Retelling History

I’ve talked before about coming out to my mother. it was a bad experience. You can read about it here if you’d like.

Coming out to my mother Part 1

There’s two parts, enjoy if you wish. What I’m going to talk about today is the interesting way in which we perceive our own histories.

Growing up I didn’t have a lot to rely on, rose tinted glasses are a very ingrained tradition in my family. So if I wanted to keep a firm grasp on reality, I had to stay keenly aware of my memories. As I couldn’t rely on those around me to remember stories correctly.

So I was rather amazed when I spoke to my mother over Christmas and told her that I had thrown out an ornament my brother got my wife and I for Christmas the year we were married. Frankly, I didn’t think a Mr & Mrs ornament had any place on my tree.

(We’d considered giving it away but the only other wedding we attended that year had also been a gay wedding. It was a nice ornament, just not appropriate for us.)

My mum, in her infinite wisdom told me that she had bought the ornament. “Why?” I asked, “you knew I was trans.” She didn’t remember when I’d told her. The bitter tears of rage had evaporated from her memory. I was married two years ago, I came out to my mother five years ago. She’d managed to lose the timing of an event, and likely the negative feelings to a more convenient place and time of her choosing.

Which is frankly. the worst example of that behavior I’ve had to endure. We all lose track of events at times, no one remembers everything that happens to them. But to forget when I came out to you, especially considering how poorly she took it, and how much that still hurts me today, was another painful stab in my side.

I don’t wish I could forget like she did. Because there’s power in remembrance. I just wish my mother, and my family had the strength to remember along side me.

Pushing past being a pushover

I’m a pretty confident person, not always by choice, part of it is my profession and part of it is who I am, mixed in with a healthy dose of unending opinions from people about being Trans. So I know I’m fully capable of expressing myself and letting my opinion be heard. Yet, I don’t always choose to do so and I’m starting to wonder why.

I’ll give an example of a situation I find myself in, my office is small there’s only two of us here full time. So to keep the office open we both go to lunch at different times. Since graduating and starting my career I’ve always taken lunch at noon, for one simple reason. I love it. I worked in restaurants from high school until graduating from college. I never got to eat lunch at noon when I was working, because everyone else was.

Getting to eat lunch at noon was a meaningful thing to me, I had moved on I ate when I wanted to, I got to enjoy lunchtime as it happened, not serving other people. It doesn’t take much to make me happy.

So when the woman I work with started last year, she came in and claimed my noon time lunch. Which at the time I didn’t think mattered that much, but it bothered me. I’d been here longer, she was changing my schedule, but I wanted to be nice and accommodate her, starting a new job isn’t always fun so I thought I’d be nice.

One problem with being a pushover is if you push back, people get offended and weird about it. So last week I’d decided after nearly a year that I would really like to have my noon lunch time. I missed it, I enjoyed it. It was meaningful to me. I wanted it back, I was even willing to compromise, she could have it more then me, she takes three days a week, I’ll take two. That doesn’t work for her, she wants to alternate weeks, that’s fine I’m flexible.

Today’s the first day I’m supposed to take a noon lunch, I’d even kind of forgot about it because she’d reacted so poorly I didn’t think it was on the table. She brought it up today, and insisted, but first needed to tell me that she didn’t like this at all. Then diminished my feelings by saying I don’t even care.

I hate when people tell me how I feel, and part of its my own fault. I keep my emotions so close to the chest that 90% of the time they’re wrong. But don’t diminish things because I don’t seem to care about them. I don’t express myself well at the best of time and something as simple as a lunchtime is not going to move me to great passion.

But it does matter to me.

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 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.

 

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!

 

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 to 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.