Friday, 16 May 2008

Becoming Jen (Part 17)

The Day After the Day Before

It was T-day + 1. I had now been full time Jenny (Fun Time Jenny might better but untrue) for one whole Earth day. So there I was again, waking up far too early in order to make myself look less like Chewbacca and more like Princess Leia. Shaved to within a micrometre of my life, make up overcarefully applied and wig teased and adjusted to the nth, all that was left was my outfit. I couldn’t go for the Princess Leia gold bikini for reasons of sanity and taste, so I had to go for boring office wear. I chose a another long black skirt, a black blouse with a pink polka dot, and the black jacket again (enough with the black already!)So skirted and blouse-ed I headed off into day 2, with a bit of a spring.

My morning had no meetings booked. So I was office bound, which meant much phone answering. This was part of the job I hadn’t really considered. I was so worried about the appearance side, I had not really thought about my voice. Now, I had evolved a softer slightly higher pitched version of my natural timbre, but this had only ever been needed in short bursts in shops etcetera. To concentrate over a long phone call was something else. On top of that the sound quality of the phone mitigated against a Princes Leia sounding voice, but really needed to endeavour not to slip into a Chewwy growl (I am beginning to tire of this star wars metaphor already, and there is a danger that anyone who knows me is now thinking about Jabba the Hutt!) Lacking confidence I decided not to answer the phone as i would usually do, with my name. That way I would leave the issue unaddressed. However at the start of my very first call, the member asked to whom she was speaking. “Jenny Harvey, the Branch Secretary” I replied. “Jerry?” came back through my earpiece. “No sorry, it’s Jenny Harvey”, I reaffirmed. “Was that Kenny?” came the reply. She clearly couldn’t reconcile my name with the voice she was hearing. “No it is Jenny Harvey. I am transgendered”, I explained more firmly. A pause, and then “Oh, sorry” she hesitated back and then we got on with the conversation. This was the first of many, many, such conversations I would have over the phone over the next few months.

Just after lunch I had a big recruitment presentation to do. There was going to be a gathering of 60 odd OT staff (Occupational therapists. Oh and they are not that odd!). I had to give a few minutes talk on the importance of Trade Unions and to try and recruit one of them as a rep. Now, to my knowledge only a couple of the managers had known me previously, so I should have been able to address them without worrying about the baggage of my old identity. I stood up before them apprehensive and a bit shaky. I hate speaking without something to sit or stand behind. I felt exposed, desperately holding in my tummy. I desperately wanted to create a good impression. I knew that even if I had passed on first view, once I opened my mouth it would be more difficult. I wouldn't be able to rely on a quietness in my voice as I was speaking to a large room. However In my best female tone I started... “Hi, I’m Jenny Harvey and I’m your Unison Branch Secretary”, and off I went into my well practiced stride. As I spoke, I scrutinised faces for reactions. All I could really gauge was boredom. Oh well, perhaps I’m not the engaging raconteur I thought, but at least they were not staring open mouthed at me. I finished and sat down, relieved and satisfied. That was 60 more people who knew Jenny… Then Don got up to speak!!...

Now I have known Don, an OT manager for years. We get on really well, and I like him a lot. I could tell he was a bit nervous speaking to a large group. I wasn’t really paying attention, and then I heard his opening words “Thanks to Geoff. I just want to echo everything He said”! Oh B******s I thought to myself, and I grasped my head in my hands. So much for first impressions. Now I was absolutely sure that Don hadn’t meant to refer to me in this way, but it was the first time he’d seen me as Jen, after knowing me for 8 years. I also think with the natural nerves anyone gets when public speaking his brain went on to auto pilot, which had a default setting in which I was Geoff and a male. Sitting with him afterwards, I ribbed him about it. He honestly didn’t realise what he had said, and apologised fully.
I was upset with how things had gone, but I had to learn to get over it. This was clearly not going to be as easy as I had first thought. Still 2 days down I only had 6075 more working days till retirement!

No comments: