• Stephanie Ashton

Hard Times

Paramore, Hard Times, 2017

This blog is all about the good and bad experiences I have had over the past weeks. It has been a topsy turvy time!

It all began three weeks ago when I came back from a weekend in the UK to discover my apartment in Denmark had been robbed. Some unkind individuals had broken into my little sanctuary and had a good old rummage through all things Steffie. It was a shocking and upsetting experience. When the Politi arrived they casually advised that the things stolen were typical of a drug related robbery, with the thieves having chosen items to steal that are easy to fence; not IT or high value items but mainly jewellery and shiny things. There was no forced entry leaving the Politi to speculate that the thieves either had special tools to open a window or maybe even had access to a key for one of the doors; there was no other obvious explanation for the entry.

To make matters even more fun, the thieves had called me twice on my mobile phone to make sure I was out before attempting to break in. The police told me with much smugness that this is a common trick using disposable mobile phone numbers to confirm that the occupants are not home. Brilliant...so it was not a random burglary but someone who had not only been watching me, but also had my mobile phone number. The feeling of helplessness and insecurity was massive. Who to trust or not?

Only a few weeks later I am in a position to reflect that the robbery itself was not so bad however, the feeling of total insecurity in my own home was awful. Feeling very upset with the situation, my employer was informed on no uncertain terms I was leaving Denmark immediately unless they gave me somewhere safe and secure to live. Thankfully the HR team kindly obliged and whisked me away to a nice company apartment full of mod cons. That was the major turning point in recovering from the situation.

Being robbed is upsetting and leads to some deep reflections...

From the thieves’ point of view, I can imagine it was a big disappointment to have broken into a dresser’s apartment. Nothing but lots and lots of clothes, shoes and make-up! The normal things on their shopping list were mostly absent and thank god they had not understood the value of my cosmetics and accessories. Small mercies indeed. Sadly, they still made a terrible mess turning the place over and of all the things to spill...my Big Ben Nye translucent powder container had been thrown and broken open! It was a wintery crime scream indeed being all white and snowy looking.

As many dear readers will appreciate, when we encounter major obstacles in life such as trauma or health issues, it is not unusual to withdraw into oneself and focus on the here and now. My friend Sarah Lewis recently described a similar mindset in response to a terrible back injury that she suffered some months back. In my case, I was no different and Steffie had to take a back seat for a few weeks whilst the man did all the grunt work moving house and dealing with police and insurance type things.

Now for some months prior to this unhappy episode I had been contemplating going home to the UK to assist with transitioning. In the past months a number of cock ups, odd events and general misfortunes had been leaving me feeling isolated and in need of more support from family and friends back home. So, once I had got settled in the company flat with a glass of wine in hand, it did not take me long to decide once and for all that it was time to go home. The Scandi adventure had been fun but it was no longer; nor does it fit with where I am trying to go in terms of transitioning.

Now bizarrely, I have more than once in my life had these moments of passing through the eye of the needle. As I reach the end of a chapter in my life and decide to move on, everything seems to become exponentially harder to do and every plan seem to goes wrong. It is almost as if some cosmic force is trying to stop me reaching the point of freedom. In summary, it is a lot like taking on the boss at the end of a level in R-Type. Apologies for retro gaming analogy but it was such a great game…and the re-make even better :D

Much happier Stephanie safe in new apartment hurray!

Anyway, getting back to the point of my story, I re-energised my search for work and was very quickly rewarded. And this is where the positive in my story will now appear. Hurray!

So, a little over two weeks ago amidst huge stress and robbery turmoil, a rather pleasant head hunter approached me about a job opportunity. The lady in question had come across my female LinkedIn profile and wanted to enquire if I was interested in a role. Little over a week later, I received two further enquiries from different recruiters and was starting to get all giddy at this sudden flash of good news. My word! Was the dream of transitioning my professional career along with Steffie starting to bare some semblance of becoming a reality?

Now the origins of having a female LinkedIn profile are interesting in itself. A little over a year ago I had become fascinated with the idea of how well Steffie might fair in the job market. If the world had really become more trans friendly then surely it would show. So, I began an experiment by setting up a female LinkedIn account that was identical to my male account with the one exception; my boy name replaced with my chosen female name. It was not initially my intent to find Steffie work but just to see what would happen, if anything. What would follow left me shocked and amazed. Incredibly the ratio of approaches in the past year have been 7:2 in favour of Steffie. The King is dead, long live the Queen!

So, it is slowly dawning on my dinosaur like brain that girl-me is starting to out shine boy-me when it comes to the job market. Could this be right? Are the fates telling me I need to transition not just for my own internal peace, but also to have access to better opportunities and maybe even do better in the work place? Is this a case of “if you can’t beat them - join them”?

Could Cindy's view of every day Steffie be an insight into my future look and style at work?

Interestingly, I have always had this ill-fitting pre-conceived idea that if I transitioned then Steffie would never be able to command the same positions in the workplace as boy-me. I would have some lower paid job with less responsibility. To be clear, this thinking was not driven by internal sexism or doubt in my female persona but rather, based on the reality of what I had seen women endure in the workplace in my own lifetime. Yes, many organisations make wonderful speeches and pamphlets about diversity and inclusion, but in my experience, I have rarely seen this translate into reality, especially with regards to pay and conditions for women…let alone equality for LGBTQ+. And yet the reality of the how the job market is reacting to Steffie is proving that my thinking is out of date as I find myself on the brink of landing a professional job as a woman.

Now of course the intelligent reader may observe that my test is not quite right for one critical reason: in my LinkedIn profile I am essentially presenting myself as female and not being open about being trans. So, the next bit will really blow your mind. I am strongly in favour of openness and being authentic so in all 7 approaches I received, I told the recruiter openly that I am a pre-op transsexual woman. And the responses I have received have been amazing, including the one shown below. The result of this openness has been 3 interviews as Steffie to date, presenting myself openly as a trans woman and being respected and well treated in all cases.

A transwomans greatest ally is that we are truly authentic and have determination and resilience beyond most of people in society

And yet the prospect of going into my career professional work place as a woman is exciting and terrifying in equal measure. I do not fear comments or negativity; I am sufficiently resilient and quick witted to be able to handle either in good measure. However, it would be one of the ultimate tests of whether I could go full time as a woman. To present myself every day as a woman, in a pressurised environment, and hold it together whilst still looking fabulous. Well, there will only be one way to find out and that will be by going for it!

Whilst I have still not landed a professional job as Steffie, it increasingly looks like a matter of time before I do. If so, then I will give it my all and it will be also be the trigger to go for full transition. I have secured a job in male mode that enables me to now go back to the UK in the short term and that is great news however, the hunt for Steffies first job will continue as I sense I am close.

So, all in all, life is looking up again even taking into account the house break-in. The party season is also upon us and I have had a lot of fun again last weekend in Germany, and that will continue in the coming weeks at the BWBG ball in Brighton and then meeting the Northern Girls in Glasgow the week after.

I hope there is a good coffee shop near Steffies work...I am nurder until I get my morning latte...

Final Remarks

Everything in life happens for a reason, even when things look awful it is important to look for the spark to get going again. We often think dressing is confusing, but life in general is pretty bizarre so I say buckle up, hit the gas and try not to crash on the next corner. We only achieve big results when we reach high so I will continue to look for Steffies first career job and when I land it; embrace it with both hands. I just hope in my 300+ dresses I have something I can wear to work!