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Day 18: Trannies and Tootsie

2014 October 10
by Jen DiGiacomo

Eleven down.

I think it’s safe to say that this transgendered train has sailed (I’ll take “Butchered Analogies” for $500, Alex), and I now fill my days in New York City with coffees, lunches, dinners and drinks to let people know personally what’s going on in my life before news slips out on its own.

No more hiding.

Today starts with a lunch with a former intern from NYU who spent many a day in the office discussing storytelling, narrative structure and the like with me.

Now I get to tell her my story.

We walk to the Melt Shop for lunch (the grilled cheese should do wonders for my figure) and after ordering, I find a quiet spot outside to eat and share my news. A group of rambunctious teens quickly grabs the next table, the one about six inches away from us, and I move us to a bench for a tad more privacy.

Yada, Yada, Blah, blah, blah. Aaaaaaand… transgendered.

She makes her feelings on the matter quite apparent. It’s written all over her face. She is thrilled for me.

It’s funny. I’ve come out to 12 people now and I’m at the point where I can almost classify the responses. And her response goes to the top list. Completely accepting. Thrilled for me. So much so that all my nervousness dissipates. I get to be me. I get to stop hiding a part of myself. And let me tell you, that is a wonderful feeling.

We continue our chat as I walk her back to her office, unfortunately, we come up with no new words for my new vocabulary. Guys may be raunchier, but at least they have more creativity when it comes to words for women’s breasts. A lot more creativity.

I head downtown for another meeting, this time with a guy I worked with at AOL, consulted with for a good five years, and the business partner of the first guy I told, last week.

I know he’s going to take it just fine. He’s a terrific guy, and his brother is the leading activist for gay marriage, but I’m still stressed. He’s known me for 15 years. We worked together closely for many of those years. And despite the past week of love and support, this doesn’t seem to get much easier, especially with people I’ve known for a long time.

He gives me a hug when I come in the office, introduces me around as “the best,” and we finally settle in within one of his side offices. He knows I have news, so I start with, “Not gay, not dying of cancer.”

I share my stuttering tale, then the hiding and the shame, aaaaand… transgendered.

He gives me a hug, tells me how proud he is of me, how brave I am and proceeds to dominate the conversation, much like he usually does. But it’s good. Nothing has changed between us. He still wants to work with me again, girl mode or boy mode. And he still wants to dominate any conversation he is in.

But for the first time, I realize that people, even open-minded people, don’t necessarily understand what I’m going through. He peppers the conversation with the word “tranny” and asks me if Tootsie was my favorite movie growing up. I’m hesitant to bring up that “tranny” isn’t really a word in favor within the trans community. It feels like a pejorative. Not when he says it, because I know it comes from a place of love. But it’s hard not to wince each time he uses it.

And don’t just take my word for it. To quote Wikipedia (always known to be at least 90% accurate)…

Tranny is a slang term used chiefly to describe people who are transgender, i.e. transsexual, drag, transvestites or cross-dressers. The term is considered a slur by some transgender activists, such as Roz Kaveney. The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) state that the term is “usually considered offensive and/or defamatory” by members of the transgender community. The gay community is believed to have originated the term, and many members of the gay community feel the word is a term of endearment.

As for Tootsie, that’s the first time that movie has been referenced since I started coming out. Sure, I liked the movie, but it didn’t speak to me. It’s about an out-of-work actor who takes on the role of a woman to get work. It has very little to do with gender identity, at least for me. I certainly don’t dress up in glittery gowns and wave around American flags, and perhaps that’s what some people will envision in their minds. That this is about clothing and theater. But that’s not what it’s about for me. It’s about me being who I am.

In a way, that’s what this blog is for. To educate people on what I’m really going through.

Perhaps our next conversation will be a better time to bring this up. I really don’t want to ruin the moment over technicalities, because it is genuinely a delightful meeting and I’m blessed to have friends like him.

His assistant breaks in on our discussion and he is pulled into another meeting, but not before giving me another hug and a kiss on the cheek.

That night, I find myself unexpectedly in New York City for another day, and end up having drinks with a young guy who used to work for me on a web project where we relaunched 167 radio station websites in a little over two months.

I wasn’t planning on outing myself with him. More of a catchup, but we have such a delightful conversation about life that the moment just seems right. I tell him, and maybe these kids in their early ’20s just have a different outlook on life, but he is thrilled for me. It doesn’t phase him in the least and he tells me how much he admires me for being honest with myself and being so open about it.

I guess waiting 40 years to come to grips with being transgendered doesn’t sound very brave to me, but I’ll take what I can get. And so far, that’s 14 amazing friends.

Note: When I began transitioning in 2014, I was known by my nickname DiG, which sufficed until I learned my mom had chosen Jennifer had my birth gone differently. So for historical sake, I leave my posts and podcasts as originally conceived, but know that my name is and apparently always was Jen.
Day 17, Part II: Not Gay, Not Dying of Cancer
Day 19: Not So Good
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