Friday, April 4, 2014

My Transition Plan

(Parts of this entry appeared first on TGForum, published March 24, 2014.)

I am now full time as Sophie.  As a woman,.

To get this place took a LOT of planning and a lot of help.  Everyone does it differently.  And here I am going to tell you how I approached it.  Remember, this is my approach, your mileage may vary. 

I've gone over some of this in the blog already, but I am putting it together to serve as a guidepost if you will.  So people can take what works for them, and avoid my mistakes

Also, and I can’t stress this enough, if you don’t HAVE to transition- DON’T DO IT.  Seriously.  It can and probably will destroy your life.

The process starts with the most important part- Realization.  After exhausting all other avenues, and still feeling the Intense Pain of Gender Dysphoria, to the point of knowing it means Change or…

After making that VERY difficult determination, I informed my Wife.  It led to a week of crying for us both.  It also led to me being thrown out of the house.  (We lived with her mother, and she threw me out for being a “freak.”)

Then the planning began in earnest.  In this phase, I worked closely with my therapist, Dr. Maureen Osborne, and my “Big Sister” Mel. 

Ok, what needed to happen?  I needed to: 

11)      Set a date.
22)      Inform my employers
33)      Inform family (for others this would be the first)
44)      Prepare wardrobe and necessities.

The first part was difficult.  Timing is always delicate.  I decided to emulate my beautiful friend and Vanity Club sister Stephanie by going full time at work upon returning from a conference.  In her case it was SCC.  In mine, it was Keystone.  That meant my last day as Lance would be Monday, March 24.  And my first day at work would be upon returning:  March 31. 

The second part required the most planning.  Months in advance, I contacted the regional HR for the book store and explained the situation.  Why?  Well, in case they DIDN’T have a plan in place.

So, having started the ball rolling at work, I began planning how to tell my parents.  I asked friends who had already done this, and they were incredibly helpful.  None of us transitions alone.  There’s a reason we’re a Community.  Others have walked where you are now, and are usually happy to provide advice.  Especially about their mistakes.

In the end, I decided to write them a letter.  I was going to just mail it to them, but at the advice of my sisters, I decided to read it to them.  This way they could see my face and hear my voice as I told them, and I could see theirs.  I expected the worst. 

They surprised me.  They accepted me.  To date, my mum has met her daughter, and embraced her.  My dad still hasn’t as he’s just not ready yet.  I understand that.  

Ok.  Parents finished, what about closest friends?  I actually started with them first.  One by one, I met with them over drinks and told them.  One by one, they accepted me.  I was extremely lucky.  Over time, I honed my “presentation” to what NEEDED saying.  I’ll come back to that.

But at this point, Bookstore HR and I reconnected.  It was two months until the day I was coming out.  The HR person told me their procedure, which they developed over time.  I would be the sixth transition on the job.  It started with me writing a letter to bookstore management.  I decided I would read the letter, as it worked very well with my parents.  And so I did.

HR determined that my first day back HAD to be Monday March 31, as Tuesday April 1 would be inappropriate.  I understood that.  Who wants to “come out” on April Fool’s Day?

I decided I wanted to tell others that I simply didn't have time to reach.  How to do it…  Well, I’d been making videos for YouTube, so why not make one in drab, and send it out? 

So that’s what I did.  I made two videos:  one for friends I've known ten years or more, and the other for more recent friends. 

Actually, I made three.  The first one didn't strike the proper tone.  So I tried again.  The links to the two videos are follow:

I sent the one for older friends first.  And so far, I have a better than 40% return rate, of which all but one was positive.  I expected the rate to be far lower.  The one that wasn't positive was essentially a “WTF?”

Then I sent out the other one, mostly to coworkers with whom I am close.  I think I chose well, as I have a 100% return rate with that, and all are positive.

I've been cautioned by many, including Donna Rose, that initial reaction is not necessarily long term reaction.  So all these positives my melt away like “tears in the rain.”  But I need these positives.

There were two problems with the videos.  One is that I hadn't included them in the long term plan- I just thought them up and did them.  It was my method of achieving a part of the long term plan, true:  inform close co-workers, but it wasn't the method I previously planned.  The second problem is that I didn't mention doing this to my therapist or to my “Big Sister” before I did it.  As they have been intimately involved in the planning and execution, they should’ve been told.  Dr. Osborne asked me “what if it blew up in [my] face?”  Point taken. 

Ok, so work was set.  Old friends told.  Select current friends told.  One part was missing, and was being delayed by my mother in law and Wife:  telling my daughter.  Well, that happened on Friday March 21.  I decided to take her to a neutral location, in this case a park, where Wife and I explained it to her.  She seemed to understand as best as a six year old can.

All that remains is to post my Truth for the world to see on Facebook on Tuesday.  And for that, I am following the advice of my dear friend Jen Lehman, who told me to approach it like a marketing campaign.  Keep it all positive- eliminate any negative.  All smiles.  All happiness.  Communicate with negatives privately, while thanking positives publicly.  For the message, I modified the letter I read to bookstore management.  I've simplified it and changed some of the verbiage. 

So that is where it all stands.  Wife knows.  Work knows. Friends are informed.  Family knows. Appropriate wardrobe for a woman my age is acquired.  Now?

Dear readers, I have run headlong into burning buildings as a paramedic.  I have done things that chill my blood to think of them now.  And this?  This scared the living Hell out of me.  I'd never been such a huge ball of anxiety.  Thank God I planned this thoroughly in advance, because as it came closer I couldn't plan the strategy for a game of Candyland.

I revealed my truth on Facialbook on the evening of Monday March 24.  The next morning I then headed west to Harrisburg for the Keystone Conference.  From there I monitored the messages, and contacted those that need to be contacted.

While I was away, the Bookstore management informed my coworkers of the change.  They posted my letter to them, and discussed it individually with each staff member.  Information about being Transgender was provided (which we obtained from the NCTE website- support them folks, as they support us!)

First Day

Upon returning, I had the Dreaded First Day of Work as a Woman.  I interacted with coworkers and customers.  If there’s an issue, I am not to engage- I am to let management handle it.  Will the customers object?  Well, the store is in a VERY rich and conservative area.  So yes, I anticipated some resistance from the extremist of the right wingers.  So far, nothing but a couple of looks and a single "sir."

So there it is, folks.  That’s how I did it.  It involved months of planning, consultations, reading, and tears.  Now I have embarked on the Voyage of the rest of my Life.

My life as a Woman.

As Sophie.

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