Back in April, the day after my last blog post, I did indeed start living fulltime as a woman. I dressed as such, went to work in a skirt, and followed up on the process I started the previous week, to have Wal-Mart recognize me as female. I had a meeting with the store manager and co-manager, and came out of it with the company’s acceptance of my transition, and specifically, a requirement that, when I use the restroom, it must be the women’s.
When I got home from work Friday, my stepmother had a gift for me: a cute outfit from Cato.
It was good practice, but ultimately had little lasting effect. Three days later, on Friday the 4th of April, I quit Wal-Mart. Sunday, I boarded a bus to Georgia to begin a month-long CDL training course. I wore my new outfit from Cato for traveling, but otherwise didn’t take any skirts with me. I also didn’t take any men’s clothes, aside from socks for my ginormous feet; I had some women’s clothes I bought myself, some more that I got from online friends, and my stepmother gave me some of her old clothes that fit me. (side note: Firefox’s built-in spell checker flagged “men’s” but has no problem with “ginormous”)
In Georgia, I met my classmates and instructor on the first day of class. No one had any improper comments, and the instructor took the position of making it not a big issue. She assumed the class simply followed her lead on the matter. Soon enough, Friday 4/11 came around and the whole class (save those who has quit or washed out) hopped on a bus to Nashville, the first leg of a trip to Salt Lake City.
The bus encountered road work, heavy traffic, and an unruly rider, any one of which would have delayed us enough to miss the connecting bus. This set off a chain of events that turned a trip with a grand total of about two hours of layover time, into a 60-hour fiasco of a trip with at least 24 hours of layover time and a splitting of the group halfway there.
It was in St. Louis, near the end of a many-hours layover, that I encountered my first incidence of transgender discrimination. I went to the restroom, where a female janitor was standing outside with her cart, halfway blocking the entrance. I asked her if the restroom was closed, and she said it wasn’t, so I went in. At that point she ran and fetched station security (or more likely used a radio), and two officers, one male and one female, responded. The female officer came just inside the restroom and spoke to the janitor about the issue. I was in the first stall at this point, so I finished my business and came out. The security guard grilled me on my gender and then basically told me that unless I got my gender marker changed on my ID, I was not welcome in the ladies’ room at that terminal.
Throughout the trip, people talked about me behind my back. These people were quickly shut down by my classmates, something I didn’t find out about later. In once case that was related to me about a month later in a chance meeting with a classmate at a company terminal, a group of about 5-6 people started talking about me after I walked away. They were immediately shut down by my classmates: a group of nearly 20 guys, all of whom are imposing in one way or another. The classmate of mine most outspoken in my defense was a man we nicknamed Martin, for his uncanny resemblance to comedian Martin Lawrence.
Upon our arrival in Salt Lake, Martin decided to get his training from a rival company. The rest of us boarded a van and went to the terminal in West Valley City, where we dropped off our stuff and went to the DMV to take the written test. Note that I didn’t mention anything about getting a hotel, or a night’s rest, after the fiasco of a trip. By the time we got to the DMV, only a few of us had a chance to get to the testing before they closed it. I was one of the few who got to test; I passed every test on the first attempt, and got my learner’s permit. A couple others did as well, the rest had to come back the next day. We all got hotel rooms and a good night’s rest.
The next day, Tuesday April 15th, hands-on training began. On April 22nd, I took my road test and got my CDL. Orientation began Wednesday, April 23rd and ran through Friday. Part of orientation included paperwork, of course. Two forms in particular caught my eye, at least as far as the subject of this blog is concerned. The trainer preference form basically has three questions: what gender am I, would I prefer a same-sex trainer or no preference, and am I a smoker. I put Female/Same/Non-smoker. The other form basically allowed me to define which gender I would be considered as by the company, irrespective of my legal gender.
Despite my preferences listed, the training department set me up with a male trainer. I had a trainer lined up for Saturday, so I called him in the morning, and found out that he was shut down for 30 days, and thus would not be able to be my trainer. So I had to get my stay in the hotel extended for another day, and then the next day get it extended a few more (the guy who handles extensions on Friday and Saturday would only extend me one day). On Monday I went in to talk to the training department. On Tuesday, I got a call from them; I was to be on a bus to Reno to meet up with my new trainer, “M”, rather than the typical procedure of waiting for him at the terminal. Side note: the training department ignored all of my preferences for a trainer, putting me with a male smoker.
So we traveled the country, though not as much of it as I had expected; as far Northeast as Ohio, as far southeast as Georgia, up to the Pacific Northwest, and Southwest as far as Las Vegas and Phoenix. I learned that he’s an immigrant from Nicaragua, a military veteran – he learned to drive a truck in the Army – and he almost always remembered to gender me female. He did call me “man” and “dude” a lot but I didn’t make a big issue of it since he called his wife “man” and “dude” a lot, too, when he spoke to her on the phone. A lot of people say “I call everyone ‘dude’” but this guy actually does.
M seems like a very good trainer. He’s also very generous, buying me food and other necessities, and hooking me up with several necessities and useful items for the road, as my training time came to an end. He nearly made me cry several times – I probably would have cried, if I was on estrogen already, as I hear that estrogen helps with breaking down blockages in emotional expression – but in the end, I’m confident that I’ll be able to pass the company road test and upgrade from a student to a company driver. That’s tomorrow.