K&K Parte II

Marta Avellaneda

Hello Kenneth, I Mean...Kathy            

Part II - The unsettling business



Kenneth`s hopes that I would not be easily shocked alarmed me a little. I didn't really want to know the gory details of his sexual life, so I said:

Not easily, but I can be shocked sometimes.

And then he blurted out:

The fact is that I am undergoing a treatment that leads to an operation to change my sex. Now I´m at the stage where I must act as a woman for a psychological evaluation before the operation takes place. So I wanted to know if the company would support me in this process?

If anybody's mind ever goes truly blank, mine did at that time. With a stupid, patronising expression frozen on my face, I just sat there looking at him for a while until I could utter the not very enlightened words,

What do you mean?

He went on to explain that it was required of him to live as a woman in all aspects of his life for about a year, so that his doctors could determine if he was psychologically fit to have an operation that was, of course, irreversible. Since he wanted to undergo this test under normal' conditions, his intention was to keep his job, continue living in the same apartment, and see the same people.

Do you mean to say that you want to come to the office dressed in skirts and wearing make up?I asked in amazement.

Well, yes.

I must admit that, liberal minded or not, I was in total shock. Kenneth was the Head of

the Accounting Department and as such not only did he supervise a couple of people, but he

also was the face and voice of the Company for suppliers, bank officers and other outsiders.

The conversation became very involved. I was spurred by curiosity on a subject to which I had never paid close attention. Why did he think he was a woman? He didn't know, he just knew it.

Had his doctors been able to prove it scientifically?

Well, not really.

¨What about your wife? What on earth does your wife think of this?¨

Well, she's not very happy with the idea, but she's become sort of used to it because I've been dressing as a woman on weekends for quite a while.

Kenneth, your wife needs more professional help than you do.

Back to the business of his request, I tried my best at getting out of the situation graciously. So I asked him Wouldn't it be better for you to start this new life in a completely new environment, where you wouldn't have to deal with people's confusion and possible rejection?No, he didn't. He was convinced that the best way was the hard way, because that was the no doubtsway. I was well acquainted with the stubbornness that lay beneath Kenneth's soft-spoken manners, so I became blunt.

Kenneth, do you realise that you work in an office where everybody is South American except Ronald and yourself?

Yes, so?

Well, most South Americans, except maybe the people from Rio de Janeiro, are quite conservative on matters of sex and sexual roles. I don't think you would have an easy time dealing with your co-workers if you left as a man on Friday, and returned as a woman on Monday. They live and work in New York, but their cultural codes are still those they brought from their home countries. Your condition would probably be disruptive in such a small place as this.

He was unmoved, and asked that I think about it. I told him that in any event this kind of thing was not for me to decide alone, that I had to consult my boss, and also submit it for a vote of the entire staff. To me this was not only an issue of his rights being respected but also those of his co-workers, who would have to deal with the situation every day.

He left my office with a satisfied look on his face that puzzled me at the time, but that I understood very well later on. Without a minute's delay I walked right into Marcus' office. Guess what, Marcus!

Oh, no! Don't give me any more bad news today. Keep it till tomorrow.

I said that this news might be amusing if he chose to take advantage of his Cariocasense of humor. Then I told him. When I was through he looked at me for a few seconds, then he got up from his chair, threw himself on the sofa and began to wail.

Why us, why us? Why does everything happen to us? All at the same time!

It did seem as if we had been cursed. Bills to pay, no money to pay them, our shareholder in jail, Head Office too worried with other priorities to think about our problems, business going sour, INTERPOL at our door and now this. It was too much for Marcus.

When the tantrum was over, we sat down, and half laughed, half worried about Kenneth's request and how we should best deal with it.

Is he in love with a guy?, Marcus asked.

I had asked Kenneth the same thing, and he explained that this was not a question of sexual desire but of sexual identity. I had understood him, but my Brazilian Carioca friend was inclined to believe that those two things always went together. We discussed our next move, and decided that we did not want a discrimination suit brought against us at this time, though we doubted if trans-sexuality could become an issue. Besides, we wanted to act fairly towards someone who in our eyes was making a terrible and dangerous mistake. We decided to submit it to a vote, not doubting for a minute that our Latin staff would be horrified and vote nounanimously.