Q. Who are you? What is your background?
I’m Genevieve Wicker. On one scale I’m only a year and a few months old. On another I’m older than I’d care to say. What I am is transgendered. Male to female.
Most importantly, I’m happy. Being happy is everything.
Ten plus years ago I had reached a point in my life where I had a choice to make. On the one side, I could stay as I was, a man who was striving to be content and not much more. On the other side, I could try to understand what was in my head and what I had been fighting for years. It would be a much different life, with risks of losing friends, job, etc. It was a choice to transition into womanhood.
I obviously chose the latter. It means me is me. And there is that “happy” thing.
Q. What is your work?
A. I work for Glen Raven, Inc., which is the company behind Sunbrella performance fabrics. I’m coming up on nineteen years at Glen Raven. Great people, great company.
My title du jour is Marketing I.T. Manager. It’s one in a long line of dreamed up titles (it’s hard to operate in the business world without one). My title tells you something and nothing. Yes, I work in marketing and yes, I have an information technology background, but beyond that, zero.
What do I do? I’m a project manager, data manager, helpdesk, marketer, comic relief and most importantly, mother hen. Essentially, I solve problems. I think I’m good at it. It’s what gets me out of bed in the morning.
Q. What is one project you are excited to be working on right now?
A. Not sure that I can answer this one, because so much my day is spent multitasking to the point of scariness. Many days I drive home with an inability to recall what I did that morning. What I did over the week? Forget it.
What makes me excited is watching the team succeed. If they’re succeeding then I know that on some level, I’m succeeding.
Q. What is one thing you've done recently that's scared you and took courage, but you're glad you did?
A. Being transgendered, I could offer you story upon story. Informing friends, co-workers, relatives and the big one, the parents, of my plans to transition. The trials and tribulations of changing one’s social security card, passport and driver’s license. Simply visiting the same stores I’ve always visited, but now as a woman.
As an aside, I am often complimented on how brave I was to have transitioned. The first time someone made that complement, it threw me because I didn’t see it that way. I still don’t. I saw my transition as something that had to be done. Maybe that’s what being courageous is? Doing what must be done.
Anyway, how does one tell their parents that their son is becoming their daughter? What follows is a condensed version of a longer story. It’s the only way I know to relate it.
I had been struggling with how to tell my parents for a long time. It was the main reason I waited so late in life to transition.
Lost for a direction forward, I returned to my therapist. She said to write them a letter. A letter would allow me to say what needed to be said. Otherwise, I might never get through the conversation. She was right (she was right about so, so much).
Not too long after my therapy visit, I was on a flight to Miami without wireless, without a book, without anything but my laptop. Searching for what to do, I opened Word and wrote 80 to 85% of the letter. There was very little editing. It was almost a straight export from brain to page. If the flight had been longer I would have finished it (I finished it a couple of days later).
Looking back, I realized that everything in the letter had been in my head all along. I was just too wound up in figuring out how to get it out.
Now how and when?
I eliminated asking friends/relatives or even my therapist to sit in with my parents. No need to drag anyone else into it. It would be Dad, Mom and me. I thought about locations and decided home was best. If there was a scene, it needed to be out of the public eye.
I had the “how”, now when?
Much of my journey had been guided by “signs”. Several friends/relatives were informed of my transition because the moment presented itself or I saw a clear direction for making it happen. I was waiting for a sign and getting more and more anxious over it. I needed a “sign.”
I got one.
On a Sunday afternoon a tweet from Banksy, the famous street artist, came across my Twitter feed. The tweet said, “Sometimes you have to stop worrying, wondering, and doubting and just have faith that things will work out.” I read that as if he was talking directly to me. Tomorrow would be the day.
I couldn’t call my parents ahead of time because Mom would immediately go into full on worry mode. “Why are you coming by? What do you need to tell us? Are you dying?” Best to keep the time between calling and arrival to a minimum so I decided to call at 5pm (end of work day) and then drive over (15 minutes).
Monday arrives and I’m a basket case. I doubt I accomplished anything that day. I remember office roomie asking, “What is wrong with you?!?”. I told her I’d explain it all later.
Julie, my BFF, was checking in with me every so often during the day because she knows me well enough to know what kind of state I was in. I had told her of my plan on Sunday because I knew I would need her encouragement come Monday, especially as 5pm approached.
Sometime late in the day, another Banksy tweet comes across my feed: “Stay calm and breathe". Oh, yeah. He was talking to me.
I call my parents.
5:15pm I call again.
At this point I’m losing it. Julie is pinging me to see what’s going on… Julie’s kids are now all wound up because Julie has clued them in. Me? I’m a wreck.
6:00pm, 6:15pm and 6:30pm.
Same. No answer. Where the f--- are they? They are out later than normal.
6:45pm F--- it. I leave the office and head to their house.
7:00pm I pull in the driveway and they are still not home. WTF? I leave, drive up the road about a mile, find an empty parking lot to… well… I don’t know what. I may have freaked Julie out about now, but my parents not being home was totally unexpected. I was a basket case.
7:10pm I call again.
Mom answers. I quickly run through the how-ya-doing, where-ya-been and say I’m coming by, I have something we need to talk about. Her radar goes up, but I cut her off before she has time to go into full on CIA interrogator mode.
I drive the mile to their house, park, get out of the car, walk towards the porch. As I approach they step out the front door and at that moment of recognition, all my anxiety falls away. I’m calm. I’ve got this.
I get them into the house and into the dining room. I manage to get Dad to turn off the TV, which is a major accomplishment if you know Dad. I’m on a sofa, Mom is across from me in a chair and Dad is diagonal to me in another chair.
I set this up by telling them how much I love them, how much I appreciate all they have done for me to get me where I am and so on…
They interrupt asking “Are you moving?”, “Did you quit your job?”, “Did you get married?”, etc.
No, no and no. Sigh.
I go on to say that I’m handing them a letter and I need them to read it to completion no matter how difficult it may be. I reiterate that and how much I love them.
I hand them each the letter and they start reading. There’s a little bit of chuckling and then they go silent as they continue reading.
Mom gets to the critical point where I state that I’m becoming a woman and she tenses, closes her eyes tight and says “Oh, God.” She’s silent for a minute then says that she never wanted a daughter, only a son. Knife to heart for me.
I press them both to keep reading and they finish.
Dad is silent. Mom is distraught.
Dad says you know this is going to cost you your job. I respond that it is not. What I do not say is that I’ve already talked to HR and know where I stand.
There is one point I need them to grasp more than anything else. The point that my transition had zero to do with how they raised me. If they had brought me up differently, it would not have mattered. Mom is now blaming herself by saying that if she hadn’t spent so much time teaching and been home more… this is Mom.
There was more discussion, but it’s lost in the faded memories of the last year. There was no yelling. There were some tears, but no crying.
I’m not sure how I knew it was over, but it was, and I got up to leave. We were again standing on the front porch, hugging each other and they said what I needed more desperately than anything to hear them say. They loved me no matter what.
I walked to the car, waved goodbye and drove away.
At the first stop I pinged Julie to let her know it was over, it went okay and that I was headed her way. The drive I don’t recall. I started at point A and ended at point B.
I do remember arriving at Julie’s house, parking, stepping out of the car, heading towards the front door, looking up to see Julie coming down the porch steps, stopping and then it all rushing out… I cried and cried.
Julie hugged me, said something, went away, returned and then we made our way over to her neighbor’s porch swing. I ran through it all again with Julie asking questions, commenting and generally doing what she does so well… being my BFF.
I have no clue how long we sat there talking but at some point, we left for food. We’d kind of been half-joking about eating Mexican as something of a celebration of sorts so we did. Margaritas too, because that’s what one does after they have cried on their BFF’s lawn.
We dined, I dropped Julie off and headed home. It was done.
Q. What is the work you most want to be doing and are you doing it? If not why not what's stopping you?
A. Our department has been going through a reorganization for the past few months and as we went into it, I felt completely lost as to my role in the new structure. Mentally, I was not in a good spot for several weeks and I’m still not sure how I pulled myself out of it. However, I did, I came to realize that I’m there for two reasons.
The first is to get sh—done. Apologies for the four-letter word, but that phrase demands it. Co-workers know that they can toss me most anything and I’ll figure out how to resolve it. Resolution is a good feeling. Repeatedly, it’s a great feeling.
The second is to be mother hen to a wonderful group of people. I joke about it, but it’s an important role. A team needs someone watching over them. It’s not a managerial role or an HR role. It’s a culture role. If the culture is correct, a team can do anything.
To answer the question directly, I’m doing what I want to do and for now, nothing is stopping me.
Q. What would you tell your high school or college self?
A. There’s a bunch of sh—in your head you don’t understand, but you will eventually sort it out and become who you were meant to be. Your life will work itself out. You will be truly happy.
The “sh—” I describe is the anxiety of being gender dysphoric. People ask me what’s it was like and I’ve never been able to put it adequately into words. Best I can say, is it’s a fog in your head that waxes and wanes but is always present. It was present in me until hormones vanquished it. The day I realized that it was gone was the day I realized I was finally me.
Q. What's one piece of advice or motto you love and use in your daily life that you would like to share with my sweet readers?
A. Finally, an easy question! “Don’t over think it.”
Q. What keeps you creating when you don't feel like it?
A. Creativity for me these days is what I’m doing in answering your questions – writing. This is a fairly new outlet that developed out of my transition. I trace it to all those years of living a dual life, a life of balancing those who knew me both as a man and woman and those that only knew as a man. It was a heavy burden, the weight of which I didn’t fully comprehend until it was removed. I believe my writing is driven from all those years of keeping who I am bottled up. It’s screaming to get out as words on the page.
The best writing is the writing that just happens. Writing where I can’t type fast enough for my thoughts. That’s pure magic, but I’m not always blessed with that magic. When it’s missing, I find I have to tighten my focus. Remove the distractions. Music, not NPR. One window open on the laptop, not dozens. Once I’ve removed the distractions, words will usually start appearing.
Q. Anything else you'd like to share?
A. I never thought I would transition. I didn’t think I had it in me. I’m still amazed of where I am and who I am today. Having said that, I will tell you to never give up. Ever. It may take days, months, or even years, but you can make your dreams come true. My journey took 10+ years, over a lifetime of confusion, but here I am.
Q. What's your favorite yoga pose?
Oh, me. This one is embarrassing. I’ve never tried yoga.
I did aerobics when aerobics was the “thing”. That might have been the most graceful I’ve ever been in my life. LOL.
At one time, I was a runner, bicyclist and a (pathetic) swimmer. Swimming I quickly abandoned but I settled into a regiment of running and biking. Did many 5Ks, a few biathlons and a few bike races. I ended up taking it all too seriously and completely burnt myself out. I walked away from all of it for years.
I’m back now to biking. Road biking (good) and mountain biking (fair). I don’t have a speedometer, an odometer or heartrate monitor. I get on the bike, ride to what my body says and go home. It keeps me balanced.
Q. How do you live a life of abundance?
A. In the last year or so, I have found that relationships and experiences mean much more to me than objects. Given my shoe closet, some may scoff, but it’s true. If I can help someone, whether it’s just listening or simply making them laugh, then I’m doing good. Good for them and good for me.