So… Christine.

One of Vermont’s better-known executives came out as transgender last night, in a really good story by WCAX-TV anchor Darren Perron. Top marks to him for an in-depth, unsparing but respectful report, and top marks to WCAX for giving the story a full ten minutes — an eternity on local TV news.

Dave Hallquist, CEO of Vermont Electric Cooperative, is now Christine Hallquist, the person “I really am,” she said. She told of feeling different from a very young age, but sucking it up and passing as the man she appeared to be — even having a long and successful marriage and raising three children.

What’s becoming clear in 21st Century America is that gender is not a matter of black or white, off or on; it’s a continuum. For perhaps the first time in history*, people on various points of that continuum are beginning to feel free to explore and express their true selves.

*That’s probably a broad overstatement. From the little I know, there have been many human societies more accommodating of gender variety than the contemporary world. Just as “traditional marriage” between one man and one woman is a surprisingly modern phenomenon.

Hallquist’s grown children expressed an honest mixture of confusion, acceptance, and love. Hallquist herself has been effectively closeted for a long time, and is only now stepping into the spotlight as a woman.

The person whose voice was absent from Perron’s report, presumably by her choice, was Hallquist’s wife of 35-plus years, Pat Hallquist.

Perron reports that she is still unsure where she and Christine will go from here. There is obviously a lot of love and a lifetime of commitment, but seeing your S.O. transition is a hell of a thing.

I would not pretend to tell her what to do. But if I were speaking to her, this is what I would say.

The person you married has not changed. The person you loved so well and so long is still there. The qualities that made you fall in love are the same qualities that brought her to this point in life. If “Dave” was especially sensitive or understanding or supportive or willing to share the duties of home and family, that may have been Christine showing through. It may seem as though Dave has suddenly become someone very different and unfamiliar, but he hasn’t.

Indeed, Dave did his level best to be the person you wanted him to be, at great cost to himself. That’s an incredibly loving and generous thing to have done, continuously, for years upon years.

Only you can decide whether that’s enough to outweigh the fact that your “husband” now considers himself a woman, with all the strangeness this situation brings to bear. But make your decisions with care.

Thus endeth the lesson.

Near the end of Perron’s story, Christine voiced uncertainty over how she would be accepted in the workplace. She talked of the possibility that she’d have to dress as a man in some situations. I hope her employer, co-workers and associates will remember the same thing: this is the same person, expressing herself in a more complete and honest way.

My best wishes to Christine as she begins her journey. Courage!

And my best hopes to her kids and to Pat. May wisdom be your guide, and love your companion.

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2 thoughts on “So… Christine.

  1. katrinkavt

    This story should win awards for Darren and appreciation for Dave’s ..Christine’s story, which was told in such a way as to help viewers to understand this unusual human dilemma.

    I was happy to see this Facebook post from VEC after the story ran: “Much support for our CEO- ““Vermont Electric Cooperative has a long history of supporting their employees in the ways that matter most—helping them to be happy and healthy and to support them in living their lives fully and honestly. Dave has been, and continues to be, an outstanding leader and VEC is lucky and proud to have Dave in that role. We support Dave in every way we can.”

    Reply
  2. Andrea Cohen

    Hi John- I wanted to share VEC’s formal statement regarding our CEO’s transition, and less formally share that we are taking Dave’s/Christine’s lead at the office regarding pronouns, etc. (For example, when this statement was drafted we used “Dave” and not “Christine” because that is how people have known our CEO over the years at VEC. In future statements that may change). We are all working together closely during this transition- our CEO has done incredible work for our organization over the years and we will support her every way we can.

    VEC Statement: “Vermont Electric Cooperative has a long history of supporting their employees in the ways that matter most—helping them to be happy and healthy and to support them in living their lives fully and honestly. Dave has been, and continues to be, an outstanding leader and VEC is lucky and proud to have Dave in that role. We support Dave in every way we can. ”

    – Andrea Cohen, Manager of Government Affairs and Member Relations, VEC

    Reply

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