The Unspoken Line Between LGB and T

Netflix recently added a new special by Dave Chapelle called Sticks and Stones.

First off, I thought the special was hilarious. Especially, the segment about the alphabet people as he calls us.

You should go watch the segment, Here’s a link to an animated version.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fQ_sPR2V1RA

I’m going to assume you’ve watched it. This interpretation of the community to me, is spot on.

To explain this I’m going to tell another story. Recently, I worked with my town to recognize Transgender Day of Remembrance. It would have been the first time the town did. I didn’t have a lot of time to organize anything, but I did get the town to agree to light up one of their buildings in the trans pride flag.

Well, they did the rainbow instead. When we went to go see the building lit up, I was pretty immediately disappointed. What was more disappointing was what happened when I shared a picture of the building to a group of local folks in the community. Where I was somewhat crushed to see the town, on a day specifically for the trans community reduce us to just ‘the rainbow people’ none of the queer folk saw anything wrong with it. They’re trying they said, what should I expect they said.

A more polite way of saying “just shut the fuck up.” sure, but still not nice, and definitely not very inclusive. There’s the unspoken line right there, and it manifests in so many different ways. It’s why the trans community had to wait until the gay community was more settled before we were invited back in.

Everyone says that pride was started by trans women of colour. Yet no one cares that the T wasn’t widely added to the acronym until the late 90’s, 30 years after Stonewall, what happened between those points? No need to speak of that. Gay political groups undermined the advancement of trans rights in order to secure their own, as gay rights were seen as more politically palatable and advancing the community as one would hold them back. We don’t talk about it, but it’s a part of our history.

“Just shut the fuck up.”

It’s why when I talk to an old gay man about how we were both hurt when we came out to our parents he was brave and he told me I’m selfish and need to understand my parents perspective.

Because it’s hard to love trans people, it’s hard to accept trans people.

Because we’re different within the community, Because it’s their community and they’re generous enough to allow us in.

I often feel the most accepted by the community when I’m perceived just as a lesbian, not a trans lesbian, I can’t bring that up. Acceptance to them is accepting that I’m gay just like them, the trans part is messy and difficult and better left out of polite society.

I’ve spoken of this before, and it’s so pervasive. This idea that because trans people are begrudgingly accepted in the community, that we should be happy. So they don’t need to try and meet any of our unique needs, because we should appreciate that they let us in at all. So we shouldn’t be upset when they expect us to “Just shut the fuck up.”

They’re trying, and that’s supposed to be good enough.

 

 

 

 

Remembering Without Wallowing Pt. 2

This isn’t a post that I thought would get a follow-up, but it’s interesting how our perspectives change. As I come up to the first year since coming out completely and socially transitioning and all of those big milestones There’s a few things I find interesting, and some new challenges to deal with.

If you’d like to read the first part it’s here: Remembering Without Wallowing

One of the most interesting parts of this is the fact that I now have a life lived, as a woman. Which needless to say is a very interesting experience.

Before transitioning all of my memories had one thing in common, they were coming from a male presentation, a life that didn’t feel like it belonged to me, but ultimately that maleness always changed the tone of something negative.

I remember going out to buy clothes before my first day of school in Junior High. My parents must have had some extra money, because it was the first time my mother had ever shown any excitement toward me spending money, and she wanted me to ‘find my style.’

It was really a free range offer to express myself. The problem? Expressing myself as a man isn’t something that really works well for me. So an experience that should have been foundational and important, and really could have been a good memory was ruined by the maleness attached to it.

As a tangent, I bought clothes that looked incredibly similar to what most of my friends wore and was made fun of for it for years. I didn’t emulate, I copied, and it showed. I learned to be slightly unique after that, still male, but a unique one, it wasn’t really my own expression or related to anything I felt. I just needed to be different, to be overly male, to fall into easy stereotypes. The best way to hide is to be so obvious no one notices you don’t belong. Yeah, I wore dress shoes in high school, and button up shirts.

Anyways, getting back to my point. I have the interesting challenge now of addressing my life and my memories, of a life that does feel real. Of decisions I’ve made and am not only accountable for, but really don’t have an excuse.

Memories are a weird thing. They don’t always mean the same thing to you twice. I had no intention when I started writing this to tell the story that I did, but it fit where my head space was. Really, it’s a good story, at the time it was terrifying to me, expressing myself was dangerous. If only my mother had of known that pain and difficulty it caused me, but I know to her it’s probably a good memory. It was one of the first times I’d really had the chance to be more mature, and make my own choices. It was likely an important milestone for her as a parent, and could have been a good one for me.

If I can describe my experience as a trans woman growing up, it’s that dichotomy. My transness took away even the good memories because I wasn’t in the moment and I wasn’t experiencing what I was supposed to be. Those foundational elements of your life are always wrong, they don’t quite fit who you are. That’s the hardest thing about remembering the past is the parts that are good, but weren’t good for you.

That’s a good memory, and I need to learn to appreciate the goodness in it. Even if it doesn’t feel good immediately, I need to learn to focus on the good.

 

 

 

The Pain We Cause Our self

You can’t be hurt unless you care. That’s something I’ve known for a very long time, but it also comes with the caveat that you can’t enjoy unless you care.

I lived most of my life in an emotional void. Very little really permeated that void, about the only thing that could was anger, and even then it was present but often subdued.

It’s hard to predict what will happen when you start feeling, it’s hard to know feelings and emotions work when you’ve never known them before.

I didn’t know how much pain I had endured.

I didn’t know how much interest was owed on that pain.

I really didn’t know that I was going to have to work through a quarter century of pain and suppressed emotions without any particular control.

I knew I was broken, I knew I couldn’t feel, but knowing something is broken is not the same as fixing it. Transitioning fixed it, it opened the flood gates, and it started the pain.

If I read through what I’ve written here, which has seen some pretty unfortunate events recorded in it, I see that the event itself was not the sum total of my pain. It’s not the pain of the event in question, it’s the flood of pain from a lifetime of events similar to it coming through. My anxiety is not just the fear of the current situation, it is also untold moments of fear before it coming to the surface.

All of this pain, is my pain, I have blamed others for it, but it is my own anxiety, it is my own fear, it is my own anger, it is the sum total of every night I cried myself to sleep as a child wishing to wake up a girl, it is every friendship that I blamed my friend for not being strong enough to help me, it is every member of my family I blamed for not seeing the real me and helping me.

All of the pain I hold onto is the pain of a life of regret. All of the pain I wish to release is the pain of a child, then youth, then adult holding them self to an impossible standard in order to survive.

As a child I wished for my life to end, I ran in front of cars hoping they would strike me, I was assumed careless when I was really apathetic. I ran away from home at eleven years old, I woke up early in the morning, packed everything I would need to start what I thought would be a new life. I planned to bicycle to a cousin who lived 100km away. I made it about 10 km before realizing I hadn’t packed water.

I went home, I’d locked myself out of the house I waited on the steps for my parents to wake up. My mother was furious when I told her what I’d done. She said we’d talk about it later. She went to work. I sat in the kitchen, not knowing if I should go to school or what to do. I stewed and I thought and I pondered.

We never spoke of it again.

I tried to kill myself a few months later. Again I woke up in the early hours of the morning. I didn’t want to be stopped from what I planned to do. I’d brought a knife with me to bed. I was eleven years old, I didn’t have some grandiose plan, but I knew that I could hack myself up well enough to die. I held the knife to my skin. I waited longer then I probably should have.

The only thing that stopped me, was a single thought, someday I can be myself. I didn’t know what that meant, but I knew that in eight years, when I was 19 I could move out on my own, and start figuring out my life. Everything from that day on was about survival.

I had no idea what puberty was going to look like. The struggle and pain that would be. The hurt that I would push down until I couldn’t feel anything at all.

I’ve blamed almost everyone around me for the pain. As if they should have known and maybe, just maybe saved me. Ultimately it’s just me that hurts. Those around me aren’t wounded by the pain I hold in my heart.

I’ve always carried the burden, I knew with absolute certainty that what I was, was wrong, was disgusting, was something to hate, was something to hide.

I grew up ashamed of who I was, I can’t remember a time I wasn’t ashamed of myself. Even now that shame still haunts me. And it hurts. It hurts so much.

I can blame every little moment for making it worse, I can tell you when things have felt worse and better, but ultimately, it’s the pain that I cause to myself that hurts the most. It’s the childhood I regret not having, it’s the milestones in my life that I will never achieve. I will never, ever have the full life I wanted for myself. I will never get to enjoy some of the simple pleasures of growing up. I lived a life for everyone but myself to survive. and I hate that it was the choice I had to make. I hate and resent those around me because I feel like I lived a life for them and they don’t appreciate it. I stand as I am today in spite of their fears and hatreds. Yet they don’t know the pain that I feel in my heart. They don’t will the pain on me, it is pain of my own creation.

It is the pain I’ve attributed to others because of the shame I’ve felt in my own heart. Every moment of weakness growing up when I had to express some degree of femininity, like some sort of addict under the influence of a great compulsion.

The fires I started in the bathroom as a teenager to hide the fact that the nail polish remover I was using wasn’t for some pyrotechnic thrill but to hastily scrub and clean off the nail polish I’d put on my nails so I could see my hands as a girl’s hands, for even a second. The hastily applied make-up at lunch time in junior high so I could try and see the woman that might lie ahead. The burning astringent I used to take it off, stinging my eyes.

I was ashamed of every moment, the second of joy would be accompanied with days of guilt and shame. Each second I’d let the polish dry the anxiety that i couldn’t get it off later would grow but still I watched it, one of the only escapes from my male presentation.

The constant dread and fear of one of my parents coming home and catching me. The very real terror when it happened. My hurried run to the bathroom and panicked cleanup to hide the evidence of my crime. The hasty excuses and half believed reasons I was in the bathroom for so long. My parents ignoring or not noticing my red and raw skin.

This is part of my pain. A life not lived, and even a moment to enjoy was filled with sorrow and pain. Momentary relief, a compulsion I couldn’t understand and feared. An entire false person-hood I wore around me like a costume, so that I could feel safe enough to survive. Longing for some as yet unknowable and unforeseeable future day I could meet myself.

Some people long to meet someone, a celebrity and deceased relative, a friend now gone. I longed more then anything to meet myself, in some impossible future where I was me.

A future I’m now living. That teenager, so alone and scared, and full of rage and hatred and fear and loathing, mostly of herself because she didn’t see herself as that. Because she saw a young man growing out of her body and hating it more and more. With no way to believe that things could or would get better.

That is my past, my legacy, my life is one of pain, and I attach it to others because the truth is. That I hate myself, and now that I can feel and so desperately want to be able to love myself, and worse still I sometimes do, I’m afraid I never will. Because I’m so scared, and afraid, and ashamed of who I am. I wish I was stronger, I wish I was better, I wish that I could love myself.

Someday I will.

 

Talking Down to Help Lift Up Trans Folk

I went to a pride event organized for professionals a little while ago. The event was a bit of a dud, and one of the things that bothered me was around a conversation about trans people.

The main event was a panel discussion on making workplaces more LGBTQ friendly, and better ways to achieve this then periodic sensitivity training. One of the most uncomfortable topics was around trans people, not because I think there needs to be less support for trans people in the work place. A lot of my discomfort was centered around the way the conversation unfolded. To be completely honest, it was quite obvious that the conversation was a condescending and shallow attempt by gay people, to try and discuss trans people.

The worst part, was that it was plainly obvious to the panelists that there wouldn’t be any trans people in the room. It was a room full of professionals right? So trans people wouldn’t be there, so why speak to us as if we deserve to be in the room.

I don’t know if anyone else in the room was trans, but I certainly was, and it’s likely that no one there expected a trans person to be present. Which makes the tone and conversation all the more uncomfortable.

I live in a small town, the queer community here is reasonably close knit. On a day to day basis I’m not used to experiencing the ‘hierarchy of privilege within the community. I’m not accustomed to being talked down to by gay men and lesbians. So when I went to this event in a nearby city. It was a bit jarring.

The panel itself was condescending around trans issues. That wasn’t the icing on the cake for me. At the little networking event afterwards, I overheard a student in attendance talking to a few people about wanting to get an internship in my field. So I decided to give the guy a chance, and I went and introduced myself. Complimented his rainbow bow tie, and tried to start a conversation. He looked me up and down, made a dismissive grunt and then walked away.

The first bit of irony is that I am likely the only person there that could have made an introduction to help him get what he wanted. But that complete dismissal of who I am based on my appearance, was disgusting. It’s just one more thing I now get to carry with me.

The only point I think I can try and make out of this, is that there is an incredible difference between working with a group of people and working at a group of people.

If you look at the history, the reason why trans folk are so marginalized is because we’ve usually been used as fuel and fodder by gay people in the community to achieve their aims, and when the trans community has gotten in the way they’ve seen fit to throw us to the wayside.

What I’m talking about today is just a continuation of that marginalization. The point of community is to work together, and I’ve discovered in some places, there’s some healing that needs to happen first.

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.

 

Lonely in a Crowd of People

I made a trip to a nearby city this weekend. We were there to visit with friends and try out different restaurants. It was a fun weekend.

The highlight, was a bookstore/sex toy shop. Not that i had any particular interest in the sex toys, not that there’s anything wrong with those that do. Nor was I particularly looking to look at books at the moment. I was pleasantly surprised when I saw them. I even bought a book on trans history I’m looking forward to reading.

No the most enjoyable feeling was being in a place I felt I belonged.

Even before being out of the closet there are very few places I ever felt safe and comfortable. Since coming out those places are equally sparse, though I am guarded in a different way publicly.

No, being in a queer friendly space was a wonderful feeling, and I truly mean queer friendly. Not a place that won’t kick you out for being gay or trans. I mean a place for queer people to feel welcomed and wanted. The store was busy, they had a sale going on. Didn’t matter, I felt like I was in everyone’s way and it was still relaxing and refreshing to be in there. My wife remarked “Wouldn’t it be amazing if everywhere felt like that.”

I’ve talked about a lot of the negative feelings I’ve had, I’ve said that I’m learning to be okay with not being okay. this is all true. There’s a lot of fear and loneliness in my life. Though there are people in my life, very few people understand what I’m going through. I don’t have anyone to talk to.

I shared a look of understanding with the cashier at that store who was trans, that warmed my heart and made my day. Just a few seconds of interaction with someone who understood and I could share this burden with. That small moment made me feel lighter.

Loneliness doesn’t mean you’re completely alone, with no one to talk to. It can sometimes be that you’re in the middle of a crowd that can’t hear you, no matter what you say.

Sharing a moment of understanding with someone is sometimes all it takes to find a bit of balance.

 

 

“Are you going to get pregnant?”

I’m a transwoman, so I have know for a very long time that I won’t be able to give birth. That I won’t ever carry a child. There are plenty of women that can’t, some are bothered by that fact, others aren’t, either option is right.

What isn’t right? Mocking me because I can’t carry a child.

Which is what one of the partners decided to do when I asked about our health benefit program’s coverage for fertility treatment yesterday. I might be a defective woman who can’t get pregnant, but my wife isn’t so we’re looking at our options, whatever they may be.

One of the things I will say being trans has robbed from me is that experience. It is a deep pain, and one that I don’t think ever can heal, it’s just a fact. It doesn’t bother me day to day, but it does hurt me.

“You need a sense of humour.” was said partner’s response when I said he was being mean and hurtful. With tears in my eyes. My chest constricting. I felt like I’d been punched. Actually, that’s inaccurate, I can take a punch in the gut. I can’t, it seems, handle having one of my deep seated insecurities thrown in my face.

This was a bad moment. A particularly bad episode in the series of abuses large and small that makes up my professional life lately. I recently went back and read, my rather naïve belief that when I was told I would be accepted I actually would be. That I believed that having time to go to appointments was a sign of respect for my transition, and not just a lack of concern around my schedule. I always put in more then my fair share of time.

I remember a time when crying was not a part of my workplace routine. I don’t miss it, because of the pain it meant I had to endure silently. The pain of a shed tear when living honestly is far lighter then the anguish of a tear unshed because of a life in the closet.

Now I know that that support and acceptance only went as far as the first sign of difficulty. That the courtesy of respect was contingent on not actually presenting femininely. That so long as it didn’t disrupt the business in any way shape or form I could, in the confines of my own head, be whatever I wanted to be. So long as none of our clients were disrupted. Disruption including things like acknowledging the existence of trans people within the firm.

I won’t stop though. I love what I do, I care for my clients. I don’t think there’s anyone around who has the perspective I have. I know my voice is important, and I have something to say. I might not be able to carry a child, but I will carry my head high.