This week is my office holiday party. Yes, it’s in January and I’m not certain as to why although I could guess that budget has something to do with it. I’m really looking forward to it. I work with the best people! They are so fun and everyone (with few exceptions) works hard and plays harder. That said, I’m very concerned about one aspect of this party: How do I introduce Katie to my coworkers? I’ve been at this job and worked with mostly the same group of people for over 3 years. They all know my husband, Kyle and I have no idea how to explain to people I ultimately work with that she is transitioning. It’s questions like these that make it so clear why this process is called a “Transition”. Katie is not the only one transitioning, although she is clearly the obvious transition. I am transitioning as I grow with this process. We are transitioning our marriage. Our families are transitioning their version of Katie as they’ve known her. Our friends are transitioning how they think of us as well.
That said, every decision I make has this pervasive tie to the transition, including something as simple as attending a Christmas party. Another example was at the beginning of the transition when it was warmer out and Katie would wear shorts. My anxiety would ask “What if someone notices Katie’s shaved legs while we are out and about?” If that someone is a stranger that’s one thing, but what if it’s one of our friends who doesn’t know yet? What if it’s a coworker? Do we acknowledge she’s transitioning? If so, how? We are still grappling with this question, even 4 months later. By the way, it’s been 4 months. I can’t believe it!
So far we have been preoccupied with the most common question: “How do we tell so-and-so?”. We have both practiced these conversations, done dry-runs in our imaginations outlining the best and worst-case scenarios. Each experience, each Outing, has been so different. For instance, I told Christen while on a work trip to Palm Springs. I told her in a moment of total stress as we wound down a night of drinking after a full day of meetings. That day I had presented to a room of 65 of the brightest people I have ever met, all with titles and years of experience much larger than mine. Christen was having a low moment that only happens with too much alcohol while we walked back to our room. I’ll never forget how warm the air was as the pool rippled nearby, or how dimly lit the open air walk way was as what I told Christen caused us to both stop walking and tear up. I responded to her low moment and spitefully said “Want to hear something sad? My husband is my wife!” For context, this conversation took place no less than 3 weeks after The Outing and I was totally overwhelmed. At the time, no one knew outside of me, Katie, and my mom. Christen was amazing and I will never forget how supported I felt as we both cried and I unloaded a lot of fear and anxiety about what my life was going to look like. I told her because I needed my friend to know that I had successfully presented that day to a room of 65 people, and none of whom knew my life was falling apart. I told her to provide insight into what my definition of sadness and alone had come to look like. That said, I haven’t blurted this news out in that fashion since then. I regret the way I told her because I had been drinking and I don’t think it’s fair to put this kind of information on people when they aren’t ready for it (like on a work trip after an 18 hour day with work people). Christen handled it beautifully and someday I hope she knows how absolutely grateful I am for it. She listened and was there for me when I was too afraid to ask for help. Even thinking about it now brings tears to my eyes. Still, the next day I regretted the way I handled it and promised I wouldn’t do that again. Since then, every person I have told has been in a meticulous way so I can be prepared for a worst-case reaction and respect the questions that come up for others when I give this news. I typically let people know I have something to tell them and ask when they have time to talk. This is partly fun for me because then they can at least wonder if I’m pregnant or have cancer before we meet. I just know how I felt when I learned this news and although my relationship with Katie is different from everyone else’s (I’m the only one married to her!), when people learn about the transition, I am becoming part of the story of their Outing. That is important and should be respected.
So, I come back to this question: How do I introduce Katie at the holiday party? I talked to her about it and she let me know she isn’t ready to reveal to that large of a group what’s going on in her life. I feel terrible that my wife will have to dress in men’s clothing and be Kyle for a night. It feels like a step backward for her. But, I’m also relieved. I’m not ready to explain to people I work with that my husband is actually my wife. It’s complicated from a work perspective. It’s complicated for Katie and I from a personal one. It’s complicated for me emotionally. I know at some point I will need to tell them, but I think that will be when Katie is more ready to define and defend her experience to the public. Also, does there really have to be an explanation? “My husband is transitioning from Kyle to Katie”. Drops mic. Walks away. Prays for a future when people don’t have to announce this sort of thing. Looks forward to when we are done with telling people. That will be such a good day and a wonderful relief.