Life is a Journey - Make sure you get the right roadmap to the universe

I'm quite sure I picked up the wrong one on my way out the door....

Friday, October 28, 2011

Ten Items or Less

So I popped into Lowes last night for more wainscotting and liquid nails (sigh... not the gel ones that look pretty). I walked into the store thinking I looked pretty much like a guy... and even J agreed. Apparently I don't....

Approaching the register, a youngish girl cashier announces that her register was closed... but then takes a look at me after saying this and lights up with a smile from ear to ear and decides hurriedly that she would reopen the register. It wasn't a snirky smile or one of silent laughter from her. It was that look of "I know your secret and it's way cool". So I dropped my "hey,how you doin?" sort of pretense and and wafted into girl talk with her for the next several minutes. She wasn't interested in that sort of "I'd like to go out on a date" way... She was interested in me as a unique feminine person that drew her in a positive way toward me. So recapping this with J in the car, it amazes me how much more approachable I am to most of the girls today than I was trying to play the macho guy back in college days (trust me... that failed like Fantasy Island's Herve Vallechez would playing the Tarzan role). Yeah... she saw my girls wallet and the earrings. What she saw she liked. Some people really do enjoy differences and variety in society!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

A Gallon of Anti-Freeze And A Smile.....

I had to make a run down to the dealership in Tilton yesterday for a gallon of Antifreeze (and a loaf of bread?). Seemingly an uneventful 36 mile jaunt round-trip down and back up interstate 93, but with a few twists which I feel compelled to mention in brief.

Swooping into the parking lot just beyond the terminus of the exit ramp, I parked and alighted from my vehicle. Entering the dealership, it was as it always is as if entering into the lion's cage as a piece of fresh meat. All eyes turn towards the one entering, as if they are the salvation that a prospective buyer brings. Men in neat suits with large builds and the women behind the counters servicing the customer relationship. The stereotyping is always phenomenal in these ways and a bit disconcerting, at least to me.

I entered through the double doors and, while scanning all of this, proceeded directly to the woman behind the counter at the customer service desk. As I paraded down the long hallway, I could sense, palpably, the dotted lines of visual contact and assessment going on. I was in my whatever-the-heck-I-have-of-a-guy mode. Wearing my gray New Balance sneakers which could go either way as male or female (but were womens in size 9.5), my Calvin Kleins in size 10... larger than my norm of size 8 in order to not appear to tight or fitted, a women's polo shirt in navy blue...which could pass as male except for a slight variation of the collar and of course the infamous buttons on the opposite side. My hair was it's normal curly self and really not styled in any feminine way except perhaps that it comes down, just slightly, over my ears. I was wearing my 2mm gold piercing studs still and no makeup whatsoever.

I approached the front desk and the woman had the look on her face which told me she was not speaking to a normal, every day guy. It was what I like to call, "the cutesy smile", on her face that told me... "yeah... I know!". It was not a look of disgust but rather one of interest and her tone changed to one that I often see women give to other women but not to men. Directing me to the parts department, I then thanked her and followed her directions around and to the back of the store. As I passed the snack and sandwich counter at the dealership, I noted a woman and a man standing about behind the counter. The man didn't even notice my passing but the woman... the woman immediately locked on to me and did a full scan in the span of a micro-second. A second later, she made a point to say hi to me to which I responded in kind. She had a curious and welcoming smile on her face similar to that of the woman at the reception desk. I don't know if she was waiting to hear my voice but I am sure she was curious to I was thinking. I responded using my "in-between" voice just to be safe.

At the parts department, I spoke to a shaggy, long haired gentleman of about 40 years of age and requested to pick up the anti-freeze which they had promised to hold for me when I had called earlier that morning. Returning from the back stock room with my item, I could not help but notice that the other gentleman sitting behind the counter at a computer terminal had his eyes locked on me. Like a deer caught in the headlights, he seemed to have scanned me in the same way that the women would always do and most men not....The difference I always find with the men is in that they DON'T give back that same smile that I get from the women. With the women, the smile is like "OK, you're in the club with us and we won't tell anyone about your little secret". With the men, the look is like that which one sees in Science Fiction Sitcoms like "Star Trek" in the 1960's. It's like those scenes where an android humanoid with a computer brain is given some paradoxical situation that it's circuitry cannot resolve. This is usually the point where one then detects smoke coming out of either ear and they proclaim in a rapid secession, "Does not compute.... This does not compute".... and they usually implode or blow up into a million pieces.

Well, this guy sitting at the counter looked like he had smoke coming out of both of his ears as he sat there, stolid, expressionless and unblinking... trying to resolve a conundrum which did not seem to add up. Now this gets better..... I took control of this situation and ascertained that he likely thought I was the stereotype of a gay male or some effeminate guy who only knew about such things as foofy fabric curtains and such. I started in to a conversation with the other gentleman who had returned by this time with my anti-freeze....

"So this antifreeze use Organic Acid's and is free from silicates right?", I started. "I had been using the Dex-Cool in my system but had read a lot on the automotive boards and in discussions online that the Dex-Cool had issues with sludge formation when in the presence of highly oxygenated environment. What are your thoughts on this?"

Blammo.... The android humanoid behind the terminal had smoke coming out of his ears now and was about to explode into a million pieces. I was sure that he was just waiting for me to say something in a swishy accent, like "Oh hello... I need to buy some of that like stuff that you put into your engine that makes it like not overheat or something. Do you have anything like that here in a pretty color?"

HA! Instead, they got a bit of my Jersey "How you doin?" and "who needs a house out in Hackensack" accent and a 10 minute discussion on the pro's and con's of various formulations of anti-freeze.

I walked out of there with a grin on my face and one very bewildered parts supply agent. The rest of the guys in there were cool to deal with me but then of course, they were younger. I usually get the "Does not compute looks from the older generation of guys and some of the more macho young ones". The women....well... they just keep smiling and seem to be more approachable than ever I had noted when I presented strictly as run of the mill male.

It was the smiles and friendly 'hello's' of the women at the car dealership as I walked by. It was the unblinking 'deer in the headlights' look from the gentlemen. It was the dichotomy that didn't add up when I started talking technical to the guys in the parts department about the benefits of Organic Acids in silicate free anti-freezes that had them in incredulous disbelief at the dichotomy of what they did not expect from me. Then again I could have talked makeup technique just as well to the women. Ah yes... this, then, was me in 'guy' mode today at the dealership....

Monday, October 3, 2011

Notes From a Foray to Rural Virginia....

My spouse and I just returned from a week in the Shenandoah Mountains, where we spent our time split between pursuits in the great outdoors hiking and exploring caves, and time as two women exploring shopping and dining experiences. The area is rich in natural beauty while still having the proximity of the civilized world when wanted or needed. We did, while were there, notice some key differences between rural New England and rural Virginia in being transgender and in the experiences noted by us both.

Our first foray out was to do some shopping in the nearby city of Harrisonburg, Virginia. Harrisonburg is a typical middle class city in the beautiful Shenandoah Valley that has the added advantage of several large colleges within it's boundaries. As a result, the population draws a cultural distinction from two general repositories; those who are the local residents and those who are of or involved with the student or faculty body of the school systems present. The dichotomy is sharply distinct and the types of reactions and levels of awareness in being transgender are equally so as well as a result.

We decided to test the waters at a variety of demographic levels by taking up stores that ranged from J.C. Penny and Belks to the Good Will store down the street. In every store, I was treated with respect and dignity as a woman and with no qualms or question as to who I am. Dressing rooms or bathrooms were never a problem. I will admit that I may have had a bit of anxiety entering into one dressing room where it seemed a flurry of women were all in various states of dress and standing at the hallway mirror in various states of repose, but none questioned my presence and my own level of confidence was equally received in return.

Dinner that evening was at the local Red Lobster where the waitress seated us in a booth that was well visible to all of the other patrons. Not a single person, save for one, made enough visual observation to note any anomalous variances save for one. Interestingly, it was the wife of an elderly man who whispered into the ear of her husband something that led to his staring at me for most of the next 20 minutes or so with occasional giggling as was noted. Likely, his wife informed him that I was not natal female but... and this was the key take-away, he could not stop looking at me. It was never noted by my spouse to be a negative look but a constant one, almost as if in fascination and that he had to laugh off the dichotomy of something attractive but alien in his own mind. His wife could care less and never bothered to look again, and the young boy with them, likely a grandchild, had something muttered to him, to which he looked once and then that was big deal.

The waitress was so very nice to us. She continually came by to check on us but it was not for the novelty, we could both tell. She comped us our coffees for the evening and offered to make us a complimentary one to go. She brewed us a fresh pot and because they had run out of those little cardboard holders, manufactured one for us out of folded napkins and scotch tape. She thanked us for coming in and looked directly at me when she said, "I really want to thank you both for coming in to dine with us tonight". I thought her remark to be so interesting that it led me to suspect that either she knew someone who was transgender or that she respected the courage I had to to be who I am. Either way, she made it clear to us in a positive way that our presence was appreciated.

A couple of days later, we decided to dine out at one of Harrisonburg's best Italian Restaurants. The nice thing about dining in upscale restaurants in rural America is in the fact that the prices tend to mimic what one would pay at an average chain back in New England; a fact that made the expense that much easier to bear! It was a late evening dinner as we had just come back from a long hike in the Shenandoah Mountains. Arriving at the restaurant in the cool and enveloping dark of an early autumn eve, we entered the restaurant and were led to a table in the main dining area and were seated. Two businessmen sat across from us talking of their day's pursuits. One seemed interested in my presence with a look I have grown used to as most women likely do and must become accustomed to. His note of the diamond wedding ring casually flashed gave him sufficient note to return to his conversation and dinner. The rest of the restaurant seemed to be made up primarily of couples of a variety of ages and one single woman dining alone. Interestingly, it was the older women who seemed to be the ones who gave us the most scrutiny. They would tend to draw their gaze equally between my spouse and myself apparently bored by their non-talkative spouses as they slurped away at their food. I wondered what they were thinking... were they friends? co-workers? lesbians? A moment of thought and even they too, returned to their own interests at their table. Of anyone there in that restaurant, we were dressed the most elegantly and there was some level of perception made of that fact by the women as they scanned what we wore. Tasteful and appropriate would be the only descriptors which would come to mind in place of the many women who wore a more haphazard and non-matching array of vestments.

It was the waiter who began to engage us in conversation as the evening wore on that really provided for a wonderful experience. We began to talk and in our conversation, it became apparent when I began to ask about alternative clubs in the area that the topic of being transgender came up. I explained of the challenges both personally and at a societal level of being different in the world and it was then that he identified of his own variance and how difficult it was living in the area as such. He confirmed that on the one hand, how the college brought in outside thought and forward thinking to a staid town with an older generation that had no conception of the LGBT realm. He offered to take us to a local club when he got off work later that evening which I thought was such a wonderful and warm gesture of friendship. But... after a day hiking miles in the mountains, my spouse was tired and I could see it in her eyes as well. We vowed afterwards, to come back one day in the near future, and to try to take this offer up.

All in all, what I noticed is two fold and divided between the younger collegiate crowd and the older, native population. Among the older population, I was more transparent than anywhere else, primarily because many had likely not seen a person who was transgender and could not even imagine it... so I was off the radar. The younger crowd generally picked up faster but was incredibly supportive when they did find out. Mostly it was the women in the younger crowd while the men, of all generations, simply saw an attractive woman. I was told that evening, that being GLBT in the city was more highly tolerated than outside in some of the backwater towns where unwelcoming stories could be told. It helped to be as passable as possible here and although every area has it's own temperament, and it's own heartbeat, each has its own levels of understanding, perception and a whole different set of triggers which one must be aware of.

It was also of note that in the times that I spent in my "male" mode, that I was mammed or given odd visual gesticulations in a number of instances. At one gas station, I was approached by a male attendant, while seated in my car with the door open, and addressed as miss. In another instance, a woman saw me exiting a men's room at a convenience store and stopped to look at the door, at me and then at the door again. She paused long enough to take care that she entered the correct restroom. I thought it was a figment of my imagination until my spouse brought it to my attention separately and asked, "Did you see that woman who just passed by you?". We both had a good laugh on that one. Interestingly, it is becoming more the normative for me to note this peculiarity in my guy mode than in my girl mode. One year ago, this was not so and the only puzzlement opportunities arose, if any, when I presented as female. Now the tables have turned and I find that I have crossed an invisible line which I never knew I was standing on until I was on the other side.

For us both, it was a wonderful and affirming experience and I am looking forward to the next generation of individuals who will be inhabiting our planet for they seem to be the ones who bring with them, the notions of tolerance and acceptance, to a wider degree than has been known in years past.