When one decides to transition, the reactions of your family, friends and co-workers weighs heavily on your mind. You play out various scenarios in your head of how things will go, but you never get what you expect.
I transitioned at work several months ago and things have settled down into a routine. I originally thought that the hard part for my co-workers would be adjusting to my new appearance. This they have all taken in stride and seem not to give it a second thought.
My name change came quickly and apparently easily for them. I suspect some instruction from administration, but can’t confirm it. Rarely, if ever, does anyone call me Jeff.
Pronouns are a completely different story, he, she, him & her are intersperse throughout almost every conversation. Yesterday I was working with a colleague. He was on the phone with another co-worker needing help with several wireless microphones. I’m the engineer so this is my realm. The conversation goes like this; “Jess is here with me, he can help you, want her to come down?” I’m watching his face and you can see he has no idea he has mixed genders repeatedly in his sentence.
Pronouns seem to be something especially hard for people. Maybe it’s just english speakers as we have a very solid binary language. In english people are either masculine or feminine, objects are nothing. When I studied German, it was the gender of everything that I found the most difficult. German has masculine, Feminine and neuter for everything. So you not only had to learn the name of something but also it’s gender. “Let’s see is the door male, female or neuter?”
Why are these changes so difficult? It seems to me that the language portion of our brain works mostly from memory. It always racing ahead of your mouth in an attempt to supply the words. It relies on not only newly generated thought, but also on past verbalizations. -‘What phrases have I used before that worked in this situation?’ ‘Is there an standard response available?’- When someone says ‘Thank you’, the words ‘Your welcome’ form without much thought, you have responded with that phrase many times before.
For the people I have known for many years, there are tons of memories where the pronoun was always male and it will take much time to add the necessary new memories.
I’m kind of like the door in German, only they all learned it as masculine, only to find out later it was feminine all along.