January 24, 2008

DOL Update

Posted in Identification at 9:47 pm by Michael

Washington State DOL 

Today I sent mail to the Washington State DOL asking for the status for my application to change my gender on my license.

Initially the replied saying that I would get a letter sent on January 31.

Then, they said the letter was being sent tomorrow.

I will post a full story once I get the letter. 🙂

January 18, 2008

Yesterday Redux

Posted in Identification, transgender at 9:40 pm by Michael

Ok, I think yesterday’s post got a little misunderstood by a few folks, and I’d like to clarify.

First thing… I know that I get “read” as TG often. More often than not. Honestly, I think at this point, I’m not at the point where I get read strongly male, but I think honestly that I generate uncertainly.

To be clear, things that I realize that generate this:
– Hair: Still short-ish
– Height: I’m 6’ 2’’
– Makeup: None
– Facial Hair: Mostly gone, but still a shadow
– Voice: Still my original voice – no changes. On purpose. There’s a FAQ about that.

Now, I thought that being read would have negative effects. If you had asked me on November 25, 2007 (the day before my first surgery) what the “Crappy Look Counter” would be like two months out – I would have guessed somewhere between 50-100. Its 7 – four of those in one day. I thought that because of that, it would be that when people saw me, they would see “TG Me” first, before seeing me.

You know what?

I underestimated people – dramatically.

Instead, it’s been remarkably uneventful. In public in general, traveling, at work, wherever. After nearly three full weeks at work, it’s back to normal. Yes, people who haven’t seen me for a while have questions still – no problem. But the people who I work with on a daily basis, it’s just not an issue. Fantastic!

Now, why do I post about the “Ma’am” v. “Sir” thing then?

Part of the “fun” of transitioning is the sheer sociological aspect of it. Observing humanity, a.k.a. “people watching” is a pretty common human endeavor, no?

So, the “Crappy Look Counter” – honestly, people ask “How are you getting treated?” I write about that.

Also, “Ma’am” v. “Sir” – lots of questions! I have questions! This is an interesting idea – take something as fundamental as gender which is generally thought of as binary and then decide to intentionally blur the lines. Why did people care about David Bowie or Annie Lennox in their androgynous phases? It was uncommon, and an exploration into a space where not to many people tread.

So, when I get “Ma’am”ed, it’s interesting. When I get “Sir’ed” its interesting. I try to notice what I was wearing, general circumstance, etc – in either circumstance.

To be clear, I don’t *expect* to be “Ma’am”ed by strangers. Really. I get it. Damn, I wrote a whole POST about it when it happened first….

I have talked to friends about this – because they ask! And, surprisingly, more than a couple female friends and acquaintances have talked about getting “Sir’ed”. Generally, they are taller, don’t wear as much makeup, and have shorter hair, or will get “Sir’ed” with their hair up. Honestly, I hadn’t realized that this does happen frequently to women. Maybe I’m naïve, but I didn’t.

So, then yesterday, randomly listening to NPR, hearing Tilda Swinton say the same thing, well, I thought it was interesting. So, not having posted for a few days, I thought a post was in order. (Interesting, I got mail from a few friends who heard the same story, and thought of me!)

Now… what is up with the video?

Well… it was an experiment. I was really interested to see what would “work” and what wouldn’t. Not sure I’ll do it again. I’m not sure it worked. I’m not sure it communicated what I wanted….

January 17, 2008

Tilda Swinton Gets Sir’ed Too! (Video)

Posted in Identification, transgender, Video at 11:30 pm by Michael

Tilda 1 Tilda 2

Click here to go to YouTube to watch it there.

Would love feedback on the video v. written version of this.

Tilda Swinton Gets Sir’ed Too!

Posted in Identification, transgender at 10:05 pm by Michael

Tilda 1  Tilda 2 

Was listening to NPR tonight on the way to dinner (“Kasbah” in Ballard, which is Moroccan – very fun, and the kids loved it (all of ‘em)), and Tilda Swinton was being interviewed about her latest project. I was half listening, and I heard:

“If you wear trousers and short hair, in most hotel lobbies in the world people will call you sir.”

Now Tilda was “Orlando” in the same titled work, and isn’t unfamiliar with gender-bending, but come on, look at her face! Not super manly.


January 12, 2008

Reactions East v. West

Posted in Boston, Identification at 12:06 am by Michael

Boston Skyline 

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.

January 11, 2008

Iron Bureaucracy America

Posted in humor, Identification at 11:28 pm by Michael

Tonight on Iron Bureaucracy America, the challenger “Washington State DOL” is here in Bureaucracy Stadium to show us their mettle against some of the finest Iron Bureaucracies in all of America.

Will they choose Iron Bureaucracy IRS? Skilled at changing rules at the last minute?

Will they choose Iron Bureaucracy Banking Industry? Skilled at overcharging for the smallest misstep?

Will they choose Iron Bureaucracy United States Social Security Administration? Skilled at complex forms?
Washington State DOL, do you have an Iron Bureaucracy to challenge?

“We choose the United States Social Security Administration!”

The Chairman has a prepared a special challenge for each of you… one that challenges your powers of confusion and underdelivering!

The special challenge for today is…..

Battle Document! Mail out a requested form to Megan Wallent!

Ms. Wallent, what are your form requests for each of our mighty bureaucracies!

“For Iron Bureaucracy SSA, please mail me a new Social Security Card with my new legal name!”

“For Iron Bureaucracy Washington State DOL, please accept my request to get an F instead of an M on my driver’s license and send me a letter!”

Ms. Wallent, please fill out the forms and follow the procedures that each of our bureaucracies has established to achieve your goals.

Iron Bureaucracy SSA, you have lost points from the judges for having a posted procedure on the Internet that can be followed!

Iron Bureaucracy SSA, you have also lost points for having good customer service and making it easy to follow the procedure!

Iron Bureaucracy SSA you have promised a new card in two weeks!

Bureaucracy Challenger DOL, you have promised a letter in ten days!

[Ed. Unlike in Iron Chef, or Iron Chef America, once the challenge is accepted and the request made to the bureaucracies, a large black curtain falls down, and no sound is heard until the result occurs.]

[Ed. In addition, the “Winner” of Iron Bureaucracy America is the bureaucracy that delivers LAST, not first – because otherwise, why would they be a bureaucracy]

[Ed. Time Passes]

Ms. Wallent, do we have a result?

“Yes, we do! I can report that in today’s mail, only nine days, the SSA has overdelivered and I have in my possession a new Social Security Card!”

Ms. Wallent, do you have your letter from the DOL?

“No, I do not, Mr. Chairman!”

The Chairman then declares a winner! The winner of tonight’s challenge on Iron Bureaucracy America – Battle Document – is Washington State DOL!


Posted in Identification at 10:49 pm by Michael

Getting “Sir’ed” has been a pretty regular occurrence for me, especially when I’m wearing my normal North Face fleece jacket. I had *never* yet been ma’am’ed.

That day has now come.

We were in Logan Airport, at gate C29, waiting for our JetBlue flight back to Seattle. Anh had just gone to the restroom, and I was there with Samwich. The gate agent (male, mid to late 20’s) came over (I was holding Samwich at the time) and said:

“Ma’am, is that carseat going on the flight or do you need to check it?”

Basically, he was asking if I needed a gate check ticket or not, or if we were bringing it on the plane.

I said: “We have a seat for him so we are bringing it on the plane, thanks”

Now, what he said next was up for debate. He may have said:

“Thanks Man, Have a Good Flight!”

He could also have said:

“Thanks Ma’am, Have a Good Flight!”

I think he said the first. Here’s why. My voice is a huge tell. By the look on his face it was clear that he was surprised and more than a little confused.  Anyway, I’ll take the first “ma’am” as progress.

Later on the flight, Anh was holding Samwich in the middle, and I was on the aisle. Samwich is now pretty active, and it’s not exactly good times for him because more than anything, he just wants to crawl, walk, play, explore, chew, etc. I can imagine buying the Samwich action figure, and reading the back of the box:

“Samwich Action Figure: Now With Real Flailing Action!”

Anyway, as happens a lot, he flailed, and whacked me with a left cross to the chin. Now, generally my chin doesn’t hurt much, but when whacked, it does hurt. I recoiled back toward the aisle, just as the flight attendant was coming by with a tray of bottled water. You guessed it “Wack!” Corner of the tray, meet noggin. Then to add insult to injury, the bottles of water on the tray then fall on my newly throbbin’ noggin. Sweet.

Now the relevant part. The flight attendant was a little mortified, and said “What happened?” and asked if I was ok or needed ice or anything. I said no, that I was ok, and just wanted this whole unfortunate incident to end. Just then, another flight attendant came by and asked what happened…. The first flight attendant says:

“Well, the baby hit her in the head, and she moved to the aisle and I hit her in the head with the tray.”

I guess passing was worth the whack on the head!

Wow – twice in one day!

January 5, 2008

Who Are You?

Posted in family, Identification at 12:31 am by Michael

My first mini-week of work came to a close today with not a bang, but a whimper.

But, today started pretty early… Samwich got up before 5, and was very excited to get up and start his day. He’s got a really funny schedule these days – goes to sleep at 7:30 pm, and gets up near 5am. He’s been getting up a couple times a night these days as he’s cutting teeth, and not as restful as he normally is. Anh dealt with him last night a couple times, and was super tired, so I got up w/him at 5, and we went downstairs to play.

Now, this is one of my favorite times of the day to play with him, because this is when he seems to do the most new things. Last week, he started pointing. He’s also started making more “talking-like” noises. He often says what sounds like “What’s That?” And, most enderingly, if you say to him “I love you!”, he mumbles something that sounds a lot like that – at least to me and Anh.

Plus, making him breakfast is just fun – blueberry pancakes again today – a good choice for him as he loves it, and he can feed himself if you cut it up.

Anyway, time to go to work came and it was time to depart. Work today was just like before – lots of email, meetings, couple of calls and 1:1’s with folks on my team. Some planning for my work trip to Boston next week – should be great the week before the Pats first playoff game!

So… I went to my last meeting for the day, and got there a little late, but before the exec who’s meeting it was came. I sat in the back, and saw someone who I had worked with on and off since I started at Microsoft. I said “Hey Sam!” (not his real name). He looked around, looking for the source of the voice, and since there were about 20 people in the room, and it was loud, I said “Hey Sam, I’m over here!” again. He looked right at me, and said “Who are you? I’m sorry, I don’t recognize you.”

I was floored.

He got up, walked over, looked at my badge (only a day and a half old  ) and said “Oh! Good to see you, how are you doing?” I said I was doing great, and just as we started to chat, the meeting started.

I sent him mail apologizing for the surprise – I hate to surprise people. But he said something very interesting – that he had heard – but that honestly, he just didn’t recognize me.

Ok, here’s one of the oldest pictures I could find of me (digitally, at home), side by side w/the headshot version of my office pic yesterday. Unrecognizable?

Paris 2002 Office 2007

Now, I’ve lost probably 60-70lbs since the ’02 picture was taken, and clearly, other changes to, but would I not be recognized? Its funny, because everyone else – even folks who barely know me, say “Hi Michael (or Megan if they know” when they see me).

It was interesting… not sure if this is the first (or somewhat first time) that I actually “passed”. But, I’ll certainly remember this for a while.

January 3, 2008


Posted in family, Identification, schedule, work at 11:23 am by Michael

This morning, besides being my 2nd day back at work ended up being pretty eventful…

Mary and Arthur’s baby was born (below). Congratulations!

For the first time since surgery, Anh and I did our regular morning run. One lap shorter than normal (only 3 miles), and Anh pushed the jogging stroller, but we did it! This was only 4 weeks, 6 days postop from FFS – more than a week (by a day, ok) ahead of when I was told I’d be able to do it.

We got ready, I drove to work, and got my cool new badge (new name, new picture). Here’s me at my desk at Microsoft here in Redmond, new badge and all!

At Work, January 3, 2007

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.

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