Baring your soul: dealing with dehumanizing elements of Transition

Things got a little off the rails yesterday. What I’d originally intended to talk about was preparing yourself for how much you’re going to have to give up of your privacy and really shine a light into your soul.

Medically, the assumption seems to be, that hormones are unsuitable until proven suitable. It’s easier to get intense narcotics then it is to get hormones. One of the first steps is being classified as mentally stable enough to understand the consequences of your decisions.

This involves meeting with some variety of psychologist, in my experience I got to go through it twice because the first one wasn’t actually qualified to write “the letter.”

The letter, if you’re not aware, is what is written by an ‘expert’ giving their opinion that you are capable of making a decision about your own body. Trans people have the same rights as everyone else though!

I’ve spoken with different doctors and a few have found my letter to be unacceptable because it didn’t detail enough of my ‘Transness’ nor did I seem Trans enough.

That lack of detail offended one doctor so thoroughly she refused to accept the letter as acceptable and demanded to speak with the expert who wrote the letter. Then promptly refused to work with me anyways.

She was also the one that initially didn’t think I was Trans enough. At the time I was working at a bank in a rural town, it was my first permanent job after college. I didn’t have a lot of space to deviate from gender norms. Having long hair (which I always tied back) made some people leery, but I digress.

So once you have this letter, which takes as long as it takes, mine took a year and a half. that’s not enough to be taken seriously, prepare to explain to every medical professional between your family doctor and whoever ends up prescribing you hormones why you’re Trans. As if you can easily explain that. I”ve found myself relying on the “I don’t know what its like not to be Trans so I can’t really help you” argument.

One of the most frustrating elements I found about this process is the lack of agency you have in this realm. my last article spoke about how lasting this dehumanising process was. What I had initially wanted to talk about there and did so here is how dehumanising the process is to go through. The expectation to discuss all of your trauma, detail intricately your emotional supports, your financial status, your coping mechanisms all so you can have someone decide if you can be marked acceptable to make your own choices. Something most people are just born with is something that you get to work towards.

I’ll compare it to another thing I’m dealing with in my life. My Wife and I are currently trying to become foster parents. As part of that process you have to go through a similar experience of stripping down your life and understanding your own psyche intimately. As part of this process we are taking classes with other prospective adoptive and foster parents. As this process starts to dawn on people and they realise how daunting it is they start to get worried or afraid.

Now, this process is to understand your ability to handle a traumatized child, and help them heal in your home. If you don’t have tough enough stuff their trauma will break you. The key difference between this and obtaining the “letter” is that you choose to be a foster parent, and it is ultimately not about yourself. You can choose not to be a foster parent. It is a choice.

Being trans is not a choice, we don’t expect people to tear down their mental state and check the stability of their psyche before making any other decisions related ot their body. That’s generally considered antithetical to a free and just society. Agency begins with your own body.

After all of that dour talk I wanted to reaffirm the value and joy that transitioning has brought me. Each step has made me more comfortable and confident and helped me discover who I am and my own identity.

I just also think its important to know that the process leaves its own set of scars. Nothing about this journey is pain free.

Nothing.

 

 

Baring your soul to strangers:

One of the biggest differences I’ve found since I started dealing with my transition is an aversion to secrecy. I think this is two fold. First off, getting to the point of medical transition is going to involve you spilling the beans, to an unfortunately large number of strangers. So you get used to telling your secrets at a whim. I also find I don’t have the stomach for any more secrets. I’ve had a big enough one pollute my life.

It’s odd how easy it gets to let go of this giant secret that I know I’ve held so tightly I’ve never let it slip. I’ve been blackout drunk, complete not in control, and not told a soul. That’s a secret that’s under wraps.

I’ve said it in other article, but coming out doesn’t always feel good. The first time you have to come out to a stranger even in a “safe space” is horrifying. It’s honestly a little dehumanizing. As I’m writing this I realise that I have lost the most private parts of my being by taking this road. For all of the happiness I’m realising that I no longer have the stomach to fudge the details, or tell white lies as some would call them. I don’t know if that matters but its just another part of your soul you lose as part of this journey.

I don’t mean to say I’m not still a private person, but I have little appetite for secrecy anymore. In a lot of ways its made me a more honest person, which is a virtuous trait. On the other hand whats bothering me is that among so many things out of control in my life, this was one more thing that I lost control of.

Transitioning is a weird road.

P.S. I was going to talk a little more about the mechanics of these meetings and the feelings wrapped up in each meeting. Instead it became a little existential crisis. it is what it is and I’ll talk about that other topic later.

Moving brings out the worst in everything

It’s been a week since I posted last. Not out of a lack of inspiration but out of a robust supply of having to move my office and getting my taxes ready most of the weekend.

One of the things that I found the most interesting for myself was how much of an effect HRT has had on my strength. Things I know I could have lifted easily six months ago are starting to cause me to struggle. Hormones are exciting for me in a lot of ways but trying to hold up a large TV with my new noodle arms is not on the list.

The other thing I noticed is that I haven’t hit the threshold where people realize I’m getting weaker. I guess that doesn’t matter very much but I found myself in the awkward position of; do I explain whats going on and sound whiny, or do I just suck it up and struggle.

I struggled through. it was fine, it just made me realize as my cis-female coworker was stacking coffee pods in the shelves while I was carrying around the kitchen table that expectations do not shift quickly.

]’m entering a weird ambiguous point in my transition. I get mam’d by strangers and I get gentlemen’d by people I know. It’s a weird limbo that I’m looking forward to getting out of.

Surely You’re Not offended. I’m not, and don’t call me Shirley

I’m always thinking about how offended I should be. It’s a trade off. If you’re too sensitive you push people away. If you never correct then people never learn and change. It’s a bit of a conundrum.

I do’t like getting offended, my natural state to some of this stuff is ambivalence. Most of the time this is perfectly fine but sometimes things irk me. If you’re Trans misgendering is a part of life. It begins from the very first moments of your life. I haven’t fully transitioned publicly, I’m comfortable, though not thrilled, with being misgendered by strangers. I don’t think its their fault. What bothers me is when I’ve told people who I am. I know it can be tough. I don’t present particularly femininely so people go on autopilot and I get gentlemen d and sir’ed d a lot more then I’d like.

Understanding and acceptance are slow. It takes a long time to overwrite such basic life experiences as identifying the gender of another person. It plays into why Trans people make accepting people uncomfortable. By our very existence we challenge their minds expectations. This isn’t a conscious decision usually, our brains are both presumptive and lazy.  When confronted with information that differs from our expectations we are forced to either make further assumptions (the more likely outcome) or put effort into evaluating new information and creating a new response (far less likely).

So with that in mind I try to air on the side of caution with getting offended. Challenge occasionally, not constantly. It takes a while but eventually people learn to start correcting themselves. Then it becomes normal. It’s a marathon not a sprint. If something really bothers you talk to someone about it. Getting annoyed and belligerent doesn’t’ encourage people to reevaluate their bias and discomfort.

Finding Support from Higher Up

I’ve come out to 4 different managers in my career. It’s never easy to do but I want to talk about what to expect. I rather mistakenly assumed, maybe because I was young and naive enough to believe the corporate line that inclusion matters. That support with my transition was a conversation away. The first two managers I told were when I worked for a major financial institution, the kind that somehow wins diversity and inclusion awards and has programs somewhere to help employees deal with this stuff. Both were polite, both offered their personal support, though without knowing what that means it’s a pretty easy thing to give, harder to act on, and a commitment to find out more.

That last step, usually fell flat. Now, I’ll set some more context in that neither of these mangers was supportive of me before finding out I was Trans. No support for further education, they were generally annoyed by my need to question and understand. They didn’t appreciate that I didn’t always agree with the status quo. I have authority issues, its not my fault.

So the incredible leap of logic I made was, this would be the thing that would start the support. It wasn’t. If you’re thinking its time to move forward with your transition and its time to talk to your boss. Ask yourself one question. Have they supported me on anything else? If they don’t care about your career they’re definitely not going to help with your transition.

Now, why does support matter? Transition takes time, especially medical transition. There’s a frightening amount of people you have to bare your soul to, and they all also work Monday to Friday 9-5.

As someone considering transition its important to know you ahve the resources to see things through, partial progress can feel worse then no progress at all.

So if you find yourself with an already unsupportive boss, don’t despair just make sure your plan doesn’t involve their support find the resources as you can. It will make things harder, but if a transition wasn’t hard it wouldn’t be so satisfying every step you actually take.

If you’re lucky to have finally found a manager who generally cares and wants to see your career suceed. The support for transition isn’t usually that big of a stretch. They’re not goign to understand what you need or why you need it. They’re just going to help you get it. Transitions are personal, you have to walk all ofthe steps yourself. You’re not asking your boss to hold your hand, you just need time to get those steps in and move along that journey.

Coming Out is Never Easy

Chronologically I’m going to skip a head a bit because I recently came out to all of my colleagues, co-workers, what have you.

First off, I was incredibly lucky, I didn’t have a single poor or hateful reaction. Something that absolutely shocked me. It didn’t shock me from the sense that I thought anyone was really harbouring ill feelings towards Trans people. More in the sense that this big massive, all to looming shadow of a thing that is being in the closet twists everything into a “big deal.” Even though I’ve come out before, it has yet to feel good to do it. 10 times in one day was exhausting.

The mechanics of coming out are fairly simple. You tell someone the biggest and most personal secret you can. That’s how I do it. I met with everyone individually I felt everyone had a right to privacy and to react in their own way. Telling a group might be easier but my goal is to ensure everyone is comfortable with working with a Trans individual. I haven’t started telling clients yet.

I came out significantly sooner than I had been expecting. I’ve only been on HRT for 5 months now, and only 2 of those were with Estrogen. I haven’t exactly gotten to the point that anything was particularly obvious. I came to the conclusion that it would be an easier mental transition if I didn’t tie coming out with physical transition. Other then everyone knowing things were still similar the next day. I think that gives people a chance for acclimation to the situation.

I have a concern that clients will react poorly. Not all but some. I don’t want to see, when those moments occur. someone I work with getting upset about it. I’m concerned people will be hypersensitive and defensive more than standoffish. Which is the better problem to have in my opinion. My ultimate goal with my transition is for things to go as peacefully and simply as possible. I have a friend who is gay, she told me one day that she wished that she could just be who she was without having to feel different or other to everyone else. She didn’t want to live a normal life, she wanted her life to be normal. I think about that a lot. I know being Trans isn’t the norm for a lot of people, but I look forward to when being Trans is considered normal.

If you think you work with understanding people who have good hearts and good intentions. Who have a great and supportive reaction I want you to know that is fine to feel uncomfortable with it. I know for me I try very hard to be an honest person. Holding this secret that is so core to my being chafes at me. It hass also become comfortable. I can control a secret, the truth is far harder to contain. I’m not sure when I won’t stop feeling vulnerable and nervous but I do know that things can only get better.

 

Considering Transitioning?

I don’t want to start at the beginning because that was a long time ago. instead I’m going to start at the beginning of when I seriously started to consider what a transition would look like. To give you some context, I work in finance, I’m an investment advisor, the old fashioned term for that was stock broker, but that’s not really a good title, most of what I do is financial planning. Anyways, what’s important is that the average wealthy client (the people I work with to get paid) are not necessarily the type of person one thinks of when they think of the forefront of a social revolution. They generally think, older, conservative, and most importantly, conservative.

So back to the point of this story, how was I, someone who was already significantly younger then my peers (10 years younger then the youngest people in my profession) going to make this happen. Spoiler warning, that parts not written yet.

What I can do then is discuss how I started figuring this out. The first thing that’s important to consider is that worrying about other people is a great way to delay your transition. I began my journey to transition while I was in college, I was legitimately terrified that I would be un-hireable if I was visibly Trans. That was only 4 years ago.

What I didn’t realise was that by focussing on my job I would enter down a path with a company that would delay my transition a further 3 years. The biggest consideration after, will they fire/constructively dismiss me from this job if they find out I’m Trans, is whether or not the company you work for will be supportive enough to see that parade, circus even, of professionals it takes to begin medical transition. While also keeping you sane and in a healthy enviornment the whole way. A company can be inclusive and accepting like a fake smile on a salesman. However just like getting a good discount true acceptance and support will never quite be attainable. unless you can transition on well wishes and awkward silence alone. If you can please let me in on our secret.

The next consideration is whether or not the environment is transition friendly. one of my first jobs with a major financial institution introduced me to the absolute terror and misunderstanding these organisations have with Trans people. I was warned on one of my first days about this terror of a person. This ‘woman’ who I needed to handle so gently lest I set off a lawsuit because this special snowflake of a person was so apt to flip their lid. A few weeks later said person came in, not perfectly stealth but very close and I must say she looked pretty good. I had the honour to serve her when she got to the front of the line, was she mean and ready to jump down everyone’s throat, of course not, was she terrified and worried that I was going to out her… again… at that bank, damn Skippy she was. Were all of my co-workers whispering and sending me messages making sure I didn’t mess this up because of the drama that would ensue, of course. Did I treat her like a normal person, yes, was she visibly relieved after dealing with me, yes. Did I have the courage to interact and set the record straight with my co-workers as I should have. No. Myself a Transwoman, myself fully knowing what was going on. Of course not I was too busy finding new and more elaborate ways to hide what I’d slowly been unwinding in myself the past year. I let it slide, I endured many more comments about that five minute exchange. Scaring me further into the closet when after so long I have made the first steps towards the door. Be careful who you work with, even well meaning and open minded people can prevent you from pursuing your truth and happiness.

We are not yet in a world that is fully supportive of Trans people. Big companies with big inclusion policies are not always what they say they are. If you’re caught in the middle of your career and future, and your transition and future, be careful to consider how both parts of that will work. Just a couple considerations.