I’ve realized I’m no longer journeying towards transition, but actively transitioning, so this series is being re-named my “Journey of Transition” from here on. Presumably I’ll have a similar realization somewhere down the line when it dawns on me that I have transitioned, and my life as a transgender woman has become my normal, routine, daily life without cause for comment. That’ll be the day this series ends and maybe a new one called My Transgender Life, or similar, will begin.
I also have a new and very significant milestone in my journey to prepare for. My work environment Monday to Friday, (and even outside of that at times,) remains the last bastion of masculinity preventing me from being myself in every corner of my life. I would love to wipe out this blemish in an otherwise liberated existence, but there are serious consequences to consider. The biggest risk to me would be that my employers would no longer wish to employ me, which would mean a hustle to secure another job in Bangkok, or having to move back to the UK, which is something I really want to avoid. Bangkok is home to me. So, things need to be handled respectfully and with tact and consideration for my employers.
I was discussing this with my counselor Anette last night and mentioned that my plan had been to sneak more and more femininity into my daily presentation at work so that it gradually becomes taken for granted rather than be a shock to my employers. Just recently though I’d been considering that it might be better to make an appointment to meet with my bosses on one of my days off, and arrive for the appointment presenting myself as I would ideally like to come to work on a daily basis; in feminine work wear and tastefully made up. Then give them the decision and ask them if they would permit me to present myself as such for work, upholding the professional corporate image of the company, or if they preferred I did not. I would of course have to prepare myself for a response in the negative and their requesting that I do not present myself as a transgender woman. That is quite possible, and if I place the decision in their hands I would need to accept it without resentment.
All in all, this method shows respect for their authority and gives them the opportunity to decline my request, whereas, if I was to gradually present more and more femininely at work, they may well be uncomfortable with it but not want to address the matter with me head on. Instead they may simply decide to discontinue my employment with them rather than have a confrontation about something which can be construed as a personal matter. (For those reading from outside of Thailand, it may sound vulgar that I’d give my employer the decision in a basic right like this, but there is a firm structure of respect in Thai culture, which goes in hand with being a contracted employee without any guarantee of employment renewal.)
An aspect I don’t know if I want them to consider, and it might be detrimental for me to point out to them, is that if they declined my request, to present masculinely at work with the body changes that are taking and will take place, as well as my official name now as Ms. Ashley Johnson, could have complications down the line. While my title is now Ms. I still have customers addressing me as Mr. Johnson by email and in person. To correct them and explain I’m Ms. Johnson gets odd when I’m presenting visually as a man.
Before I make an appointment to ask them this question, I need to be entirely ready to go to work every day in my true feminine form. Amongst other things, this means I need to have a sustainable, professional wardrobe. Currently I have nothing. I’ve never had the opportunity to work as a transgender woman before and so have not accumulated a working wardrobe. I’ve not experimented with styles and what suits me and my tastes over past years. I have ordered some work wear online and sent it to my friend in the UK who is visiting me next week, so I can start to try out some things, and here in Bangkok tailoring is economically available, so if I can find things I like the look of in magazines I’ll get it made. Unfortunately there aren’t shops that have a good selection of women’s work wear of the rack in my size here. I find M&S limited and quite frumpy and there isn’t much in H&M, Zara etc. Still, I think I’ll enjoy experimenting with my look until I have a wardrobe I’m happy with, and outside of this year of mourning, the company returns to uniform work shirt with black trousers or skirt, so the choices get easier – get a female cut of our standard issue work shirt, paired with feminine trousers, smart shoes with low heel and a feminine light jacket or cardigan type thing over the top. I’ve time to accumulate it.
Anette asked me last night, in representing the professional face of the company, how would I expect people to react to me? What would I hope they think when meeting me? In answer, I would hope that they would think, “OK, a transgender woman” with curiosity perhaps, but then getting right on with interacting with me in a professional capacity, as they would with someone of any other gender. I think I’ve moved beyond worrying that people will think of me laughably as a man in a dress, and I know people will never mistake me for a genetic woman. I’m happy with that and I’m owning what I am. I’m a transgender woman and proud of it.
This situation is something which could potentially have a massive impact on my life financially and personally if it goes belly up, but it’s a risk I cannot avoid even if I tried. I knew transition would eventually touch every part of my life (that was the expectation and goal when starting it) and I knew that there could be some difficult times ahead resulting from it. Even if I do continue to dress in men’s clothes at work, my body is changing and the changes will ultimately not be hideable. If they do fire me for transitioning, I’ll need to think positively that change can be a good thing. I have been working in this same company for 20 years this year (with 3 ½ years away when I returned to the UK) so I hope they remain loyal to me, but on the flip side working for a different employer in Bangkok would be an adventure.