Baring your soul: dealing with dehumanizing elements of Transition

Things got a little off the rails yesterday. What I’d originally intended to talk about was preparing yourself for how much you’re going to have to give up of your privacy and really shine a light into your soul.

Medically, the assumption seems to be, that hormones are unsuitable until proven suitable. It’s easier to get intense narcotics then it is to get hormones. One of the first steps is being classified as mentally stable enough to understand the consequences of your decisions.

This involves meeting with some variety of psychologist, in my experience I got to go through it twice because the first one wasn’t actually qualified to write “the letter.”

The letter, if you’re not aware, is what is written by an ‘expert’ giving their opinion that you are capable of making a decision about your own body. Trans people have the same rights as everyone else though!

I’ve spoken with different doctors and a few have found my letter to be unacceptable because it didn’t detail enough of my ‘Transness’ nor did I seem Trans enough.

That lack of detail offended one doctor so thoroughly she refused to accept the letter as acceptable and demanded to speak with the expert who wrote the letter. Then promptly refused to work with me anyways.

She was also the one that initially didn’t think I was Trans enough. At the time I was working at a bank in a rural town, it was my first permanent job after college. I didn’t have a lot of space to deviate from gender norms. Having long hair (which I always tied back) made some people leery, but I digress.

So once you have this letter, which takes as long as it takes, mine took a year and a half. that’s not enough to be taken seriously, prepare to explain to every medical professional between your family doctor and whoever ends up prescribing you hormones why you’re Trans. As if you can easily explain that. I”ve found myself relying on the “I don’t know what its like not to be Trans so I can’t really help you” argument.

One of the most frustrating elements I found about this process is the lack of agency you have in this realm. my last article spoke about how lasting this dehumanising process was. What I had initially wanted to talk about there and did so here is how dehumanising the process is to go through. The expectation to discuss all of your trauma, detail intricately your emotional supports, your financial status, your coping mechanisms all so you can have someone decide if you can be marked acceptable to make your own choices. Something most people are just born with is something that you get to work towards.

I’ll compare it to another thing I’m dealing with in my life. My Wife and I are currently trying to become foster parents. As part of that process you have to go through a similar experience of stripping down your life and understanding your own psyche intimately. As part of this process we are taking classes with other prospective adoptive and foster parents. As this process starts to dawn on people and they realise how daunting it is they start to get worried or afraid.

Now, this process is to understand your ability to handle a traumatized child, and help them heal in your home. If you don’t have tough enough stuff their trauma will break you. The key difference between this and obtaining the “letter” is that you choose to be a foster parent, and it is ultimately not about yourself. You can choose not to be a foster parent. It is a choice.

Being trans is not a choice, we don’t expect people to tear down their mental state and check the stability of their psyche before making any other decisions related to their body. That’s generally considered antithetical to a free and just society. Agency begins with your own body.

After all of that dour talk I wanted to reaffirm the value and joy that transitioning has brought me. Each step has made me more comfortable and confident and helped me discover who I am and my own identity.

I just also think its important to know that the process leaves its own set of scars. Nothing about this journey is pain free.




Baring your soul to strangers:

One of the biggest differences I’ve found since I started dealing with my transition is an aversion to secrecy. I think this is two fold. First off, getting to the point of medical transition is going to involve you spilling the beans, to an unfortunately large number of strangers. So you get used to telling your secrets at a whim. I also find I don’t have the stomach for any more secrets. I’ve had a big enough one pollute my life.

It’s odd how easy it gets to let go of this giant secret that I know I’ve held so tightly I’ve never let it slip. I’ve been blackout drunk, completely not in control, and not told a soul. That’s a secret that’s under wraps.

I’ve said it in other article, but coming out doesn’t always feel good. The first time you have to come out to a stranger even in a “safe space” is horrifying. It’s honestly a little dehumanizing. As I’m writing this I realize that I have lost the most private parts of my being by taking this road. For all of the happiness I’ve gained I’m realizing that I no longer have the stomach to fudge the details, or tell white lies as some would call them. I don’t know if that matters but its just another part of your soul you lose as part of this journey.

I don’t mean to say I’m not still a private person, but I have little appetite for secrecy anymore. In a lot of ways its made me a more honest person, which is a virtuous trait. On the other hand whats bothering me is that among so many things out of control in my life, this was one more thing that I lost control of.

Transitioning is a weird road.

P.S. I was going to talk a little more about the mechanics of these meetings and the feelings wrapped up in each meeting. Instead it became a little existential crisis. it is what it is and I’ll talk about that other topic later.

Moving brings out the worst in everything

It’s been a week since I posted last. Not out of a lack of inspiration but out of a robust supply of having to move my office and getting my taxes ready most of the weekend.

One of the things that I found the most interesting for myself was how much of an effect HRT has had on my strength. Things I know I could have lifted easily six months ago are starting to cause me to struggle. Hormones are exciting for me in a lot of ways but trying to hold up a large TV with my new noodle arms is not on the list.

The other thing I noticed is that I haven’t hit the threshold where people realize I’m getting weaker. I guess that doesn’t matter very much but I found myself in the awkward position of; do I explain whats going on and sound whiny, or do I just suck it up and struggle.

I struggled through. it was fine, it just made me realize as my cis-female coworker was stacking coffee pods in the shelves while I was carrying around the kitchen table that expectations do not shift quickly.

]’m entering a weird ambiguous point in my transition. I get mam’d by strangers and I get gentlemen’d by people I know. It’s a weird limbo that I’m looking forward to getting out of.

Surely You’re Not offended. I’m not, and don’t call me Shirley

I’m always thinking about how offended I should be. It’s a trade off. If you’re too sensitive you push people away. If you never correct then people never learn and change. It’s a bit of a conundrum.

I do’t like getting offended, my natural state to some of this stuff is ambivalence. Most of the time this is perfectly fine but sometimes things irk me. If you’re Trans misgendering is a part of life. It begins from the very first moments of your life. I haven’t fully transitioned publicly, I’m comfortable, though not thrilled, with being misgendered by strangers. I don’t think its their fault. What bothers me is when I’ve told people who I am. I know it can be tough. I don’t present particularly femininely so people go on autopilot and I get gentlemen d and sir’ed d a lot more then I’d like.

Understanding and acceptance are slow. It takes a long time to overwrite such basic life experiences as identifying the gender of another person. It plays into why Trans people make accepting people uncomfortable. By our very existence we challenge their minds expectations. This isn’t a conscious decision usually, our brains are both presumptive and lazy.  When confronted with information that differs from our expectations we are forced to either make further assumptions (the more likely outcome) or put effort into evaluating new information and creating a new response (far less likely).

So with that in mind I try to air on the side of caution with getting offended. Challenge occasionally, not constantly. It takes a while but eventually people learn to start correcting themselves. Then it becomes normal. It’s a marathon not a sprint. If something really bothers you talk to someone about it. Getting annoyed and belligerent doesn’t’ encourage people to reevaluate their bias and discomfort.

Finding Support from Higher Up

I’ve come out to 4 different managers in my career. It’s never easy to do but I want to talk about what to expect. I rather mistakenly assumed, maybe because I was young and naive enough to believe the corporate line that inclusion matters. That support with my transition was a conversation away. The first two managers I told were when I worked for a major financial institution, the kind that somehow wins diversity and inclusion awards and has programs somewhere to help employees deal with this stuff. Both were polite, both offered their personal support, though without knowing what that means it’s a pretty easy thing to give, harder to act on, and a commitment to find out more.

That last step, usually fell flat. Now, I’ll set some more context in that neither of these mangers was supportive of me before finding out I was Trans. No support for further education, they were generally annoyed by my need to question and understand. They didn’t appreciate that I didn’t always agree with the status quo. I have authority issues, its not my fault.

So the incredible leap of logic I made was, this would be the thing that would start the support. It wasn’t. If you’re thinking its time to move forward with your transition and its time to talk to your boss. Ask yourself one question. Have they supported me on anything else? If they don’t care about your career they’re definitely not going to help with your transition.

Now, why does support matter? Transition takes time, especially medical transition. There’s a frightening amount of people you have to bare your soul to, and they all also work Monday to Friday 9-5.

As someone considering transition its important to know you ahve the resources to see things through, partial progress can feel worse then no progress at all.

So if you find yourself with an already unsupportive boss, don’t despair just make sure your plan doesn’t involve their support find the resources as you can. It will make things harder, but if a transition wasn’t hard it wouldn’t be so satisfying every step you actually take.

If you’re lucky to have finally found a manager who generally cares and wants to see your career suceed. The support for transition isn’t usually that big of a stretch. They’re not goign to understand what you need or why you need it. They’re just going to help you get it. Transitions are personal, you have to walk all ofthe steps yourself. You’re not asking your boss to hold your hand, you just need time to get those steps in and move along that journey.