I have not come up against very much resistance or ugliness as I’ve come out, in stages, in different ways, over the span of like 18 years. I’ve been called rude things out car windows. I’ve had uncomfortable and disconcerting medical appointments. I’ve faced silence-as-acceptance(?) from certain family members. I’m still dealing with people not grasping the right pronoun, or referring to my spouse as my “friend.” But these things have been few and far between, and although they do add up, they don’t feel terribly crushing. Most of the hardest feelings have come from within, and not outside forces.
Two weeks ago though, something came up that was deliberate, that would affect me long term, and that I can’t just let go. It’s my name plate at work.
I’ve worked at this school for over 10 years, and I’ve struggled to find my place within the rest of the staff. As a default, I’ve been distant and out-of-the-loop for the most part. It took me 6 years to get a name on the custodial door at all, and that only happened when a new person started and he got his name on the door. Then it was suddenly, hey, wait a minute! I had been fine without one, or so I told myself, because I’d rather not have one at all than be a “Miss” or a “Ms.” or later a “Mrs.” or even a “Mr.” All of those feel cringe-worthy and totally wrong for me. So when I was actually asked, and I said, “KT [last name]” and that was accepted, I was thrilled. That was the name I went by. It felt right. At the time.
And then it didn’t. I came out at work last December. Holy what, that was a year ago! Part of this included talking to the principal about my name and pronoun change. I also made it clear that I was not transitioning to male, exactly, and I’d like it to be known I identify as in the middle or as a little bit of both genders. She replied that that distinction was not necessary, and that was more of a private thing. PS- It isn’t. It’s my identity. Instead of deciding I needed to clarify in that moment though, I attempted to grasp onto other compromises and specifics. So that, when she asked me about my name on the custodial door, it was immediately a no-brainer. “Mx. [last name].” It’s another option, I said. It is in use. It’s a thing, I tried to assure her. I said, “If this is representing my name, then I don’t feel compelled to spell out [in a coming out email she was going to be sending on my behalf] how I am neither gender. The title will speak for itself, and people can ask me if they want.” The principal nodded. It felt very much like we had agreed on this. She had told me that it could say whatever I wanted although she would like there to be some uniformity with everyone else’s. Mx. seemed perfect. I assumed there was follow-through on this.
As the months went by and I still didn’t have a name on the door (my supervisor had ripped off my old one), I wondered what was a reasonable amount of time to wait before asking what’s going on? But then I was out of work in May for mental health reasons. And then it was summer, and stuff like that doesn’t get done over the summer. I again had a new co-worker. I decided I would just ride in on his coat-tails. It would be easier, and that was the route I preferred to take at that time. And sure enough, within the first couple of weeks of school starting back up in September, he got his name on the custodial door. And I still didn’t. It was Mr. [last name]. I went to the administrative assistant that day and asked about my name. She apologized for not adding mine to the order, and she said she’d order it right then and there. I gave her a piece of paper where I had written it out, so there’d be no confusion: Mx. [last name].
It took 2 months, but it finally came in 2 weeks ago, but it was all wrong. I checked the custodial mail slot like I do most days, and I was appalled to see two new name plates: one for me and one for my co-worker – both of them were our first and last names. No titles at all. My ears turned red, my pulse quickened. I paced around a little, trying to move forward with my work while processing this. The principal was still in her office, adjacent to the hall where these mail slots are. I started to gear up to approach her, but then I hesitated, thinking I should wait until I’m more levelheaded. I didn’t get a chance to decide because right in that moment, she left.
My first, more general thought was that this is disrespectful in a classist sense. Why should ours be the only names that don’t have a title with them. Other thoughts spiraled out from there, most prominently, “I don’t want to have to deal with this!”
When the name got put on the door, I told my co-worker that’s not what I wanted. (He failed to change out his name plate, so mine was the only one with a first name). I then told the administrative assistant, and she said this was the principal’s decision. Which I already figured; I just didn’t want to talk to her! For 5 days in a row, I gathered myself to go talk to her, only to be met with her on her way out the door right in that moment. So finally when passing her in the hall on the 6th day, I asked, “Can I talk to you before you leave today?”
That worked! I talked to her and it was no big deal on her end. I wrote out what I wanted, for a third time, and she said it’d be ordered the following day. Which was yesterday. We’ll see how long it takes this time around; at this point it’s been over a year!
These days occur consecutively every year – October 10th and 11th. It’s a good chance to kind of look back and take stock. And to see where I was at; here’s what I wrote last year:
World mental health day / Nat’l coming out day 2016
Before talking about this year, I just want to note that last year I said, “I’d say within the next 6 months I’ll be out at work and everywhere else. I look forward to the day that my driver’s license, signature, little plastic rectangle on the custodial office, Facebook page, the words out of teachers’ and co-workers’ mouths, and everything else, all say the same thing!” I’ve reached that point!!! Well, everything except that little plastic rectangle, but that is in-process (see below)!
This past year in my mental health landscape: I thought I was stable in a way that couldn’t be rocked, but actually I ended up back in the hospital again with another manic / psychotic episode. I know my loved ones went through a lot of stress and strife, but, in comparison to past episodes, this felt like a breeze, and it even felt healing in many ways. I do want to try to write about this, but I’m not quite there yet. Hopefully soon. I spent two months out of work, I got raised to triple my prior dose of Seroquel (a drug I continue to like a lot – a first for me), and now I’m down to double my prior dose. I’m off of any antidepressants right now. I’m worried I will lapse into another depression, but so far, so good. I’m starting to finally address the issues I’m having with oversleeping. But, to be honest, if oversleeping is the worst thing to come out of being in a really good place mentally otherwise, then so be it, I guess… For now at least.
In terms of National Coming Out Day, coming out is happening all the time, and I’m glad to be in a place where I’m neither invisible nor fearful of having to come out again and again and again. I love every opportunity. Take yesterday for example: I didn’t realize it was National Coming Out Day until that night when I went on facebook after work. And during that day, I had two instances of coming out. While I was working in the cafeteria during lunch, a kid asked me, “Are you a boy?” I replied, “I’m neither. I’m a little bit of both.” He replied, “Really?!” And I said, “Yeah!” I had a big smile on my face. Then later in the afternoon, I realized that my new boss(?) got his plastic rectangle with his name “engraved” and it was now on the custodial door, and I’ve been waiting for mine since January, when I changed my name. So instead of getting worked up about that, I just wrote down on a piece of paper what I wanted (so there’d be no confusion) and explained to the administrative assistant that Mr. [last name] has his on the door and I’ve been waiting for mine. She apologized for forgetting to include mine in the order, and said she would go ahead and order mine. I gave her the paper: It said, “Mx. [last name].” She verbalized that back to me to make sure it was right, and I said, “Yep.” I should have that up hopefully within a couple of weeks, finally. This feels like such a victory!
There’s one other thing I want to mention regarding mental health: I started listening exclusively to a new-to-me podcast. By this, I mean, I listen to podcasts every day while at work. And previously, that would be somewhere between 5-8 different ones at any given time. Right now, for whatever reason, I’m just listening to one, all day every day. I’m sure I’ll get tired of it and get back to some of my other ones, but for now, it’s pretty mesmerizing. If you’re interested in checking it out, it’s called the Mental Illness Happy Hour. It is definitely not for the faint of heart. The host jokes that he does not give advanced notice for triggers because he would have to stop every couple of minutes to announce another Trigger Warning. And it is absolutely true. There is a lot of stuff about abuse of all kinds, dark secrets and shame, both sexual in nature and just like, the kinds of stuff that randomly pops in your head and you hate yourself for thinking it. The host lightens things up by being in turns uplifting and darkly humorous. Each show is somewhere between 2-3 hours (!?!), and he’d read people’s surveys they’ve sent in anonymously, and he will also interview one person per show. He’s doing all this seemingly on his own, and he’s making a living off of it. I’m kinda obsessed right now.
As top surgery results and testosterone have been working their magic, I have felt less hung up on how I am perceived. This is great news! I feel less drained when I go out in public, generally. I’ve taken things into my own hands when I feel like I’ve needed to, and this had not been psychically difficult, by any means! Here are some ways I have been true to my non-binary identity:
1. I Tampered With My Driver’s License.
Since I don’t live in Oregon or California, I still have to legally be either “Male” or “Female.” Although I legally changed my name to something more masculine, I opted to remain “female,” legally. This has led to feelings of dysphoria, but being “male” would have anyway, as well. So, as of a few months ago, I decided to put a bright neon sticker over my “Sex” on my driver’s license. At first it was neon orange. Currently it’s neon green. The color doesn’t make too much of a difference – just the fact that no one can see whether it’s “M” or “F” is huge for me. I’ve shown it at the pharmacy, bought beer with it, gotten “carded” at restaurants, shown it to bouncers at bars and nightclubs. No one has commented or had an issue with it – they just need to know how old I am, and that I am who I say I am! That’s it. (As an aside, when I traveled abroad, I did take the sticker off, because I didn’t think TSA agents would be too thrilled about that…)
2. School Pictures
I am an elementary school janitor – every year, I go through the same routines: first day of school, winter concerts, spring concerts, curriculum nights, open house, book fair, the 5th grade breakfast, last day of school, etc. No one can forget school pictures! They happen within the first weeks of school – this year, it was a week ago, today. As a staff member, I have to participate, and then I get some free photos, and I get a sheet of all the faculty and staff, every year. In the past, I have gone by the initials that I used to go by, which was “KT” and then [last name]. Unless I wasn’t feeling like speaking up (which was the case on a couple of occasions) I made sure the picture company had me down as “KT” instead of “Mrs.,” “Ms.,” or “Mr.” This year, surprisingly, I “passed” as male, as I saw the picture lady write down, “Mr.” and then ask me what my last name is. Without hesitating, I gave her my last name (new, legally changed), and then said, “Can you change that ‘Mr.’ to ‘Mx.’? It’s neither ‘Mr.’ nor ‘Ms.’ ” She replied, “I guess I can,” and I watched her cross out what she had and re-write “Mx.” It was awesome! I kinda can’t wait to get my sheet of faculty and staff photos this year.
3. Playing It By Ear, As I Go
This last one is a bit of a contradiction -I’ve resigned myself to the fact that I cannot assert my non-binary identity in every and all cases, so, if people are given a heads-up that I’ve changed my name and pronouns, in some situations, that is good enough. Especially at work. Teachers have been great about switching over. And I honestly don’t know how many of them get the nuances I’ve tried to convey. A couple of them for sure, because they asked me questions, and I had some really satisfying conversations. But in addition to this, there’s a larger group of people who are slowly hearing about it (or not) by word of mouth – mainly buildings and grounds workers. Electricians, plumbers, HVAC specialists, people I see now and then, but certainly not every day. If they get that I am a trans-person, and they are respectful, then, that is good enough. There’s this one guy who is over at our school a lot. A few weeks ago, he took me aside, and, obviously nervous about the exchange, he said, “So, I just want to know, because we are friends… It’s Kameron now?” He was just verifying something he wanted to make sure he was getting right, and, in my eyes, I was really psyched about this because he’s a guy that I think other workers look up to. So, the more positivity around it, the better. The less nasty gossip behind my back, the better. And, to that end, I just went to a union meeting two days ago, and the secretary addressed me by my old moniker, “KT.” I almost didn’t correct her, because… I don’t know… the picking your battles thing, I guess. BUT! Someone else corrected her, someone that I didn’t know knew yet! And so, I riffed off of that, asserting, “Yep, it’s Kameron now. I changed my name.” She shrunk into herself at hearing that, but, whatever. Another buildings and grounds guy took it from there, telling me loudly that his “niece” just transitioned recently into his “nephew.” We sat down and continued to converse so that anyone and everyone could hear, if they tuned in. He was just overjoyed to be accepting “Shane,” his middle-school-aged family member. At no point did I try to assert that I was neither male nor female. If he got the gist that I am trans, and he spreads the word with a positive attitude, then that is better than good enough. Acceptance, even if limited in understanding, is still worth it!
I can’t believe there’s still so many intense conversations to be had! Why does it take forever?!
In general in our neighborhood, my spouse and I don’t have a rapport with people. Like, at best, I watched our next-door neighbor’s cat one time, and we went to a backyard fire at her place twice, like two summers ago.
We also have a neighbor a few houses down who borrows our lawn mower a lot. This is the guy I’m talking about today – I ran into him yesterday, off our street.
I was walking on a major road nearby, to a coffee shop to write some letters to friends. (I am still out of work on medical leave right now.) He saw me first, from across the street. We probably have only seen each other once or twice since last summer. He’s always super friendly, so he was shouting, “Hey, hey, how are you?” and crossing the street at the same time. I steeled myself (slightly), and returned the greeting, meeting him partway to shake his hand and ask how he’s been, what he was up to.
He was walking home after buying his lotto tickets, etc. but that’s neither here nor there. We talked about past neighbors that he’s kept up with, and about his plans for retirement. I told him my spouse was going back to school in the fall for a master’s program. (Oh, hey, PS: blog-friends, my spouse is doing this big thing coming up. Grad school!!!)
Then I told him that I legally changed my name to Kameron. And that I got my passport and driver’s ID and everything changed over. He asked me if this was a good thing, and I said, yeah, yeah it is. Then I realized he just has no idea, so I spelled it out – I said, “I’m transgender, I’m actually more in the middle, not like I am going to become a man. But like, at work and my friends and family, I use male pronouns, ‘he/him/his.'”
He started to get it then, and as soon as he did, he started apologizing. For being invasive, or something, I guess? I just kept repeating, “No, you’re fine. It’s not personal. This is a part of who I am. So, like my parents are all good with it, everyone’s all good. It just took me a long time. There’s a lot of discrimination. Like, say, fifteen years ago, it wasn’t even OK just to be gay. Things are changing though.”
He definitely got that. It immediately sunk in. He said, “Oh yeah, like you might have been depressed and now things are better for you? I bet people deal with suicides and stuff, right?” I said “Yes, and even bullying and hate crimes and everything. It’s bad. I mean, I don’t like to be negative, but yeah, it can be bad.”
He then proceeded to ask about operations and surgeries, and I just said, “Well, that part of it is personal. So, I mean, I’ll figure that out as it comes. But for now everything is all good.” He does not need to know about my top-surgery status or anything else of that nature, for sure!
He started apologizing again, haha.
I shook his hand again and said he was free to borrow our lawn mower if he needs it. We exchanged more pleasantries and parted ways. I felt really good about it. He kept referring to my spouse as my girlfriend, but hey, I can’t correct the man on every little detail. He got the gist of the most important stuff for now, and that’s more than fine by me! It felt like another tiny weight lifted off. Dang, how much extra “weight” am I actually carrying?! That’s still a mystery that is becoming just a little bit clearer…
Tonight at 10PM (9PM central time), PBS is screening a documentary called Real Boy. If you’re hanging at home tonight, check it out!!
I had the opportunity to see this film twice now:
Last fall, my neighbors and I went, as part of the annual LGBT film festival where we live. I’d have to say that I was a little bit jaded at that time – here is yet another story about young, white, binary, trans-masculine people. Seen that / heard that!!!
The parts about his (Ben’s) mom, and family dynamics were what held it together for me. My neighbor was really touched by it in a different way – there was a lot about singing/songwriting/creativity, and also about recovering from substance abuse and other destructive behaviors.
Then, two weeks ago, I went with my spouse and her parents. It was a free showing, and the two main “characters” were there in person to answer questions and play some of their music as well. I felt really happy that we all saw it together – we then went out to eat and talked about how we related or didn’t, with the movie. Awesome conversations.
I would say that, for me, the second time’s the charm, haha. For one thing, closed captioning was on, so we could all listen and read the dialogue simultaneously, which was kinda necessary because some people mumble more than others. I got a lot more out of it – the way that Ben’s navigating his new life / roles / perceptions as a very young person (I can’t imagine transitioning at that age!!! Hormones are already on full alert and then to mix it up so drastically, must be stressful – both positive and negative stress.) And the male bonding that was going on between the characters felt a lot more touching to me this time for some reason. He has a mentor / protegee dynamic going on with an older musician, and then a housemate / brotherhood with a trans-guy he met through mutual friend.
In terms of content notes, I would give this warning: Topics that are potentially sensitive to those in recovery are brought up: mostly grappling with drug and alcohol abuse, as well as self-injury and family issues / rejection. Also, we follow along as Ben and his housemate move forward with getting top surgery with Dr. Garramone in Florida.
I’d say catch this movie if you can! Although it didn’t really speak to me the first time, I came around to really like it!
A couple of weeks ago, I was contacted by a singer/songwriter from Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, named Evan Westfal. He said, “Thanks for sharing your blog with the world,” and he directed me to his website where you can stream his music. He recently put out a new EP, called “Gay Pirates.” He says, “I was hearing a lot of love songs, but none of those love songs had any queer representation. I wanted a narrative that spoke to my identity as a gay man. So that is how gay pirates came to be. I describe the EP as a series of lamentations and exaltation of a very gay love.”
You can check it out here: Evan Westfal
The music is fun and catchy; the lyrics are full of stuff like coy promises and sweet deceits, treasure chests and booty, tight shirts, resiliency, and a “raging sea of hormones.” My favorite is probably the title track.
I asked him a couple of questions, because he’s got a lot going on behind the scenes, and because I was really curious what it’s like to live in Edmonton. He said,
If I had to explain Alberta to an American, I would say that, culturally, it’s the Texas of Canada. Politically Alberta is fairly conservative, and it’s also a Province that is rich in oil. A lot of our citizens are tradespeople that work on oil rigs. As for my city, Edmonton itself is a really cool city. A river valley runs through the centre of the city, it’s rich in wildlife and flora. The city has a fantastic pride centre, and lots of other queer organizations. To answer your questions regarding weather and topography, Edmonton is really cold in the winters, and really hot in the summers. You are correct, the surrounding areas are prairies.
The pride festival is really cool. Edmonton had it’s first parade in the 1990’s, and it was very small, and most of the participants wore bags over their heads to hide their identities. Flash forward to the millennium, and things have changed quite a bit. In the last few years our city hall has raised a pride flag, the Edmonton public school board was a marshall for the parade, and the Canadian Forces Base in Edmonton raised the pride flag. Each year over 30’000 people attend the parade. This year the pride festival’s theme is “one pride many voices.” The festival says they’re taking strides to become more inclusive. I think this is a great approach, as pride could definitely stand to be more intersectional and welcoming.
I asked what his musical background was, and also what instruments he plays / does he collaborate? He said,
My background with music begins with my schooling. I am a graduate of the Canadian College of Performing Arts, it’s a musical theatre program in Victoria, British Columbia. I think you’ll notice some heavy influences of musical theatre in my songwriting. I then decided to focus on commercial contemporary music, I achieved that through matriculating at MacEwan University. As a musician I’ve had the opportunity to sing backing vocals for Josh Groban, to play for the opening ceremony for the Edmonton Pride Festival, I’ve performed with Opera Nuova (an Edmonton based opera company), and I’ve produced and performed in many cabarets. Right now I’m working on a music video for my song “Gay Pirates,” it should be out in a month or two. As for instrumentation, I play the piano and sing. On my track Gay Pirates, I wrote all the song, but I had some great musician’s record with me. I have to send a thank you to my drummer Julissa Bayer, guitar player Andrew Brostrom, and Bassist David Pollock.
He also mentioned that he volunteers with an outreach program called fYerfly, so I asked him to elaborate on that too:
fYrefly is a great program. The name is an initialism that stands for: fostering Youth resilience energy leadership fun leadership yeah! You might notice the Y is capitalized, that’s because youth are the most important part. fYrefly originated as a summer leadership camp for LGBTTQ2SIA+ youth between the ages of 14-24. I attended the program as a teen, and it changed my life. For the first time in my life I got to be surrounded by people like me, I got to share a sense of camaraderie, and I got to feel pure acceptance. I loved the experience so much that I spent over a decade volunteering for fYrefly. Every year it’s a treat to see the difference the camp makes for youth.
I’m just going to repeat that acronym: “fostering Youth resilience energy leadership fun leadership yeah!” Haha, I love that! Evan will be performing for the opening ceremony of the Edmonton Pride Festival, coming up on June 10th. If you’re able to get up there – I just looked it up, and for me, it’s 34 hours away, by car! It’s up there!
Also, related, here’s one of the first posts I ever wrote – an experience I had at a wedding:
Effeminate Pirate Orders Fruity Drink on Party Boat
My co-worker’s last day was yesterday. He is moving on to work security at one of the middle schools. Some people have a lot of co-workers; I really only have just one. I have a supervisor, a co-worker, and then a 3rd person who works per-diem 4 hours per day (so, a co-worker, but it doesn’t feel the same.) We didn’t actually work “together,” but we worked at the same time, and for the majority of each day, it was just us in the building (along with after-school activity groups.)
He started roughly 3 years ago, and we got off to a rocky start. I can’t really explain it, but it wasn’t just rocky – it was jarring, and jagged. It was, in effect, a disastrous mix. Things slowly repaired themselves, with time and effort, and I learned a ton about human connection and priorities, during this process. Maybe someday I’ll really write about that, but it won’t be here.
In some ways, we are opposites he grew up in a rough part of the city and now lives in the suburb I grew up in, and he generally stays put out there. He seems to know everyone there. I moved to the city as soon as I was able to, and I never spend time in that suburb, unless I stop at the grocery store after work, or get gas, etc. I feel a comfortable level of anonymity within the city…
We had a complete turn around within the time we worked together – he was the person I confided in the most. He actively participated in being my ally in a bunch of different ways. I wrote about this a little, over a year ago, here:
I came out to my co-worker
As soon as I told him about my preferred name, he started using it when no one else was around. He called me “Kam-Ron” at first, and then just shortened it to “Kam.” This later became, “Killa Kam” and “Cuz.” He lightly pressured me to come out at work when he could feel it was imminent. I appreciate it more than he’ll know. Well, he does kinda know – I explicitly told him yesterday that I wanted to thank him for being my ally, most specifically.
Super early on, he organized a district-wide work happy hour at his dive bar. I was the only one who showed up. Later, he narrowed down the guest list, and our co-workers / kitchen staff hung out one time outside of work. That was a first! He later bonded with me through my enthusiasm with a local community radio station I volunteer with. He came on the air with me on two occasions, taking pics and putting them on facebook and just hyping it all up in general. One time, we met for lunch before work. That was a first.
Last night, I picked us up some tacos from that place we had lunch the one time, and we just chit-chatted one last time. He had gotten a bunch of cards from students, like whole classes-worth, and a couple of gifts from teachers. He was exuberant, like he often is, gesticulating a lot, not sitting down, etc. I was low-key, like usual, trying to offset that a bit. While still being interested / engaged.
I’ve never met anyone like this person. I observed the ways he navigates through situations with my eyes and ears perked. Out of everything I learned from him, I think the most all encompassing thing was what he summed up as “teamwork makes the dream work.” (He would say this a lot.) But not teamwork in the way I knew of teamwork – this is a different brand of teamwork. I thought of “teamwork” as doing the same thing at the same time with another person or group of people, until the job was done. But whenever I tried to enact that with him, we would usually clash. His teamwork involves a network of small favors with as many people as possible, like, “I do this, which motivates you to do that,” kind of thing. Which may or may not work depending on the other person, but he is an extremely motivational person. In addition to just going way above and beyond, in that rare situation which arises from time to time, just to help you out.
He made a personal connection with probably almost every single person, whether principal or teacher or part-time staff, in the entire school. And now he’s moving on to go do that in a school that’s twice or maybe three times as big.
I’ll miss him.
I also wrote about the co-worker I had before this co-worker, here:
Saying goodbye to my mentor / co-worker
That was when he retired, two and a half years ago.
Last month, I wrote about coming out at work, and I left a few loose ends that I want to circle back to.
Real quick first though, I wanna acknowledge this blogging milestone! It’s been 3 years and 6 months now. Which is 42 months, meaning I’ve averaged close to 5 posts per month. And that’s been fairly consistent: I haven’t had times of being prolific followed by times of not writing anything and back-and-forth. Same with word-count – posts have been no more than 1,000 words, no less than 600 words.
Although it’s been moderate and steady, the way I feel about the writing and the blog changes fairly drastically and frequently. Sometimes I feel like I’m an objective observer, recording down what has transpired. Other times, I have put so much of myself into what I write, that the process, and the feedback I get has helped boost me up through some really difficult times. So, thank you, for all that feedback! Sometimes I’ve felt like there isn’t much point to continuing; I have nothing to say. Other times, I feel super good about this ongoing personal account of experiences that are valuable for others, and myself, to look into / look back on.
I’d say, currently, it’s mostly the first thing: I’m an objective observer, writing down what is happening and feeling kind of distanced from it. And that’s OK – it’s not going to always feel this way, I have learned.
So, in that vein, here’s that account I said I would write, of my first month being out, at work: A quick recap – I had talked to my supervisor, co-workers, 4 teachers, the principal, and the assistant principal. I had also gotten things moving in the HR department, and we were just going into Xmas recess. During that week when kids and teachers were out, I though it’d be a great time for my co-workers to start, while it was just us. I wrote, ” I have a feeling my co-worker / ally will step up and lead it, followed by me correcting everyone every single time.” The first day, my supervisor called me through the walkie talkie, “[old name], can you get a 20″ red pad?” Me, “It’s going to be Kameron now.” Long pause. Her, “Kameron, can you get the 20″ red pad?” Then when she saw me, she said, “You’re going to make me practice now?” “Yeah!” And we were off! With, as I hoped, my co-worker leading. But the thing was, I didn’t actually have to correct anyone.
When break was over and everyone was back, I told 8 more people in person, and also had a 2nd, much more productive, conversation with the principal. More details are in the post, How I became “Mixter”. We talked about how to come out and the timeline, how my name would appear on my name plate on the custodial office door, and bathrooms. She told me I could think about these things and get back to her tomorrow. That all sounded fine, but as I went about my cleaning routine that night, I thought about how tough it is to just catch her, and what if it’s a while before I am able to get back to her. Plus the monthly faculty meeting was the following morning!!! (And even though I don’t attend these, that’s a great place for school announcements.)
So, I left a note on her table that night, so that action could start rolling ASAP. The note read:
Here’s what I”m thinking:
Fac Meeting – a heads up about a forthcoming email
Email – That I’m changing my name and that I’m now using male pronouns (he/him/his)
Sign on Custodial Door – Mx. [last name] (pronounced Mixter). I’m comfortable answering any questions about this.
also a recommendation if you one day have a transgender student:
A podcast called “How to be a Girl,” told from the point-of-view of a parent – with lots of input from her 8-year-old daughter (male to female). They talk about school, friends, privacy, etc. The parent is a great advocate.
There was some slight confusion in which the principal included all this information in the school-wide email, where, for example, I had only intended the podcast recommendation to be for her. But, I realized, the fact everyone received all of the above was actually way better! It gave people more context, which, I really really really think helped the information lodge into their brains better. Like, I have not had to correct anyone, once! Which is just completely blowing my mind. People seem more into addressing me by my name than before. Some people have decided to call me “Kam,” instead, of their own volition, which I’m OK with – it’s just plain fascinating. (My one co-worker / ally has been calling me, “Killa Kam” for a while now. Haha.)
A barrier between me and other people has definitely started to lift, just within this past month. I have had more conversations with more people about a wider variety of things than ever before. This is what being a person within a work environment is mostly about. The connections are what make it something more than just a random assortment of people that you (seemingly) have nothing in common with.
I wanna just keep running with this!
PS: This post has 882 words. Haha.
PPS: Posts coming soon about this amazing podcast, “How to be a Girl.”
For the sake of clarity, I’m going to give myself a pseudonym dead-name, for this article. Assume that before changing my name, my name was “KD Shorts.” And my new, legal name is “Kameron.”
A little over two years ago, I was at a workshop at the Philadelphia Trans-Health Conference, and one of the presenters was mentioning that they go by the honorific, Mx. (Mixter) in their professional settings. I had heard of this before, but I thought it was just a theoretical pipe dream. Here was someone who was actually using it, in their actual life! I felt soooo jealous. I thought to myself (with a good dose of biting envy), “Oooh, look at the progressive academic who gets to waltz around in an enlightened and indulgent bubble all day long.” I never thought I would get there. Furthermore, even though I’m in my thirties, it was tough to envision a world where I was grown-up enough to have an honorific of my own.
I’d done an excellent job at avoiding it. No Mr. or Ms. for me! I am a janitor at an elementary school: a place where there’s a lot of “Mr. / Mrs. / Miss / Ms. [last name]” around the kids, and then first names amongst ourselves. Except for the custodial staff. It’s first names all around for us, generally. Everywhere except for our name plates on the custodial office door. There, we are “Mr. [last name]” and “Mrs. [last name]” I had somehow gotten away with requesting that I be simply “KD Shorts.” It was awesome.
There was another sticking point though: every year, at school pictures time. We get our pics taken, and then we get some freebies, as well as a sheet of all the staff pics – just like a student would get a sheet of their class. And so, we had to give our names, to be recorded on the sheet. It would vary from year to year, depending on how vocal/empowered I was feeling. I usually told the portrait employee, “no Ms. or Mr. Just KD Shorts.” There were a few years though, where I was “Ms. Shorts” as the default.
These past few weeks, I’ve been riding the wave of legally changing my name, which has been especially gratifying at work, where I was still known as KD Shorts, (she/her/hers). Everywhere else in my life, I had been going by “Kameron” for about two years, and (he/him/his) for many many years prior to that. So, essentially, I utilized this time of change as a chance to come out at work.
I talked to the principal and assistant principal on Friday, December 23rd. I stated that I was changing my name and my pronouns, and that I identify as neither a man nor a woman. The impromptu meeting was less than stellar – they fixated on bathrooms and the fact that the change was going to be hard for people to remember. They did mention that they wanted me to feel comfortable, but didn’t offer any concrete ways that that could happen. I did not panic though – I was thinking, “do not catastrophize this.” I remained neutral and open, but I didn’t use it as a teaching moment. I shouldn’t have to! I thought that things would work out fine, ultimately, and if not, I could always call in the big guns: my local gay alliance’s speaker’s bureau, to do the educating on my behalf.
We all took a time out for winter recess. I then came in on Tuesday, January 3rd, and the principal asked me if I’d come speak to her. Of her own volition, she had consulted the head of HR, and she had basically done a 180. We had a much more fruitful discussion. She still was strong in her opinions, but she made it clear that every choice was up to me, and I could take some time to think it over. We ended up talking about:
– How to come out, and the timeline
– How my name would appear on my name plate on the custodial office door
Coming out: I said that I have already pretty much told the people I would naturally tell in person, the ones I see regularly or semi-regularly. And I wasn’t going to be able to get to everyone, so if she could either make an announcement at the next staff meeting and/or send an email, that’d be great. We agreed she would do both. I told her I’d get back to her with the content I’d like her to say.
Name plate: The biggie! I said I had two ideas, but I didn’t say exactly what they were. (I’ll say it here though! Either 1. just “Kameron” and nothing else. 2. Mx. [last name].) She said that her thought was that my co-workers have Mr. _____ and Mrs. _____, so it’d be great if I conformed to that and picked one or the other. I said, “OK! Great, there is another option that I will go with. It’s Mx. That’s pronounced ‘Mixter.'” She wrote it down in her notes. It was a done deal!
Bathrooms: I could write an additional article about this (heck, probably more like a dissertation!), but to keep it short and sweet: We agreed that I get to pick where I go, and I am making no big deal of it, and it does not need to be a part of any announcement.
All’s how it should be! Just one more small way I am joining the world of adults. That’s Mixter, to you.
This has been my biggest transition goal. For a long time. I always knew I would / could, at some point in the (distant) future, but usually it felt like there’d be no way. I’ve been riding the waves of my legal name change though, and getting in on that as an opportunity to say that there’s more to it than just that I am going to go by a new name now.
Monday – My supervisor had been out of work for 3 weeks, and Monday was her first day back. During her absence, I had received the signed court order from a judge in the mail, and was starting in on some of the bureaucratic processes: going to the DMV, going to my bank, etc. So it was good timing for when she came back – I told her (again) that I was changing my name, and I deferred to her in terms of what she thought I should do. I did not tell her anything beyond the name change, and she expressed concern that she wasn’t going to remember. I also came out to my 2nd co-worker (my one co-worker has been in my corner this whole time.) She was emotional in her responses, but I’m sure she’ll be fine / nothing will change.
Tuesday – Before work, I went to the “third floor” to speak to the benefits lady. I filled out paperwork. She asked me if I had my new Social Security card, and I was like, “uhhhh…” I made a mental note to get on that. She said we could get things started anyway, without it, and I just send over a copy when I get it. While at work, I came out to my favorite teacher. It went well. The reason I like her is because she just seems real. We don’t talk a whole lot, but when we do, she’s always reserved yet super thoughtful in her insights. She shared with me a couple of impressions her 4-year old daughter has had of me (she’s met me a handful of times.) That was nice. I told her the name and the pronoun thing, but I didn’t get as far as “neither male nor female” in this interaction. It was good enough for me right then; she said, “I’m happy for you,” a couple of times.
Wednesday – I gave it a day or two. My supervisor basically seemed to think now I just wait for things to trickle down from the “third floor.” I wasn’t feeling that – I was feeling more proactive than that, but I gave it a day. I In the meantime, I emailed our union president (the benefits lady prompted me to do this) to give him a heads up. We just had an election in November, and my favorite buildings and grounds guy was elected. It’s always a buildings and grounds guy, and if it has to be one, I’m so glad it’s him because I think he can absorb the news and take the lead on it within all those guys – electricians, plumbers, HVAC, maintenance, conservatives, white men, Trump supporters, etc. etc. Hopefully.
Thursday (today) – I talked to my supervisor about when can I change my badge, stuff like that, and she reiterated that I just wait and it’ll all happen. What I was really most concerned about was talking to the principal (again), so that she hears it from me, and so that she hears all of the information. I knew that once I talked to her, she’d take it from there (I’m not sure how she’ll do it, but the whole school will know through her.) My supervisor said she mentioned it to the principal, and I took that as a green light. I came out to three more teachers (one of them told me about a relative, and I was able to get to the part about “not male or female” with her, which felt great!) I was feeling pressure to talk to the principal either today or tomorrow because we’re going into Xmas Recess, and having everyone know when they come back from break would be ideal. So I made it happen. After school but before the admin. assistants leave for the day, I went to the office to see if the principal was available. The assistant principal happened to be with her in her office right then, which worked out perfectly. Kill two birds with one stone! Plus, the dynamic with both of them was so much better. A lot of times, they are like foils to each other. I said the stuff (the name, the pronouns, the “neither male nor female,”) the principal brought up bathrooms (which I have mixed feelings about), the assistant principal brought the energy and excitement, but also brought up how he was not going to be able to remember, and that’s not anything about me. I said yeah yeah I know it’ll be an adjustment period. (In my head, I’m thinking, how long is this adjustment period, exactly???)
Friday (tomorrow) – I have about 5 other people I’d like to tell in person, if I get the chance. If not, no big deal. Everyone’s gonna be focused on Xmas parties and getting ready for domestic family things and cookies and blah blah blah. We’ll see. The best part is there’s really no more pressure!
And so, that’s it! Now I just wait for things to happen around me. Next week, during Xmas Recess, the only people who will be at the school will be me, my two co-workers, my supervisor, and maybe the principal and assistant principal. So, that’s a whole week for the people who say my name the most, to practice. I have a feeling my co-worker / ally will step up and lead it, followed by me correcting everyone every single time.
Then teachers and kids come back. And teachers will have a heads up from the principal one way or another, and then I just start correcting, correcting, correcting. For how long? Not sure.
(I gotta say, I definitely feel good and accomplished, but I don’t feel that “wheeeeeeeee” feeling that often comes with big comings-out. I’m attributing that to my medication, for better and worse. It makes so many things so much easier, but those roller coaster feelings – yeah, I miss the good ones…)