Jenna's Transition Story
I’m Jenna - a male to female transsexual. I’m not sure were to start so maybe a little background information may be in order.
I’ve been aware of my other side most of my life. I knew something was different about me when I was young, but I wasn’t sure what it was until my late teens into my twenties. I did know it was something that you just did not ever talk about - not ever to anyone. I spent more than half my life hiding her, the one lurking behind my visible male exterior. I spent all my waking moments keeping occupied so my mind wouldn’t wander to this other self.
As life when on I became an over-achiever - driven like a storm. I married an average girl after settling into my lot in life just as society dictated.
I took the name Jenna in April 1984. I remember exactly where I was and what was going thru my mind that day. It was my cousin Jennifer's first communion party. I was aware that this was starting to consume more of my thoughts and that a name would at least calm the fire. It worked for a while; bought myself some time to let it fade away into a distant memory, right? Wrong!
After 16 years of marriage I was losing it again. I needed to get out of this relationship - what could have been a lifetime of full contentment maybe for someone else but not me. I looked for a cure - someone that was strong, independent, someone fem that could pull me out of this place that was getting harder to contain. There was a mailperson I had at one point who was transsexual, but I wouldn’t talk to her for fear of being found out if I appeared too interested.
I finally found her - a co-worker. I knew her, and that she was the right person to cure me. I fell madly in love with her. I was always attracted to her. She had that certain air, the fix I needed. Omg - the mother of all disasters.
It worked for about 6 years. Then, Jenna came back stronger, longing to be out. The relationship started to crumble and I again retreated into consuming myself in "work" -anything to stay totally occupied. It was becoming impossible to maintain a bond and we moved further apart.
Finally, I made a decision. It was time to explore this and come to terms with it so I can get on with my life. After lots of turmoil, internally worse than hiding her had ever been, I began searching the web. It was a great resource, but dangerous all the same. I found others like me...explored, studied, moved forward, found offshore hormones, and discovered how I was supposed to feel in this body. Home at last!
I continued the journey on a dangerous path and finally accepted that I needed professional help. I found it in Dr Michele Angello. Though my spouse may say she is the spawn of the devil (as most wives do) I had one session with Michele and I knew that things would improve. I left walking on clouds…things looked up for change. I finally was starting to come to peace with myself - as crazy as the outside was at times the inside was swinging to a different pendulum and it was finding center - wild at times but center nonetheless.
I always knew that I was a girl inside, just like I knew in my heart that transition was not going to be something to cast aside. It was never an option, though getting there, to this day, remains a very difficult journey - one of pain and great joy. Go figure. But one I would not turn my back on and hide any longer. Jenna’s day had finally arrived.
So, I worked hard, stayed focused and moved forward inches at a time only to retreat at times to regroup myself. I planned my transition, accepted what it may cost in the long term and walked the path, hoping for the best but expecting much less.
On the subject of figuring out who is with and against you - how they will play out - go buy some ice cream. You can bet its cold, is gonna hurt your teeth - that’s a sure thing – but the rest is a waste of time you can’t figure it out right ever.
Dr. Angello and I talked about work - how to plan, timeframes, the proper way that could have the best results .How she may be able to do some workplace sensitivity training to soften the shock sure to follow and to do damage control with employees and management.. I worked on coming-out letters, discussed them in transitional group sessions with Michele and others who have walked this path successfully and looked at failed attempts too. I thought to myself - Find the winners stay close, hold on tight it’s gonna be a rough ride.
I had friends who supported me at work. Some had known about Jenna for a long time -some not as long. I wasn’t sure what would happen when the big out day came, but I tried to plan it to coincide with the start of really visible transition change – face feminization surgery with Dr O.
I need to stop at this point and share a thought about my workplace environment. I work in sales for a dealer of construction equipment representing the largest manufacturer in the country - naaaaa the world is more like it. The place is a testosterone driven proving ground of what is male and boy toys. In fact, it may have been the place were the phrase, “The difference between men and boys is in the price of there toys” was coined. Not to mention bubba mentality. Yes, even from college educated men it does exist in vast quantities from the top to the bottom.
I have this mind set after reading and rereading many books and studying the really successful transitioners that the health field, colleges and hi tech fields most definitely have an advantage. Small as it may be, it is an advantage. DRATS….I’m in the wrong job.
I planned my “out” day - the second day of infamy - November 22nd. It was our wedding anniversary and the day they killed Kennedy, and maybe the day that I might just become another causality of workplace transition. I didn’t plan the date that way – it’s just how it made the best sense to go forward and to give those poor deer in the headlights at work a chance to survive the impact. I had had years to come to terms with me – them mere days.
This was the end of March or so, heading into April coming out of the cold into a new season of possibilities. And disaster. Things were getting hard to hide: hair does grow, finger nails long attract interest when they are clear gloss painted, earrings shine (both of them), gurl juice (estrogen) does affect chemistry of the male body and I plain ole just carried myself differently. I was finally accepting me and damn I was happy and it felt good, no I felt wonderful. Michele said, “They may think you’re gay at first - not trans.” She was right. The common gay jabs started. On one occasion a shop foreman yelled out to me as I passed him in the center isle of the main shop....”Heyyy, word on the floor is your having a sex change.” I never missed a step. I yelled back, “Damn, that would hurt!” I wasn’t gonna play into it, but I new the day was near, so very near.
I made a call and a personal visit to a friend that worked in HR. She was a close friend and a possible ally. I explained what was happening and the time frame, and that the reason I was telling her was that things may come to a head before November and I wanted her to know in advance what the deal was and where the truth about me was hidden but true. She was very supportive of my lot in life an agreed to keep my secret unless someone comes in an drops the dime on me.
I made it until the 3rd week of April. A friend who knew about Jenna - someone I broke bread with and comforted during her divorce decided - God only knows for what reason - to out me to HR. This was after knowing about me forever. To this day I don’t understand why. Girl, what where you thinking???? This wasn’t just about me. It affected my relationship with my entire inner world.
I was called into two days of repeated meetings doing the best I could to head them into the right direction and to stay employed. I was dying on the vine - emotions for all were tense. The VP of HR had never dealt with this before - great choice in corporate officers and diversity training on the fly - just wonderful. I had ordered extra copies of “True Selves” and “Transsexual Workers” and made sure they got into the right hands. I shared web sites and Dr. Angello’s offer of guidance.
Thursday afternoon I had one last HR session. They wanted my coming-out letter by 8AM the next day and asked if I could I do that because they wanted to plan fast. I said it’s all but done, the draft is on my computer at home. I finished it about 2am Friday morning, tried to sleep, woke up early and went to work.
Focusing was not a strong point that day. Late in the afternoon I got called in to HR yet again. Okay here is the plan: The company attorney wants to make some minor changes to your letter. Fine. Let’s see. They were trying to remove the human part and how long I had been an employee, I figured I was history at that pint, and they wanted to paint me as just a bad weather day and not the whole picture. But I agreed.
The next step was gonna be two meeting with my co-workers in my business unit - office people first, sales second. The first group will be 11am Monday the second at noon. We will meet after each to discuss concerns of both groups and get feedback for potential problems. I saw my friend from HR on the way out - I left early. She told me she was always there for me no matter what happened I had to be me and happy, and to stay strong hold the course. HAVE A NICE WEEKEND!
I spent the weekend avoiding the thought of what was to be, explained to my spouse the situation as best as I could, tried to wear that summer dress of everything’s roses but knowing that cut flowers are just moments away from the trash and disregarded, like they never existed. She was floored - more like blown away- more of “How could you do this to our family??”
I called my attorney and asked for more advice and what to hold on to and what to let go of….last minute legal coaching. That’s kinda how corporate life is here today, gone tomorrow, forgotten. I was at the point in my life - having been a control freak to just being helplessly totally numb and petrified.
Monday came way to fast. I checked into my cube at work and tried to stay focused. Yeah right. I watched the clock over my desk, listened to my co-workers talking not knowing the bomb about to go off under them (and me, for that matter). My boss came up and asked a question about something that I didn’t even hear. Then he said, “You got to attend this meeting today??? I didn’t see your name on the email.” I replied, “No, I’m familiar with it already.” He asked, “Boy, it’s really secret. You got any ideas?” I replied, “Yes.” He pushed more and I just said, “I cant tell ya, but its no big deal so don’t worry so.”
The office went silent at 10:55am. All incoming phone calls where blocked - just me and the carpet. The quiet was so loud.
At 11:20 I heard feet on the carpet. No one is talking. No one. I just wanted to die - disappear go away forever. I started to cry....my head was numb.
My phone rings. It’s HR. “Got a minute??” Yeah sure be right there. I got the replay from my VP of HR. It was quiet, a few questions. The bathroom issue - that was brought up on a Friday night managers meeting I wasn’t privy too. Result:,I get my own. I like the idea since I already do that (I’m not a communal toilet person). I head back to my desk for round two. I sit down tremble some and think, “My God what have I done???” Once you take this step there is no way of saying, “Oh by the way, I was just kidding. You don’t mind do you???”
I get this sudden tap on the shoulder. It’s Tom, a co-worker. WOW…You okay? A weak no. He asked to call me at home tonight to talk,,,I said sure. He did - two hours worth and today he avoids me. After all the lines, “It’s about the person, not gender”,,,so did anyone get that on tape?? hmmm???,,,bastard bastard bastard
Round two the sales types,,,,my Brotherhood??,,,,Same deal,,same quiet,,some are just starting to work with me again,,,What was that line I crossed?
Well, it’s going on 7 months now and I’m a survivor to date. New Jersey has some good gender rights cases on the books and no one here wants to try them on for size, today. I know they aren’t happy about me….some are okay and accept me for what I bring to the table. Others remain quiet, but are careful to be nice quiet, and I can deal with that. Others treat me as the woman that is emerging and the friend that I can be. I work so much harder today to reprove my worth and value to the organization.
I recently asked to be moved to another facility to start to be forgotten about, sort of a moving on in the same company, and I find that since I wasn’t known there the level of being accepted has been elevated. Time will tell, but it certainly feels right.
The one thing that never goes away….not ever….is that I’m different. They know and are they trying to figure out how to remove me without a suit, one they can’t win. It sure makes for a constant reminder of who I am and how far we’ve got to go with education yet. The people I deal with in business - some asked questions most don’t, but they know what I am and how I can help them be successful. But when the day is done its not about my gender issue it’s about what I can do for you, not who I am. It’s just about the business, and I’m good at what I do. The more time that passes the more I become a non- issue and I like that alot.
Knowing what I know now:
One of the things that has been hard for me to control is the feeling of elation and openness about my GID and that I have decided to deal with it in a open manner. This can have serious repercussions when you share this with others that have absolutely no idea of this part of you that never existed before. I think the feeling of them being betrayed is very real. I have been aware something was different about me for ever - hard to put a finger on at times - but they only knew the side of me that I let them see and I think when you finally do “out” yourself some can’t handle it because they feel you’ve lied to them about something that goes to the core of being human, especially in my case. The same job for 20 years, the same person so they thought. So to change something at this point is an almost impossible task since it would really need for the clock to be turned back. So going forward I would suggest that the clear honest truth should always be first in your thoughts even if it may cause you some pain or discomfort. For someone about to start this journey. I would suggest the sooner the better and have a really great support group and therapist to bounce the entire thing off of before you take the step out into the difficult world of transition. I know you understand about stopping a transition then jump starting it again - you most definitely don’t send a message of a stable worker to your employer which could lead to a faster exit of employment. Bottom line is you need to really have planned the out in the work place very well and have all your ducks in a row. Nothing left to chance.
One of the positives being in a large metro area like JOISY is that we are a more progressive society, more willing to excuse things that don’t seem to fit just right. The mechanics in our service department have absolutely blown me away with their compassion. That may be because I have always been an open book with them and enjoyed joking around. A lot of people at work think I have incredible courage to do what I have done and I get respect an encouragement to be myself. That doesn’t apply to some, but I don’t think any of them get the clue that it was about life and death for me and it wasn’t really an option for me any longer. So, me brave? Never. Scared? You betcha!
To look at the dark side of this work place transition. The owner is a blood and guts blue blood and a Vietnam era marine. I go totally against his world of understanding and for that reason I will always have the fear of the lurking doom around the corner. I don’t see how in time that will ever go away. Maybe, but I doubt it. So I must always be vigilant to be on top of my game and careful of what I say to whom - something I never had to do in my old role.
The other thing that blows me away is how many people know someone that is transgendered and once they know you are they begin to share what for them was a hidden topic.
I hope my ramblings make sense to just one person at some time when it’s needed.
Peace n love,,,always