Part 1 [posted 1-9-2005]
I have been a woman all my life! When I told this to my brother, he fired me from my job.
I had come out to my entire family with really great results, except for that one unfortunate exception. My brother said, “You have been a man for over 50 years and now you think you’re a woman! I am sorry, I can’t get my head around that, you need to look for another job.”
So after feeding me lunch, he made me change my reservations and dumped me at the airport. I wandered around Newark airport literally at a loss to even find the gate. I finally got myself together enough to find my gate and begin the long journey back to Sacramento.
Flying back I sat next to an older lady who was flying back to Los Angeles, and she was very nice. She told me her story of how she got to be a traveling furniture salesperson after her husband came down with Alzheimer’s. She had been working for this company in the office, had never sold furniture, but she needed a better job and needed to find something that could help her support her husband. So in her 60’s she started a whole new career, under some trying circumstances.
I know God works in mysterious ways, but wow, this was amazing, here I was not knowing what to do, not living as the female, fifty eight years old, oh; and feeling lost and sorry for myself. Yet I was being given encouragement and an example of how no matter what the challenge, the human spirit can make one rise above and make the changes necessary to achieve. So I began to think about what I had done and how I could effect this change in my life.
My flight was long and while thinking I began to review my life. I was born to a hardworking blue collar family in a steel and oil town in the Midwest. I felt a little out of place when playing at football or any of the other sports that my younger and much bigger brother would play.
I had come to realize that I wasn’t pulling off the little boy thing that well, when a neighbor lady told my mother, “ Gosh Dorothy, your son is so sweet and demure, he should have been a girl”. I heard that, and alarm bells went off big time. So I resolved that I would learn how to be a real boy and began the life long struggle of De-Nile, Or my Egyptian period. Who knew that I would be a success at this male thing.
I challenged myself to be better at sports and I played at a level that at least gave me cover(there is obviously a boy in that body, he can play basketball. ) LOL, what strange games we play to convince ourselves of who we aren’t.
I could draw this out forever but I won’t as my flight was only five hours. Suffice it to say that I managed to out macho the guy’s in my family. I became a Survival Instructor during Viet Nam, taught escape and evasion, resistance training (P.O.W.)
And living off the land and Jumping out of airplanes - I mean that’s what men do, even if they are afraid of heights!
I was also a restaurant manager for 25 years and yes, the whole time I was struggling with my real identity.
The plane landed and I felt a sense of what I needed to do. My wife and I began to talk about who I am and what it meant for our future. Over several weeks we began to understand that I was becoming more and more disenchanted with lying about who I was and that I needed to change and go for the life that I should have been leading all this time. Kathy went through a lot over the years trying to understand me and she bravely accepted that her husband was no more. She later told me that the most difficult part was to see me in between. My electrolysis had changed my look,as had, me growing my hair longer, and oh yes. I was less guarded about my learned male mannerisms , so she was seeing more and more of JoAnna every week.
So I began the plans for my transition….
What assets did I have? Since about 1992 I had been trying to build up my experience as a lady living in the real world. So every spare moment that I could get was spent being a woman. I first started on my out of town trips spending the nights as a woman. I would go shopping and just driving out to different places of interest.
I could pass at a distance but could not handle close scrutiny. My make up and dress were okay, my voice was somewhere in the deep range and an instant giveaway, and my hair style was okay.
Electrolysis was already well on its way and almost complete as I had begun that in the 90’s also. So beard coverage was not a problem. Voice by 2005 was passable and just needed more exposure and practice. Feminine mannerisms were very natural and did not need a lot of work(thanks to Denae Doyle and her coaching). So I needed a job to transition in and more practice, but felt confident that I could pull this off.
I had made the decision to transition in a school environment. I checked out many schools and finally settled on a tech school that could teach me more about computers and also give me some credentials in medical office management. I finally decided and went into meet with my recruiter to go over student loan applications and explain one important detail that would need to be a part of the package. John said, “ there is just one thing that you would need to agree with… pause, A gasp, a roll of the eyes?
No such thing happened!
What came next I just wasn’t prepared for. She got up from her desk and came over to me and gave me a big hug. She then began with, how can I help.? In my wildest dreams … this could not be happening. To this day we are friends and she is even trying to help with my new career.
I attended school from that day forward as a woman. All the students just accepted me. I let JoAnna take over and I found that I was and am a wonderful and caring woman that could relate to all age groups and genders. I got plenty of feedback and lots of experience so that by the time I was ready to go out and start building my career I was ready. The entire time I was never outed by any of the staff that was in the loop. They would laugh when I would ask if any problems had occurred because of my attendance.. They would just tell me that the students had never complained and no one had ever questioned my identity. So this just added to my confidence.
My total immersion in a school setting gave me a chance to explore and to develop my feminine soul. I could breathe and express myself in a totally feminine and carefree way. I finally knew…. Yes! It is good to be female and that I had nothing to be ashamed of. This is who god made and John was someone made to protect me from a world that is still immature in their understanding of gender.
I decided that I needed to go out and start to do interviews now and practice and see what questions would come up. I thought I needed to find out where the gaps would be in my story and my references. I quickly found out that I needed people in my past to verify that I had worked for them and that it was indeed JoAnna and not John.
My quest began. What I found out was that I had enthusiastic support from some and legal and professional responses from others, but still they would cooperate. I also lined up a ton of personal references.
The interviews I went on were mostly cattle calls in the restaurant business. I figured why challenge myself at first. This was a fact gathering exercise and I really don’t care if it goes further. So I did interviews and again found myself being accepted by my interviewer, but the old NOTD look,(not our type dear). Was eminently apparent.. LOL I was being turned down because of age , I had discovered that I had moved on to age discrimination, an important piece of info for later interviews. So this went on for a few weeks.
Then I got a call. Hi Ms. Michaels, my name is Dennis and we found your resume on monster.com. We think you would be an excellent candidate for our position and we would like you to attend a meeting. (cattle call). I thought, what the heck, I would never want to, or qualify for a financial job, so I accepted.
The meeting opened with a power point presentation and a lovely young lady saying that it was a great career for someone that didn’t mind hard work and liked to talk to people. She was impressive, enthusiastic, and very easy to like. I found myself interested.
So I stayed and did the next test which was designed to see if I could work a simple computer program and read and comprehend. I passed. So the next step was and interview. I scheduled an interview and was required to do a simple personal marketing plan on how I would get clients. This was followed by three practice phone calls. We were given the scenario of each call and then we would do them. I passed. Apparently I knew how to talk to clients. So I was offered an interview with the young lady that did the original presentation. She was the VP for this group and would make the final decision.
I interviewed and was just so impressed with her that I knew that I wanted to do this career. She inspired me to believe in myself and so I really got into the interview. I got the old , “ We are making a decision tonight and I will let you know one way or another what my decision is on your sponsorship.
I thought okay, I guess I did as much as I could to convince her so if it is meant to be it will happen….and it did . I got the offer that night. What was the offer? It was that this company would sponsor me and all I had to do is get my life agent license, my securities series 7 and 66 and I would have a maximum of 6 months to accomplish this feat. I would not be paid and I would have to do this on my own time. I of course accepted this wonderful opportunity. I thought this has got to be easier than transition!….Ha….Ha….Ha. How incredibly naïve.
Fast forward… I passed the the life exam after going to a one week prep exam, I passed the six hour series 7 after four weeks of study and one week class prep and finally the series 66 after 3 more weeks of study. I am to start in the middle of the month and begin building my client base. I mean how hard could it be after transition and all the license tests….LOL to the 10th power.
One thing that needs to be said is this. I was hired, not someone pretending to be someone. Since I had to go through an extensive background check I had to inform the woman that just hired me that I am in fact a woman who happens to be a transsexual. She was supportive and never mentioned it again. We only discuss it when I need to understand if someone needs to be brought in on my previous life.
This all happened in the last nine months. I hope this brief description helps some of you that just don’t know what to do ….yet. There are so many things that go into transition.
I haven’t even mentioned the changing of Identification which has been done. The financial plans that had to be made. The care and loving support of a super wife. The total rejection of my brother and daughter. The loving support of a female cousin who just accepted who I am from the start and encouraged me along the way. The countless people that have become my friends and who have supported me without reservation. The friends that just don’t know and love me for who they know I am. The company that has hired me and has gender identity non discrimination as a policy and they actually practice what they say. Did I mention the support of my Mother in Law , who knew? My sister Kathy has been wonderful and supportive. I feel blessed to have her as a sister. So many sister things to catch up on.
The thing to remember in going for transition is BE SURE! This is not a practice, transition is a real thing. I am female and always have been. The experience; Transexuality is the context of my life. In other words it explains the challenges that some of us have in order to express are true gender.
I have had ups and downs but no doubt, once I made the first step in transition. I am on my way and a work in progress. I am looking forward to the new friends, learning to knit, an offer from one of my new friends. Experiencing all that a fifty something female would experience. I finally have opened the door, just recall that no matter what happens: remember the words of Winston Churchill when asked what was the secret to winning WWII? He said “ NEVER GIVE UP, NEVER GIVE UP, NEVER GIVE UP!
Part 2: An Update [posted 1-31-2007]
The beginning of my business career as a financial advisor was something I went into with some fear and trepidation. I had passed all these tests to qualify for a position but I still felt like I was a babe in the woods. How could I, a newly licensed advisor ask people to trust my judgment regarding finances.
I asked my self that question over and over and finally came to the conclusion that I could not. I discovered that knowing the test questions and passing a test was a far different challenge. I needed to get myself to accept that I was qualified to do what I was telling my clients I could do. So what did it all mean?
The journey that started back in 2005 on a cold winter day was a journey of small steps. If I was going to make it I had to take it a small amount at a time. So as I started my career I decided that the important part of this time was to prove that I could do the job to the best of my ability and get my feminine confidence to improve as much as possible. So I defined my goal as acquiring clients and improving my presentation skills so that I felt totally comfortable speaking in public as the female, I had not been allowed to be all these years.
The days of work included speaking on the phone for hours at a time to acquire clients. This I never liked but I was able to do it and pass as a credible female on the phone. I needed to learn verbatim 18 pages of single space presentations and to give the presentation to my clients in the first 90 minute meeting. This I accomplished. The neat thing was in order to get the privilege to make these presentations I had to make the presentation by video conference to the group vice president. To this day I don’t know if he ever knew any thing about my previous life, I just know that I was always accepted as JoAnna in all our conversations and presentations.
The most confidence building part of the job was doing lunch presentations. I had to contact a business person who had dropped their card in a fish bowl at a restaurant that I worked with for the purpose of acquiring clients. I would invite them and up to 10 of their friends. When they accepted I would meet at the restaurant and give a 5 to 10 minute presentation in the dining room for all to hear. This became a great way to build my public speaking voice and my confidence.
This lasted from January to November of 2006 and then I resigned. I was not a good fit as an advisor because I could not accept myself in that role. So I left and pursued another job that would be less hours and a bit more straightforward than the many aspects of financial advice
So what did I get out of all that effort? I built my confidence tremendously. I feel comfortable speaking and interacting with people from all walks of life. I even went and joined a health club and was able to be totally integrated into the work out area’s, and woman’s locker room. In short my immersion in my female role is as complete as I could have ever hoped for.
So my plan continues. I am working at developing my career in insurance at this point, and I am hopeful that this year I will be able to establish that this is what I want to do to make a living. This is not easy, the transition of my life to living full time seems almost easy in retrospect. This I know, my transition was made easy by me setting goals and sticking to them. So I need to focus all my efforts this year on the career.
Personally I have established some great relationships with some great women.. They have accepted me in to their world and have been a great source of strength and inspiration. Some of the friends know all about my past and some know nothing. The neat thing is they all accept me as one of their sisters and share conversations with me that only sisters and girlfriends would share.
So it has been a wonderful one year and nine months of wonderful feminine pursuits. I enjoy the thrill of having doors opened for me, of other woman sharing their thoughts on cloths, children and life in general. It is a trip worth making and a life worth living. I am blessed to still have contact with my wife and keeping up with her family. This is who I am supposed to be and who I should have been. Regrets? I am here, I am alive, I am the woman that I always knew I was….. Regrets? I don’t think so. It has been an adventure and now I have a whole new adventure to live!!!!
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