Me, Doing Just Fine, as a Female IT Geek

I am having a weird day. My mom is generally wonderful but her computer skills are the equivalent of someone who will accept candy from strangers and then get into their unmarked van just because they said they’re good guys and it’s time for her medical examination besides. Geez, mom.

Anyway, she recently did something or other again and so today her computer is having a meltdown and I’m kinda burned out on being called for reasons she considers urgent and I don’t, so I’m not as available to her by phone as I used to be. Conversations on the subject are mutually stressful, and this morning there was one more like that. I hate mother-daughter conflict. Grrr.

Meanwhile, while my mom was having her email crisis and mother-daughter crisis and adding to my stress level, my biggest IT client, with 30 or so people affected by the problem, was also having an IT issue. My software didn’t cause it, but my software is the messenger of the underlying problem, so it looks like my software is messing up. Analogy: part of the road has vanished, and the traffic lights show “red” in every direction, and so the car I built can’t proceed and the passengers are saying “fix the car, Tanya.”  Grrr.

Anyway, I have a good business relationship with the infrastructure people at the client site and so I worked with their local hardware guru to get the actual machine running again, which is sort of like saying “please fix the road” but then a vendor’s infrastructure software was down too. So, next I had to do the equivalent of working with the traffic light vendor so that every intersection no longer has a red light in every direction.

I know the vendor is located in Alabama which is kind of as “Deep South” as you can imagine, but they’re really nice people. Their support guy, Chuck, is especially nice. And, here I am, a t-girl whose new feminized voice is not the attribute she’s most confident about, especially when I’m already stressed out. And so, now I have to have a deeply geeky conversation with a Deep South gentleman who’s maybe 60 — and on this conversation depends the productivity of my main client. Grrrr.

So, while waiting for Chuck, the support gentleman, to call me back, I listened to some Susanna Hoffs music since her voice has extra-inspiring resonance, and resonance is my voice’s weakest attribute. Plus, I did some extra voice exercises to be ready for the call.

If someone thinks I’m male, then pretty soon the generally female way that I have of speaking, resonance or no, is going to be pretty disconcerting to that person, so it’s actually less confusing for both parties to proceed on the premise that I’m female, though granted — I’m a t-girl and I had a hormone problem starting at puberty. Before puberty, people called me “ma’am,” no problem. I wish I could just go back to that.

Nowadays I have to work hard at sounding like “ma’am.” Most days I sound kind of in the middle between “Sir” and “Ma’am” to male ears. Ironically, to female ears I sound a lot more like “ma’am.” Anyway, people guess and often they guess “male” even though I’m trying really hard to manage the resonance, pitch, spacing, pacing, phrasing, tone, vocabulary and the other half-dozen attributes so as to make my voice sound, well, as female as I fundamentally am.

I used to not be able to speak at all, period, so if I could learn that, then probably I’m also smart enough to learn how to sound like a female. And, since more than half the time people naturally guess I’m a female, I’m certainly making progress.

Anyway, the gentleman called. I answered the phone, and it was a scratchy connection. He guessed, and called me “Sir.”  Grrrr.

Well, dammit, if someone mistakenly thinks I’m the reincarnation of Genghis Khan then I’m not going to humor that person and play along for the remainder of that conversation or relationship. Fact is, I really am not a reincarnation of Genghis Khan. Pretending to be isn’t really polite. It’s dumb, and misleading.

I’ve had to make peace with the premise that being a t-girl means that I am, in fact, fundamentally a girl, even if I was born with a male-shaped body parts ‘down there’ that would suggest otherwise, and even if I need voice training so as to sound female. My issues, at worst, make me look or sound goofy. They don’t make me male. I sound girly enough that at worst I’m sort of in-the-middle-sounding, at the point where it’s really anyone’s guess. And when I’m self-conscious, then ironically, I sound less female. Today was a weird and stressful day for me anyway and so, yes, I felt self-conscious.

Going along and pretending to be “Sir” just to humor Chuck wasn’t a good option.  So, I said “It’s not Sir, it’s Ma’am” and through the bad phone connection, he said “I’m sorry, Sir, I didn’t hear what you’re saying?” Grrrrr.

Maybe I channelled Susanna Hoffs’s spirit just enough, because I then said in the most female-sounding voice I can muster: “you just called me Sir, but it’s Ma’am” and he apologized and from them on “Ma’am” it was, and I sounded all girly from then on and we got the problem fixed pronto.

On to the next crisis.


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