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.

 

 

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, completely 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 realize that I have lost the most private parts of my being by taking this road. For all of the happiness I’ve gained I’m realizing 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.