Discrimination: Could You be so Kind as to Sanitize your Identity for Me?

I’m a little disappointed that this is a post I even have to write.

Being gay is not a choice. Being trans is not a choice.

Yet, I have had to endure multiple conversations, one of which I discussed here: Discrimination: Why Do You Need To Be Different?  that centres around a central theme. That my identity is something to be sanitized (the word that was used, and in all honesty pretty fascist sounding) in a professional setting similarly to ones politics or religion.

Whether or not one can remove themselves professionally from politics requires answering the question of what defines what is political, Which frankly, reality is political, so I don’t hold a lot of stock in that idea. Sanitizing ones political identity would require having no opinion whatsoever on the very nature of society and how to exist within it. Which would render ones ability to give advice non-existant.

That’s not the point I wanted to make however.

I recently started reading Transgender History by Susan Stryker. I’ve been enjoying it thus far, learning a lot for sure. There’s a quote I read that I think sums up my point “All too often, there is a tendency to be concerned with the rights of homosexuals as long as they somehow appear to be heterosexual, whatever that is.” This quote itself taken from Marc Stein’s City of Sisterly and Brotherly loves: Lesbian and Gay Philadelphia 1945-1972. 

If one substitutes transgender people and cisgender people into that quote I still believe it works. Basically, so long as one doesn’t disturb the norm, one may be rewarded with conditional acceptance, assuming one accepts the conditions, continues to uphold them, and praises the situation regardless of how good or bad it may be.

So let’s get into the story itself.

I had a conversation with one of the partners at my firm yesterday about business development. In which I made the point that I’d like to be more welcoming and open to the LGBTQ+ community. This was among other very valid points. If you’re new around here, you may be surprised that my desire to work with and help a community that has been historically disenfranchised from the modern financial system, and as such are systematically disadvantaged was not met with enthusiasm.

So I wasn’t surprised, but even more unfortunately, but perhaps illuminatingly, was how the conversation progressed. The partner I was speaking with made his case that as a professional we should refrain from causes so as not to alienate anyone. That attempting to appeal to a specific group is exclusionary to other groups. That appealing to someone, and to make a comparison he used politics or religions, based on their beliefs limits who you can work with and ultimately your overall ability to work with all people.

The problem in that statement is that comparison of my gender identity and sexuality to what are inherently beliefs. Though I’m aware choosing ones politics or religion are often complicated by culture, geography, familial ties and many other factors. They do represent a choice. One may be born into a family in which it is likely they will be Christian, they are however free to choose their religion.

I did not choose my identity, I can not sanitize it like I can my religious beliefs when I come to work. My political beliefs don’t often make it into a conversation with a client, however it’s much more difficult to avoid mentioning my family, whom my wife makes up a major part.

This type of thinking reduces those who fall outside of a social norm. I’ve read articles discussing a similar concept racially as well. The effects of ‘professionalism’ and it’s norming standards on people of colour. An example is that natural hair is considered unprofessional and a sign of deviance. Which it is not.

The irony is that this partner also recognized that he himself fits the stereotype of what clients consider a professional. He is an obviously white male person, with a white beard to express age. He is quick to out himself as straight by mentioning his wife. He is clear in his presentation as male. He has not sanitized himself of his own identity. Why would he? His identity is an acceptable one, it fits within his concept of professional. While openly acknowledging that his own stereotypical example of an advisor fits a ciscentric,  heteronormative, white world. He can’t make the mental leap that what makes him a stereotype is exactly the type of privilege he needs to acknowledge in order to accept me.

I don’t represent a stereotype of what people consider a financial advisor. I am obviously trans, I am openly gay, I am very obviously young, and I am a woman. None of these are opinions. How I present myself is as a woman, my age, is in a general sense visible, and as I have to explain to most of my clients, the man on the phone was me. So I can’t really sanitize those facts out of the equation.

So disappointingly I now have the unfortunate task ahead of me of explaining to someone who should know better. That my identity is not a choice, and that he needs to stop considering it one.

 

The Overt Quality of Trans Nonacceptance

I’ve tried really hard to give my bosses the benefit of the doubt. It’s been difficult, I had a thought the other day about it. They have made my transition possible, but they have made it difficult.

Well that all changed yesterday.

After months of subtle coldness, and constant disrespect. They decided to go full on overt discrimination. We regularly hold client events, as an office we all go out, meet with our clients, we give a presentation. Not usually a big source of muss or fuss.

One of the partners comes to me yesterday as we start getting close to getting ready to leave. He asks me if I could stay back and keep the office open. He doesn’t want me to be a distraction. Also asks would be a strong word. I don’t feel I had a choice in the matter. I told him he could ask whatever he wanted but that he was being a little mean. That I could do as he asked, but that he was being mean, that it was a mean thing to do.

His response, I don’t want you to think of it that way.

Now, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to put together that excluding me from something everyone else in the office was going to, an event I regularly attended in the past, is discrimination. All because  my gender identity and expression differ from what they consider appropriate for their clients.

I knew the road would be rocky, but to be honest in this day and age I didn’t think I’d have to face overt, in your face exclusion based on who I was. The subtle stuff, 100%. The only consolation is I now know there’s transphobia in their hearts whether its hate, or fear or ignorance festering in their heart I don’t know. I have seen the darkness in their hearts, and I’m afraid of what’s next.

Am I too comfortable being uncomfortable?

I had a really awkward conversation with one of the partners last week, it lasted nearly two hours. He was circling around a question he couldn’t form, and I have given too much brain space to trying to understand his point. Throughout the entire conversation I was trying to help him get to whatever point he wanted to make, and I don’t want to say opened up, but felt as if I had to give up details about myself I didn’t feel comfortable with.

In the moment though, it didn’t feel bad, it just seemed like the necessary thing to do. When recounting the story later to a few co-workers they were shocked at the few actual questions my boss had managed to get out.

He asked if I wear a bra, and I answered, not knowing what to do. But is my self-worth so low, or am I so beaten down by my experiences that I have lost the ability to protect myself. or hold anything sacred about myself.

My journey so far has been rough and has involved a lot of soul crushing experiences. Have I become so traumatized by it that I don’t even notice anymore when my basic dignity is being attacked?

I understand some people find the pronoun/name thing difficult, but I find myself bending over backwards at times just to get the smallest effort from those around me. I’m willing to tear myself open and offer whatever I have in the hopes that a little more understanding will get someone to respect me.

I’m beginning to question that plan. I’ve tried to be helpful, and I’ve tried to be supportive of the change I’m asking people to make, but I think I need to realize its not a change I’m asking people to make. I’m just asking for so courtesy and respect.

I am enough, and I should let myself be enough, and I should expect others to treat me as enough.

Feeling Rough

I started this a couple weeks ago, I came back and all it said was I am feeling rough.

Its amazing how much worse things were about to get. I don’t know if I’m ready to talk about all of this yet, I still feel very in the moment. Things have gotten difficult at work. As I’m sure some of you can tell from my posts lately the spectre of hate has been floating around lately. Things aren’t easy in my personal life either. but I did want to point out something about this whole blogging thing. It really helps. I sometimes go back and read old posts and its interesting how much healing some time can bring. Things aren’t always easy, and I do often wish they were just a little bit easier. But I still continue on.

It’s interesting how being trans was a very consuming thing for a very long time for me. I lived in constant fear, and I was constantly worried about it, like a fly in a quiet room it was always making itself known. The more comfortable I am, the less comfortable people around me are. As if being proudly trans is offensive. As I gain the confidence to be out, and dress how I want and be who I want, and feel as I feel. The more those around me are afraid of it. The quieter the fly is for me the louder it is for everyone else.

Maybe its because the fly is new to them. That this is all new and eventually they won’t notice it. I hope so, because the more people focus on what they can do to make the fly go away instead of what is hard or what they can’t do. The easier its all going to be for everyone.

And maybe that thrice damned fly can finally go away.

The subtlety of trans unacceptance

My Wife and I are in the process of becoming foster parents. This process hit a rather unfortunate roadblock the other day. My wife started her own business a month ago, it’s a busy time, she is working more then ever. She’s enjoying her work and its been a really positive experience.

The social worker doing our assessment tried to explain it wasn’t entirely because of my transition that she wasn’t ready to accept our application. She was great about it, I can tell she cares, and I’m curious how much of her misgivings are from her supervisor. I can not help but think that if my wife was my husband, they would forgive a busy father. That I am seen as too unstable because of my transition, I need the support of a ‘real’ mother for those kids.

I’m pretty devastated, my wife and I aren’t in a position to have kids of our own obviously, and we’re not sure about adoption yet, but fostering was a way for us to do some good, we have a huge empty house, we both have had rough childhoods and want to try and give some warmth and safety to a kid that really needs it. I know we’ll be good at it.

I’ve talked about how I don’t hate being trans, how its a defining part of me and has shaped me into the person I am. I wouldn’t change it if I could. I do so wish that it didn’t make my life so difficult. I find myself feeling tired, not physically tired, but emotionally. Having to justify transness, and explain it, and put it into a box it doesn’t fit in is exhausting.

I am a person, I am a human being, I am a woman who happens to be trans. I want nothing more then the dignity afforded others. I wish only to be treated like a person with a name that explains who I am, not who my parents thought I was before I was born. I wish that my sum total experiences were cherished and celebrated for what they are not as a contradiction of what is ‘normal’ (which just means straight and cisgender.) I long for a world in which transness is an experience that can be shared with others to enrich them, not to justify why others are ‘coerced’ into being uncomfortable.

Every culture is enriched by the variety of experiences and stories that are allowed to enliven it. Let us culturally accept that transness does not fit into any other context then itself and give it the room and space to breathe life into the lives of those who don’t experience it. Let trans people be people, let them give you strength as their experiences have given them, let their stories give your life greater meaning, let their struggles help you understand your own. We are not monsters, we are not to be feared, we are not looking to upset any natural order, we are but people whose place in history has long been blotted out, and whose stories have not been allowed to pass to others. That no more makes us new, or frightening then any other group who have existed outside of ‘proper society.’

Trans stories and lives matter, we have a role in society, we have a place in the hearts of those around us. We have a right to do good around us. Just let us.

On Slurs

I’ll put a little note in here that this is going to delve into some unpleasant terms for trans people and if you’re not comfortable with that please don’t continue reading.

I don’t often experience something that I wished hadn’t happened. I was outside with a group of people and one of them, somewhat out of nowhere asked one of the other guys “Is fucking a trap gay?”

The person asking was my brother.

I’m pretty tough skinned. I try not to let the little stuff bother me. That wasn’t little stuff. That’s a big one. That a word could throw me into an emotional fit is new. I didn’t used to feel enough to get upset. So when I started shaking and yelling and almost crying I was entirely unprepared. It felt like I’d been stabbed it cut so quickly into and hurt. physically hurt.

Everyone makes a mistake and says things to someone they shouldn’t but lobbing a slur can usually be avoided. You choose to use those words knowing how dangerous they are.

Those words have consequences. My relationship with my brother has been shaken entirely by a single sentence. I don’t want him around anymore. I worry where he learned that from. I now have to try and hold back and not extend that to the rest of my family. Because in my experience people don’t hate in a vacuum, but I can’t just assume it wasn’t him being an idiot.

I wish this journey was easier sometimes. I wish my brother hadn’t of said that. But mostly I wish that I didn’t always have to be the bigger person.

Words hurt kids, don’t think they don’t.

 

Another Terrible Letter

If I could boil some of the worst experiences when it comes to being trans, the most obvious theme would be letters.

So in the ongoing saga of letters, I sat down last week to take up a task that is both terrifying and unfortunate.

If you’re new around here I started this blog as a way to chronicle my journey from the front closet, to where I am now which is some weird combination of out and in. Then going back and talking about the past and how I got here. Anyways, as part of this journey that I’m on my boss asked me to write a letter to clients coming out to them. I don’t know how I feel about it, part of me sees it as a rational and simple way to get the message out. A larger part of me is terrified by the prospect of it. Then there’s a smaller but no less important piece that is mad I have to do it at all, and incensed that someone would even ask me to do it.

No one expects other people to out themselves, no one expects a big hullabaloo for anything else. So why would it be reasonable to ask me for this?

One of the more interesting evolutions to see has been the woman I work with. She was upset when I told her what my bosses asked of me. It offended her that they’d even ask, because no one else would ever be asked to do the same thing. Not too long ago she had never really had to think about trans people, she’s slowly becoming one of my biggest allies. It’s not strange at all that diversity makes people more inclusive, it’s just really nice to see in action.

but I did it, because I’ve never had to, and I’m willing to see how something goes. There was no harm in writing it right? Well, It was one of the most exhausting and emotionally draining tasks I’ve ever done in my life. I felt numb after finishing.

So I’ve gotten to wondering, what’s the deal with letters?

Is it some integral part of the trans experience. Is there no other medium to guide our lives? No one else needs to live in some fascist regime where you require a letter from a professional to have agency. no one else needs to so brutally and ruthlessly expose themselves in the name of transparency (see what I did there.)

This got off the rails a bit, and this is more an expression then it really is anything coherent. But I don’t get this need to expose and understand the trans experience in bite sized pieces. I can no more easily explain in a letter who I am to such a personal degree then anyone else can. So why is it expected of me?

Being out is tough, being in the closet is miserable. I’d really like to be able to sit here and say there’s a point when things get easier but I haven’t gotten there yet. What I can say is that I’d rather endure the difficulties then not. Because I am happier, and I am everyday closer to feeling like myself.

I just wish it didn’t have to be this hard.