Month: December 2016

It’s Actually Happened

My co-workers are so supportive — they already started calling me Marla — that they’re the ones who were asking “why wait?” to transition, and one of the managers pointed out that the longer I waited the more potential confusion it could cause, over which name/pronoun to use.

So after talking with my managers and HR, Friday I took the plunge. Honestly, the timing was a little rushed for me — even though I was ready. There were minor annoyances, like my regular “everyday” hair (wig) being at the stylist, and larger worries about not having sufficient work wardrobe for the remaining two weeks before I take off for the holidays, and then go on medical leave. Plus I’m in the middle of getting treatment fast-tracked for the pinched nerve that causing a fuckton of pain.

But Friday after work, there was a previously planned off-site celebration of my 10-year anniversary working with the company, which was a good chance to talk with co-workers in a semi-informal setting.

So what the hell. There’s probably always going to be something that’s not ideal the timing.

Friday morning I got to my desk and there was little card, presumably from HR, saying “Congratulations and WELCOME!” with my new name on it. (I’m guessing it’s something they do for all new hires, but still, it was a nice touch.) Other than that, the rest of the day was shockingly normal. Obviously there were hellos said to co-workers on my team. Interestingly, at the happy hour, someone mentioned that because they’d seen me come into the office before, for the Halloween costume contests over the year and at last year’s office holiday party, it wasn’t a stretch for them to see me now. Honestly, I’ve got a feeling it was a bit of an open secret that it was more than “just the for stage.”

There were some double takes from other people in the office, who haven’t been told, and I’ll be interesting to see how things go next week, since Friday was a bit of short day, since I had an electrolysis appointment, followed by going to the DMV. Where despite dealing with Grumpy Cat clerk, I now have a driver’s license with my new name and gender. (Clerk wasn’t hostile, just the embodiment of the “I work for the DMV, and I don’t give shit.” Though interestingly, he was male, and the other two female clerks I dealt with briefly were much more friendly.)

Speaking of friendly, the only odd thing at work is one my co-workers who used to be a bit cold towards me. She’s French, with all of the traditional French brusqueness, and we’d butted heads a bit in the past because she tends to mansplain and talk over people — which I wouldn’t put up. But all of sudden she’s extremely friendly and talked about how much she enjoyed it when came to the office as a woman previously, and how I have an adorable smile. Go figure…

Friday night, I did my first solo performance at the “big” monthly Hubba Hubba Revue burlesque show downstairs in the main room, that holds about 800 people. I’ve done their “little” weekly show in the upstair room, that holds maybe 70-80 people many time before, but this was being called up to the big leagues.

The timing obviously sucked, but when get a big break like that, you have to take it. I ended up having to scale back the act, with the producer’s blessing, but I still killed it — I had numerous strangers come up to me afterwards telling me how much they liked it.

More importantly, it was a chance to see lots of folks from my burlesque community, who offered their congratulations and love.

But honestly with all the running around — Saturday, I had to run up to Oakland for my first bra fitting, then over to San Franicisco to pick up my hair, and try to see if I could find a few more pants to wear to work, then book the flight to Buenos Aires, as well as to SoCal for Christmas (which involved it’s own merry go-around creating new frequent flyer and rental car memberships — that it really didn’t full sink in until Saturday night when I finally got a chance to catch my breath.

But yeah, it’s actually happened.

On My Way

Flight booked to Buenos Aires for my facial feminization surgery. While not intentional, it is nicely symbolic that I’m leaving right after midnight on New Year’s Eve (so yeah, I’m spending New Year’s Eve at SFO).

Bonus: The airline didn’t ask for my passport number when booking the flight — although I’m sure I’ll get a follow-up email asking for that info. But that gives me time to get to the Passport Office on the 20th, and get a new passport that matches my new name

Adventures in Gender Transition Paperwork….

Steps involved in booking a flight to SoCal and renting a car for the holidays:

  • Southwest won’t let me book flight with frequent flyer program under new name because it doesn’t match old name.
  • Look up Southwest’s frequent flyer name change policy, which requires preparing a written request, plus copies of both old and new photo IDs (and implicitly a copy of the court order), and mailing all that to the home office in Texas.
  • Say fuck it, open a new frequent flyer account — worse case I’ll just have to write off the accumulated mileage from my existing frequent flyer account.*
  • Look at flight reservations. Choose earlier flights than I’d like, because just in case there’s hassles over photo ID,** I don’t want to be booked on the last flight of the evening.
  • Book flight. Omit trusted traveler number (i.e. TSA Pre-Check, because new name won’t match the current number and I don’t know if number will change once I get name updated with TSA).
  • Resign self to dealing with holiday security lines — and the dreaded body scanner*** unless I can get updated Pre-Check info added before flight.
  • Hope that new driver’s license arrives before trip, so that I have photo ID that matches ticket.**
  • Try to book rental car. Hertz won’t let me change name on Hertz Gold account; can’t find info anywhere on how to change it.
  • Say fuck it, decide to open a new Gold account.
  • Resign to losing perks associated with being a long-term Gold member.
  • Start creating new Gold account, realize I need to update AAA info to get AAA discount rate.
  • Can’t find any info online about updating AAA info.
  • Sign into AAA website, go to My Account — YAY! I can change my name online, no questions asked!
  • Change name, request new card from AAA.
  • Back to Hertz, enter AAA number into new Hertz Gold account application.
  • Create new Gold Account.
  • Finally book goddam car.
  • Hope that new driver’s license with photo arrives before trip, so that I have photo ID that matches the reservation.**

* Although I may mail them documentation of name change and ask to if they can transfer my existing mileage to new account.

** I’ve been told that if I don’t have the new driver’s license (I probably won’t have the passport in time for the SoCal trip), I should be able to use the old, invalided driver’s license in combination with the new temporary license (just a slip of paper without a photo) and a copy of the court order showing the legal change of name and gender. Should.

*** Fortunately I never had a problem going through body scanners (before I got TSA Pre-Check), but they’ve been a major source of bureaucratic fuckery by TSA agents who were at best insensitive, at worse actively hostile, to trans people. One big reason I got TSA Pre-Check (OK, actually Global Entry, but GE gives PC privileges) is that you get to go through just an old-school metal detector instead.

Life Has a Funny Way of Sneaking Up on You

It wasn’t supposed to happen this way. Don’t get me wrong, it’s wonderful that my co-workers are so supportive that they’re the ones who were asking “why wait?” to transition. And I’m definitely ready myself. But the timing sucks.

Originally the plan was that I’d continue working as a man until Christmas, then take off regular vacation time between Christmas and New Year’s, followed by medical leave for my facial feminization surgery.

Old Me shuffles quietly off to a well-deserved retirement. Perhaps with some sort of moment to say goodbye, and express my gratitude for everything he did for me.

New Me, with a new face, gets some time to settle into living as a woman full-time before returning to work. Time to work much more on getting my voice, where I’d like it. Time to provide more of a chance to do a reset in co-workers’ minds before I unveil Me 2.0.

Instead of it’s amid the mad scramble of having to unexpected expedite changing my legal name and gender. Transition, even under the best of circumstances tends to take over your life, but this added an extra degree of difficulty. As that weren’t enough, it’s also amid the excruciating pain of a pinch nerve, and trying to get that treated ASAP. Which also is enough to take over you life.

There’s minor annoyances: My “regular” hair (wig) is off for a much-need redo, and while I have other hair I can wear tomorrow, it’s not the same hair I’ll be wearing the rest of the time. Plus it’s human hair — and she’s definitely not happy with all the rain. Women’s clothes are so much more seasonal than men’s, and I hadn’t had a chance to ready build up my work wardrobe, so I’m worried about having enough outfits for the next two weeks. Especially since, women are scrutinized far more on their appearance — and I’ll be under ever more scrutiny. How well do I “perform” being a woman? Does the poor dear not know how to dress herself, well, you know he’s really just a man in a dress anyway.

So I’m on the cusp of what should be a joyous moment, and I’m just…. spent. I’ve been running beyond empty for weeks now, and I just want to curl up with warm blanket and watch kitten videos. But of course, I can’t.

Tomorrow I have to go to the DMV. I have to book the flight for Christmas, once I know I’ll have a new driver’s license. I need to call a different airline and see I can book the ticket to Buenos Aires now — before rates start skyrocketing — even though my passport is going to be change. Next week, I need to do the pre-surgical exam, and then pending insurance company approval, they’ll do the epidural steroid injection, which hopefully will put an end to the pain. The week after that, I need to do the battery of pre-surgery blood tests, and I’ll finally be able to go the passport office in person to get my passport changed. All the while, while having to learn how to navigate the workplace as a woman, at a time when I’m probably the least centered I’ve been in ages.

I don’t what to start any blasphemous rumors, but yeah, life does have a sick sense of humor. It’s fucking ironic that I’m actually looking forward to post-surgery recovery because it means I’ll finally have a bit of downtime.

In the meantime, just like I’ve done the during the past year of transition, just keep pushing forward, forward. It’s all I can do.

Thank Yous

About a dozen years ago, a girl-child finally set foot outside the house for the first time. Literally. After midnight on a black moonless night. Because NO ONE MUST KNOW. It was both exhilarating and terrifying.

Of course, she really wasn’t a girl, she’d been sharing the same body as her male protector for decades. Some of her sisters knew clearly from an early age, who they really were, and what they needed to become. Not this girl, growing up she just knew she was “different” but not exactly sure how — and in the pre-internet days, she assumed she was the only one in the world who felt this way.

Over the decades, she was able to come out every so often to express herself, but mostly sat, as if in a high tower, watching the world outside, waiting. Until that day came when the need to be out in the world became overwhelming.

Like many of her sisters, it began with tentative steps. The light-night drive en femme. Once she became a little braver, the late night walk. Venturing out to meet a similar group of peers who went out for dinners — safety in numbers. She he connected with others like her online, she quickly gained the confidence to start going out in public alone.

I’m talking of course about myself. You’ve come a long way, baby. And now I’m facing that feeling that’s both exhilarating and terrifying, as I take the final step to living full-time as a woman tomorrow.

It’s journey I could’ve have made alone. There are so, so many people who’ve helped me on this journey, I can’t possibly thank them all. But there’s some I do want to highlight.

To my namesake, Marla, a fierce femme who adopted me and other of my sisters, when I was just starting get out in the world. We’ve lost touch over the years, but wherever you are, thank you.

Thank you to all the other fierce femmes who have supported and inspired me.

To Helen Boyd, and her wife, Rachel Crowl, who’s been a staunch advocate for trans people and their partners, whose amazing writings helped provide much needed perspective, and whose online forum provides both support and tough love when needed. To the other members of the My Husband Betty forum, whose wisdom and generosity continues to impress me.

To my good friend Erica, and my spirit animal, Darya. To Pearl E.. for always being there when I needed someone to lend an ear, and Arcadia her incredible generosity.

To the burlesque community near and far treating me as just another woman.

And to all those here on Facebook, who’ve supported me on this journey.

Once again, thank you.

I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead

Today’s to-do list:

  • Go the court, get name and gender legally changed. Check.
  • Go to Court Clerks office, get certified copies of court order (needed to do changes with other government agencies and business. Check.
  • Go to County Recorder’s Office, pick up forms to change birth certificate (you can’t download them). Check.
  • Change Social Security info’s name and gender. Check.
  • Schedule appointment with DMV (Social Security said to wait a couple days for their info to get synched with the DMV). Check.
  • Email discussions with managers and HR about moving up the date that I start working as a woman (co-workers are eager for me to do it sooner rather than later). In Progress.
  • Add “Marla” as a authorized user to credit cards, as a quick way to get credit cards matching my new IDs (still will need to change the accounts later). Check.
  • Change name on local bank account, order new checks and ATM card. Check.
  • Wire transfer deposit for facial feminization surgery. Nope. Surgeon’s office forget to provide an address needed.
  • Email surgeon’s office, and get missing address, so I can try again tomorrow. Check.
  • Session with gender therapist. Check.
  • Session with speech therapist. Check.
  • Get home late.
  • Ask for advice about whether to do second round of hair transplants (to cover the pre-hairline incision scar) while I’m in Buenos Aires, or when I get back.

Still to do tonight:

  • Fill out forms to change birth certificate, so that I can go to the Post Office tomorrow and mail them with tracking and return receipt.
  • – Sleep?

Tomorrow:

  • Lather, rinse, repeat — albeit with different tasks.

I’m Officially Me

I’m now officially “Marla Christina [lastName]”! (I ended up changing my forever name from Marlena to Marla. Because reasons.)

Got the court order this morning. Could’ve done without the deadnaming when the judge called out the case, but otherwise he congratulated me.

Got the Social Security info changed — although I realized the receipt I got doesn’t specify whether the clerk changed my gender mark (the letter just talks about the new card I’ll be receiving).

Picked up the form to change my birth certificate — you can’t download it online because it uses “special paper,” which frankly felt like just slightly heavier paper (I was assuming it had some security watermarks or something like that.) Both the clerk and I agreed it’s pretty silly. Have to fill it out and send in it. Hopefully get it in the mail this afternoon.

Social Security said to wait a couple days to go to the DMV to make sure records are updated. But hopefully, that’ll be done by the time I go in to the DMV Friday afternoon. (Yay, DMV appointment system!)

Oh well, OTOH, I can go to my local bank and both put a copy of the court order and the Social Security receipt in the safety deposit box, and put in the paperwork for the name change.

Then call my credit union that’s in SoCal to ask about how to do the name change remotely. (I kept it because offer a better deal than my local bank on some things; and it’s useful to have a separate account to put savings into, out of sight, less temptation to tap into it when I don’t need to; and it’s useful to have two ATM cards when I travel, just in case there’s a problem with one of them.)

Also need to call the passport office and schedule an appointment for expedited processing of the passport.

And then there’s work…

Co-workers are already asking when I’m changing my work email and when I’m coming into work as Marla. Asked HR to go ahead and change things in the company directory, etc. Not sure about when I want to start presenting as Marla. There’s an off-site celebration of my 10-year anniversary with the company (that’s whole separate from transition), and that might make a good place to make a “coming out” debut, since the DMV appointment is right beforehand anyway. And then start presenting as a woman on Monday.

I dunno… everything feels like Tetris, level 1000, at the moment.*

* Especially because they’re also fast-tracking treatment of my pinched nerve.

We About To Transition Salute You

So tomorrow is Coming Out Day at work.

At the moment, I’m oddly calm about it, although I was alternating between that and major freak outs during day. Now the nervousness is more of a “first day at school thing,” e.g. what do I wear? I’ll still be presenting as male tomorrow, but yeah, if lots of people are coming up to me, I’d like to look nice, and a bit femmy. Probably going to do my standard jean, but with a women’s sweater (albeit it’s subtle enough the men won’t probably recognize it as such) and smallish hoop earrings (I’ve only worn stud earrings to date.)

It may be thanks to the pinched nerve, but I just don’t have a lot of energy to stress over it.

The good news on that front: I was able to get into to my primary care doctor this morning and he’s trying to fast-track getting it dealt with. Immediately started me on the specialized non-narcotic pain medication that worked well last time, got me in to do an MRI earlier tonight. The rehab specialist wasn’t available for two weeks, but I’ll be able to see the rehab specialist’s physician assistant Thursday morning. Not sure if she’s got the authority to refer me to surgery — an epidural steroid injection — herself, but I assume that worse case, she can have the neurologist himself do it.

Whether I can get in for the epidural before the 31st may a challenge though. However, I if can’t do it through my medical group, my physical therapist knows someone good — he’s the guy the PT would go to if he ever needed one — and said he could probably pull some strings there to get me in.

But yeah, dealing with that on top of transition is even more stressful, and the non-stop pain is draining at a time when I’ve got an ever-expanding list of things that need to get done. (If you ever played sports and got a “stinger” is like that, except that it’s 24/7.)

Meanwhile, my therapist asked me to at least consider coming to work as a woman before the end of the year. Originally the plan was to continue presenting male through the 23rd, when I take vacation time for the holidays and then go on medical leave. In large part to make a clean break between “old me” and “new me” who will return next year. Also just not sure I’ve got sufficient work wardrobe built up yet — and realistically I should look my best, since I’ll be under extra scrutiny those first weeks. OTOH, her thought is that it would be a powerful boost to have my gender affirmed by my co-workers before I take time off.

We’ll see…. Got more immediate fires to do deal with. Like actually rehearsing the number I’m doing Friday when I make my solo debut at the “big” Hubba show — the venue holds up to 800 people. And getting my legal name/gender done on Wednesday, and then getting all the other ID changed, And…

Coming Out Resources

By request, here’s both my coming out letter and my Trans 101 FAQ, in case someone find them useful.

Feel free to copy from either, since mine were in part based on stuff copied from other excellent examples.

My HR director suggested I handle coming out as trans similar to how one would handle it is she needed to announce that she was pregnant and about to take maternity leave, i.e. this is something to celebrate.

So the email is intentionally relatively short, positive (i.e. no defenses about being trans or a litany of the struggles to reach the decision transition), and covered the essentials around what name/pronouns to use. I also explicitly asked for people’s support going forward.

The separate FAQ took a similar “light touch” tone, but got deeper into the likely questions people had. Although it too was intentionally brief. The FAQ was intentionally designed to start with Trans 101 in less than 10 bullet points, with an additional six bullet points about how to interact with trans people. Even if people stopped reading there, the basics were covered. The second part gave a bit deep explanation of each point, and the whole thing was kept to 5 pages, including a half-page of link to additional info in case someone wanted to learn more.

Everything You Always Wanted To Know Sample transition letter

Everything You Always Wanted To Know

Of course it’s hard to beat The Axis of Awesome’s approach (NSFW language):

10, 9, 8, 7…

So yeah, I’ve been a bit absent. I’m in the throes of the last big push toward transition and just haven’t had a lot of energy for posting We now rejoin our heroine…

Next Tuesday, I’ll be coming out at work. It’ll be relatively low key — I’m just telling my immediate team, plus other people I interact with, or have worked with in the past, or just have know a long time. Although obviously word will spread more broadly over time.

The following day is the court hearing for my legal name/gender change, and I should have the court order that day. Then begins the mad scramble to get my Social Security info, driver’s license, passport and major credit cards changed before I leave on New Year’s Eve (well actually 12:01 a.m. New Year’s Day) for Buenos Aires, where I’ll be down there for a month having facial feminization surgery.

Originally I wasn’t going to change my ID until I got back because I was traveling for BurlyCon, Thanksgiving and Christmas, which made the timing problematic. But given the election, I’m not willing to wait until after Jan. 20 to changes things.

The big PITA is my passport because the timing is too tight to do it by mail even with expediting. I can go to the regional passport center in San Francisco, but they’ll only see if your trip is less than two weeks away. But I probably can’t buy the plane ticket until the passport changes, so it means the fares will jump considerably for the outbound flight. If I have to eat the cost, so be it.

Though I’m trying to see if:

1) I can talk my way into getting into the passport center early — although the timing is really tight, especially since I need to get my Social Security info change first; or

2) gamble and book the ticket now under the new name — the passport number won’t change (postscript: I was wrong, it’s actually different number) and since technically it’s a “replacement” passport, the issued/expiration dates won’t either. A couple years ago, I made a very expensive mistake when I screwed up the name on the airline ticket and it didn’t match the passport — so I’m assuming they don’t check the passport info again the ticket until you get to the airport. But some friends offered to investigate and see if this is a viable strategy.

OTOH, having gender-congruent ID when travel overseas will avoid some of the issues I’d worried about earlier when I wasn’t going to have that.

I did just get the apartment in BA squared away — managed to get a lovely apartment for the month in the Alta Palermo barrio. A little more expensive and a bit further away from the happening parts of Palermo, but it was so warm, inviting and full of light I couldn’t pass it up, especially as I’ll be cooped up there for a more than few days. Top floor apartment with some good views, and one of the things that closed the deal is that it’s got a balcony. So even when I don’t have the energy to go outside, I can at least sit outside for a bit. There’s a supermarket half a block away, and while I didn’t realize it when I booked it, there’s a large hospital two blocks away just in case of any medical emergency. Only downside is that it’s a little noisy because it’s on a major street, and apparently the TVs are a bit old, which may thwart my plans to bring along my AppleTV and have movies on the iPad appear on the TV.

I’ve also realized that, since I’m out to my family and will be visiting for Christmas, my real full-time transition date will probably be Dec. 23rd or 24th rather than New Year’s, which what I’d originally planned.

Excited? A bit. But mostly I’m at that “can’t we just get this shit over with” phase. Mood will undoubtedly improve once I get past the seemingly endless list of things I need to do before the end of December.