Dress Shopping

Next-level nerdiness

It’s not even summer yet, but the temperatures in Toronto have already soared above average. With that, the length of my dresses and skirts have shortened to a point where “mini” would be an apt description. Nevertheless, when I go out and don’t want to shave my legs (that’s like, almost every time), a longer dress may be more sensible, so I went to Yorkdale Mall last Thursday to find something that I can afford. Luckily, most dresses at H&M are within my budget. Continue reading “Dress Shopping”

Disclosure?

Within the transgender community, there are regular discussions on whether someone like myself need to disclose his/her transgender status to prospective employers. In my recent job applications, I’ve been very upfront about my “trans”-ness. But I also expect other transwomen to have come to different conclusions, and for different reasons. So I posted this question in a Facebook discussion group:

So I’m in the process of changing jobs amidst my transition. I’ve been very upfront about being transgender in my cover letters, and, for the most part, I haven’t had any issues. (May be this is an advantage of living in Canada?) My question is: is it wise to disclose that I’m trans? Not necessary? Bad idea? What are your thoughts?

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A Job Seeker, Once Again

In the past few weeks, I’ve sent out another round of job applications. Although I had a very productive July and August teaching summer school, fall and winter months are far quieter. I’m down from 20 hours of teaching in the summer to just 9½. While that’s still a very respectable amount of hours, I need, well, more. Now I’m looking for an additional 20 hours of part-time employment each week. The question is, would anyone (other than my current employer) hire a transgender woman? I consider myself to be incredibly lucky to be hired for the teaching job back in January. That said, looking for jobs as a transgender woman is not without difficulties. The jobs that I’m applying to teaching or tutoring position, which is by far my strongest ability. So far I have sent out 8 applications, and I have received one phone interview, and two in-person interviews. My interviews have gone well enough that I’m confident that I could be hired for at least one of them. We’ll just find out how things actually turn out…

The Flautist

This post was meant to be posted at some point in April, a few days after getting my haircut. It was a very nice story that just somehow relegated to the “Drafts” folder and was never shown until now, when I’m trying to write about something else.

I had a few last-minute cancellations at the tutoring service. Since I’ve been pretty tired from work, I decided to take the night off to quietly walk around the Distillery District in the evening. I went past a church with a small sign saying “Flute Recital Tonight”, and thought, oh hell, why not? I grabbed a copy of the concert programme at the door, and lo and behold, it’s a flautist that I’ve known for years. Only she doesn’t know Kate.

Anyway, the recital went really well, and it was definitely a treat to hear the flute outside of its usual role in an orchestra. To say that my long-lost friend is a fantastic flautist would be an understatement. I sat in the back of the church, out of everyone’s way (sight?). At the end of the recital, I went downstairs to the reception in the church basement. My friend was already there, mingling with friends and relatives and guests. She looked towards my general direction…and stared directly at me. She frowned for a second, then her eyes lit up. She walked (ran?) towards me, grabbing my hands.

“Oh my god! I almost didn’t recognize you!” she exclaimed. Apparently she heard through the grapevine that I am now, well, a woman. “You’re so beautiful!” she added, stroking my hair. Knowing full well that I’m not at all “beautiful”, I was uncertain if she was just being polite. (You see, she’s the one who’s drop-dead gorgeous.) But judging from her enthusiasm, I felt that she genuinely meant it. In the back of my mind, I hoped that my new haircut made a difference.

We chatted a bit more before I left. I had a feeling that it wouldn’t take another 6 years before I speak to her again.

Physics Tutor Kate

On the same day that I applied for my teaching job, I also applied to a few tutoring services. Within days, two of these companies called me. One of them was a tutoring service near York University, which, you may imagine, caters to first-year students at York. I went to an interview, trying to look as much a professional as possible. (And yes, as pretty as possible too, because, well, I like being pretty dammit!) My supposedly 15 minute interview lasted close to an hour. I got along very well with the manager, which I think is why I was hired at the end. I also got the feeling that the manager found me attractive; I think it was when he unintentionally gasped when he saw me. (That may be a whole different story for another time. Sufficed to say, I don’t feel creeped out when working alongside him.) Since the beginning of this month, I’ve been working 6 to 10 hours there.

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Physics Teacher Kate

Early in January, I applied for a part time teaching job at a private enrichment school on the north end of the city. I’ve always wanted to be a teacher, but I’ve felt that being transgender my future in teaching was dim, especially in high schools. Nevertheless, within a few days of submitting my resume, I got a phone interview on short notice, then a couple of days later, a face-to-face interview. Not surprisingly, the school has never hired a transwoman before, so they didn’t know what to do with me. I was nervous as hell at the interview, until the second part of the interview, when I gave a mock lecture on the wave property of sound. At the front of a classroom is where I feel the most comfortable, and I think my passion (and my skills?) for teaching were on full display. I got an offer to teach their Grade 11 physics class on Saturdays, mostly on the strength of my Ph.D. and that mock lesson. I was skilled enough, well educated enough, and charismatic enough (as I found out later) to have done better than other candidates.

Continue reading “Physics Teacher Kate”

Thoughts on Coming Out

The last two posts I’ve talked about my coming out experiences. (You’d think that since I’ve identified as transgender for years, everyone would know already, but with my friends and family spread out all over the world, that’s not always the case.) I want to share a story of my coming out to a friend. For all my positive stories, this isn’t one of them. It happened awhile ago, at a time when I was unsure of my future. I was unemployed, and I’ve been in a bit of a rut. I was encouraged to come out to my friend, since in the past, he’s shown a lot of insight towards people in need. And I needed a sounding board. We agreed to meet at his place one night, after his wife and kids have gone to sleep.

I spent an entire evening rehearsing what I wanted to say, and I was assured that nothing bad can come out to this.

I never really got around to say most of what I planned, because what followed was the most incisive (my other description would be “ruthless”) psycho-analysis I’ve ever experienced. Except as insightful as my friend was, he wasn’t a therapist who could spot trouble. To have myself picked apart was not what I wanted…or gave permission to. I listened to his every word, then politely left, and started crying as soon as I was in my car. For the first time, I contemplated driving off a bridge.

I have no doubt that he meant well, but well intentions can’t guarantee that I won’t be hurt just the same. For many months I completely withdrew from my social circles. It took a lot of courage, at least a lot of convincing, that not all my friends want to analyze me.

Reflecting on that night, I wish I could say I’m glad that I didn’t drive off the bridge that night, but I couldn’t. I’m not the same person I was any more. I missed my bubbly outgoing self, but while I willed myself to stay on the highway that night, that Kate nevertheless died, and she will never come back. I still find myself insular when it comes to sharing my thoughts and feelings with people. I excuse myself from social gatherings even at the hint that he’ll also be there. My other friends have surely caught on already. “Luckily” for me, he’s so busy that he almost never makes it.

My high school mentor once said of my first break up, “recovered but not healed.” It’s an appropriate description of my recent state of mind.

I know that I’m not alone; many trans people go through much worse. if you’re one of them, know that my thoughts are with you, and even though many of us will never be healed from all the hurt levelled at us, whether intentionally or unintentionally, but in time, we can still recover.

Where Have My Friends Gone

A month ago I had lunch with my friend Rachael. Rachael and I have been corresponding on Facebook for awhile, but it was only the first time that I met her in person. We chatted about the joys and struggles of being transgender. And we shared stories of us coming out to people. One thing that struck me is that although every transgender woman has her own very unique journey and perspective, other people’s reaction to us coming out often fall neatly into a few categories. The list roughly looks like this:

  1. People who outright reject us. They either unwilling or unable to accept us for who we are. They stop talking to us, they don’t want to have anything to do with us. It hurts to find out thought you and not wanted in their lives any more, and the hurt is deeper if they had been close friends or family before. But at least we’re up front about what they think.
  2. But of course there are those who embrace us for who we are. It’s always nice to get an ally, whoever they are. Most of the people whom I think would react positively are, well, pretty obvious, but every now and then someone else that I think would fall into the former category turns out to be my closest allies. It’s often when I get those “Ah ha” moments when everything about me–my personality, my aspirations, etc—finally making sense to them.
  3. But the saddest is when people who just drift away, and never explain to me why. When I come out to them, they seem, at first, supportive. But almost immediately, I stopped getting phone calls or emails, stopped getting invited to gatherings. if I question them, they’d make an excuse just plausible enough to stop me from asking. I suppose they’re really in the first category, but couldn’t admit that to me or to themselves. I can forgive them, but it still leaves me without a friend when I’m at my most vulnerable time.

My challenge isn’t to figure out who’s in which category, but rather, the fact that people from one group interact with people from another because they too are friends. Unfortunately ,my friends now have to tread carefully between people who have abandoned me and those who have embraced me; it’s a position that I would never have wanted to put them in. I’ve resolved to stay positive, let the chips fall in place, and see what friends I still have when it’s all said and done. It’s fair to say that a lot of my friends do not value our friendship as much as I do and I’ve already been distanced by many people. But I hope that the bonds that were strengthened with other friends are more enduring, now that we’ve taken care of the elephant in the room.

My Coming Out Story Again

I recently came out to two friends, an elderly couple DK and NK. Despite having known them for a long time, I still had to muster a lot of courage to speak to them about this. It was hard to explain to them what it’s like being transgender all my life. Meanwhile, all these years they had no idea of the struggle that has been waging inside me. I tried my best to explain, and this is what I came up with:

Being a guy is like putting on a mask. My mask isn’t terribly uncomfortable, and after many years, I have become accustomed to it. Most of the time, I don’t mind wearing this mask. It isn’t a lie, but it hides enough of me that it keeps me from being marginalized, and allows me to be reasonably well integrated in society. There were days when this mask is utterly unbearable. When I was in high school, looking into the mirror everyday was painful. But sooner or later, people closest to me will have to know of this mask, and they need to finally know the person behind the mask.

For the record, we spent about an hour talking about this. There was a lot of crying and hugging, but when I left, I have came to allies.