Another Terrible Letter

If I could boil some of the worst experiences when it comes to being trans, the most obvious theme would be letters.

So in the ongoing saga of letters, I sat down last week to take up a task that is both terrifying and unfortunate.

If you’re new around here I started this blog as a way to chronicle my journey from the front closet, to where I am now which is some weird combination of out and in. Then going back and talking about the past and how I got here. Anyways, as part of this journey that I’m on my boss asked me to write a letter to clients coming out to them. I don’t know how I feel about it, part of me sees it as a rational and simple way to get the message out. A larger part of me is terrified by the prospect of it. Then there’s a smaller but no less important piece that is mad I have to do it at all, and incensed that someone would even ask me to do it.

No one expects other people to out themselves, no one expects a big hullabaloo for anything else. So why would it be reasonable to ask me for this?

One of the more interesting evolutions to see has been the woman I work with. She was upset when I told her what my bosses asked of me. It offended her that they’d even ask, because no one else would ever be asked to do the same thing. Not too long ago she had never really had to think about trans people, she’s slowly becoming one of my biggest allies. It’s not strange at all that diversity makes people more inclusive, it’s just really nice to see in action.

but I did it, because I’ve never had to, and I’m willing to see how something goes. There was no harm in writing it right? Well, It was one of the most exhausting and emotionally draining tasks I’ve ever done in my life. I felt numb after finishing.

So I’ve gotten to wondering, what’s the deal with letters?

Is it some integral part of the trans experience. Is there no other medium to guide our lives? No one else needs to live in some fascist regime where you require a letter from a professional to have agency. no one else needs to so brutally and ruthlessly expose themselves in the name of transparency (see what I did there.)

This got off the rails a bit, and this is more an expression then it really is anything coherent. But I don’t get this need to expose and understand the trans experience in bite sized pieces. I can no more easily explain in a letter who I am to such a personal degree then anyone else can. So why is it expected of me?

Being out is tough, being in the closet is miserable. I’d really like to be able to sit here and say there’s a point when things get easier but I haven’t gotten there yet. What I can say is that I’d rather endure the difficulties then not. Because I am happier, and I am everyday closer to feeling like myself.

I just wish it didn’t have to be this hard.

I Don’t Hate my Penis

I read an article this morning about a movie apparently making it’s rounds in the film festival circuit. I’m not usually one to pay much attention to them, but it seemed pertinent based on the title so I read the article. Now, I haven’t seen the movie, it sounds kind of gross I don’t know if I will. I wanted to talk about a particular obsession that people seem to have with genitalia.

Here’s the article for those interested, the movie is called Girl. You can find it yourself.

https://www.intomore.com/culture/netflixs-girl-is-another-example-of-trans-trauma-porn-and-should-be-avoided-at-all-costs

Now, I can by no means portray myself as the end all be all of what defines Transness. I can’t, and I don’t want to. I can talk about my experience. Which kind of boils down to this. I don’t hate my penis. I don’t really love it, it’s just kind of there. It doesn’t offend me, and we have a working relationship. Would I be happier with a vagina? Am I sad that I don’t have one? Not really. I have gotten to a point of acceptance with my genitals, but I didn’t start at hatred, or even really dislike.

So I find it interesting how much cis people are fascinated with genitals. You can look at the lengths parents go to differentiate the genders of their babies, a two month old does not have a developed gender identity parents, the bow in their hair is for you. If it makes you feel better that’s fine, but it doesn’t matter.

When dealing with older children on towards adults the preoccupation with the world being a place where everyone’s genitals are clearly and easily identified has always been strange to me. I only know this because as soon as someone knows your trans then it becomes a point of interest.

It shows in movies like this. As we start to see more “trans” stories for lack of a better word popping up in popular culture, and I’m specifically talking about those written by non-trans folks the preoccupation with genitalia is foundational.

Which brings me back to the title. I don’t hate my penis. I have a far worse opinion of my voice, or my facial hair then of my penis. Nobody sees my penis, it’s just there. I’m upset about not being able to be pregnant far more then having a penis bothers me. Because fundamentally genitals are parts of us that procreate children. I’m sad that I can’t carry a child, I’m not mad that I have a penis. Let me explain.

Being trans comes with complicated emotions, much like being cis, but I’m going to focus on the trans thing right now. I am remorseful that I didn’t get the chance to grow up the person I wanted to be. I grew up not in control of who I was, because I knew who I was on the inside differed too far from the norm to feel safe and accepted enough to be who I was.

So most of my milestones are warped by this, in the pictures of me growing up, I see a little boy growing into a young man. That makes me sad. That fills me with remorse, knowing that the life and person I wanted to be was not the life I lived.

In none of those pictures do I see someone with a penis, I just see me. subtly terrified and trying to survive. Just trying to make it through long enough to someday be myself.

I wore a suit at my wedding, my wife knew I was trans but it wasn’t broadly known, and I love my wife. I wanted to make that commitment to her. I wanted to be able to publicly declare my love for the woman of my dreams. I didn’t know what path my transition would take, It would be nearly a year later before I’d meet with an endocrinologist to start hormone therapy, which was in and of itself a surprise even as it happened.

I don’t look at my wedding pictures, I don’t have them in my office, I don’t have them in my house. It was an incredible day, and an incredible moment in my life. and I hate seeing pictures of it.

And my penis was no where to be seen.

Being trans is often about what you lose, because in so many unfortunate ways you lose yourself. When you talk about childhood development you talk about milestones, and everyone needs to reach these milestones before you can move on. So when you go through some of them wrong, you continue on, because you’re a functioning person. Yet there’s a haunting that echoes through your life. All of your memories, your relationships, your achievements before you transition are touched by the fact you weren’t authentically yourself.

These are what make me sad. These are the things that I’ve lost. As I live my life, and I’m still working towards a place of safety and comfort with who I am. I continue to progress and mark milestones. and I am saddened that I didn’t get to share who I was with everyone as I go.

Gender dysphoria is complicated, much like people are. Some days I’m fine and I live my life, and other times I feel the stubble on my face and I’m sickened by it. It’s a complex and difficult feeling to understand and deal with. Often times its quiet, and takes prompting to roar into life, though that might just be from the years of repression.

There are many things that make me trans, and there are many things that make me upset, but also give me great strength and wisdom. I have never hated my penis though, it’s part of me for better or worse. I might not like what it represents or what its meant to my life. but I’m a complicated person I don’t have a single focal point that defines my experience.

If you want to tell a story about a trans person, talk about the inner conflict, the mixed emotions, the fight to stay sane as the world forces you into a box you don’t fit into. The doubt and the fear. The life defining, and changing decisions. There are plenty of interesting perspectives to show and fascinating stories to be told about the experiences and lives of trans people. To focus on such a small facet, and frankly a not particularly interesting one is shallow and mundane and best, and harmful at worst.

To anyone who might read this and is in a creative position to tell stories. Don’t tell the story of a cis person trying to understand being trans. Show the awakening and joys and sorrows and the highs and lows of that journey. Your storytelling will be better and you’ll give voice to a human experience that is not commonly shared.

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.

It’s the little things: Man hands

My firm has offices spread across the country so we use video chatting services to communicate quite often. So as I was walking by our administrator the other day I stuck my hand in front of the camera. I know it’s not a particularly funny joke but it’s my way of saying hi.

“Oh those are just (my) big man hands in the way.” says the woman in my office.

One of the worst parts of coming out is that you expose yourself to being hurt. The little things are what hurt. My hands aren’t even that big, they don’t really bother me. In that moment though it was all consuming.

Like most people I just want to be treated with respect. Which means even a basic amount of dignity and social pleasantries being extended. You don’t point out someones obvious pimple, you don’t stare at the mole, you don’t stare at the only minority in the room, you don’t make fun of a Trans person’s less appreciated characteristics.

It might make you feel like you’re guarding yourself and have to step on egg shells. I’d feel bad if I hadn’t had to walk on egg shells and guard myself at all times for every moment of my life.

Most people know they should be nice to the people around them, they’re just not used to being around Trans people. It only takes some time to think or to ask the question to treat us like you would treat anyone else. It costs you nothing.

On a side note I know I’ve been talking about a lot of negative experiences lately, I will try and start writing some positive posts.

Disrespect as a management tool

I’m going to broaden my audience a bit today and talk about something that affects anyone in any work place. it’s when a manager/owner tries to minimize the efforts of an employee through a lack of appreciation or by disrespecting that employee.

It’s a pretty toxic thing, unfortunately it comes from a very honest place. Which makes it rather insidious. As a manager you think to yourself, I don’t want employee x doing that task, I have employee y for that. Employee x should be focusing on their actual job. See, pretty obvious stuff.

The way of actually dealing with this is to address why employee x is doing something outside of their responsibilities in the first place. The answer isn’t always that they’re trying to get out of their actual job.

A lot of mistakes when you’re managing people comes from an inability to understand the entire situation. Everyone manages based on what they know, a good manager understands that they can never know everything but is constantly working to understand and improve their awareness. A bad manager will never realise that they are working with incomplete information. Most people fall somewhere in between those.

The difficulty is that if your manager was perceptive and understood their role, you wouldn’t need to read this. If your manager has fit the bill for what I’m saying they don’t think they’re doing anything wrong and its incredibly hard to change that opinion.

This puts a caring employee n a pickle. The obvious answer is to stop helping and wait for the problems that you’ve been highlighting to break down to the point that even the most pig headed manager notices. This is pretty tough to do when you have an aversion to watching disasters unfold, like a reasonable person does.

This is a dangerous proposition as you are likely to be involved with any collateral (no matter how minor it might be) because of your proximity to it. The best option before you is to try to understand why your manager is taking the position they are/ The other possibility is that what you’re saving isn’t that big a priority. It doesn’t ultimately matter, or that there’s a bigger plan then you’re aware of.

This brings me to the central point, communication is key. Communication leads to understanding. Understanding is everything,. If you’re frustrated reach out, maybe not to your direct manager, and likely not to their manager. Find someone else who might be privy to more information and seek to understand. Or if you are comfortable with it talk to your manager about the issue and express why you’re tackling it.

At the end of the day everyone situation and structure at work are different, but you do need to come to some understanding. If you constantly feel belittled and disrespected for the effort you put in eventually you’ll end up blowing up.

My first collision: client meets transition

I had a client come in the other day to pick up some work we’d done for him. In going through it all he ended by asking for a card. We were at the front desk where we keep all of our cards so he just looks over himself. Seeing our administrators card first he asks if that’s mine. I say no my card is the one next to it. He responds dismissively with “oh good I thought you were one of those people with gender issues.”

There’s a very petty and malicious part of my soul that just wants to throw things in peoples faces but as usual I didn’t. I awkwardly smiled and he left afterwards. He was none the worse for wear.

Now, years from now I know I will likely find this story funny. But this is the first time I have had a client bring that up, as awkwardly as it was. So unfortunately my first experience is always going to be awkward and weird at best, or a sign of a long, winding, and largely uphill battle.

As is another sign of the toll that being in the closet and transition has brought upon me. I didn’t really think it was that strange until I told other people. I now see why it should have been painful, and am now bothered by it but in the moment I wasn’t. Either i have incredibly low standards for people around me, incredible patience, or I’m just as broken on the inside as I think, maybe even more who knows. My money is it’s a bit of all three, but likely more of the first and last then the second.

So now that I’ve stewed on it for a week, screw you guy!