Discrimination: Why Do You Need To Be Different?

I want to have a discussion about privilege today. It’s a topic I’ve somewhat avoided because I have a difficult time quantifying it at times. My own lived experiences are all I’ve known, so from my perspective, life is as difficult and easy as it has been, knowing that some people have it easier and harder is easy to understand, but difficult to really put into words.

But then I had a conversation with one of the partners at my firm, and there was a lot to unravel and work through, but one of the topics we discussed centered around privilege, and I don’t think he understood it at the time. He was pretty openly flaunting his privilege, and wondering why I felt a need to be different.

The example the conversation started with, was a man that my boss had worked with a long time ago. The man worked in the office next to my boss and for two years he had no idea he was gay. Which my boss took to be a sign of ultimate discretion and professionalism. Because your sexuality shouldn’t matter right? So he didn’t disclose he was gay, so that’s a positive!

So let’s break that down a little bit, because that story has a lot of elements that break my heart. The first of which, is that straight people feel absolutely no hesitation in discussing their straightness. my boss who told me this story, has told every client I’ve ever sat in a meeting with about his wife. Was that unprofessional of him? I don’t think so, it’s a relevant and relatable piece of his life. We are generally made better by our partners, not diminished.

So the assumption that this former co-worker of his was professional for not disclosing his sexuality, is part of the whole structure that keeps workplace cultures hetero-normative. What my boss failed to realize is that this man took two years to develop enough trust to disclose, a rather fundamental element of his identity. I can only presume that my boss had very quickly and early in their interactions disclosed his straightness.

That’s part of the problem with privilege, because my boss hasn’t ever had to consider whether to disclose his sexuality, because it’s socially acceptable for him to have a wife, he doesn’t notice when he does it. He has no idea that the professionalism he expects from a gay or trans person, is not a standard he himself can uphold.

Which is why the next part of the conversation, where I explained that no matter what I do, I will always be a lesbian transwoman advisor. That every client I meet with I will need to be aware of that, that I will have to hold myself to a higher standard. That I will work harder to prove myself to my clients. That in every meeting I will have to make decisions whether to disclose aspects of my life to my clients.

Because I am caught between two hard places. If I pass, and my clients correctly identify me as a woman, and then ask about my husband. I am confronted with a decision. Do I disclose that I’m gay? If I don’t pass and they misidentify me, I inherently disclose that I am trans. For the clients I dealt with before coming out, they are aware of all of this. I don’t know their opinions and feelings. So I must be guarded and receptive at all times.

What my boss doesn’t understand is that I must navigate a difficult identity with my clients. I must be aware and ready to handle situations he will never find himself in. He will never have to be an example of excellence at all times. He will never have to handle the pressure of being honest with his clients and himself, while also being respectful to the person across the table, whatever beliefs they may hold. he will never have the uncertainty that I have.

So his response that he doesn’t define himself as a straight white male advisor was pointless. Because he does. With his clients he is free to openly disclose his sexuality, and his gender. Why wouldn’t he? They’re acceptable socially, and in many cases considered preferable. Every time he mentions his wife he can do so without recourse. He can walk into a room assured that there will be no issues or concerns about his gender identity. From the way he walks and talks to the way he dresses. He informs everyone he is a male.

Yet I must walk a tightrope. When I meet a client for the first time and have to explain that ‘the man on the phone’ was actually me, while hoping I haven’t outed myself by my voice (which frustratingly seems to drop an octave over the phone, like it needed to be any deeper.)  When I have to explain I have a wife not a husband, when I have to explain to a client who doesn’t quite remember me that I’m not my own wife or sister. I have to have a discussion about gender identity and transitioning. I don’t choose to have these conversations, but I accept that they are a part of being out and openly trans and gay.

So it’s simple to say, “why can’t you be a professional and separate your personal and professional life.” Yet, that’s not how people work. Our clients expect some level of personal connection, one of the most important things I can do with a client is to develop a relationship and build trust. Without trust I can’t know my clients and I can’t advise them well. That requires a personal connection, not a professional one. Our clients need to understand who we are so they can make a decision on the motive or reasoning for our recommendations. Our competency and skills are filtered throug ha personal lens that requires them to know the type of person I am. Whether I care about them, or have concern for their hopes and dreams, their goals and objectives. That requires a personal connection.

What my boss failed to recognize, is that his definition of professional, is a straight and cis centred world view. I can’t speak as a racial minority, but I understand they can’t choose not to disclose their background if it is visible. They are no less professional then I am. Professionalism does not mean hiding who you are, it means being who you are and caring for your clients. Professionalism should mean doing right by those you are in business with. Professionalism should mean you hold to the facts and treat others fairly. Professionalism should mean focusing on the task at hand without compromising the long term vision. Professionalism does not mean being quiet about your identity. It does not mean that a closeted queer is better then an out one. Professionalism has been a shield to protect those who benefit from the status quo. If your idea of professionalism is not inclusive, then it is an oppressive ideal.

I have no time or patience for oppression.

Finding Moments of Catharsis

Catharsis is important, and in times of stress even more so.

One of the things I found most difficult of being in the closet, was that I was so emotionally repressed I could never find any release. Everything just built and built until it finally hit a point where I couldn’t feel anymore.

So… what that’s meant is that I’ve been cycling through a quarter century of pent up emotions. So when something is a little sad, it’s feels very sad, when I’m a little afraid, I become incredibly fearful.

It’s dizzying and terrifying. But it’s important, and it’s necessary. You can’t stop feeling emotions, you can only hold them in at any given moment. Eventually those feelings have to be felt. Time can lessen them, but if you hold them each time, they build on each other. Eventually your emotional reserves will overflow, and then there is no control.

Thus the title, it’s important to find ways to work through your trauma, work through your emotions, and learn to live again.

Soul lifting, warm, freeing joy

If I had of known that changing my name was going to make me feel so good I would have done it sooner. I got everythign back officially last week and I have felt like a brand new person. The world is brighter, my heart hurts less. I’ve been on cloud 9 for almost a week now.

Sometimes the little details make a huge difference!

The sweet taste of joy

I don’t even know how to title this post. I want to take a chance to talk about mixed feelings. Transitioning has been in many ways very difficult and scary, and in other ways one of the mot rewarding and fulfilling things I’ve ever done.

What I need to do a better job of expressing, especially to myself, is the joy and contentment I feel by feeling like myself. It’s odd how the better I feel the more obvious the bad feelings are. When I was miserable and in the closet I was fairly even keeled. Now I’m all over the place emotionally, and I couldn’t be happier about that fact.

It’s become difficult to be a moderate person, to feel moderately, live moderately. Sometimes I feel like a kid with incredible swings in mood, though I know they’re not very big to most people.

I never thought sadness could make me happy. I had never experienced happy crying, I had never been happy to cry. Yet, I have learned to embrace and love the lows as much as the highs. As winters chill makes summers warmth so enticing, so too does sadness’ cold embrace make the warmth of laughter and joy all the richer.

I have a brain that likes to think and I let it run away from me sometimes (all the time) but in my heart when my head is quiet, I can hear the gentle song of joy hanging in the air.

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.

Under pressure

I’ve been listening to a lot of Queen lately. I’m more and more feeling in a pressure cooker, as I transition from coming out to living out the tension just keeps building. I by no means can assume to know the inner workings of anyone’s mind. I do find some solace in Freddie Mercury’s voice. The twinge of pain stitched into the music is resonating with me.

I’ve talked before about how this process has been very dehumanizing. Well I’ve never felt more human, more vulnerable, more emotional, and most importantly more alive.

I just wish being alive didn’t scare the b’jesus out of me right now. I always knew this would be a difficult process. But I’ve never felt how difficult it would be. My days are wall to wall excitement, anticipation, tension, and stress.

At times I want to yell it from the mountain tops, others I want to curl into a ball and roll back into the closet. For the pain and derision its causing me I must say there’s part of me reveling in the primal vitality of it all.

Each step moves me forward, each thought entertains more possibilities. I want to talk about more about this later. But the quality and depth of relationships I’ve built because of this is like nothing I’ve ever experienced before.

As much as I may not appreciate the current of pain threaded throughout this journey. I’m ready to bear it for the sake of the primal vitality, living on the very bleeding edge of human experience. My heart is open, my mind is ready, my body is primed. I am living as much life as I possibly can, while I can.

Each step is exciting

I got a package in the mail today, inside are some new clothes. Those clothes are decidedly, pretty androgynous. The big thing is that they are for me, and they are for public wearing.

I don’t know about everyone but I’ve grown a bit of stack of clothes that fit me and I like, but they were never purchased with the intention of being seen by anyone. Some are fun, some are racy, and some are boring and dull. I’ve stopped buying clothes for me to escape to a feeling of normal. In the last few months I’ve started buying clothes normally. It’s a big step and I’m already a lot more comfortable.

I bought new work clothes. Awkwardly, men’s clothes don’t fit as well anymore, I’ve started to take on a more feminine shape and on top of being bigger means that there’s just not a lot of room extra space in these shirts around my midsection, while simultaneously there’s an awkward amount of fabric loosely hanging off my back.

I didn’t really know that there was that much of a difference.

A big part of this process is discovering yourself, I’ve never really had cause to figure out what kinds of colours I like to wear because men’s clothes are boring and come in unappealing colours and patterns, the trouble was usually finding something interesting.

There’s a whole new world out there for me now and Each step forward is a another in which I feel like I have a place in it.