I Before E

Not long ago, I was given an impromptu opportunity to play stage manager for two friends who were rehearsing a duet. Their performance was that evening, and they were more than a little scattered with excitement. I took charge, making sure they had all their costumes together, their props, and that we left on time. I drove.

Nearly 40 years ago, my friend Pam asked me if I would be the stage manager for a newly-forming theater company. I had never even heard the term ‘stage manager’ before, but I readily agreed to come along and see what it was all about. A number of my friends were part of this new endeavor, and I wanted to support them and be part of it all.

Pam knew full well what a stage manager did, and knew that it was right up my alley: Keeping track of all the details of a production, finding the right props, making sure they were placed backstage in the right place, riding herd on the actors to make sure they were in the right place at the right time, etc.

Playing stage manager for my two friends in preparation for their duet took me back to a role I had not played in several decades. I was able to put the role on but the experience also showed me how much I have changed.

Time was, I would have described myself as a detail-oriented person, as behooves a stage manager. Now I find myself more at home in the big picture. Post-transition, post-spiritual awakening, I find that my natural inclination is to view the big picture. Prior to understanding my identity, I wasn’t living in the details so much as I was hiding in them. I could not afford to look at the big picture; I would have found it difficult to maintain the needed distance between myself and my true identity as a transman.

Looking at myself through the Myers-Briggs lens, I am an INFP. (Myers-Briggs assessment) The N and F and P are clear and beyond debate. (Intuitive, Feeling, Perceiving) The I (Introvert)? Not so much! It all depends on the circumstances…

The following anecdote will come as a complete surprise to anyone who knows me. When I was in eighth grade, 13 years old, one of my English class assignments was to give a three minute speech to the class, on the topic of our choice. All term long, I managed to evade my turn. I was terrified at the thought of speaking in front of my class. On the last day of class, the teacher called on those of us who had managed to evade the speech, and we had to get up in front of the class and with no preparation at all give some kind of a speech.

Of course, I was the first person the teacher called on. I got up,  petrified and certain I would have absolutely nothing to say, and then inspiration struck. What happened in that moment is something I have experienced often since, but this was my first time to feel the exhilaration of holding court with an audience. I started talking about how terrible the cafeteria food was, and my classmates erupted in applause and laughter. I was giddy with the excitement of performing.

Looking back at various such experiences over the years, I believe that my identity as an ‘I’ was largely determined by my need to stay out of the limelight: I did not want to be noticed – as a girl. (And thinking back to that eighth grade class, especially not as a 13-year-old girl!)

I am very comfortable as a teacher, leading workshops, facilitating groups, giving speeches – put me in front of an audience, and I am in my element. I won’t even say “put me in front of an audience as long as I prepare, and I am in my element.” I am perfectly willing to spontaneously get up in front of an audience and talk about almost any subject.

Does that make me an E on the Myers-Briggs spectrum? Not precisely. I still prefer the company of a few good friends at a time, rather than a large group of acquaintances. I would not want to go to a party where I didn’t know anybody. If I find myself in that kind of situation, I look around for the other introverts in the room, and pick one that I think I would like to talk to. We then go off in a corner and become friends.

One of the gifts of transition is the opportunity to revisit who we really are. I am nowhere near the ‘I’ that I would’ve thought earlier in my life. That quadrant of the Myers-Briggs assessment is especially open to reevaluation post-transition. Many of us were not really introverts at earlier times in our lives, but it sure made a convenient hiding place.

Author: reidpdx

I am an honorary lesbian transman, married to a woman, singing baritone in the Portland Gay Men's Chorus. All me, all the time.

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