Planting the flag

Last week I put a flag up in my office. It should not surprise any of you that it was the Trans pride flag. I have said before that I have an odd relationship with Pride, and most of it comes from a pretty big lack of being proud of who I am.

So I put up my flag, it was bigger then I wanted it to be but finding the damn thing was difficult enough. So I get it up, I’m feeling good about it, Gotten some compliments. It’s becoming part of the background.

If you’ve read a couple of my posts you should know the hammer is about to fall.

One of the partners calls me up to his office.

“You’ve got to take the flag down.” He said other things to justify it but really, what matters is, flag comes down, heart goes with it.

Whether it’s the hormones, or letting myself feel pain. I cried in the bathroom at work for the first time in my life. Like full on red eye, stinging tears, hacking breaths, sobbing. I’m not easy on the eyes on a good day, and I was looking extra rough.

I’m a believer of stoicism, I worked to control my emotions, this wasn’t the time. Its tough, but I sucked the tears in. Let what calm I could find run out the day.

The flag came down.

I put it in the closet.

The poetry of that is grade school at best but I still enjoyed it.

I spoke with that partner again yesterday about this event. I was, and am still unhappy about it. I think its cowardly, I think his fears are legitimate but that they perpetuate the same problem. In business it’s often difficult to know what innovation will lead to success. BlackBerry created the smart phone, now they’re a bloated app service. Not everyone wins all the time, it’s what makes it exciting.

I don’t want my identity to lead my life, but there is a certain aspect of my career where I am going to have to fight for oxygen, and create a space for myself. I understand that. Fear and concern over the feelings of our clients reduces us. I have to believe that there are more people in the world that want to live in a freer more open society then don’t. It’s not fear that creates that world, it’s courage.

Coming out to my mother part 2

Part 1

When I was a kid I always knew something was wrong. I had ideas that I knew weren’t normal. My great grandfather used to call me a solemn child when I was only a toddler. He’d never seen a kid with the self restraint and demeanor I had even as young as 2 or 3. He’d been a teacher for nearly fifty years. He’d seen his share of kids.

I can’t say I know what I was thinking back then. but I know some of my earliest memories were around stress about gender and identity. I knew the way I felt about myself was not how everyone felt about me. I made the rational decision to hide and suppress who I was at an incredibly young age. A decision that had far reaching consequences.

One of the things that happens when you suppress who you are is eventually you forget yourself. You become nothing, I’ve talked about this before:

Baring your soul: dealing with dehumanizing elements of Transition

What I’m going to talk about is how my relationship specifically with my mother developed. My coping mechanism was to reflect expectations, I would form to meet whatever people thought I was. In High School it made me reasonably well known, if you never challenge anyone’s ideas of who you are you’re very comfortable to deal with. but I digress.

My mother doesn’t have the ability to form deep relationships, and she doesn’t form particularly strong ideas of people. So when she was around I had no outlet to discuss anything serious. because my mother never expects anyone to have a serious conversation with her. It isn’t done. I used to contrive stories of minor issues and drama so that I could have “real” conversations with my mother and let her feel like she was parenting me. I couldn’t tell her anything serious that was going on because she couldn’t handle it.

I want to tell a story that will explain how that turn of events happened. There are two separate events. Both occurred when I was ten or eleven. The first was I attempted to kill myself. I’d taken a knife to bed with me and had woken up in the middle of the night. The only thing that kept me alive was the knowledge that in seven or eight years I could be out of there. I was so emotionally void that  with a knife digging into my flesh the only thing that pulled me out of the tailspin was the only thing that could make me happy, leaving my parents behind and getting out of their house. To say I hated my parents would have been an understatement. My parents never knew this happened.

What came out of this event was the thought that I had to get away. A couple months later once the weather was warm enough I packed up a bag of food and some clothes, as well as some basic camping supplies. I was going to run away, I think my goal was a cousin who lived a couple hours away (by car) I’d made it pretty far for a kid. When it occurred to me that I hadn’t brought water. So after a couple hours of progress I turned around and made my way home, realizing that I wasn’t in a position to execute on the plan I’d created.

My mother came down that morning to find me outside my house, I’d been polite enough to lock the door on my way out and hadn’t brought keys with me. She let me inside, screamed at me for a few minutes about how ridiculous and stupid I was, then how late I had made her. Then went to work. We never spoke of it again.

The only kindness my mother has ever shown me was her absence. In the quiet I was not judged or manipulated, or lied to. I was not screamed at when she wasn’t present. When she was, I knew only anger either vocalized or silent.

As I’m writing this I’m understanding better that I should have expected her reaction. Like most people I think I was hoping for a better resolution. My mother has always claimed to be a progressive and enlightened person. I guess I believed the hype instead of remembering that anger is as anger does.

Coming out to my mother Part 1

This is a harder story to tell, I might have to make it a few parts because there’s a lot to talk about.

I came out to my mother when I was 21, I’d started talking to a Councillor seriously about transitioning, I was on the road to getting the letter and part of that discussion surrounds the support of your family. I didn’t think my family would be supportive, thus why I’d never told them. I put it off for a couple months, I’d told a few friends and gotten some decent responses. So I’d had enough success to get an ounce of confidence.

So I visited my parents, At the time I was occasionally stopping by for a visit and to do some laundry (most of the time I did laundry elsewhere, or even in my bathtub to avoid seeing them) so I had some laundry to do, and I waited, trying to build up the courage to speak some truth. My mother and I have never really had very deep conversations, she’s always been comfortable talking about things and events, not people and emotions. So I spent hour by hour keeping up a conversation, I don’t remember what we talked about.

I gathered up my laundry as we neared midnight, I had school the next day and should have been gone hours ago but hung around because I had committed to myself I’d say something. My brother and father were already asleep in bed upstairs. I finally told her. Her face reddened, her eyes teared up. I’ve tried to forget exactly what was said (it’s still been my worst coming out story) but her response was anger and betrayal. She accused me of lying to her my whole life. Of the hurt she felt that I hadn’t trusted her, she was astonished that I couldn’t confide in her. She was quiet at first, letting what I had initially said hang heavily in the room, I considered leaving but I wasn’t sure what would happen. I should have left. The anger and rage, the betrayal the pain that she accused me of inflicting on her is and forever will be etched into my soul. It still hurts. I don’t like her, and I never will. It’s been five years (just gave away my age I guess) and I still can’t dull the pain she caused me. Time has softened it, and made it less encompassing, but my idea of my mother will forever be tied to pain.

I’ve had a couple people say to me that they couldn’t imagine what its like to be Trans, how hard it must be to get out of bed in the morning. I’ve never had a problem being Trans, I’ve had a hard time with the life I’ve been forced into, the relationships I’ve lost, the things I haven’t done. Being Trans has made me cautious and afraid too often. I’ve been afraid to have a life, that I deserve happiness. It’s taken a lot to try and build a sense of self out of the bunker I’ve built around myself.

I didn’t lose what little love my mother may have had for me because I was Transgender, my mother lost a daughter because she couldn’t handle that she’d never had a son, I just had my fears and insecurities proven right while she questioned the integrity and reason of her child. I can go on. and I know from each of our perspectives we both lost something, but she never had what she was upset about losing. and I’d never had what she thought she’d given me.

Part 2

Coming out to your boss

I’ve talked a bit about my more recent experiences coming out to my boss. I wanted to share a couple stories about a previous time it didn’t go so well.

The first time I came out to my manager, I was working at a huge national financial institution, the type that wins awards for diversity inclusion and has ‘support’ for people. At the time I was getting frustrated, I needed time to go to a nearby city for appointments to get things rolling. I couldn’t get a lot of appointments with specialists at six in the evening. So I rather naively believed that all the talk meant something. It didn’t, all I did was ostracize myself from my manager and mark myself as a problem.

It wasn’t any particular thing that changed, just all of a sudden I wasn’t worth putting effort into. Who’s ever heard of a Trans banker anyways? Especially in a small town.

In an unrelated manner that manager was laid off. So I thought, lets try this again, I waited a few months. I listened for anything overtly hateful, nothing was forthcoming.

Told this manager, was given verbal support (as in I’m not going to say anything to your face at least) Things were again awkward for a bit until I think my manager forgot. Again no real support was forthcoming.

Now if you’re someone who is in the position of having a Trans employee and they ask for some time to figure things out, they’re not trying to get out of work, treatment, though I dislike that term, is not a quick process to come by. I’ve talked before about some of the hurdles and how long it took to get over them. If you have the ability to be flexible you’d be doing right by the employee by allowing it.

Too many Trans folk are stuck in temporary, low paying, shift work because they have to choose between their identity and their career/livelihood. A choice that often ends in death.

One of the more melancholy aspects of being Transgender is that I managed to ruin my career in banking in record time, most people need to get a job to ruin their careers. I was just born.

 

Revel in the small victories

I’ve been on estrogen for about six months at this point. and though day to day its hard to notice any particular changes, the overall effect is beginning to become quite pronounced.

That would be good news enough but I took a big step. I bought some new work clothes last week, and I’ve been wearing them all of this week, the kicker being that they’re women’s clothing, not only do they fit better then my old clothes, I haven’t created some huge uproar or destabilized the universe.

A pair of pants might not seem huge but I was pretty concerned the first day I wore them, the pockets look different, they’re a different cut, I could think of a thousand ways people would notice. I just focused on the fact that people generally don’t notice things. and lo and behold, they didn’t.

Now I’m more comfortable at work, I feel like more confident that I can be out at work and most importantly I’ve taken a tangible step toward transitioning at work. Sometimes the victories are small but much like a fresh strawberry, the smallest ones are generally the sweetest.

Pride

One of the more unfortunate parts of being as far in the closet as I was most of my life, is that I have always been afraid to interact with any part of the trans or gay communities. Well this year I’m at least poking my head out of the dirt far enough to attend a gay pride parade.

Much like how I had an irrational fear of ever seeming feminine. I also was afraid to be seen even endorsing Pride lest someone figure me out.

So this year is my first time stepping out and at least participate silently while far braver people march.

Someday I’ll step into the limelight with confidence, just not this year. I’m still going to count the win though, better there then not right?

It is all still worthwhile

I’ve been sharing some stories that I realise are fairly negative in their scope. There are a couple reasons, the first of which is that this journey has not been particularly easy or fun so far. The other is that there are more definitive negative events then there really are positive ones.

Little wins tend to be very small but no less satisfying. I found a great pair of jeans that fit me well and look good. Win! They’re pretty obviously women’s jeans too. I’ve been wearing them in public and haven’t been stoned in the public square. It might not seem like much but its each battle that makes up the war, and I’m finally starting to see some battles won.

Hormone therapy can be slow and peoples opinion and behavior changes even slower, but I will try and write about the good with the bad. Though probably not much over the next couple weeks as I’m going on vacation. Talk to you all then!