Feeling Tired

I had a conversation the other day that has really stuck with me. I’ve not been subtle in my desire to connect with other queer professionals in my industry. I had a chance to sit down with one last week.

To say that the conversation was helpful would be a profound understatement. Unfortunately, I’ve been somewhat downtrodden to learn that the frustrations and negative feelings I’ve been having lately are shared.

Some people say misery loves company, I don’t know if that’s true or not, but I certainly wasn’t happy to hear I had company.

One of the things that really has affected me, is that I don’t often feel respected or heard. In a lot of what I do, professionally and personally. I have tried to put myself out there by volunteering and I often find myself even in queer spaces relegated to the corner whenever my opinion differs from anyone else’s.

I’m not a real enough woman to be heard as one, I ‘gave up’ being a man so I’m not worth respecting like one.

I’m lately feeling so very lonely and voiceless. It’s incredibly frustrating. I find my gender identity and ‘differences’ are used as an example as to why I’m not worth listening to, or aren’t part of some team, or aren’t worth listening to long enough to make a point.

I find myself often spoken over and ignored.

The part of my conversation last week that bothered me the most? Thirty years into her career and she’s still struggling with the same thing. With better poise and grace no doubt, but still struggling to be heard and listened to at times.

I’m already so tired, I don’t know if I have that much fight left in me.

 

 

On Feeling Good

I had a conversation with someone recently, and I mentioned the volunteering and community work that I do, she responded with something¬† I wasn’t really expecting.

“That must make you feel good.”

I didn’t know how to respond so I said no, because it doesn’t. I can’t really think of anything I’ve done that made me feel good. Which got me thinking, what doesn’t feeling good even mean?

I can think of a handful of times in my life that I felt joy, happiness, anything like that. Getting married, I felt happy, not as happy as I wanted to. At the time I wasn’t really great at feeling things. I felt somewhat proud when I graduated from college. I felt happy to the point of tears when I held my new birth certificate, and the first time I looked in the mirror and saw a woman.

So in almost thirty years of life, those are the memories I have of feeling good, of feeling happy, of feeling joy. That probably sounds bad, but I’m not generally miserable. I just don’t feel good a lot.

Which raises a couple of questions for me, do people go through life feeling good and bad, and hunting for that good feeling? Is that the motivation for people, to create instances where things just feel good? Maybe I’m somewhat broken from the fact that things have generally not been good. Chasing those highs seems somewhat unreliable.

This also raises the question to me, do people only volunteer, do they give back because they want to chase that good feeling? Does helping someone else make you feel good?

Is it really altruistic if you’re doing it because of how you’ll feel. I don’t volunteer out of altruism, my purpose is rather selfish. I work with certain groups with causes that benefit people like me, including me. I spend my time supporting a community that supports me, I don’t think that’s altruism. That’s fairly self-concerned.

I don’t have a lot of answers here, I’m just working through some questions.

I think there needs to be more of a reason to do things then how you’ll feel about them, you need to think that they are good. That they matter, that they’re helpful or important to someone else. Relying on your feelings on the matter is irrelevant. I think this is where the ‘white saviour’ trope comes from. If all I’m concerned about is my feelings toward something then the most good I can create is for myself.

I’m going to keep thinking on this one because it’s stuck with me and is bothering me. What is feeling good, what does it feel like? What does happiness feel like. My goal has often been contentment. I have a friend who has a saying, there are bad times and worse times. I’ve always liked it.

On Anxiety

I’ve talked before about how I’ve started studying Stoicism. I want to take a moment and discuss how and why it helps me.

The word stoic usually invokes the idea of someone unfeeling, disconnected from their emotions. Which isn’t really what Stoicism is about. What I’ve come to understand is that it’s really the study of impressions, and understanding how that affects what you can and cannot control.

You can not control anything except your mind. You can direct your body, but you can’t control what happens to it. You don’t choose whether or not to get sick, as an example. So if you’re only able to control your own thoughts, then the goal of life is to find acceptance of that fact.

You can’t control what others do, nor what they do to you, you can’t control the world around you in any meaningful way. You can attempt to change things, and it is indeed good to try and do good things, but ultimately you can not control how other people react to you.

Anxiety is an internal state generally caused by externals. It’s something I have had to come to live with. What I’ve had to learn to contend with is that ultimately. that anxiety is something that I’ve created.

That’s not to say it’s not from unfounded fears. There are people in this world who want me dead, there are people who want to see my life destroyed. There are people who hate that I exist and feel so strongly that I am ruining their life just by existing. So feeling anxious doesn’t inherently sound like a stretch.

What I have to hold on to is that whether or not those people think that, or even if they act on that. If I’m beaten and broken, or even killed. Those are all external to me. I can’t change their feelings, I can only live, and I can only find solace in my own rational mind.

Being anxious and nervous, letting that fear build up, limits all of the moments that I could have been enjoying. One of the weaknesses that I’ve discovered about myself is that I have a hard time with vulnerability. I have put a substantial amount of effort into independence and limiting the way in which that which is outside of my power can hurt me. Rather then bringing me peace, it only magnifies the vulnerability I feel from what’s outside of my control.

The net result being that the more control I feel I have in my life, the more anxious and concerned I am with what’s out of my control. Which explains why I’m bad at keeping my thoughts in order, and my mind clear. I put so much stock in becoming independent that the thought of being dependent or even having another’s decisions affect me scares me. For no other reason then the fact that I have grown up so afraid of what the world would do to me when they found out I was trans, I’m almost waiting for the riot in the streets.

So I’m really only hurting myself, and I think I have to come to terms with the fact that the world just doesn’t care that much. I need to live my life, and I need to do it accepting that the world can hurt me, I can’t prevent that pain, and I might even be surprised when it isn’t that bad after all.

 

Dealing with the Consequences of Transition

Transitioning is a very consuming thing. You need only read through this blog for the last year and watch as hope turns to despair, despair turns to anguish, and then just sadness.

The hard part is waiting for things to get better. From experience, I understand that when things are tough, they don’t usually stay tough forever, you adapt you grow you learn, Either way, you find ways to deal with your situation.

So I’m in an odd place now. The last year has created a lot of damage in my life. My head spins trying to think of everything that’s changed in the last year. My relationship with my wife has change, in many ways for the better. It took a lot of effort to hold it together while I figured out who I was. My relationship with family has in a lot of ways deteriorated. my career, as has been noted, is basically a flaming shambles, which is fine. Something I hadn’t expected was the role that chosen family would take. Finding a community for the first time was amazing.

As things begin to calm down, and I feel like I have some stability in my own head. I’ve got to deal with the aftermath of the destructive spell. The calm after the storm. Survey the wreckage and discover the new wonders.

I guess the point I’m trying to make is that this is all so tough. and even as it gets easier day to day. There’s still the consequences of your previous actions, and meltdowns, and breakdowns and fights and arguments.

But that all just means that I’m living. Only now I have the benefit of being the woman I knew I was while doing it.

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.

Finding Motivation Pt. 2

I talked last week about how I’ve lost access to a lot of the typical motivation and incentive systems by transitioning. I talked about the environment that unfolded, but today I’d like to go further and talk about how it affected me, what I did internally to find motivation, and the struggles I have with staying positive.

If you’d like to read the first part it’s right here: Finding Motivation

I had to go through a pretty intense period of melancholy and hopelessness to get to where I am now. Growing up, and going into my transition I held on to one idea, and it’s an idea that kept me in the closet longer then I probably needed to be. I never wanted my identity to hold me back from accomplishing whatever I wanted to do.

Well that happened anyways, so that was jarring and I had to unpack that. I moved past it because I’ve already had some incredible experiences, made some completely unexpected connections, and found a community that I could share my experiences without reservation with. So what I lost in the hetero-normative and cis-centric world around me, I gained in the queer community many times over.

It took me some time to realize that, and to let go of what I’d lost. I still vividly remember a few months ago when I gave up on having any sort of financial success in my career. I may still progress roles, take on additional responsibilities, I may have opportunities to learn. This progress has taken on a different perspective to me though. It’s because of personal growth, it’s because of the opportunity to learn, it’s not because of a raise or a bonus, it’s not because of what I will get materially, but what I will gain as a person. Which is somewhat depressing, because some would say that this represents exploitation.

I’m talking about doing more work for less pay. I’m talking about not being recognized for my talents. I’m talking about fighting to hold on to a job that I was told I did very well before I transitioned, and now that I have transitioned I’m constantly being reviewed, and found wanting. I’m talking about accepting discrimination.

That’s a depressing thought, and this is why I’ve had to find ways to motivate myself, because I’m living on a knife’s edge. If I don’t accept that I am constantly dealing with discrimination, that who I am is considered fundamentally lesser then others, and by people I have and need to respect then I’ll break. So I have to persevere, and accept what I can’t control.

I think the hardest part of this is that it proved a lot of my fears rights. I am treated differently, being trans has impacted my life, and in negative ways.

So what have I held onto?

I hold onto the present, my responsibilities to my clients has been the only thing keeping me going some days. I’m damn good at what I do, and have only gotten better since transitioning. So now it’s almost like the gods called my bluff. I said I got into finance to help people, well, that’s one of the first things I hold on to.

I hold onto the future, I believe I have a responsibility to other trans folk. I managed to push the door open a small crack, I’m doing what I want to be doing, and I’m doing it at a level that I don’t think would have been possible ten years ago. If I want kids growing up to see that trans women can be professional women, and have the career and live the life, have the title and the corner office that comes with it. Then I’m still accomplishing something. I often joke that I didn’t break the glass ceiling I’ve gotten myself crushed against it, it might not have broken, but if I can withstand the pressure it might just crack, and someday shatter. I’m hoping it happens before I break.

I also hold onto the past. The more trans and queer history I read the more I realize in someways I’m lucky to be able to be fighting different fights. fifty years ago trans folk were fighting against police brutality and a criminal code that mandated adherence to gender roles. If my ancestors had the courage and bravery to stand against dogs and batons and incarceration for being true to themselves. Then I can find a way forward, step by step, day by day.

The big issue I’ve run into is that straight cis people don’t like an uppity Queen. There’s an expectation for folks that identify as a gender or sexual minority to not be too… I’m going to use the word different. As long as you’re not too gay, too excited, too opinionated, basically, too different from what a straight cis person would do then you’re begrudgingly accepted. So if you’re trans, there’s a pressure to not transition, and if you have transitioned. You’re held to a very high standard in upholding the gender role and norms that you have transitioned too. If you’re gay that’s fine as long as no one ever has to think or deal with that.

Any deviation from this in my experience has lead to accusations of negativity and toxicity. That my queerness, that the messiness of a transition is unprofessional. That I can identify how I want so long as it has no impact and requires no effort on the part of those around me. There is incredible pressure to hide and repress any part of my trans-ness, my gay-ness, my me-ness that doesn’t conform to cis and straight culture. Which isn’t a whole hell of a lot, my lived experiences are usually pretty different from those around me.

So it’s hard to be positive, it’s hard to be motivated, and I think the most important thing is that I’ve worked through enough of it to be okay with myself when it’s hard, because I’m not crazy for thinking it’s hard to keep going forward. There’s more against me then with me and if I want to change that then I’ve got to find the strength to get through it. If at the end of the day I don’t have much left in me, then I know why.

In a lot of ways I’ve internalized what I said months ago. I’ve gotten used to not being okay, but at least now I know why, and I have reasons to keep fighting. I’m not alone in the fight, and that’s enough for now.

 

 

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.