December 5, 2008

So Much to Learn

Posted in coworkers, work at 11:05 am by Michael

Every company has their own meeting protocol.

‘Softies are late – usually about 5 minutes. I try, really try, to not be late. Since my job is all about meetings, and I’m back to back from 9-5 every day, I tend to be a little late.

I have a regular meeting on Wednesdays (when I’m in Redmond) with folks who I’ve worked with for a long time (more than in just this job). One of the people in that meeting tends to high-five people when they come in, especially late. (Which um, would be, me).

I came in, and gave Besty the requisite “Yeah, I’m a loser, I’m late” high-five.

She recoiled, grabbed her hand.

“Ow Megan! That’s not how us girls give high fives. Try again!”

Three or four iterations later, I got the “Girl High Five” down. Not too firm, not a lot of follow through, light recoil.

Satisfied, Betsy let me take my seat, high-five dunce hat firmly in place.

The next week, I walked in, early. I didn’t want to get tested.

Betsy was sitting there, Cheshire-cat grin firmly in place, right hand up to receive the high-five action.

“Very good! You learned!”

Whew.

February 12, 2008

Anonymous Again

Posted in coworkers, work at 10:54 pm by Michael

 Who?

I’m used to not being anonymous. For quite some time at work, no matter what hall I walk down, I end up seeing someone that I know, and say hi to. Its kind of fun! Its like being in a big community – personal, close, comforting.

This is even the case w/the “execs” at Microsoft. I’ve been involved in enough stuff so that I know by name/face the majority of VPs at Microsoft, as well as most of the “Partner” level folks (think of the most senior 500+ people in the company).

My office at work is near some of the big conference rooms that we have. In order for me to walk between the two buildings that my Redmond-based team is in, I generally walk past these rooms. All sorts of meetings happen in these rooms – New Employee Orientation (NEO in MS Parlance), team meetings, customer meetings, you name it.

This morning, just before 8, I heard SteveB’s and his voice (its loud, and distinct) down the hall. I knew that something was up.

(Basically, lots of folks at MS are known by their email names – BillG, SteveB, etc. When people refer to others, they “say out” their email name if they are pronounceable. E.g. ‘Steve Bee”. Best MS email name ever – lakaplan – “Lack A Plan” – she was a Program Manager.)

Later in the morning, on my way to a meeting in the other building, I walked past the conference rooms at about 5 before the hour (meeting break time). There in the hall were quite a large number of VPs and other senior folks, the vast majority who I know by name, and who know me my name.

Not any more.

I walked through the crowd, anonymous. People looked at me – people who I’ve worked with for more than ten years in some cases. Nothing. One person who I knew only a bit- I saw this look of half-recognition, and then utter confusion.

I was walking next to someone who works on my team, and we were chatting.

As we walked past the rooms, I remarked to her:

“They didn’t know who I was! Wow, I know *all* those people.”

We went to the meeting, then walked back.

Same deal, right through the crowd – anonymous.

Now, this is in no way a commentary about anything except the fact that I look different. A lot different. But I don’t see it.

I look I the mirror, I see me. I don’t see anyone but me. I see the same face that I saw for 39 years.

I don’t think other people do, and that’s just interesting.

January 23, 2008

Transitioning at Work, The Continuing Saga (Or Non-Saga)

Posted in coworkers, transgender, work at 9:39 pm by Michael

Today at work I was at an all-day training with the managers from all across my manager’s organization. There were about seventy-five people in the room.

This is a relatively common occurrence at work (training, lots of people), and I’ve done this a number of times before.

I was fascinated to see if this was going to be “different” for me, or not.

Totally, 100%, not.

No difference about how I was treated, no “extra” looks, same level of engagement, no issues.

During one of the breaks, I was having a discussion with one of the HR folks who I work with and she said:

“You know, we [HR] all thought this [me transitioning] might be more of an issue. Yes, other people have done this, but you are the first GM to do it. You know what though, it’s just not an issue.”

That’s been my experience too, and I wasn’t sure if maybe I just wasn’t seeing it, but I’m coming around to the fact that its now just back to normal….

Side Notes: I wore heels (well, just two inches) for the first time at work today as well. I had just worn flats of various types before. I like ’em!

January 18, 2008

Compliments

Posted in coworkers, transgender at 10:28 pm by Michael

In my 11 years, three months, and fourteen days working at Microsoft pre-transition, not once did somebody compliment me on my clothes.

Not Fashionable

(Who is this guy, and what is UP w/the Tinkerbell hats?)

There could be many reasons for this:
a) I didn’t dress myself well
b) Men don’t compliment each other on their clothes
c) Anh didn’t buy my clothes

I’m sure there are others. In fact, the only comments that I heard directed at men regarding the way they were dressed was if someone “overdressed” (e.g – Suit/Tie).

Ok, so this week, every day, all from different people, I got compliments on something I was wearing – shoes, sweater, shirt, jeans – something different each day.

Office 2007

I attribute this to a number of things:
a) Differences between men and women in how they interact. One person who complimented me said (when I look surprised) said “Get used to it! This is what girls do!”
b) Anh has bought most of my clothes. She’s got way better taste for either men or women than I do.
c) I ask for feedback from Anh about what I’m wearing, to try to understand better what looks good together and what doesn’t.

I don’t mean to stereotype – and I don’t think I’m doing that. This has just been my experience – maybe it was random, but I don’t think so.

So, for all of you complimenters from this week, thank you! I appreciate it!

January 3, 2008

Reflecting on Day 2 at Work

Posted in coworkers, family, transgender, work at 10:39 pm by Michael

After you live for 38 years in one gender, and then, pretty much overnight start living in the other, it’s the little things (not to go TOO Pulp Fiction) that are super easy to screw up.

Today I went to the cafeteria right across from my building for lunch. I got my lunch, and went to pay. Salad by the pound – $5.99 –  D’OH! No wallet! Wallet (new one) is back in my office, in another building, in my jacket. WOO HOO! I have a fiver in my pocket… but I’m $0.99 short. You can’t really put part of your salad back. I told the cashier that I’d come back and pay (which I did). Back outside, back to the rain, down the hall to my office, repeat. Lesson learned – remember to have cash in pocket or wallet in hand.

One of the metrics I used back in September to figure out how “normal” things were is if the first thing that people asked me about when they saw me was transgender stuff, or work stuff. Back then, for the first couple weeks, the curve spiked, and very slowly dropped off. It took about two weeks until half the people started with non-trans stuff, and just pure work stuff.

I was expecting an even higher peak, and an even shallower drop off when I came back to work. I was fully prepared to be answering questions for quite some time. But, this is not what happened. Already, it’s been more than 50% starting on “work”, and not on my surgery “vacation”.

Part of the “normal”-ness of this all seemingly is related to the fact that while lots about me physically has changed – I dress about the same (see picture below), my voice is the same, and the email and f2f conversations that I have with people are pretty much – you guessed it – the same. While I’ve not tried, I’m going to guess that going to work dressed “ultra-femme” (besides being not at all me!) would generate much more of a reaction. I still have the opposite problem, in that I dress so conservatively – even still masculine according to some – that I’m still “read” as male.

I do also think that part of the “normal”-ness is about being comfortable. I *am* comfortable, I feel comfortable, and from what people have said – they see it too. As a result, it leads me to think that it reduces the discomfort, and also helps folks get through this with me much more quickly.

One thing that has been odd though is when people who I run into ask questions about things that I blogged about, but I know I never told them. E.g. “How was Vegas?”, “How’s the Samwich feeling?”, “How’s the Samwich’s tooth?” It’s kind of scary to think about how much you generally remember about conversations, and how experiences like that cause a total double take.

Tonight I brought the big kiddos to see their new cousin at the hospital (Anh and Samwich and some other family and friends were already there). Baxter is super cute, and we welcome him warmly to the family. After the visit, we went down the street to grab something to eat. When we were ordering, the waiter, who was looking down at my chest (I saw him look), said:

 “What will the Gentlemen have?”

I said, pointing to Samwich (hoping he would get a clue):

“Who, the baby?”

He said:

“No, you!”

I said:

“Well, most people don’t call me a Gentleman!”

He looked clueless, and continued to Sir/Gentleman me the rest of the night. Usually, I don’t bother to correct people, but it’s rare when I do, and it doesn’t even register. This doesn’t count as a Crappy Look, but it’s damn close.

Again, I realize that there’s lots of stuff that I still need to do – more hair removal – earrings – maybe a little jewelry – maybe not as conservative clothes (but see above…) – more healing – longer hair. I get it. I’m not asking people to get it by default – but wow, if someone says “I’m not a sir, I’m a ma’am” – why not take ‘em at their word at that point?

Anyway… today was another crazy traffic spike day here in this space – both another article from Valleywag ( http://valleywag.com/340222/what-it-feels-like-for-a-girl ) , and also a Microsoft MSDN blog – (One Louder – Heather Hamilton at http://blogs.msdn.com/heatherleigh/archive/2008/01/03/transgendered-in-life-and-at-microsoft.aspx) – so the comment stream went up both here and in the Valleywag article especially. One thing that’s really remarkable though, is as of 10:30pm PT tonight, the comments are very very supportive and positive. Again, my faith in people is increased. I really do appreciate the positive comments and notes of support. Even the challenging comments – its all good – I’m a fan of transparent and open conversations.

So, for those of you who have spent the time reading and those of you who have spend the time to then comment – thanks!

First Day Back at Work

Posted in coworkers, Identification, work at 9:49 am by Michael

Yesterday was my first day back at work fulltime, and “fulltime” as Megan. I’ve been on work email for more than a month now, and come in for a couple of meetings. However, yesterday was the first time that I was really “at work”.

As documented laboriously, the last week of November I had “Facial Feminization Surgery” with Dr. Ousterhout in San Francisco, and had been “on vacation” since then. If you love “vacations” where you get to eat nothing for two weeks, loose 15 pounds, and get a really cool set of meds, then this is the “vacation” for you. Think of it as a facial version of the “Road to Wellville”.

As I’ve been documenting in this space, my experiences so far have been amazingly positive (except for still being called “Sir” 90% of the time). Leading up to yesterday as a result I wasn’t stressed – just thought it would be another regular day. However, virtually everyone that I talked to over the past week asked “Are you nervous to go back to work?” That made me more nervous than anything else – should I be? What didn’t I know? What evil lurked around the next corner?

I can in fact verify that while the men’s rooms in most buildings at Microsoft have blue tile, the women’s rooms have a pink to pinkish hue. Microsoft Pink?

Yesterday was also the day when my email display name changed from “Michael” to “Megan”.

Surprisingly, this turned out to be harder than necessary. Even thought I went to court in Seattle back in December and had my name legally changed to “Megan Jenna Wallent”, due to some lovely Department of Homeland Security regulations, it’s really important for your legal “name” at your workplace to be the same as your “name” on your Social Security card. If not, no can do on the name-change-deal. However, a quick trip to the SSA in downtown Bellevue, Washington solved that problem, and I was allowed to be “Megan”. I was reminded of the great scene in “The Right Stuff” where Gus Grissom was “Allowed” to be “Gus” by Henry Luce of Life Magazine fame, but only because his real name was “Virgil Ivan Grissom”, which was seemingly not appropriate in a to-the-death Space Race with the Soviets.

Besides that, it was just another normal day at Microsoft.

I had tried very hard to make sure that my transition wasn’t a surprise to anyone. Sending mail to most of Microsoft back in September, blogging publicly, well, I thought just about everyone who would interact with me “knew”. Surprising people with a cool new set of 38C’s – not a good idea.

Just as I was about to go home, I had a meeting with someone who just joined my team who was wondering who this “Megan” person was (his guess was someone who had some sort of privileges on my account while I was on vacation)… I think I was more embarrassed than he was that I somehow missed someone who now worked for me!

After a short chat, we got through that, and talked about the work stuff we needed to get through – no biggie.

We’ll see what tomorrow brings.

December 16, 2007

Three Weeks Ago….

Posted in coworkers, family, food at 9:40 pm by Michael

The normalcy of it all is kind of stunning.

Yesterday, we had Dim Sum for breakfast, saw the Chipmunks movie, then went to Sorrentino (Italian) for dinner with some friends (saw someone from my old team there too – Hi Peter and Seema!), then they came over and hung out for a while. Really.

(We did get our new licenses in the mail yesterday – only four days after getting the temps! Quick!)

Today, I made breakfast for the kids (blueberry pancakes for Samwich – chocolate chip for Peri and John). I watched the Pats v. Jets (no surprises in the result there – but the weather certainly held down the score). After the game, we went to get Santa pictures in Redmond, and we dropped off the big kids after that at their mom’s.

We had dinner at home… put the Samwich to bed, and packed for Vegas.

Why is this even worth writing about? Well, only three weeks ago, I was at the airport in Seattle, just about to get on a flight to San Francisco, where the next morning I would have my first surgery. It was my last full day in “guy” mode.

Three weeks. Thats it.

Lots has happened in three weeks (well documented).

Tomorrow we get on a flight to go hang out in Vegas, for fun, for a couple days.

I love normal life.

December 15, 2007

Name Calling

Posted in Christmas, coworkers, family, Identification at 2:21 am by Michael

Today at work, one of the folks I was talking to was asking about what my experience was like with people calling me “Megan” and “She/Her” vs. Michael and He/Him. As is in my FAQ, I said what I’ve said in that I’m not bothered by in the least it unless that there is real intent (to be mean/cruel/not accepting) behind it. I think I’ve introduced myself as “Michael” at least 5 times this week (on the phone, not in person).

Anyway, this person had an interesting insight. Basically, that while it may not bother me, to expect it to bother the “Name Caller” a lot if they make a mistake. The point was that people, especially at work, will want to be so kind, so accepting, that it will really bother them if they just make a simple error that really causes no stress in my life at all.

I said “Hmm… I hadn’t thought about it that way!”

Not an hour later, a co-worker, at the end of our phone call, ended the call (which was great!) with “Thank You Sir!”. I said “No problem, talk to you soon!” I did hear the ‘Sir’, but it bothered me not in the least – it was a manner of speech, and this person hasn’t seen me f2f yet, and we were on the phone, where I certainly *sound* like Michael (no changes there!).

An hour later I got an apology email. Wow wow wow. For the person who said this (who I know is at least an occasional reader of this space) I know you will recognize this story – and I don’t do it in a negative way at all – really! I bring it up because it’s a counter example (this whole thing really) of transitioning and being shunned. I’m being accepted, with open arms. Not only that, but people apologize or feel bad when they don’t do it “100%” right.

Maybe that’s why the “Crappy Look Counter” is only on 5 still? (There was a potential Crappy Look sighting today, but I’ll put it in the Curious Look bucket, which isn’t bad – and is not tracked).

We have the big kiddos (Peri and John) this weekend, so I picked them up at school after work (short day, I’m still on “vacation”). We came home, they played, Anh and I made dinner. Anh and I had some wine (Darioush 2004 Napa Cabernet  – we both like it – its super big and chewy). This was a great dinner (mashed potatoes, broccolini, chicken and lamb skewers) not only because we were all sitting around the table talking (Friday tradition), but even Samwich was in on the action – he had exactly the same food we all had. This was a bit of a first – we have given him table food a lot – but this was the first time that his meal was 0% supplemented, and he ate 100% of what we served (at least a bit – cut up – no teeth yet you know!).

Anyway, we are cleaning up, and John says to me (out of the blue):

“I’ve decided that I’m going to call you Daddy, Forever! Because that’s what you are, my Daddy.”

Now, you almost had to hear this. He said this with such gusto, and conviction. It was almost the way he said “I am going to call him Samwich! Why? Because its FUNNY!”.

The conviction and excitement is what made this – not the words. You can imagine these words being spoken a number of ways that would be concerning – not here.

I say: “Great John! That’s good with me, I am your Dad, and will always be!”

For the parents reading this, as a total aside, if you want to bawl, just get and read “I’ll Love You Forever” by Robert Munsch. ( http://www.amazon.com/Love-You-Forever-Robert-Munsch/dp/009926689X/ref=pd_bbs_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1197712663&sr=1-1 ). Here’s what the momma says to the child every night while rocking him, as in infant, and then as he grows up:

I’ll love you forever,
I’ll like you for always,
as long as I’m living
my Baby you’ll be.

Warning: read this book a couple of times to yourself first, get the tears out of the way, then read it to your kids. I still can’t get through the whole think w/o loosing it. AND that was pre-hormones.

Ok, back to the main thread.

So, after John says this to me, I’m thinking “Maybe we should walk to get dessert?” I had this flash in my head “You’ll have to change clothes. (pause) Wait, I don’t have to!” For the last few months, when I was “fulltime” (I know, improper use of the word) at home, whenever we went out, I would have to change, and then change back. It was a pain in the bumtacular region, and I generally always felt “bad” when I did this. NO MORE! No changing. I said this to Anh, she smiled, and gave me a hug, and said “Well, Never Again, huh!” Exactly!

But we didn’t go out – kids had ice cream in, and instead we watched “The Polar Express”. Yes, I know, mocap is scary – the mouths and eyes look dead. However, as a holiday movie, its pretty fun. Samwich was awake long enough to see the “Hot Chocolate” scene and was mes-mo-rized. During the whole third act with the North Pole and the Bell, and that whole deal, John and Peri were just mes-mo-rized as well. They had these angelic looks… This was especially poignant since this year is the first year that they raised, and were confirmed in their suspicions about the existence, or lack thereof of the Jolly Big Man. For the last two years, Peri *knew*, but she wouldn’t admit it. (Proof – two years ago, her big “Santa Present” was a nice art easel w/supplies. I got it at Lakeshore Learning, and on the leg, there was a small imprint that said “Lakeshore Learning”. In the spring of the following year (3-4 months later), I noticed that she had carefully taken a pen, crossed out the “Lakeshore Learning” imprint and neatly written “Santa’s Workshop”. She never said a word to either Anh or I about this. She knew, but still believed.) Last year, John was extremely suspicious, but went with it, because hey, how can something so good, be false?

I think Peri and John still hear the bell… and I know I do as well.