Wednesday, December 23, 2009

An "Easy" Change

Yesterday, I was watching TV with my mom and we ended up watching some of Sarah Palin's appearance on Oprah. At one point, Palin made a comment related to abortion being "easy" and I said that I disliked people characterizing abortion as "easy" because it gives the impression that it's something that women just choose to do on a whim, that it's not a difficult decision that people struggle with.

While my mom did agree with that, she said she still feels that abortion is easy compared to dealing with the consequences of getting pregnant, either by keeping the baby or giving it up for adoption. She said she felt that as a society we don't want to deal with the consequences of our actions anymore; if there's something about our life that we don't like, we want to just change it instead of dealing with the things that happen to us. If something interferes with our life or the way we think our life should go, we want to just change it.

I do think women should be told all of their options when they get pregnant but I also believe that safe, legal abortions should be available to women who choose to have them. Getting rid or abortions or making them illegal isn't going to stop them from happening, it's just going to make them more dangerous and potentially deadly for the women who choose to have them, as they were before Roe v. Wade.

On a more personal note, my mom's comments got me to thinking about how they would apply to me. I can easily see her arguing that wanting to dress and live as a woman is me seeking an easy change because I can't handle being a man who's a little different. I'm not happy being a man so I'll just change and be a woman. Staying a man would be me dealing with my situation and becoming a womann would be me avoiding the situation by looking for an easy answer. While I don't agree that living as or becoming a woman is "easy," my mom's comments helped me understand her feelings better.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Employment & ENDA

As the current semester comes to a close, it's gotten me thinking about my job recently.

I consider myself lucky to be part of academia. Not only has it given me the opportunity to explore my gender and sexual identity and to speak to others about being transgender, but it is also one of the few careers where being transgender could actually be considered an advantage instead of a disadvantage.

I appreciate the opportunities that being an academic has given me and recognize the other advantages that I have. As a White American, I know that I do not face the oppression that my minority sisters face. Being in academia also gives me a lot more financial stability than many working class people face. A friend told me recently about a prison guard who made the decision to transition and was harassed by her fellow guards to the point where she threatened suicide and was quickly fired. I don't know if I could continue to be open about being transgender in the face of that level of harassment.

I guess I will find out for sure how much of an advantage or disadvantage my transgender identity will be in a couple of years when I finally finish my PhD and head out into the job market looking for my first professorship. I want to do as much writing and speaking about being transgender as I can between now and then. I want to make being transgender something I get hired for instead of something I'm hired in spite of. That of course assumes I'll get hired at all. With the economy the way it is, even colleges and universities may decide to hire someone who is a "normal" male or female, whatever that means, than have to deal with the issues related to hiring an openly transgender person.

Something that will help the employment of all gay, lesbian and transgender Americans is the passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA). While the bill has had a topsy-turvy history, the passage in October of the Matthew Shepard Hate Crime Prevention Act that updates hate crime law to include disability status, gender or sexual orientation (Femulate) gives many GLBT activists hope that ENDA may be passed soon. I just hope ENDA actually improves the work-lives of GLBT people and employers don't just start firing GLBT people for other reasons, such as being late to work too often or random layoffs, that aren't directly related to their gender/sexual identity.

For more information about ENDA, go to Pass ENDA Now. One thing that does bother me is that the first result that comes up in a Google search for "ENDA & transgender" is this 2007 post from Americans for Truth. This is the kind of rhetoric that continues to make life difficult/impossible for transgender people in this country.

Friday, December 4, 2009

What's in a Name

I'm often asked how I chose the name Lucy. I think most people assume there must be some deep, personal reason behind my choice, but the short answer is that I just liked how it sounded.

I tried out many names as I searched for the one that I felt was just right for me. At first, my choices leaned toward the more uncommon with names like Corrina, Annabelle and Viola. For a while, I used the name Sophie but it just never felt quite right. I also asked my mom on a few different occasions what she would have named me if I had been born female, thinking that I might use that name either for my first or middle name, but she would never tell me, probably guessing my reason for asking. As I continued to try out different names, I liked the way Lucy sounded; it felt like me.

Lucy is a name that's always been around me, mostly from pop culture. From Lucille Ball (and no, my name is not Lucille; it's just Lucy) to Lucy from Peanuts to Lucy Lawless of Xena: Warrior Princess fame (who my mom is a HUGE fan of). The main character of the anime series Fairy Tail, which I am currently following on Crunchyroll, is also named Lucy.

Lucy from Fairy Tail

I also liked that Lucy is a normal, fairly common name but also that you don't meet a Lucy every day. I was able to maintain my uniqueness somewhat without people constantly asking how to spell my name or thinking that I had chosen it to make myself stand out more.

The simplicity of my name, though, often seems to be lost on restaurant workers. Many times I've had to repeat my name more than once when asked a name to use for an order. Now, sometimes I may not speak loudly enough for them to hear me but it seems to me at other times that they can tell that I'm male, even though I'm dressed and presenting as a woman, and so are questioning the legitimacy of the name Lucy. This feeling has been confirmed on more than one occasion when I have had to pick up an order for a "Lucian." The masculinizing of my name bothers me; you may not agree with me that I am a woman but when I tell you my name is Lucy, I expect to be called Lucy, especially at a restaurant. If I said my name was "Darth Vader," I would expect to pick up an order for "Darth Vader." I'm not as bothered when people I know still use my male name because I understand that it's a transition process but with someone I don't know at a restaurant, I would expect to be called by the name that I give.

A Few Thoughts on Shopping

I've been doing a lot of shopping recently. I've been really happy with the way I've been able to build my wardrobe. One of my first concerns about making the transition to living full-time as a woman was having enough to wear; I didn't want to wear the same things all the time. I'm very happy that I can now go weeks, if not months, without wearing the same thing twice :)

Not suprisingly, I never was much of a shopper as a guy. Guy's clothes just don't really interest me that much. I was always interested in women's clothes, of course, and always wondered how interested I would be in shopping if I was actually given the chance to dress how I want. I always had a feeling that I would be a bit of a clotheshorse.

I had the thought yesterday after buying a couple of new sweaters at Target if I've been spending too much on clothes recently. Again, shopping as much as I have been for clothes is still new to me, even if I am enjoying it. Then I paused and remembered that much of the shopping I have been doing these past few months has been out of necessity, not just a desire for something new to wear. I didn't buy those sweaters yesterday just because I felt like spending some money but because it has been chilly these past few days and I don't really have much to wear when it's cold.

I've been almost stubbornly open and public as a crossdresser. Unlike many other crossdressers, I was never really satisfied with just dressing up alone in my house. As a practical person, it was hard for me to justify spending money on clothes that no one else would ever see me wear. That's why I chose to focus on cosplay costumes because at least I would get to wear them at a convention. So when I decided earlier this year that I wanted to start dressing full-time as a woman, I literally had two outfits that I could wear. Two! Pretty much everything I have in my wardrobe now has been purchased since March.

I 'm happy with the progress I've made in such as short time but there are still some holes that I'm trying to fill in my wardrobe. I'm to the point where I can get by on a day-to-day basis (I'm not wearing the same outfit every other day) but each new situation reminds me of what still needs to be added. When it gets cold, I have to buy sweaters not because I'm tired of my old ones but because I don't have any old ones! Thankfully, though, those situations are becoming fewer and fewer as time goes by.

Bargain-hunting has been a blessing for me in building my wardrobe. Most of the clothes in my closet are from Target; their clothes are reasonably priced (they even have a good clearance section) and they fit my style. My style tends to be a little on the conservative side (I like the descriptors elegant and professional that friends have used) but that's just out of personal taste and not any feelings of how women should or shouldn't dress. Audrey Hepburn is my style icon and I love the styles of the 1950's and 60's.

Charlotte Russe is another store that has proven very fruitful, especially their clearance section. I've had the most luck there with tops; dresses and skirts haven't fit as well. I've purchased a few things at Wal-Mart, mainly because of the low prices, but the clothes there tend to be a little too casual/country for my tastes. I've also purchased a couple of dresses from Chadwicks and will definitely be purchasing more from them in the future because they have very stylish clothes and great bargains! And while I do love JC Penney's and especially their Worthington line, I haven't always had the most pleasant shopping experience at the store here in town, but that's a story for another time.

The next challenge will be next semester, which will be the first time I will teach an entire semester as a woman. I feel much better prepared to face this challenge, in ways beyond just clothing, than I felt back in March when I first made this decision.