Finding Motivation

Let’s talk about motivation, not specifically in the workplace, but generally. The desire to accomplish things.

One of the things I’ve had to give up since transitioning is any sort of recognition or material rewards.

My first full time job out of college five years ago, adjusted for inflation, paid better then what I make now. I’ve taken on bigger and better jobs, but that hasn’t turned into any sort of financial benefit.

So I’ve had to rethink my entire motivation system. I’m an out trans woman, I might as well have a tattoo across my forehead that says exploit me. Because the general sentiment I’ve experienced is that I’m lucky to have a job. Which is backed up with statistics. only 1/3 of trans folk work full time, I’m in the top quartile for earnings with my 40 odd thousand dollars a year salary. Compared to my straight cis peers I’m not doing great, but compared to other trans folk, I’ve experienced some substantial financial success.

So context is important, I have a full time job, I have a career I like, and I help people while doing it. On top of it I’m not close to the poverty line, so by most metrics of trans folk I’m incredibly successful. That took awhile to internalize. It’s hard not to compare yourself to your peers. it’s hard not to feel slighted by people you should trust, and it’s hard to not take it personally when people exploit you.

At the end of the day though, wallowing in that will only hurt you. I’ve felt so much hurt in the last year. So much pain. I’m trying to move past it all, and hold in my heart that in so many ways things are better then I’d ever imagined them being.

That is what you have to hold in your heart. That is what I try and focus on, and I’m generally not successful at it, but I keep trying. I have time to give back to my community, I have time to spend with my wife, I have time to give to friends and I still have time to mow my lawn. Which is my lawn that I’m paying for. So for me financial success is unreliable, and that’s a fact I’ve had to accept.

Motivation based on passion, motivation based on internal strength, motivation based on people, and most importantly, motivation based on a desire to make things better. That’s what drives me now, and it’s so much harder to hold on to, but it runs cleaner and feels healthier. Besides I’ve got to be able to keep myself motivated to build a world where I and those like me belong. We didn’t have the luxury of being born into one.

Having a Clear Goal

I’ve had loosely defined goals most of my career, I’ve wanted to help tackle financial illiteracy, I’ve wanted to help people out of avoidable situations, I’ve wanted to help make people better off and enjoy the lifestyle they currently have.

but I’ve never been able to concrete say, this is what I want to be doing, every day. This is what I want my career to be about.

Those loosely defined goals are still there, but I’ve been thinking about it, and in the last six months I feel like I’ve done more good then in the last ten years. What was the main difference? I had passion, because I’ve finally found a community that I feel a part of and that I want to serve.

I’ve volunteered since I was a teenager, and I’ve been agreeable while doing it, but I’ve never had that spark that propels you to something greater.

Which comes back to my career. I’m a financial planner. I want to do what I’m best at, and I want to serve my community. My most rewarding and effective meetings are with other members of my community. I want to help my community overcome that avoidance of the financial system. Because it’s historically disadvantaged us.

The concept of competency towards dealing with the LGBTQ+ community is in it’s infancy and is still largely centered around winning over business from well to do gay men. Not about improving the lives of the community.

I’m not sure what form this will all take, but I want to help make gay, and bi, and trans and any other folk under the rainbow realize their goals and dreams. I want to help us enrich ourselves, to better our community. To progress past the systemic discrimination and to achieve what we’re capable of, not just what we’re able to scrounge together.

I want us to have a bright future.

The Value of Stories

I’ve always had an interest in history. One of the greatest joys, and heartaches I’ve found over the last six months is discovering queer and trans history.

The stories are empowering and give me life. The fortitude and endurance that has been required to move our community to this point is astounding to me. It gives me hope, and it supports me when I’m feeling down.

I want to talk about a profoundly moving moment I had a few weeks ago. Even though it’s not based on a real story, the relevance of it spoke to me. I was watching the new Tales of the City, and we got to a certain episode set in the sixties.

The episode centers around Compton’s Cafeteria, and what happened that fateful night. What struck me, and it struck me hard. Was to see this dramatization of these deep rooted fears, and to see presented, and then validated, those deep deep, to the core of my being fears around being an out trans woman.

I’m not that old, but I still grew up thinking that the best I could hope for, was to not hope for anything at all. To be able to see, just a sliver of the faceless amorphous terror that still haunts me, gave me an opportunity to deal with it. To see it for what it was, I knew it was fear, but it was the fear of an isolated little girl living in a world that didn’t make any sense, forced into a life that didn’t fit. All of the years of running and hiding away, trying to build a life that I could call my own. It all made sense why I’d felt that incredible pressure, why I’d felt like I didn’t belong in the world.

So it was also so powerful to see that turned on its head, and see that there was still a future and that I’m part of something bigger then myself, and to feel it, and to feel connected to this whole history, as rough and bloody and awful as it might be. I belong in this world, and that I’m made of some pretty tough stuff.

On those days that I just wanted to scream ‘why don’t you love me world! Why don’t you want me!’ I understand now, Not in a thinking rational way, I’ve had that for awhile. On an emotional level, to the core of my being there’s now a sliver of light because I know that I’m not alone in feeling that, and if I’m not alone then there’s love in this world, and if there’s love and acceptance somewhere, then I need to keep that light for the next, and the next, and the next. Until we all feel welcome.

In and among the whole sobbing mess that I’d made of myself, and I cried for a solid hour. The pain and anger, and then the realization, and then the laughter and joy. All at once at times. Just letting that all pour out of me.

I walked down my hall and looked in the mirror. In the mirror looking back at me was this hysterical, sobbing, snotty woman.

It was the first time I’d looked in the mirror and seen a woman. Known that the woman I was looking at was me. Not a woman that needed to be looked through a lens, or squinted to see, not a woman with conditions or explanations. I saw myself, the woman I always knew that I was looking back to me. The messy crying disaster of a woman that I am. Smiling like an idiot back at myself.

and I laughed, and I felt changed in that moment. I felt a wholeness of spirit that I hadn’t felt before. I felt good, and felt good about myself. I’ve had other fulfilling moments before that, but that was so powerful. To just feel at peace with myself and what I am.

I am a woman, and I’m going to be okay.

 

Trying not to Wallow

I have always been one to wallow in self pity.

Not usually openly. In my own head.

I often times find myself thinking, “well what if they knew the whole story.” “If only they knew what they were doing,” and many others. The point is, I am often the victim in my own story. Internally, in my own head, I think of myself as the underdog. I have a hard time appreciating the good things, I have an easy time focusing on negativity.

The last six months have exposed that. I have come to openly pity myself. I have become the source of my own woe. Things have happened that are unfortunate. Things have been done to me by others that are incredibly damaging and hurtful. I’ve had my worldview rocked, a lot in the last year. There are certain lessons I’ve learned that will have consequences for a long time.

Those are all facts though, those events happened. You can’t choose if someone will doing something negative to you. You choose to perceive it negatively.

I was trying to claw back my innocence. I was trying to undo the damage that had been done to my perception of reality. It is one thing to know how the world works, it’s another to experience a world that doesn’t want you.

You can’t undo pain, you can’t undo hate. You can’t undo the shitty and awful things that people will do to you. You can only refuse to accept it as a negative or a positive. It is merely something that happens.

It is incredibly hard for me to look at any of the events I’ve talked about here, and not feel the sadness, and loss that each of those caused me. The isolation, and differentiation. We are social creatures, we crave acceptance and love. Being denied it, feels negative. I can’t afford the luxury of continuing to feel sorry for myself.

there is no transgression that will ever teach the perpetrator their lesson. Nor is their a final accounting of any wrong. Not everything is balanced, not everything works the way we wish it did. Ultimately, the only thing we are responsible for is yourself, and how we perceive the world.

So I’m going to do my damnedest to act positively for my own sake. While also accepting that which I can’t control can’t control me. I will be free in my own soul.

 

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.

 

It’s Okay Not To Be Okay

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what being okay feels like. It doesn’t take reading many of my latest posts to see that things are not going well for me. It’s been an incredibly challenging and difficult six months.

In the last six months:

I came out, changed my name, the whole thing. went from pretty much full time in the closet to fully out of the closet. So fast I think I gave myself whiplash. It’s been incredible, but it’s made a lot of the other challenges seem much more difficult.

Bought and opened a business with my wife and her business partner. This was another incredible moment. Incredibly rewarding, incredibly fulfilling, incredibly stressful, and incredibly difficult. Things are looking like they’ll be incredibly positive n the end but it’s been a crazy ride.

My grandmother was diagnosed with cancer, nearly died in treatment, and since recovering. Has largely walked away from our relationship. It’s been difficult to watch her rewrite our shared history and painful to see her refuse to acknowledge me. Family is a difficult topic for me but my grandmother was often my rock that kept me engaged. It’s hard for her to now be the one pushing me away.

On the other side of the equation is other family members who wanted nothing to do with me have tokenized me to fuel their petty ‘progressiveness.’ It’s difficult when you want a connection to family, and when things are hard and you need support. You don’t get it, you find a way forward without it, and when you’re interesting or whatever it is they come back for some reason I don’t understand. I don’t want to push people away, but where were you when I needed the love and acceptance to come out? Now that I’ve found myself on my own terms independently, your chance is gone. I’m having a hard time sorting out my feelings on this one.

The whole probation/creative dismissal/discrimination/incompetency thing professionally. I’ve talked enough about this one in other posts, needless to say this is the most unnecessary source of stress in my life and yet generates the most.

There are other little and big moments but those are the big themes. As the saying goes when it rains it pours.

So I’m adjusting to a new world of generally not being okay. Work eats up most of my time and energy, I feel like I’m professionally holding on by the skin of my teeth most days. Which takes away the time I need to handle my emotional well being. Which feeds into more stress. I’m exhausted and stressed all of the time. I regularly stress vomit now. I worry I’ve made a mistake. Not in coming out, but in my understanding of my capacity. In the closet I had such a stranglehold of my emotions. I was always so in control. It was difficult for me to feel anything, so I generally didn’t feel bad.

So the whole emotional instability thing is something I didn’t really know how to handle. It’s not something I had experience with. Coming out was like exposing my soul to briny air. Sure it’s fresh and clean but the salt burns like a seeping wound.

The last six months have been incredible, I truly mean it, I’m capable of using a thesaurus, but incredible is the word I want. It’s been so many different things, and it’s changed me. I think for the better. I’ve never felt so alive.

Unfortunately being alive is incredibly painful. It might be awhile before I’m alright again. Which is okay, because in the mean time it’s also fine to not be okay.

I read an article by a transwoman years ago, she wrote it in the early 2000s, and the basic premise was, if you’re going to lose your entire life, your livelihood, all of your relationships, everything of value and meaning in your life by transitioning, should you transition? Her answer was that you should be very careful about how you answer that, because that’s not a cat you can put back in the bag.

I’ve always taken this to mean that you need to put your whole life up against the consequences of coming out. Coming out is difficult, being authentic is more painful then it should be. There aren’t many relationships I’ve had to walk away from, my wife knew very early in our relationship what my identity was. I came out to friends slowly over time, and only lost the ones that time was already taking. I had a life before coming out that I was reasonably sure was going to be intact after coming out. Yet I’m still buried in a miasma of problems and misunderstandings and other unnecessary stresses.

I don’t regret coming out, and I don’t think I will. But I think I can safely say that you can never know the consequences of transitioning until you’ve walked into them. Which means even if you do transition. I think it’s prudent to be okay with not being okay. I know I’m learning to be.

The Pain of Loneliness and Isolation

Coming out publicly has involved a lot of painful and difficult times. One of the aspects I hadn’t really considered, was how lonely I would still feel.

Before I came out to anyone, it was my burden alone, I couldn’t expect anything from anyone, because no one else knew. Which was fine, I understood that.

As I’ve come out to more people, the weight doesn’t seem to get any lighter. Sure, there is plenty of support offered, but no one knows what it feels like. I’ve talked about it before, but coming out has never felt good to me, it has always scared me, and left me feeling vulnerable and isolated afterwards. Yet, the straight and cis people in my life assume that it must feel like a burden has been lifted.

To take a tangent, I think it’s because they think it’s the same as coming clean on a big lie. That it would feel like the weight of the lie was lifted now that the truth is out. Yet though I know I had to lie to stay in the closet, I never felt like a liar. I felt like someone trying to survive. I didn’t feel the relief on honesty, I felt the fear of vulnerability.

I work a lot, and I work with a group of white, cis, straight people. Most of whom come from good families, and have had good opportunities in life. I grew up poor, I’ve been the only one to worry about myself as long a I can remember. I moved out on my own as soon as I could. I put myself through school and have had to make a lot of sacrifices to catch up to most of my peers.

So I couldn’t even really start dealing with the whole being gay and trans thing until I’d found a modicum of safety and security. Pulling yourself out of poverty is a lot easier when the world thinks you’re a straight white man. Doesn’t do a lot of good to your psyche or sense of self worth.

So most of my struggles and experiences are alien to the people around me. I’ve got seriously reduced vision in my right eye because of a treatable eye disease that could have been diagnosed sooner had I had the money to see an optometrist. Sure, $150 to see a doctor that might be able to save an eye sounds like a small amount, but there were a lot of those small things that when added up I couldn’t afford. By the time the eye was bad enough I needed to deal with it, I’d gotten through school and had a job with benefits.

No matter how far I go in life my past will always be there, and who I am and what I am will always be a present part of my life. When you regularly spend your time with people that can’t understand any part of your life, and can’t empathise with your experiences it makes you feel so very lonely.

I work with and I know a lot of good people, caring people. Yet I feel I need to isolate myself at times because I know they can’t handle my story, they can’t understand it. I know it won’t do any good to stress them out, so I go on in silence with my own pain.

People think that inclusion means creating an environment where no one experiences hate or discrimination. Yet they don’t realise that the isolation eats away at people just as easily. It makes certain spaces significantly less appealing because you know you have the responsibility and burden of holding the weight of expectation and bias and all the other negative emotions and ideas that people carry around with them. It’s hard to walk into a room and know that you are the single point of connection between everyone else’s discomfort.

It’s exhausting and lonely to be isolated like that, yet without the first person to endure that, there can never be a second to take up the weight. Eventually you hope there will be others to help you carry it all and hopefully get rid of it for good.