Becoming The Visible Woman Back in 1959, the toy company, Renwal, introduced a toy that endures today, The Visible Woman. It was about a foot-high, clear plastic model of a woman and all of her internal organs and bones were visible. You could remove the front of the torso and pull out all of the organs. Because of its popularity, soon followed The Visible Man, The Visible Horse and The Visible Dog. A clear plastic outside and all of the insides on display. I remember having one. They were fascinating then and, I’m sure, still are for many. But this is a blog about and for mature trans* people and what has that got to do with old plastic models? I am transitioning on the job and it feels like I am becoming The Visible Woman.
Stripping away all of the exterior When I started this process, I began much like all of those brave people before me. I walked into my director’s office wearing my guy clothes and exchanged guy greetings and sat down. The question came I knew would start it all, “What can I do for you?” My reply was, “I am transgender and I want to transition on the job and finish my career as the person I truly am, Cate O’Malley.” With that, I peeled off the very first layer. The visible woman wasn’t showing yet, but she was getting closer.
Over and over again I repeated the process of walking into offices and peeling off a layer two more times. Human Resources and then the second in command of the entire operation. Each time another piece came off. By the end of the day, the outer layers were getting thin. I shared the link to this blog with the executive. The next morning an e-mail came revealing this person had taken a look at what I’ve been sharing. Off came some more layers. Because of the nature of my work, government, and the size, about 1,000 employees, there were steps that need taken, a plan put into place. The people I came out to had to talk to their people. Even without me saying anything or meeting face-to-face, more layers were stripped away.
Step by step Meetings held on what to do with this person who is transitioning. Policies formed and committed to print. General announcements made with no names given. Then a couple of weeks of vacation while gender markers changed and a judge banged her gavel and a new name began and an old one retired. A department meeting held and the announcement made. Old what’s-his-name is now Cate. Even many miles away, I felt more layers slide off.
The Visible Woman The big day comes. I’m sitting in my car in the employee parking lot wearing a nice, modest dress, heels, makeup and a smile. Cool, calm, collected on the outside and moderately terrified on the inside. A line from an old commercial runs through my mind, Never let ‘em see you sweat. I walk across the parking lot, all old pretenses, all the hiding, my old life left behind. I stop, stare up at the three story office building, now totally exposed. I am the visible woman, all the old stripped away. After fifty plus years, I’ve made it. Whatever happens after I walk in the door will never be as bad as it was before I became visible.