Many times, people see us as they first came to know us. An example of this happened today when I stopped in at my skincare aesthetician. They first came to know me as male years ago when I first started going there for treatments. I was known by my male name and the pronouns were always "he, Him, and His". About a year ago I showed up in full on girl mode after announcing just prior that I was transgender. There was no problem in pronoun switches to the feminine when I did show up in this manner and "She" and "Her" along with my name being used as Christen were the rule.
Today, I showed up in what I like to call my "twilight zone" mode. It's a gender neutral sort of mode in which I wear no makeup and usually don just a women's polo shirt in either blues, or blacks and a pair of casual, relatively neutral women's jeans. Interestingly, when I arrived for my appointment the pronouns were "He" and "His" and my name was right back to my male name. I don't let this bother me one bit because I related a story to the two women I know who work there. I explained to them that they really need not worry either way because they first came to know me as a male and unless I am explicitly managing to look ultra feminine, that they will continue to see me as male. This is NOT unusual.
On the other end of the spectrum, I further explained to them that there are those who only first knew me as Christen and will maintain that name and the female pronouns even if I make an attempt to present more male. Our mind's eye creates a perceived reality of what we see and this often usurps the actual reality of the person that stands before them. I further related that those who only knew me as Christen are often shocked to find that I could have ever been anything but female all my life. This in fact happened when several state representatives chatted me up after my visit to the state house and extolled that they could not have ever seen me as ever having been male. Granted it was quite affirming, but it also stresses my point that I need to find tolerance for those whose mind's eye have become accustomed to what they have come to know from the past. Change in one's perceived reality of a person into an actuality comes, but it can come slowly I find.
It was funny that I often find my own self doubt in how I am being perceived, yet it is always for naught. On Saturday, I had just finished up a hike and was in my gender neutral form which my aestheticians see as me still being male. Interestingly, I tend to follow their stance in how I THINK I appear but just as surprising is the fact that those who have never met me before make an immediate assumption that I am female.
It happened on that Saturday Afternoon that I found myself in a local thrift store wearing no makeup, my medium length curly hair, a generic gender neutral T-Shirt, some exercise pants and a pair of white sneakers. No sooner was I convinced that I was being taken for male when someone who worked at the store, needing to pass by with some store goods, pronounced quite clearly "Excuse me ma'am". This was followed up by other run-ins with staff and more female pronouns being used. I'm typically a hard sell and offer myself as my own worst customer to try to convince so I took it at face value and, as always, remained skeptical.
I was out yesterday doing a little more thrift store shopping in another local venue I had never frequented before. The shopkeeper and I entered into a casual discussion and at some point, he motioned that he wished to ask me a question. I said that of course it would be alright.
He started out, "You look familiar! I'm pretty sure I've seen you somewhere before...."
My mind raced in that moment and my self doubt that perhaps he knew Wonder Woman's Secret that she was once the mild mannered Clark Kent. It is true that my mind tends to plot courses for all possible failures.... my "Kobiyashi Maru" Scenarios, but they never pan out in such a negative way. This was to be no exception to that pattern.
"I don't know where you could know me from?", I offered.
"Well, you look familiar", he continued, pausing slightly and then blurting out, "I know now. You work at the Concord Hospital. You're one of the women on the staff there that I know!"
"Wow!", I thought to myself as he continued relating his story. That was very affirming I thought and my prognostication that I was about to have some secret past revealed was spun around completely and became an affirmation that I was a WOMAN he knew.
It is very interesting, in summation, as to how we are perceived by those who have known us in an earlier life and how we are oft very differently perceived by those who come to meet us in the moment, now, as we are. Perhaps the most amazing mirage of all is the one we oft continue to see of ourselves when we peer into the mirror and still think we see staring back at us, the person we once physically were. The visions of who we were remain transcendentally fixed and omnipresent in the mind's eye....but in reality are simply ghosts of the past which, with patience and the melting of memories with time, ultimately find their way fading into oblivion as we ourselves arise anew.