I cried so many times when I just couldn’t handle being me. And doing all that alone seems impossible.

She says she still wants to be my friend. I want that, too. This girl knows everything there is to know about me, but somehow still likes me. She sees in me what I can’t see in myself sometimes. And a person like that only comes along so often. I don’t blame her for leaving. I understand. Well, I don’t understand, but I understand that she isn’t happy with me anymore, and doesn’t think I can be what she needs in a partner. I don’t know why. There is no clear reason, even though I wish there was. But she’s the smartest person I know, and if she thinks it’s the right thing for her, I believe her, and I can’t be mad at her for that. I hope we can stay good friends more than anything. She is so good for me. She is such a good person. And I can’t imagine a life void of her all together, and I hope I can fulfill a friendship with her where I can’t give her what she needs in a relationship.

But what is happy without her? I’m not sure. I don’t know what the future has for me. We talked about kids someday, but that just seems like a far off dream now. I’ll be lucky to ever find someone who will even date me, now. I have no idea how to date as a lesbian, never mind as a trans lesbian. I don’t know what I’m doing with my life. I have two terrible jobs with no job security and no prospects, and a boatload of student loans. I still live at home. I have no real-life friends. I have no social hobbies. All I have is a legal name that doesn’t match my body, and no idea what to do next. I finally care about my life. But I still don’t know how to make it a life worth living. I don’t want to die, and I don’t know how to live.

I don’t know how to fight like a grrrl when I can barely do anything but stay in bed and cry, work, and come back home and cry.

So this time I’m not going to leave you with that tagline, because it seems a little dishonest. This time, I’ll leave you with the promise that I’ll see you next week with a new topic. Maybe by then I’ll have a little more fight in me.


Note: I wrote this two days after the fact, on Sunday. Since then she cleaned her stuff out when I was at work, and I cried a little more. I cleaned my room and came close to crying again a day later. And we talked. And we keep talking. And when I feel a little better, we’re going to start talking in person again. It’s still really hard. And I still get waves of hopelessness at least once a day. It’s worse at night and in the morning when she used to be there going to bed or waking up with me. When I’m alone where I’m used to her in the other room doing homework, or just having her presence there across the room. But knowing that I still have a friend, someone who understands me and the experiences we shared, helps. Helps a lot. I’m still not totally sure of where to go from here, but knowing she’ll still be there to share my journey with is comforting. I guess time will tell what happens next.

From Zero to Woman In…

“How did you go from ice road trucker to dresses in a year?”

A coworker and my boss looked at the picture on my phone, eyes wide, and then back at me. We had been showing photos of ourselves in the past, and I decided to show them a peek of who I used to be. They’d never known me as the punk rock rebel without a cause that I pretended to be. The person in that picture wearing the leather biker jacket covered in patches and pins and a scraggley red lumberjack beard.

And they couldn’t understand how I bloomed out of that. How someone who wears bows in her hair came from someone who wore combat boots and never shaved.

When I was trying to figure out what I was, the question that really started my journey was “would someone who wasn’t trans think about being trans and wanting to be a different gender this much?” And the more I explored that question, the more I realized that yes, I have gender issues. I identified as gender queer (someone who fits in between genders, or goes back and forth on the spectrum) for about a year or so when I decided I didn’t want to live fully as a man anymore, but I never really talked about it with anyone. It was a way to step into the gender spectrum without having to call myself trans yet. But even before that, I was playing with and thinking about gender.

So I tried to explain – that version of me was a way to get away with letting little pieces of the real me out without having to deal with the blowback. It wasn’t a jump from polar opposites, but more like a gradual mental slide followed by a physical jump later, when I was sure. I experimented under the cover of a hyper-masculine identity for years, trying to figure out why I felt the way I felt, and what it meant, and what to label myself. I could paint my nails – not just black, but colors and patterns as I progressed, and nobody would say a word. They assumed it was a weird style choice. I wore rediculous amounts of black eyeliner in a style that could only be called panda-meets-The Crow, and nobody would say a word. But I did it because I really liked putting on makeup.

Tough guy was just a shell to protect girly girl underneath, until she was ready to come out and claim her place. So in a way, it wasn’t really a transition, but an emergence.

But then, in another way it was a transition. I spent so long crafting a personality, that finding out what’s real, and what was just expectation and masking and diversion is hard sometimes. I have to ask myself whether I really like something, or if it was just something i faked liking for so long I tricked myself. Or something I really don’t like, or something I told myself I didn’t like because I thought I wasn’t allowed to like it.

Trans people like to hide behind the “I’m still me,” assurance because it helps reassure people, but that’s often not the case.

“But it’s no use going back to yesterday, because I was a different person then,” as Alice from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland said.

If I liked how I was, I wouldn’t be changing. I’m not who I was. And I know that’s hard for people who have known me. Trying to reconcile the old me with the new me is hard. Learning to treat me differently than they ever have before is hard. Learning to call me a new name and use new pronouns is hard. But please remember, I’m still a person. And I have to reconcile this new identity, too. I have to learn to fit into my new role as daughter, niece, sister, girlfriend. That I will be discriminated against not only as a trans person, but as a woman. That I can’t feel safe in public alone anymore. I gave up my privilege of being a white, straight male, the best thing to be in this society, like it or not, to being a transsexual lesbian woman.

So no, I didn’t decide in a year that I was a girl. I was always a girl, and it took me 20 or so years to really consciously figure that out (although in retrospect, part of me already knew) and another 5 to figure out what it meant. That year of transition has mostly been trying to be what I already came to know I am. There is no more question of what. Now, it’s just a matter of how and how long.

So keep questioning what people label you as. And keep questioning yourself until you’re satisfied that you’ve come to the right conclusions. And then fight like a grrrl to live the way you want to live.

Update: I got my name change. I am officially Natalie now. I need to get my documents all in order now. But I told my night job boss, and now I’m officially out in every part of my life. So far everyone has been good with name and pronouns. Hopefully within a few months the other name will be a footnote in my life. One more obstacle down.

Labels: NOT Just For Soup Cans

Labels are for soup cans. It’s become a war cry. And for some, a valid one. But for me, labels are important.

Language is important to me, and language shapes society, beliefs, and treatment. Labels help to get an idea of what you’re dealing with, and to help you see where you fit.

That said, someone labeling you is not the same as you identifying with a label. I label myself as a woman. As a lesbian. As transgender. I’m a writer, even though this blog is all I’ve written in awhile. And all of these help me define myself the way I want to be seen, and the way I feel. They help me place myself in this society, and help others do the same. Humans love labels. Labels make things easier. Labels come with connotations, good and bad.

My body says man, but calling myself a woman allows others who understand me to see me as one, as well, when they might or might not otherwise. My name serves the same purpose.

Other people labeling you is not so clear cut. I used to smoke a lot of pot, but I was never a pothead. I like taking photos, but I’m not a photographer. I was given a boy’s name, but I’m not a man. But because someone labeled me male on my birth certificate 25 years ago because I had a certain set of genitals, I’m treated like one. Now I have to find a medical professional to decide wether I’m female enough to change the M on my license to an F. I’m lucky enough to even have that option. Some people don’t.

I have to use a bathroom that matches my assigned label, as well, even though it is uncomfortable for me, and unsafe for me. But getting arrested or losing my job would be equally harmful. (Especially if I were to end up in a male prison, which I would, due to the labels we put on genitalia.)

My point is, labels are just labels. It’s how they’re used that is harmful or beneficial, much like language in general. We as humans are more than labels, but labels do help us understand each other. Don’t let anyone else label you, but don’t be afraid to label yourself if a label fits.

Try not to fall into the trap of using labels to judge and seperate, but instead use them to empathize and find common ground.

A lot of girls don’t like the transgender woman label, insisting they are just women. And they are. But for me, transgender helps people understand my experiences as a woman, and helps me connect to other transgender women who share some of my experiences. Pay attention to how people label themselves, and don’t be quick to assign labels to them.

But don’t let labels hold you back, either. Labels aren’t fences, but guides. People are more than just labels.

I may not be a fighter, but I will fight like a grrrl.


A Year In Review

The new year always makes me think of the previous, and this last year was a big one for me, and for trans visibility. I came out as trans to three people the December before, and set the tone for what 2014 would be for me. A little over a year later, I wore a dress in front of my entire family. So what happened in between?

In January, I got laid off from a job I’d had for a year. I’d already shaved my beard and started to grow my hair. I found a new job after about a month – a temp overnight job that lasted two months. And I met my girlfriend there. I started to dress more feminine and wear my hair in pigtails, and rumors about my trans status began to circulate, even though I never told anyone. I guess it wasn’t hard to figure out. I wrote makeup pretty regularly by then, too. And then I got the job I’m at now, and stayed on there as a night job. Ironically, the first job is the only place in my life right now where I’m not out, and the first place where customers who didn’t know me started calling me “miss” every so often.

I came out to my brother and a few more people along the way, and started dropping hints and publishing trans news pieces on Facebook. And then I worked and waited. I slowly started adding more feminine clothes to my wardrobe, and taking small steps toward my goal. Small steps, and never losing ground. That’s what 2014 was for me, in a sentence.

I came out semi-publicly on July 4, two days after I started taking hormones.

In August I wrote a skirt in public. At midnight, but still in public.

I came out at work a few months later, and started paperwork for my name change not long after.

And then at Christmas I debuted as a girl in front of my whole extended family.

I went from *male name* to Natalie in just over a year. He to she. Single to in a relationship, when I was convinced (and coming to terms with the idea) that I’d never have another relationship again until I get bottom surgery. Unemployed to twice employed, to possibly on the verge of having my main workplace close in the coming months. That other kid is starting to become a ghost, someone I used to know in the past, and Natalie is getting less blurry around the edges by the day.

Life is still hard. Really hard. And I’m still sad and frustrated a lot of the time. But I also have moments where I’m really happy and content, and I never really remember having those for a long time. I look on the mirror every once in awhile and see who I want to see. It happens more often as I go, too.

I worry a lot about what next year will bring – will I have a job? Will I be able to get a new job of I need to? Will I be able to stay on hormones? Will I start to pass better? Will I ever manage to have a convincing voice?

But I’m excited, too. To meet new people who only ever knew me as Natalie. To get a chance to finally start living in a way I’m more comfortable with and that’s real. To getting my beard lasered off so that that shadow isn’t the only thing I see when I’m not wearing makeup.

And so as we go into 2015, whatever you struggle with, keep struggling. There will be tough times. There will be times that straight up suck this year. But you can’t get to the good parts if you don’t keep fighting like a grrrl.


But now I have to say something about Leelah Alcorn. Leelah. NOT Josh. This 17-year-old trans girl walked into an oncoming truck on the highway earlier this week because her parents, therapists, and community treated her terribly. They told her she was selfish, and that God doesn’t make mistakes. Shut her out from the world for 5 months. And then when she killed herself, her parents called it an accident, refused to acknowledge her gender, buried her in a suit, got her age wrong in their Facebook post, and put her male name on her tombstone. They’re presenting her as the son they wanted to have, and not the daughter they made miserable. Every time I think about this story for too long it makes me want to cry. I did cry the morning I read it for the first time. Rumor is they’re trying to take her suicide note down, too. But the trans community won’t let that happen, and is already spreading copies all over the web. And I urge you to read it if you haven’t. It is heartbreaking. And honest. And moving. And important. “Parents” like this should be put on trial for abuse. Doctors like this should be sued for malpractice. But at least in the trans community, her (HER) death will be remembered for what is was. Not an accident, but another suicide showing how hard it is to be trans in this country.

Rest in peace, Leelah.