Young woman with hands on her head in a surprise despair embarrassment or panic gesture against white background. - When you think you are in a situation where being transgender or gender non-conforming won’t be relevant, but then all of a sudden it pops up.

It is something only a transgender person can truly appreciate. The awkward moments that can happen when you are caught off guard, even if it is for a split second. You think you are in a situation where being transgender or gender non-conforming won’t be relevant, but then all of a sudden it pops up. On the rare occasion when the fact that I am transgender is the furthest thing on my mind is usually the moment when it happens.

My electric bill was overdue as usual this month as it always seems to be the one I forget to pay. I needed to get the payment in quickly so I decided to call and make my payment over the phone. As the representative answered the phone I looked down and realized the bill was still under my dead name as I was introducing myself as Mila. Changing my name on a couple of utility bills is just something I haven’t made a priority to get around to. Up until now it never really mattered anyway. The representative took the payment information and before she could finish processing it, she asked me what my relation was to the account holder.

“For a second there being transgender wasn’t on my mind, but now here it was center stage.”

I instantly froze in my tracks. For a second there being transgender wasn’t on my mind, but now here it was center stage. To be honest the thought crossed my mind to just simply say I was “his” wife, but that would preclude my actual wife from ever being able to deal with the electric company. There was also the fact that it would have been a lie. After a few awkward “um’s” and “uh’s” I just blurted it out. “Well actually it is me, you see I am transgender,” I said. The representative handled it really well and simply said, “no problem.” She asked me if my name was legally changed and offered to update my records. I ended up giving her a full 5 star rating on her survey and luckily for me I walked away with a chuckle and a smile on my face.

Phone representative wearing a headset - When you think you are in a situation where being transgender or gender non-conforming won’t be relevant, but then all of a sudden it pops up.

Part of transitioning is learning to deal with these awkward moments. It happens to all of us. I have sat at a bar where the bartender was an old friend from high school. She didn’t recognize me so I just went with it, simply because I was just not in the mood to out myself that day. I could be going somewhere and at the last minute I realize I am about to see someone who does not yet know that I am transgender. It can be a room full of people who know about me and there is just that awkward feeling as if I was some alien that just landed in the room. The awkwardness in the air is so thick it feels like wading in a stick of butter. I end up wondering is it everyone else who feels awkward or is it my own perception? It can be a coworker who accidentally uses the wrong pronoun. It is usually followed by a moment of uncomfortable silence as they feel bad and you don’t know what to say. These moments will happen. It is just part of the transgender existence.

“For most, the only thing they know about transgender is Caitlyn Jenner and a bunch of conflicting news stories about bathrooms.”

Why is being around a transgender person so awkward for everyone else? Well the answer is that many people have never been around one before. For them it literally is like an alien landing in the room. For most, the only thing they know about transgender is Caitlyn Jenner and a bunch of conflicting news stories about bathrooms. The good news is that this perception is starting to change as more people are being exposed to the fact that transgender people exist. The more we are seen in people’s daily lives, the less “alien” we will seem. There is also the realization that some of us, including myself, may actually be contributing to this “awkwardness.”

I am beginning to realize that there will probably never be a day where being transgender won’t be a part of almost every moment I experience. There will always be awkward times where I may just have to out myself to get through it. There will always be an uncomfortable feeling in the air when I have to put myself in certain situations. What I am learning though is that there is opportunity in these awkward moments. Perhaps when I am in a room where people may feel uncomfortable I actually have an opportunity to show people that I don’t bite. If I say something when someone accidentally misgenders me, perhaps I can create an opportunity for discussion and understanding. I am beginning to realize that each time I am in an awkward situation I actually have an ability to change the perceptions about transgender people like myself. It can be a moment as simple as paying your electric bill where the person you spoke with leaves a simple conversation with perhaps a different impression. Instead of contributing to the awkwardness I can actually break through it. I will embrace these moments and seize the opportunities within it. I will do so being proud of the person I am.

  • Jennifer Gow

    One of my somewhat awkward moments happened a few years ago. One of my children was involved in a musical performance and were rehearsing at a private girl’s school. Sitting around with other women whose kids were also in the performance I mentioned that my sister attended that school. I was asked “didn’t you go as well?” My answer was “It was complicated”.
    I still have the annoyances of the gap between my legal name and my preferred one. I am about to change my legal name to change the name and gender descriptor on my passport so there is going to be a string of collateral changes to sort out.

    • Trudi Morrison-Gardiner

      Hey Sis,
      I admit I still have a few points to update with my legal name as well. And yes it does get a bit frustrating at times having to deal with some people who mis-gender me (thus the reason I am working on my voice to alleviate that).

      Love A & the family!

  • Michaela Eff

    I was at the hospital recently, having my shoulder x-rayed. When I handed over my new data, they were able to change the names, but not the salutation, No one realized that, so when I received an invoice, adressing me as Mr. Michaela F. I got a bit mad. The next time I had an appointment, I, starting out calmly, explained that I do not care about receiving such a letter ever again.

    It turned out they could not change that bit of my data, I had to address the central office. Central offfice complied without questions, my presence being enough for them to prove that I am a Mrs. but they asked me to provide additional data, to fill in the blanks. They asked if I was married, who my G.P. was, who my health insurance was, and then “And your husband’s name is…?” What could I answer but: “she’s a woman, and her name is…”

  • Kaylie Jackson

    Another great article! I had another in a long string of these types of events last week. I received a call to verify an upcoming appointment with my doctor. She happened to be a new office worker. She asked to speak to Kaylie and it actually confused me for a moment. As I stammered to say “This is Kaylie,” I probably sounded like a complete moron. My voice, like many others, is my nemesis without a doubt. The phone is really the hardest thing for me (were voice is concerned) because time instills habits so deep.

    • Lacy Norris

      My voice normally gets me as well. Yesterday however I wasn’t misgendered on the phone. I called the lawyers office to schedule an appointment to review the separation agreement my wife’s lawyer sent me. I was actually very surprised along with being happy about it. Then came the awkward part of explaining what my name was as I am sure they would need my legal name. All went well and she was very professional about it.

      • Kaylie Jackson

        I live in a most conservative state, but most of my interactions on the phone when I have to explain names and gender usually sound like what you described. I always amazes me how polite and professional most of the people respond. The only difference I ever notice is that there is a slight level of discomfort or disdain when the other person is male.
        Separations are tough, and I hope yours (Lacy) moves in a direction you desire. As of now I consider myself very fortunate in this area, but it breaks my heart to watch others deal with separation and other relationship issues. Stay strong.

  • Jessilynn Jane Liddell

    The sad part is… a lot of people in my area… are VERY closed minded, and are raising their children to be closed minded, and a lot of the kids are TAKING ON to that… I’ve heard so many stories of trans kids in my area being bullied, and stuff.

    I wish things were better in this area. I really do- And there is no such action to be taken without ridicule so “visibility” is… kinda a mute point here :/

  • Rob P

    A friend of mine once said (when this topic came up) “Rob’s life is one big awkward moment.” My response back “yup! Pretty much!” 🙂