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Pride Aftermath [Jul. 23rd, 2015|02:07 am]
[music |Nouvelle Vague - Escape Myself]

Doing stuff for yourself is hard.

I remember when I worked in the Motor Tax Office, I had a good phone manner, and could happily take calls, and call customers, and say what I needed to say without a hitch. Because my contract there was extended/renewed on a monthly basis, I was never sure if I had a job next month, so I'd call up prospective employers about their job advertisements.

You would swear that I was not the same person. My stomach lurched, I'd trip over my words, and pause at the most awkward moments.

That was 12 years ago. I'm still like that now. I'd still happily, and easily, do something for someone else, but stumble and trip once it was for my benefit.

And so brings me into the aftermath of pride. Well, aftermath is a strong word, but generally Things What Happened After Pride.

As I mentioned in the previous post, the whole body-image reassessment thing hit me deep. After pride I decided to keep my inertia, and go looking at tops after work. I know it seems like a reasonably small thing, and weirdly fixated on tops, but if I'm going to get into a better headspace about self-image, I need to start somewhere.

The problem is, even the starting point is actually quite difficult for me.

Like I said, it's hard for me to do things that benefit me. So, as I walked towards River Island after work, I felt my stomach lurch. I felt the need to bolster myself with nicotine, and found myself trying to come up with excuses not to go in. I had to remind myself that this was an exercise in dilating my comfort zone, so of course it would hurt a little at first.

I went in, and quickly got back into my rhythm of casually looking. But then I realised my next problem.

I am not body/fashion literate.

Well... I can look at an article of clothing, and figure out some things about how it would look on a human. BUT I have no idea how it would look on me.

At this point, people will say, "Sure, but that's what dressing rooms are for". But if I go in there, I'll only see me in some article of clothing. I won't see how the garment looks on me, I'll just see my self-image looking right back at me. I won't know if it suits or doesn't. I seem to lack a fundamental literacy of my body. I have a bit of fashion literacy.

The other big problem was... if I looked at this Mythical Pride Toptm, I didn't know what qualities of MPT were flattering, or generally worked. Was it that it was fairly low-cut? Was it the light material? Was it that it was a tank top? I had no clue.

I had no idea what qualities I was looking for, so I couldn't even pattern-match. That made me feel kinda helpless.

I've tried a few times since, and I still have no clue what I'm looking for. And right now, I have this over-arching Fear that I don't really have spaces to safely experiment with new looks.

One thing that you find in trans women (I can't speak to trans men's experiences) is that frequently we don't transition in time to make use of our teenage years to experiment. So, you have to suffer the odd looks, or find spaces where you can. I can't think of any places where I can do that any more. They're probably out there, but I don't know where they are and I kinda feel I need that space first before anything else; if only to gather feedback, so that I can start building up my own style grammar, and become literate in my own style.

One of the very interesting things was explaining the post-pride buzz, and the reason the MPT had such an effect on me.

The post-pride buzz is an interesting one. It forced me to reconsider how much I'd voluntarily restricted my own expression for whatever reasons. Like, a few weeks before pride, I lost the ring I'd been wearing for years. It was a simple black-coated steel ring with a little demon-type shape in uncoated steel. I liked it, but I felt it was masculine enough to wear in work.

I don't know when I applied the restriction that my rings had to be masculine enough, but it happened.

In the mean-time, I rediscovered a silver ring I bought on holidays; it's small, simple, but pretty. Before Pride, I remember looking at it, and thinking, "Yeah, but is it masculine enough?", and didn't actually wear it until Pride.

After Pride, I was on enough of a buzz to start wearing that ring wherever. I have not a clue why I was going to hide it. And I told this to a friend, and the thought process baffled her. Looking at it now, I wonder why I censored myself.

This is also a friend who saw me in the Mythical Pride Top. She wasn't able to help me break down what aspect of the top worked or didn't, but that was ok. I told her how I was unable to analyze what worked, and she asked "You mean, you don't just pick a thing you like?"

I was gobsmacked. Many thoughts whizzed around my head, but I guess they all are variations on "But me liking something doesn't mean it'd look good". Thinking about it again, I realise she meant that you like the thing you've tried on in a dressing room etc.

I also got to talk to her about other little bits and bobs of the Post-Pride buzz, including a non-binding verbal agreement to get her to help me shop for new glasses frames (again, a thing I can't judge well, especially when the frames I'm wearing don't have my prescription).

Other fun stuff during the post-pride week involved tootling about the hackerspace and finally running across someone who added me on Facebook because of general nerdy stuff. It's incredibly refreshing to meet someone who both comes from a trans background, and has that mischievous hacker streak. It's nice enough being able to talk to someone without explaining one context, but not having to explain two is actually incredibly rare, and incredibly cool.

Also, she could tell stories. You know the type that can tell you things, but leave enough of a blank in between the details to let you figure out what's going to happen, and fill you in if you can't? It's my cat-nip. I can't get enough of that sort of thing.

For that reason she also reminds me of an ex, mostly because said ex was the one that introduced me properly to mischievous thinking. That said, I tend to like strong personalities in general (not necessarily in any sort of attraction, just that I tend to like 'em), and stories. She had both. I don't know enough people like that these days.

Also, just the conversation we had made me reconsider my abilities again. I mean, I work in tech, and have been exposed to various technologies, and also mischievous ways of thinking. Hell, I get excited when I think of obscure edge-cases. I feel like I need to play with this stuff again. As an example, I have an extremely hackable smartphone these days. It's loaded with a fairly powerful CPU and more radio transmitters/receivers than I'd have thought possible. I use it for checking email. I feel like I'm missing a trick somehow. There's so much potential to this device, but I feel I just need to figure out something fun to do with it.

On the Friday, bringing us up to a full 6 days after pride, I was at a work-related drinks event. I got talking to one guy who knew of me through college, and put two and two together about me. He knew I'm trans, and he really doesn't see why I'm not generally out.

My position is that I don't really know who I can and can't trust unless I sound them out. If I out myself to the company, then HR has to get involved. Timelines get involved. Everything suddenly happens so that a company can limit its liability.

I have my own threat model, and I would not be surprised if other people didn't. I need to make decisions according to that model, because I need to deal with the risk. His risk assessment means very little to me. Oh, I can take it into account, but his assessment does not trump mine, because I'm the one that has to live with any consequences from outing.

Anyway, it being Post-Pride, I think we were talking about some pride stuff. M'Colleague started talking in code about my trans stuff, and while I tried to steer away, he kept with it. He eventually asked if he could fold two people into the conversation: One of the architects from our project; and my Product Owner (the guy who sets medium-to-long term plan for the team I'm on, and helps with more immediate technical decisions).

So, he outed me to this architect and this product owner. Like I said, he asked. And in the last remnants of the Post Pride Glow I said yes, partially because I'm trying to form an exit plan right now. What was weird was how m'colleague really wanted to tell his detective story. About how he knew of me in college. About how he knew the name, but never met me, and that it never came together until one particular conference. And... that I wasn't so comfortable with.

Moreover, he invited these people to put their hand on my shoulder. I did this with another colleague who I came out to, but it was appropriate to the time. I wasn't particularly happy being used as a live model of something. It didn't fit nicely.

Also, when I came back from a smoke, he'd outed me to an ex-colleague who'd left a few months prior. Again, this person was in his trust model, and she was mostly ok in my risk assessment, but... goddamn.

At any rate, much drink was taken. To the point that by the time I got up the next day, it was well into the evening. At the end of the night, he told the Product owner to call me Aoife on the Monday morning. I told them both I'd probably curl up in insta-shame right there and then. M'colleague said I shouldn't. I agree, but... it's what would happen anyway.

On Saturday, I was to take the remaining slivers of my new-found Post-Pride buzz, and take it to a post-pride Bi meetup. Unfortunately, due to the work drinks beforehand, and a weekful of fucked-up sleep patterns, I woke up roughly when the meet was starting in the evening (7pm). By the time I got in there, I saw regulars heading into the bar. I didn't know who was in there, and I just felt really self-conscious about heading in, so I breezed past the entrance. I got food, and then just felt sorry for myself. Feeling sorry for myself is probably the wrong phrase. I also beat myself up for my minor freakouts about shopping, and my general body/fashion illiteracy. The panic of doing this for myself was gone, but the futility had started to set in.

That was the crash. The next week was spent just barely maintaining myself. Low-effort eating. Limited social interaction. Just checking out. I kept meaning to write this blog post. I never did. That said, despite sounding weird and down-ish, I don't think of it as wallowing. Just a low-effort maintenance window. There was a high, there was a crash. Then there was a return to normality.

So, overall, this has been a difficult set of things to articulate, mostly because I wasn't always in the mood to write about it, and it's hard to marshall the words sometimes. But I'm re-surfacing slowly. I think I still have a way forward, I'm not obliged to stay in a mire. I just still need to press forward in whatever ways I can.