I had a client come in the other day to pick up some work we’d done for him. In going through it all he ended by asking for a card. We were at the front desk where we keep all of our cards so he just looks over himself. Seeing our administrators card first he asks if that’s mine. I say no my card is the one next to it. He responds dismissively with “oh good I thought you were one of those people with gender issues.”
There’s a very petty and malicious part of my soul that just wants to throw things in peoples faces but as usual I didn’t. I awkwardly smiled and he left afterwards. He was none the worse for wear.
Now, years from now I know I will likely find this story funny. But this is the first time I have had a client bring that up, as awkwardly as it was. So unfortunately my first experience is always going to be awkward and weird at best, or a sign of a long, winding, and largely uphill battle.
As is another sign of the toll that being in the closet and transition has brought upon me. I didn’t really think it was that strange until I told other people. I now see why it should have been painful, and am now bothered by it but in the moment I wasn’t. Either i have incredibly low standards for people around me, incredible patience, or I’m just as broken on the inside as I think, maybe even more who knows. My money is it’s a bit of all three, but likely more of the first and last then the second.
So now that I’ve stewed on it for a week, screw you guy!
I’ve talked before about how it feels to start working towards medical transition.
Here and here.
There’s definitely more to discuss there but I wanted to step back even further and talk about what it feels like when Transition is not on the horizon.One of the things I hadn’t noticed at the time was how dehumanising the process of transition is. The reason for this is that its taken transition for me to feel like a person, to in turn understand what I’d experienced.
Things might be a little different now but where I grew up and when I grew up being Gay was still considered a largely negative thing. The existence of Transgender people as a concept, let alone as members of the community was unheard of. As such, though I knew there was something different it took me until my teens to start to understand what I was.
One of the worst effects of being in the closet at such a young age is the isolation. This feeling of wrongness that pervades your whole being is not something you fully understand or could point out if asked. Its this element you quickly learn to disguise. My way of coping was to mirror expectations. What I mean by this is that if someone thought I was angry, or mean. I was angry and mean. If someone thought I was quiet and reposed, that was what I was. It was exhausting trying to balance people with different expectations co-mingled but I did.
The other downside is that I didn’t build very deep friendships. I had long term friends, because I was consistent in meeting their expectations so there was little to complain about. Yet I couldn’t really connect to people because I was incapable of connecting to myself.
That’s the meat of the problem. Using an onion analogy when speaking with a therapist I met later on that, though gender isn’t the core of your personality, it’s not many layers past it. If you have an underdeveloped or neglected sense of gender. Your societal expectations are out of whack. Your sense of self is impacted. Who you are and what you are begins to atrophy because you have no working context for how to express that socially. Humans are inherently social creatures. We relate to ourselves largely through how we relate to each other. So as I was unable to build any sort of consistency in my relations to others. Eventually I became nothing to myself.
There’s a lot of consequences of this that I’ll discuss more of them later, but the main message I have with this is that realising that I was Trans was not as simple as understanding who I was and finding my soul. It took a lot of background work just understanding what had been lost and what needed to be built. The pain of not having an identity, which is what I consider myself having missed out on during my normal development. Isn’t so easily reconstructed. When you talk about developmental milestones there’s certain ones that are very hard to recreate once missed. You just have to try and figure out how to be you with all of the pain and missing pieces anyways.
Because the alternative is much worse.
I’ve never been dismissive of the idea of misgendering being hurtful, but until I started opening up about it I was never bothered by people who didn’t know misgendering me.
It’s a rather unfortunate and painful new experience for me. I spent the weekend with my wife’s family, who are rural, uninteresting, and strangely concerned with gender roles. They do not know I am Trans, and a lot of their everyday conversation revolves around conversations of gender. It’s incredibly odd in the first place, but the sheer volume of it ended up being rather painful.
I want to take a second to say that I also live in a rural area (though not as small, and not anywhere near where we visited) Being rural doesn’t make you uninteresting and backwards. it does however mean that there aren’t many ways to escape family when you visit them in a rural setting, which compounds the discomfort.
One cousin, who has two sons and a daughter, seemed fixated on ensuring her children were doing gender appropriate activities, said children are 2, 4, and 6. Not that it would ever be a sane thing to fixate on but its doubly unfortunate when you start pushing your daughter to under aspire at such a young age.
So that was painful to watch, but I’ve never been called a man so many times in such a small amount of time. I usually don’t really refer to my self in very gendered language and don’t refer to much of anything in a gendered way. So experiencing such a narrow and suffocating worldview was as uncomfortable as it was painful.
I don’t really have any great advice. I was tempted to come out to them out of spite just to throw them for a loop. I didn’t, because that’s not constructive and I don’t want my coming out to be petty. So I guess the moral of the story is similar to that of my other advice; maintain your principles and unfortunately life just sucks sometimes.