The events in our lives happen in a sequence in time, but in their significance to ourselves they find their own order the continuous thread of revelation.
I was sitting at my desk at work. My co-workers zipped past me in a rush to get to their stand-up huddle meeting with their department head. After the masses quieted and the manager gave a brief introduction and pep-talk, the associates took turns talking about what interesting and positive things were going on in their personal lives. It was a tactic to get the associates to see their office-mates as more than just bodies who drone about doing similar work. Caring for the people you surround yourself with is important to a positive work group culture.
Now, I heard these stories of personal achievement and passion in real-time, my desk only two half-walls away from the stand-up meeting area. Hearing those anecdotes made me happy. One of the women had started up her own online jewelry business and was excited to see how well her live feeds would be received. Another co-worker preened about his trip to Tennessee the previous week with his family. As positive as these stories were, I found myself becoming sadder with each telling. There I was, alone at my desk, feeling a sense of depression descend upon me.
Why? What was the reason to be depressed about another person’s happiness? That’s a strange way to react to positivity and joy, isn’t it? Yes. It certainly is.
So… why, then? Because—although I wasn’t a part of any of the groups with scheduled huddles—I was instantly reminded that I couldn’t have shared many of the events and projects with the group, even if I had been invited to join the others. Could I have told them about being on a podcast the previous Friday night or how well I think I did as a guest? No… not without having to explain that it was Savannah who was on the FB live stream. Could I tell them how well Living with Crossdressing: Defining a New Normal was selling the last few months? No… not without worrying about additional follow-up questions. Sure, I could have veiled the stories with generalities and vagaries, and gotten through some version of the truth. And, to everyone within earshot, that would have been more than sufficient before moving on to more pressing matters of the business.
The problem lies with the underlying reason why I can’t share the projects I have the most passion for with everyone. The stories I overheard were an unexpected visceral reminder that I continue to live a secreted and segregated dual gender life. Most times, I successfully compartmentalize the duality of my gender. This moment, for some reason, made my mind-walls crumble to the ground from a fit of negative emotion. I have made positive strides (after Pride Month) to be more open, visible and accessible as Savannah in a public way. The baristas and patrons at Starbucks have been supportive and accepting of me in both my personas (at several locations). Maybe the wave of emotions was coming from the bittersweet taste of the validation in one part of my life as Savannah versus the continued secrecy in all the other parts of my life. Only a few co-workers (more like friends) know about Savannah. Only a couple family members know about my dual genders. I have two distinct and separate group of friends—half who know about Savannah and the other half associating with me without a clue of anyone within my shell of masculinity.
Yes, I choose to protect Savannah from those who may not particularly care for her or support her livelihood. I have made that decision on her behalf. As always, Savannah—against the current colors within the fabric of society—is still a part of my identity that I must run risk assessment calculations for on a daily basis. Maybe, my concerns are softening from the constant love and support I have received up to now. Maybe, I want to be more true to who I am versus worrying about what others have to say about it. I try not to be impulsive with my decisions concerning Savannah. I still need a job to support myself and my family.
I poured my angst out to those who do love and accept me for the complete person I am. One of the baristas at Starbucks even made a comparison about how she continues to have to censor her words, makeup and fashion around her Southern Baptist parents. I worry about societal judgement from ignorant strangers… she worries about religious judgement from her indoctrinated parents. I realized that, while I may be facing a somewhat unique situation with my dual gender in the American South, each of us can claim our own struggles with acting like someone less true than “us” in order to make our lives less hectic in a given situation. While I will ponder where I see myself tomorrow, I will continue to ask myself, “Is today the day I decide to be true to myself for the whole world to see?”
Savannah I don’t see your risk assessment strategy to protect both your masculine and feminine sides as well as your family should be seen as failing to be true to your complete self.
Recklessly outing yourself to all and sundry might feel like a bold step for one side of you and I trully understand the frustration of keeping one’s feme side hidden from most of the world, but I can’t see a better way.
Loved your book.