Friday, June 19, 2009

unanswered questions

Yesterday I found myself at a loss to answer the question "Why did you move to New York?"

The answer is actually rather straightforward; I moved to NYC in 2005 because I had just graduated from college and decided that I wanted to pursue transition of some sort, and live as male. I knew moving to a new city would enable me to introduce myself whoever I chose, and what better city than The City, the place where everyone goes to reinvent themselves? More importantly, though, I knew that my reinvention-of-self would require very specific medical care, legal advice, and social navigation, and I knew that New York City is one of the few places where I could easily tap into support systems for all of those needs.

But the person who asked me this question is not (to my knowledge) aware of my transsexual history, and while we have a good friendship and working relationship, I haven't yet found the opportunity to broach the subject with him. It's made more complicated by the fact that I quite like this guy, and trust him, and would like to share things with him. I think someday I probably will disclose, because I sometimes do share deeply personal information about myself with my friends. Not to mention the fact that he's a philosopher by trade, and I like talking to him about all manner of things just to get his erudite perspective.

It's made yet more complicated by the fact that he is technically my boss. There is no law in my state prohibiting discrimination on the basis of gender identity, and I am an at-will employee. Although I have absolutely no reason to suspect that this man (or any of my coworkers) would react in an unpleasant manner to learning this about me, knowing that I would have no recourse if something did happen adds a layer of hesitation to any thoughts of disclosing in the workplace.

At any rate, I ended up fumbling along with some of the other smaller reasons ("Who doesn't want to move to NYC? Some of my friends were moving...I thought I could get a job at XX place...) and I don't think he noticed my awkwardness, but I sure felt it. It occurs to me that I could've just said "I knew that I would be needing some specific medical care that would be easier to access in New York."

It's true, but it doesn't necessitate the big Reveal of my transsexual history, which is still an awkward topic for me to naturally bring up in conversation.

I'd like to be able to be more more matter of fact about bringing up my transsexuality in conversation with people who are unaware. My gender history always feels like such a bombshell to drop into conversation. I don't know if it really is, or if it just feels that way to me. I've never had anyone revel a transsexual history to me when I didn't already anticipate it.

Of course, it's possible that folks already know that I'm trans, whether through the grapevine or shrewed Googling or what, but it seems unlikely to me. I'm trying to think about the the times I've had conversations with folks where they've opened up about big, deeply personal things in their lives- having been adopted, for instance. It hasn't happened to me that often, and I don't think (again, this could be my own bias) that any of these revelations have been of quite the...sensationalistic variety that transsexualism is assumed to be.

I wish I could give folks a little questionnaire after I have my inevitably awkward coming out conversation with them, so I could get feedback and figure out how much of the awkwardness is in my head, and/or how to minimize the awkwardness.

For now, I'll continue to leave some questions unanswered.


abby said...

"specific medical care that i could only get in new york" is wayy too tantalizingly vague. you'll get a zillion follow-up questions. young healthy people like you don't usually have unusual health care needs, so people will be thinking you had leukemia or something.

if you don't want people to ask too many questions, go with something boring like "i got a job there" or "i moved with a girlfriend."

Eli said...

Hey Abby-

That's very true; it's almost an invitingly vague comment! At the same time, I think that medical care is still an area where people will sometimes respect your privacy- they can accept that medical issues can be a private thing.

At the very least, though, such a comment sets the tone that I generally prefer to establish when talking about my transition- that this is personal, often medical, information and as such is sensitive.

I could've gone with something boring, of course, but the point is that I wanted to tell him about the primary reason I went to NYC, which was in order to more easily transition, but felt constrained around how to bring up what feels like a huge and unexpected topic.