January 12, 2008
Reactions East v. West
I was extremely interested in going to Boston this week, not just because I love it there, but because I really wanted to see if there was a difference in reaction to me both at work, and out and about with Samwich.
Bottom line – no. No difference.
The only real difference I noticed was at work – and this was subtle. Basically, few to none of the people in the office there knew me as “Michael”. I started managing this group three weeks before Thanksgiving, and a few days after the announcement went out, I did send mail telling them all of my transition plans, but I hadn’t met many of them (ok – to be clear, there is one person on that team who I worked with before or who I had even met before)
As a result, the vibe I got when meeting these folks for the first time was very subtly different from meeting with people who had known and seen me before as “Michael”. Its very hard to explain, but it seemed more “Matter of Fact”.
I take away from this that meeting people for the first time post-transition may be easier than re-meeting people who had maybe seen you, or knew of you, or maybe even worked with you a bit. In the first case, you aren’t resetting expectations – you are who you are. In the second case – it’s a reset.
(Note, for friends and people who know you very well, I don’t think this applies — totally different dynamic).
As far as being out and about – only two notable things. One, the server at Il Panino (crappy experience documented below) was short with us, whereas before our servers there have been great. She could have been having a bad night, or maybe it was related – hard to say.
The other issue is a bit more complex but also a “passing” issue. As most people are aware, New England accents are pretty strong – Providence, Boston, Maine – all pretty distinctive. New England in general, and Boston in particular is an “Insider’s” place. If you are part of the club, you can get a lot of stuff done that “Outsider’s” can’t. Hard to explain, but if you are from there, you know what I’m talking about.
Both of my parents have/had very strong accents. My mom “Pahks the Cah”. I love it – it’s the way she talks. Before I was in kindergarten, because of my Dad’s job, I lived in Massachusetts, Long Island, Virginia and Connecticut. As a result, I really have no accent to speak of, but I can “turn it on”. Effectively, from a regional accent POV, I can “pass”.
In my experience though (and I’m sure there’s research here, and I may be WAY off), vocal patterns and accents for men and women in New England, even from the same geo-locations are different. I can do Guy Boston. I can’t do Gal Boston. As a result, I didn’t even try Guy Boston. Il Panino was a place that I used to use Guy Boston to effect. I’d use Guy Boston when I was buying something or doing any other transaction with someone who was also clearly a local.
I sounded like a tourist.
In many ways, that was more impactful to my experience than the whole trans-thing.
Not what I expected.