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Sunday, February 10, 2013

Further Along: The Work Transition or " So Where Have You Been For the Last Month??"

Over the past year or so, I have been relatively prolific in my writing, but since December I have had very little extra energy and I have not been writing anything at all.  Since I made the decision to transition at work, I have felt a peace and contentment I have not known in years. My mood has been so much better and I can't even remember the last time I felt this good on a consistent basis. It has to have been about 6 years to the best I am able to recall.

I really can't say that this is all due to my decision to complete my transition. I see now that I have been grieving over my father's long decline, especially the last two years of his life. While I was and remain sad about his passing, which is about my loss, I felt a tremendous burden of grief removed because he is no longer suffering. I don't think he enjoyed the last two years of his life and watching him endure that was incredibly painful to me. What I am left with is a sense of serenity I have not had for so long.

While finally being able to engage in completing my work transition is a happy occasion for me, it is pretty stressful due to the nature of the work I do. It isn't an easy process. Theorists who study stress inform us that there are two types of stress: Eustress and Distress. We are all familiar with distress. Its painful and nobody likes feeling distressed. Most people are less familiar with the concept of eustress. Eustress is the stress from things that occur or that we do that are positive. Some examples of eustress would be getting a new job that pays more and has more responsibilities that requires personal growth. Another example might be the work involved to get through an academic program that challenges you in some way. For me that would be completing a degree that includes a lot of math such as statistics. Things like getting married, having a new baby or perhaps giving a presentation in public on a topic in which you are very knowledgeable about if you don't have the opportunity to speak in public very often.

What I find to be the main result of all this eustress, is that I have lower energy, though the energy I have is positive. I have found myself going to bed at 8:30 or 9:30 at night as opposed to my usual bedtime of 11:30 or 12:30. That seems to be so strange to me as I am an habitual night owl! I often will stay awake even to 1:30 or 2:00 if I am reading a book, or writing. Otherwise, everything else is great!

In my case, my work transition includes necessarily telling all of my patients of my planned transition. For someone who never spoke to anyone about my gender identity until they were 33 and then not again until 1996, this is tremendously stressful, even though every person I have told, be it colleague or patient has had a positive response to my plans to transition. That isn't the response I had been emotionally preparing for. I still have more patients to inform, and I have postponed telling some of them because of their clinical needs at the time of their session. There are times when they are not in a space to receive this information because of what is going on in their lives and then there are a very few who will need to be transferred to another therapist because they are unable to deal with my transition.

Some people have expressed the opinion that it shouldn't matter what they think, but I have an ethical responsibility for my patient's emotional wellbeing. This transition isn't all about me. Transitioning is purely voluntary on my part. Everyone around me has to make a transition too. For them this is not voluntary and I am mindful of this. As I tell my coworkers and patients, I'm fine with who I am and with my decision, it's my responsibility to do everything I can within my power to make this as easy and comfortable for everyone around me as I can. I believe this attitude will make it easier for everyone I deal with professionally.

People wonder why I have proposed such a long time line for my work transition as my tentative date is April 1. The first reason is because I need to take care of my patients and make sure my coworkers are comfortable with this (They are). The second reason is that I have only one chance to do this right, or as close to right as humanly possible. I believe I have accomplished this, though at this point I feel like a 6 year old little girl waiting for Christmas! I think though, in the long run, it will be worth the wait for this to come about. There is a light at the end of the tunnel and I feel certain it isn't an oncoming train at this point.

What am I learning from all of this? I'm learning that people are much more accepting of us than we tend to believe, especially when they see we are happy and content. I learned that my own fear has been my worst enemy over the years and that I don't have to be afraid of what people might say, think or do. Yes, there will be people who find me distasteful, but for the most part even those people will prefer just not to have anything to do with you rather than being hateful to me or desire to hurt me.

"Well, Lauren, that's because you work with educated people who are of a more liberal persuasion because of your career." That is not necessarily true. That does not describe about half of my patients. So far they have been overwhelmingly supportive, though I don't expect 100% of the few I have left to talk to about this will all be accepting and want to continue to work with me. And that is ok. The thing is, I have also had to inform each new patient I see who I will continue to see after completing their assessment and not one of them has said they would be uncomfortable working with me.  I find that to almost be extraordinary and it is a positive comment on being a woman of trans experience in a rural southern environment, when the folklore of trans people suggest quite the opposite experience.

"Ok, Lauren, I'm happy for you, but what would you have done if this blew up in your face?" I actually carefully considered that possible outcome. I began looking at other job opportunities in the area and in other regions that I would enjoy living in way before approaching my employer. It's always nice to know you are wanted by other employers and my resume strongly indicates my interested in providing care to transgendered people. It suggests that there is a possibility that I am also a trans woman, so I know that the responders are interested in my professional knowlege and skills. My desire though, has always been to continue where I have been for the past 11 years and work with the people I enjoy working with. It appears that dream is coming true at last!


  1. Lauren, This is something that struck me in reading your recent blog entry. This will be slightly off line in a way. I was wondering if you have addressed what happens to you professionally as well as personally after you transition? Have you considered the fact that the real work begins after you transition. When you have to start or rather continue living in your new life. For some reason an awful lot of us seem to think its all pink rainbows after that end point has been reached. I would suggest rather that it be regarded as the starting point not the end point. After I had completed the first steps on my transition that's when the real work live and be what we always knew we were. To simply BE and DO! Congratulations on getting this far but don't stop here you still have an awful lot to accomplish. I know this was a bit of a Cassandra like warning but I thought it should be mentioned as something to consider. JinianVictoria

  2. These are excellent insights Jinian. This is not the destination, just a mile post along the way. Socially, I have made a successful transition and I do have a lot of experience with public speaking as a woman, which has become a comfortable experience when I am called upon and offered the opportunity.

    I have much to learn; I have to learn about office politics from the female perspective and how a woman interacts with a female supervisor. I think I have figured out one thing though; don't dress better than she does! LOL!

    On a more serious note though, I think you are right. There are no pink rainbows and sunshine post transition; what we experience is real life and the same problems that one has before she transitions still are there. The only difference is that the burden of the internal concept of who we are and who we are perceived to be is resolved. Every other problem I have is still there. You know what though? The problems I have are much more easier to resolve since I don't have that internal conflict about myself anymore, and that is a good thing!

    Thanks Jinian, I intend to write about what you said in the near future and have several other things that I would like to put out there for discussion.