Last Thursday, May 30th, was a momentous down-and-up day for me. I was in San Francisco at the annual conference put on by the National Federation of Community Broadcasters. In the morning I learned that I had not gotten a station manager job for which I had been a finalist. The rejection stung, because I thought I was particularly well suited for the job, and had given the candidacy my all. I didn’t have much time to brood about it, though, because in the evening I went to a Moth Story Slam on the theme of neighborhoods, told the story of coming out to my neighbors, and won the slam.
Another part of my California trip was getting together with Larry, whom I hadn’t seen since college. He’s a professional jazz pianist, and when I timorously asked him if he would let me try singing with him he said yes, and then after the first song he said, “let’s do another.” And another, and another, and at the end he didn’t say I was the next Carmen McRae, but he didn’t say I sucked either. He said I hadn’t done too badly for the first time. As horribly self-conscious and unsure about my voice as I have been since transitioning, the implication that he thought there could be a next time made me feel wonderful. Thanks Larry, you’re such a sweetheart. :-)
So in the same few days I received a couple of powerful affirmations of my voice (variously defined), and a couple of de-affirmations of my hireability as a community radio station manager - the natural next step for me if I'm going to stay in the biz. (Besides the job I didn’t get, there was also a conversation with the outgoing holder of another juicy position in which she gently discouraged me from applying.) As a result of these developments, after nearly three decades working in non-commercial radio I find myself wondering if there is still a career arc for me in that world any more.
I was naive about prejudice before I transitioned. I thought it was always clear-cut and obvious. It’s not. It’s insidious and veiled. In this case I can all too easily imagine even such dedicated liberals as the folks who were considering my application reassuring themselves that they had no problem with my transness themselves, but still fretting about how, for example, potential funders might be reluctant to give money to a station I was running because a trans woman was the one asking, and so finding some plausible reason not to hire me.
Of course I’ll never know for sure if such prejudice by proxy was in play. Maybe it was plain straight-ahead prejudice. Maybe on the other hand I just wasn't good enough for the job. Maybe it doesn't matter. Here's what I know: if after a lifetime of work in my chosen field it turns out that I can’t move ahead, maybe it’s time to go into another field. Suddenly it seems more important to finish the novel I wrote the draft of last November during NaNoWriMo. Likewise to get back into the comedy work; likewise to find some place local to do some more singing; likewise to really engage with the idea of putting together a one-woman show.
High risk ventures? Yep. Long odds of success? Uh-huh. Buffeted by fluctuating confidence, scared of failure? You bet. Might still have to just go for it, though. What the hell else am I going to do? Money worries press ever harder, other avenues seem closed, and there are only so many hours in a day, so much energy left in the body. Life surely does seem to want to boot me out into the spotlight.