Sunday, March 7, 2010

Getting It Right

A lot of times, I think, some people wonder just what it is people like me want. What do we expect will happen? How are they supposed to act? I don't just mean here those who disapprove, it's just as true of those who WANT to be good to you or even supportive but just simply have no experience with what is obviously a potentially awkward situation.

Well, let me take a moment here this evening to sing the praises of a group of folks who, with very few exceptions, have gotten it exactly right.

As some of you may know, I am again this year in the employ (temporarily) of the U.S. Census Bureau. When the clerk called to confirm my interest and extend an invention to work this year I informed her of my status and she assured me that it wouldn't be an issue. Several days later my future boss called and he I again put my cards on the table and his reply was "if anyone has a problem with you, they have a problem with me" and his boss confirmed that position.

Still, I was a bit nervous. After all, I was potentially going to be a crew leader and the effectiveness of up to a dozen people was going to depend not only on my ability to do my job but on the comfort level we would share. During the CL training it was a relatively small group and most of them people I wouldn't be directly working with after the training, but gradually as I began to have interactions with the office staff I found more and better than I expected.

Look, I understand that the law requires a government agency to extend equal rights to me. I understand there are very specific policies which would apply if anyone overtly harassed me or whatever but - that's not what was happening here. I also can discern the difference between thinly veiled contempt lurking behind a facade of plastic politeness (by "plastic politeness" I mean, for instance, when a store requires a checker to say "how are you?" when everyone knows she isn't interested in how you are) and genuine warmth and acceptance.

The latter is what I experienced among the office staff and it's what I have experienced with my crew. It may seem odd to some of you that I would use this expression and find it remarkable but, in short, they treat me like a lady. They speak of me and react to me and respond to me pretty much EXACTLY like they speak of, react to, and respond to any other female in the room.

Which is a dream come true for me. I don't want to "stand out" - I want to be "one of the girls." when you encounter a person - someone who handles the payroll so you KNOW she knows your secret (even if you tell yourself some folks don't) - in the ladies room and she chats you up about the weather or compliments your earrings or whatever without a bit of apparent discomfort that you are there - that is PRICELESS.

When you are in a car with two other women and a man and someone mentions the possibility of running out of gas - and the man (who is no fool) says "I hope not because I'm the only man in this car and I know who'll be pushing" that's a "make my day" moment.

Yes, there have been a FEW times when I got a "Yes Sir" - 99% of which can be attributed to my HORRID voice (Yes, I know there are women with deep voices but not like THIS) - and one instance when I was calling my crew before I met them (the voice is at it's worst on the phone) in which I was asked flat out if I was a guy. But even that person treats me well, and everyone else - and I am assuming here I don't pass well enough that they are all in the dark - has shown no sign at all that they have noticed anything other than a normal woman just doing her job.

Frankly, it is HEAVEN!

I could say, in passing, that it is a bit bittersweet that complete strangers can deal with this so well while those who love me most struggle, but it is also not anything that should surprise - the strangers never met "him."

But I won't dwell on that tonight. Rather, I want to just rejoice that even in Mississippi, we've come far enough that the things I have described can be true. As much as I know how many out there prattle my name in every other conversation and judge me as anything from a perve to a bad husband to a blackhearted sinner - more and more I realize that maybe there are not so many as I have thought - and when they do gossip and judge, they are not giving me any worse treatment than all sorts of other people with less shocking behavior that they consider themselves better than.

It's a far better situation than it would have been had I accepted myself and transitioned 25 years ago.

Ah, but I digress again. the point of this post is to say, even though none of them may ever read it, that I thank God for the people I work with and the acceptance I have received. It's too bad this is a temporary job.

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