Bumping Into Old Acquaintances After Transition

Mila Madison

There is nothing quite as awkward as having someone you know not recognizing who you are. For a transgender person however, this can be a common occurrence. Nevertheless, it is still strange when it happens, particularly when you are asked if you are somehow related to your old self. I have bumped into people I went to school with who didn’t recognize me, old friends, and I even had some distant relatives who didn’t realize who the hell I was. I literally bumped right into one girl I used to know as I was entering a ladies room in a restaurant, and nothing. She was the bartender there and even served me drinks without recognizing whom I was. Either way I am usually on guard for such situations as it is just something we deal with as transgender people.


So there I was at work when an old coworker who I had not seen in a few years came to my desk to ask me a question. I had the feeling that he didn’t quite recognize me as he approached, and I already started to wonder where this interaction was headed. I was prepared for the difficult conversation I was about to have once the lightbulb went off for him. I braced myself for the encounter as I started to go through my responses in my head. All this was going on in a matter of the ten seconds it took him to walk over.

He reached my desk and he introduced himself as if I were a new employee he had not met before. Now mind you I have worked with this person for 13 years, however it has been a couple since we were on the same shift. I continued to anticipate that light bulb going off in his head as he asked me my name, but it just didn’t happen, well at least not in the way that I thought it would. I thought I was prepared for anything, but he asked me if I were married to the former me or somehow related to the former me being that we had the same last name, and I just froze. Now I am usually pretty quick on my feet with these types of things, but this time I was a complete blank. I mean, I know I obviously look different these days, no argument there, but given how often I am misgendered or accidentally deadnamed at work; I was not prepared for an answer as to whether or not I was married to myself.


So now I am blanked out. Nothing is popping into my head and this guy is looking at me as if I have some serious issues. I could have come up with anything, “He is my cousin,” or a simple “No,” or even an honest “We are one and the same,” but I was a complete blank. After a really long period of nothing coming out of my mouth, he just simply apologized as he felt that maybe he was getting too personal and he walked away. Now as my brain started working again I thought that maybe he did realize who I was after my freezing episode, but he didn’t. In the coming days, he continued to treat me as if I were this new employee that he was just getting to know. I just assumed everyone at my job already knew about my transition. I have also noticed a difference between the way I am treated by cisgender guys who know I am transgender compared to guys who don’t know. It is some sort of built in societal vibe they give off, and they probably don’t even realize they are doing it, but it is something I notice from many of the men I work with. It could also just be in my own head, or perhaps a little of both. Regardless, I wasn’t getting such a vibe from this person.

So as the days continue to go by I am left to wonder whether I should just tell him or not. In one way it is extremely validating that he does not see the old person. I wish everyone at work saw me the way he does to be honest. On the other hand, I do feel guilty over not saying anything. There are much bigger problems for us to deal with as transgender people than whether or not someone knows who you are. In the end, I decided I am going to keep the clock running on this one and see where it goes. I am sure at some point someone may say something about me to him, and I will be ready to have that awkward conversation. For now I just want to enjoy the moment where I don’t have to explain my transgender existence and be able to laugh at myself. After all, there are so many other things a transgender girl can worry about.


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