Wednesday, April 13, 2011

My Real World Experience - Part 1

I would like to share my experiences ranging from when I went full-time all the way up until my sexual reassignment surgery. This period covers what is called the real world experience. I would like to point out that since as of the publication of this post I have not in fact had surgery, this will obviously be a multi-part article. So why share this? My hope is to share at least some of my experiences so others can know they are not alone in their feelings. Also I want to show people who may not understand what it is we go through what this is, even if from my perspective.

I think the best place to start here is to explain a bit about what the real world experience consists of. To do that I will simply quote the Harry Benjamin Standards of Care:

The Real-Life Experience
  1. Since changing one's gender role has immediate profound personal and social consequences, the decision to do so should be preceded by an awareness of what these familial, vocational, interpersonal, educational, economic, and legal consequences are likely to be.
  2. When clinicians assess the quality of a person's real-life experience in the new gender role, the following abilities are reviewed
    1. to maintain full or part-time employment
    2. to function as a student
    3. to function in community-based volunteer activity
    4. to undertake some combination of items 1-3
    5. to acquire a new (legal) first or last name
    6. to provide documentation that persons other than the therapist know that the patient functions in the new gender role.

To be considered for surgery you must adhere to these requirements for 12 months without going back to your previous gender role. Now that I have clarified that, on to my story.

Oh, if you want to start at the beginning of my transition read this post first.

If not, read on...

My real life experience officially started October 30th, 2009. I had been on hormones for about 5 months before this and was out to almost all of my friends. The only things that really happened between starting hormones and going full time was me slowly coming out to more people and becoming comfortable with my self. I decided once my breasts started growing in that I was no longer going to use my fake ones any longer. I bought some cami-type bras (from Forever 21 actually) and just wore them. I figured I had real breasts so why fake it any longer (I understand this philosophy is not for everyone and don't mean it to sound like advice; it really is what I did and how I felt at the time). Regardless, this was also when I decided I was going to be open about who I was, something that helps me coupe with the stress really. Other then that I just tried to cover up my growing breasts while at work and was pretty much living out as Katherine everywhere else.

Now in regards to my first day full time, it kinda started the day before on the 29th after I left work. That day after work I went and got my nails done (first ever french manicure) and then when I got home I threw away all of my man clothes. That was a fantastic feeling! Like a millions pounds lifted from my shoulders knowing I would never half to wear those shoes again.

Anyway, why October 30th? Well after finding out a week or so before that we where allowed to dress up at work for Halloween, and since it is my last day at that particular job (I was going back to school full time), I decided to go to my boss who knew I was transitioning and I told him outright, "I've dressed up in a Halloween costume my whole life. I'm not doing it on Friday."

He kinda just looked at me in shock... I followed it up with, "I'll do you a favour and still use the men's rest room".

His reply: "Thank you."

The next day when I came into work no one knew who I was (except my friends). I remember hearing comments like "Who's the new girl?" Then when I sat at my desk one of my friends explained that it was me. "Oh my GOD!!!" I remember one co-worker saying. At that point it was clear and it was VERY obvious I wasn't wearing a Halloween costume! Honestly I thought more people knew but still I didn't get any negative remarks or criticisms. To the contrary my co-workers were very supportive. I could tell a few were a bit uncomfortable but they certainly were not rude about it.

As I didn't want to go through the hassle of changing my name at a job I knew I'd be leaving, I waited until the week after I left to go file my paperwork for my name change. In Virginia it was $40 and took 10 days to get back (at that time)... Man was I anxious, I hated driving around with a licence that had my boy name on it! Once I got the letter I was so elated. Things were lining up. I was officially Katherine, not only to myself, but legally as well. From here until about the new year was a very exciting time. I was happy to be on my way and everything seemed to go smoothly. This would change pretty quickly...

Continue on to part 2

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