The last, and my first, Southern Comfort Conference, a convention for transgender people, was held in Atlanta this past weekend. Apparently, attendance is down, and the organizers have been successfully courted by a motivated bunch who are trying to make Ft. Lauderdale, Florida a hub for LGBT tourism, so the conference will soon have a new home.
SCC lasts from Wednesday to Sunday, but I was only able to be a part of the conference for a day and two nights, so the time I had networking was limited. I made a few new connections, got to know some old friends a bit better, and completely missed a few people with whom I should have caught up. My take-away from the conference is two-fold.
Firstly, I better understand that, though I dress up not too badly, I benefit mainly from my natural gifts – towering height and slender weight – rather than my skill in feminine presentation. There were hundreds of absolutely stunning transgender women, utterly unforced and natural-looking. I realize I’ve got a lot of work to do; fortunately, much of it involving simple grooming, nothing that necessarily cost lots of money.
But there are other aspects of going M to F, hormone therapy specifically, that I am now more informed and confident about. I hope to begin hormone therapy relatively soon, perhaps next summer, after I have shuffled my life around a bit. One of my t-girlfriends began all that hormone stuff on her own by doing her own research while still living at home, and she’s still married, but that’s not the route for me. I need more calmness in my life, and injecting that stressor into my home is not the best choice.
After I got home from SCC, my wife and I talked for about three hours. I am so lucky; though she has declared my intentions “selfish”, we are proceeding toward an amicable separation. No drama, no pointed fingers, no cried accusations; hopefully, we can maintain this level of civility. The original plan was for me to be around full-time during my son’s senior year of high school; but my wife, who has been reading a book about divorce, read that the “announce-your-separation-over-dinner-a-month-after-your-child-has-begun-college” speech is a cliché that is not a good plan when one considers the drugs-and-alcohol temptations my son will be facing away from home. She and I agree it would be a better idea for me, after I’ve moved out, to return to what was my home on Sundays, for example, play some games, help with a few chores, and prepare to start another week as peacably as possible. For the sake or ourselves and our children, I think I can do that. So the plan right now is for me to move out this November or December, and spend the first half of 2015 undoing ties in a manner that is relatively harmonious.
Secondly, I’ve been able to sketch out my professional future a bit. I have twelve years invested in my career as a public educator, and I’ve got at least thirteen more to go in order that I can gain my teacher retirement benefits. I’ve been worried: How can I get through my career while, at the same time, transitioning from male to female? Well, I’ve come to understand that it may be possible, or should I say necessary, to present as male until I retire. I learned at SCC this compromise might in fact be do-able: For one thing, because I am so thin, it seems likely that the changes to my body brought about my hormone replacement therapy might not be so profound that I could not hide them under male dress. One of my best girlfriends who has successfully transitioned fully to female, (and has breasts like missles!), substitute teaches at a neighboring county as a man without any problem. So, I could go stealth for at least a few years, at least until my daughter graduates from high school, and then I could decide if I want to raise a big stink with my employers and risk their wrath, not to mention the wrath of my students, while no longer having high-school aged children who might face the public embarrassment of having a father who might be making a very public, very controversial change.
There are a lot of successful transgender people who transition very quietly, but that doesn’t look like my future. There’s a part of me that wouldn’t mind taking one for the team, putting my job at risk by seeking to teach as female for the last segment of my career. As quickly as the climate is changing now, who knows? Maybe I could in fact be a “Missus” to my students one day. Or maybe not. . .we’ll see.