Thursday, November 24, 2011

After the Ball

Two weeks ago I wrote about the excitement of transition day at our Embassy in Bucharest and the glamor of the Marine Ball.  "OK," you say, "We believe the excitement and glamor part, but what about real life?  How has it been?"

The answer can be summed up in one beautiful word:  normal.  It's been absolutely, wonderfully normal.  I get up a few minutes earlier, true, to be as well groomed as I can before walking to the bus stop and waiting for my bus, just another professional woman on her way to work.  I walk through the Embassy gate, and the marine on duty greets me, "Good Morning, Ma'am."  I make my way to my office, greeting and being greeted as I go.  "Good morning, Robyn," I hear again and again.

I go through my day as always, but now with a smile and a much lighter step.  I had avoided our cafeteria and other public spaces for months, but now I break for lunch at noon or 12:30, grab the sandwich I brought from home, and down to the lunch room I go.  It's been wonderful to talk with so many of my colleagues who until two weeks ago hardly knew me.

First Day at Work
A member of our local staff with whom I work closely told me how stunned he had been by my announcement.  He said he went home that night with a heavy weight on his mind and told his wife, "My boss is becoming a woman."  She turned around, looked at him, and said, "So what?"  From that moment, he said, he realized that I was still the same person who had been evolving before his eyes without him knowing it.  Not once has he failed to call me Robyn, not once has he used the wrong personal pronoun by mistake.  I had been so worried about losing him, and now, realizing how wrong I had been in this worry, I want to hug him each time I go to speak with him.
Our HR office took a new photo of me for the Embassy registry, and I have a new badge with my new name.   My name has been changed in all directories and in the computer systems.  A colleague from Ankara with whom I worked long-distance for several days wrote a letter to my manager, telling him how grateful he was "to Robyn for her assistance in solving a problem that had plagued us for days."

Woman in a Red Hat
I spent last Saturday with good friends and bought a new hat.  I've been to an art reception this week and to Thanksgiving dinner at the Ambassador's residence, where I sat next to a Peace Corps volunteer who had been to Central Asia.  We talked about the never-ending water issues in that part of the world while stuffing ourselves with those deliciously awful foods that could size me out of the wardrobe I bought just two months ago.

Now my kitchen is filled with Thanksgiving aromas as I prepare for my own celebration with a number of local friends on Saturday.  I think back to the Transgender Day of Remembrance observance that I participated in a week ago at ACCEPT, the Romanian LGBT advocacy organization.  As troubled as my own life has been, I am one of the lucky ones.  I am alive!  I have more to give thanks for this year than ever before, for in this year, with the help and love of friends, family, and co-workers, I have become myself not just in the secret recesses of my own hopes and imagination but in the real day-to-day life that we all live.  Transition can happen even in the fifth decade of life, even in the State Department, and even at an overseas Embassy.  Life is normal, just as it should be, for the first time.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!  Robyn sends a hug from Bucharest.

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