Tuesday, April 30, 2019

A Change in Perspective

 I’ve found lately that I have had to change the way that I see myself these days. For all of my talk and writing of bravery in being out and about, up until relatively recently, I’ve often enjoyed the privilege of passing: being perceived as female by those that I interact with. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve never passed perfectly, but I used to pass well enough that half of the people I interacted with never noticed me, and most of the remaining half wasn’t sure enough one way or the other to say anything. Not true anymore. These days, the vast majority of those that I deal with are quite sure that I am TG and this has caused me quite a bit of depression and trepidation. A combination of old age, bad health, etc, have all conspired to work against me and make me a much more obvious “man in a dress.”  As a result, I’ve had to sort of reevaluate my own perspective and decide if I do or do not have the courage to still step out into the world, knowing that most of the people I will deal with will know that I am physically male. For much of the last year the answer has been “no”, but at least for this week, for this day, and for this moment, the answer was yes.  I have indeed dredged up the courage to once again head out the door.
I’ve had to start flying United Airlines again because my company has reached some sort of agreement with them so that we now get a corporate discount. As a result, they come in so much cheaper than the other airlines that I can’t justify not flying with them. They aren’t mean to me or disrespectful or anything like that, but they really aren’t warm and friendly like Delta airlines is with me. Half of the Delta customer service representatives in Austin know me by name and greet me warmly when I arrive at their counter. Usually the United Airlines representatives give me a bit of a sideways look and turn utterly professional when dealing with me. Again, they don’t mistreat me in anyway, they just aren’t terribly friendly. For this reason, I was kind of surprised Monday morning when I  checked in and the lady behind the counter was genuinely friendly to me and even went so far as to tell me that she thought I looked quite pretty. We both know that she fibbed, but at least she made the effort to talk to me. The bad news is that she caught me so off guard, and I was so full of my own internal anxieties that I didn’t follow-up on this by striking up a conversation. She had gone out of her way to reach out to me and I had failed to reciprocate it. It wouldn’t surprise me if she now thinks that I am the cold and unfriendly one.  
I spent the entire day wound around the axle and filled with so much anxiety that I think I literally jumped when a gentleman spoke to me as I was entering the Minneapolis airport from the jet bridge.
“Miss?” I heard a voice softly saying from slightly behind me and off to my left side. I slowed and turned to look at the man, all of the while wondering what stupid thing I had done to draw someone’s attention. Had I left my phone or tablet behind on the plane? Was the back of my skirt stuck up in the waist band? Did I have toilet paper stuck to my shoe?
“I just wanted to tell you how pretty that skirt is,” he said, with a kind look in his eyes.
“Thank you,” I all but blurted out, just relieved that it was something nice, and that I hadn’t done anything stupid or embarrassing.
“You don’t see that sort of skirt very often with a pattern like that that in it, “ he elaborated, apparently speaking about the flowers embroidered into it.
“Thank you,” I repeated. “That’s exactly what I liked about it and why I bought it!” I agreed, at last starting to pull my head out of my ass long enough to try and hold a polite conversation.  He gave me a warm smile and headed off his way down the concourse and I headed off on my own.
The Holiday Inn I was staying at is literally across the street from the customer I was visiting, so I really can’t complain much about convenience. I did have to fight the urge to roll my eyes at the woman that checked me in though.
“Hi! Can I help you?” asks the woman behind the counter.
“Yes, please. I have a reservation and would like to check in.”
“Ok,” she says as she starts looking through the paperwork looking for mine.
“Oh, here we are. Matthew?” she asks, quite loudly.
“Uh huh,” I answered, all of the while noticing the way the other customers around the counter are turning to look at me.
“All right then Matthew,” she continues, still quite loudly going out of her way to say my first name, “If you will please provide all of the highlighted information on this form, I’ll get you all checked in!”  By now of course, all four of the other guests and another hotel employee are all staring at me. I honestly don’t think that she was trying to be a witch, I think that she was just being thoughtless.
Despite my utter lack of confidence, I still made it a point to go shopping at the Mall of America because . . . well . . because it’s the freaking Mall of America and I  just had to!  😛

The following days work was about as smooth a day as you could ask for, with no surprises, and no real challenges to speak of. My customer was paying very close attention to everything that I was doing and clearly wanted to have some idea how to take care of his own equipment, so I went out of my way to explain everything that I was doing as I was doing it. This I can do without seriously impacting my productivity as long as I just need to describe what I am doing as I am doing it. Now if a customer wants to ask me questions about some other aspect of the equipment than the task that I am currently performing, it’s a whole different story. Anyway, I arrived at 730AM and was done and on my way back to the hotel across the street by 1130AM, so I figured that I was going to spend some more time in the real world. I started off by shopping at DSW Shoe Warehouse because a lot of my shoes are older than some of you that are reading this blog. As I was sitting on the bench trying on a pair of shoes, I could hear a woman apparently talking to a little girl a few feet away from me.
“Oh, you look fabulous! You wanna see them in the mirror?” Grandma asks the toddler. I can’t quite make out what the little critter says back to grandma, but a few seconds later a little girl of maybe three years walks past the isle that I am sitting in, accompanied by the very loud “clip clop” of a pair of huge red pumps that her feet are all but buried in.
“OK, turn and face Grandma so I can take your picture! You are totally ROCKING those pumps girl!”  Photos apparently taken, Grandma meets the little critter at the end of the aisle where I am grinning like an idiot. 
“You’re starting her out kind of young don’t  ya’ think?” I asked Grandma with a grin on my face to make it clear that I am teasing.
“Oh no, it was all her idea! I think she’s got it going on though, don’t you?” asked Grandma.
“Sure!” I said, playing along.
“I think they’re perfect for you!”  I continued, looking at the little critter this time.  Maybe it was just a little person being shy that a stranger had talked to her, or maybe she was a child that realized that something about me wasn’t quite right, but I’d have to be honest that it kind of broke my heart when the little girl just stared at me blankly without the slightest hint of a smile until Grandma dragged her off down the store. I visited a few more stores but bought nothing of note and eventually followed my customers suggestion and headed off to a Casino that was about 10 miles away. As usual lately, I received more than my fair share of grins from people I walked by, and more than one “What the hell?” look, but I continued on about my way. At one point, I was down about $50 playing 25 cent and dollar slot machines. I threw in the last $5 that I was willing to risk and had to laugh out loud when I won $80 on the video poker game. I wasn’t about to let them win that money back, so I cashed it out, and headed for the hotel!
Two days back out in the world, but I still can’t decide how I feel about it. I’ll let you know if I figure it out . . .