I’m going to start this post by discussing the word “Guys” because I really wanted to start my post by saying “Guys! We bought a Vespa!”, but I realized that it’s probably not appropriate to do so. There is a point to which I wonder how I can really offend people by addressing them by a term I do believe can equally address both genders, but I know that comes from the perspective of privilege. I’m not offended when addressed by the word “guys”, but does that mean I’m accepting my own inequality as the sex that is not equal to men in the United States? I don’t think there is an easy answer to that question and I do know there will probably be several people who comment and reach out to argue many different perspectives on what is correct here. All of that said:
Everyone! We bought a Vespa! Katie and I have shared a car for the past 6 months. When we moved to Ballard, having 2 cars became a ridiculous and unnecessary expense. At the time that we sold our second car, Katie worked downtown, and it was an easy 1-bus commute. Then Katie’s job location changed and became a 3-bus, wake up at 3am commute. Not fun. The Vespa is bright yellow which made me think of sunshine. The train of thought for naming her is as follows: Vespa = Yellow = Sunshine = Sunny = Sonny and Cher = Cher. We have taken her to view sunset at Golden Gardens and wine tasting at Columbia winery and I love her as much as anyone can love a non-breathing object.
To buy the Vespa, Katie spent an evening as Kyle. She felt talking to motorcycle dudes and negotiating a price down would be easier if her identity matched the stereotype held by the name and gender marker on her picture-ID. It’s become obvious to both Katie and I that getting her name and gender marker legally changed are likely the next step in Katie’s transition. This may seem as simple as legal forms and a court appearance (yes, you have to appear in front of a judge in court to change your name in Washington state), but Katie changing her name means also updating legal forms with her employer. This complicates Katie’s legal identity confirmation so much more.
Katie works in construction, a male-dominated environment where cis-gendered women are difficult to find. According to the National Association of Women in Construction, in 2016, women comprised 9.1% of the construction workforce in the United States. 45% of that 9.1% were in office positions and only 1.5% in service occupations like what Katie does now. I tried to find statistics on transgender humans in the construction field but couldn’t. In general, the US has done a shitty job of measuring transgender humans, but that’s probably because it’s not safe for them to self-identify and be measured. I’m scared for Katie to come out at work. I’m scared of damage done to her reputation and career because of ignorance. I’m scared of the pain she will experience because people cannot keep their opinions to themselves. I’m terrified of the phone call I might get from a hospital or police officer notifying me she’s laying in a hospital bed, assaulted by the testosterone-riddled asshole who actually believes her existence is wrong. Coming out at work means Katie will gain the freedom of not being Kyle anymore, but exchange it for the potential statistics of being transgender. 47% of transgender humans surveyed report having been assaulted. 47%. It’s staggering and, to be honest, I often don’t allow myself to think about it because it’s painful. I can’t focus on the things I cannot control and I cannot control the ignorance and hatred of others. I can control how I support my wife through figuring out how to transition at work, in figuring out the timing of that.
Watching Katie retreat within herself after taking the motorcycle training courses and buying Cher was difficult for me. For the first time in a very long time, I watched Katie disconnect from her feelings, showing me the person I used to know before she came out to me. In part due to my own ignorance and also because of the very real fears I attribute to her coming out at work, I’ve previously stood behind statements like “Let’s wait as long as possible” and “You can be who you need to be outside of work, so why rush?” and “Why not delay it until you medically transition?”. I’m not proud of those statements and I want Katie to do what’s right for her as soon as she’s ready. I’ve known alive-Katie for almost 1 year now and I don’t want to go back. Her future, my future, and our future can only get brighter from here and that’s really exciting for me.
To be clear, Katie hasn’t been pushing to expedite the legal name change. We’ve really only just begun spinning the name-change back and forth between each other, an empty wine bottle we’re watching so when it lands we know which plan to kiss. At this point, I know Katie will tell me when she’s ready, when she figures out the timeline that works for her. I’ll be ready with my lip balm and a mint.
Oh yes, dear world, please meet Cher (isn’t she cute?):