Discrimination: Holding Your Head High

The original reason I started this blog was because I wanted to write my feelings on my transition as they happened. Journaling or diary writing or whatever you want to call it isn’t really my cup of tea. As I’ve said before, I have a pretty good memory, so I don’t find a lot of value in it. Writing for an audience gives me a chance to break down my feelings in a digestible way. To present a snapshot of recent events, frozen in time.

So I go back sometimes and re-read some of these posts, today I went back and read Discrimination: Subtle vs. Overt which got me to thinking.

The last few months have been incredibly powerful for me. I officially, finally, and with intention came out. I’ve been living as a woman, and I couldn’t be happier. We opened our first business. We were declined for foster care and adoption, partly because I was trans. I discovered transmisogyny or discrimination whatever you want to call it. I’ve had my job threatened and been placed on probation twice. So all in all, it’s been so busy and up and down that sometimes I don’t know if my head even goes on straight, which might make sense.

The positive things are wonderful. The positivity from so many people has been overwhelming. I can’t be thankful enough for my clients who have been so open and welcoming. I can’t believe how it has opened up people to me, I feel like I’m having better conversations all the time. I’m becoming better at what I do everyday. It’s incredibly rewarding.

Which is why the first and now second sets of probation have been so jarring.

It’s difficult to want to subject yourself to negativity. It starts to feel like a type of self loathing that you accept this sort of toxicity into your life. Yet I know so many have fought much harder, against much more awful treatment. I can’t claim their strength or conviction, but their struggle inspires me.

I don’t know how to magically change hearts and minds, but I do know you need to be in the room to do it. You can’t make those around you better from the sidelines, you can’t let hate seep out of others hearts through silence. It is with dignity and strength of character, conviction of spirit, and an unwavering and deep abiding patience that you change others. However slowly, and at times great cost to yourself.

I want to believe that the struggles I have are due to fear, but increasingly ignorance and hate seem to be part of the equation.

I spoke with a co-worker of mine, we hadn’t caught up in awhile and I was telling her what had been happening. I realised as I was typing out what had happened that it could be broken down to a very simple sentence. “man with three months experience put in charge of improving performance of transwoman with five years experience.”

Said man doesn’t have the management experience I do, he does not have the advisory experience I do, he doesn’t even have the same credentials I do. he is smart in many ways, and there are many things he could teach me, how to give financial advice to clients? I’ve got a lot longer in the chair then he does.

I’ve written about different events that have happened, moments of exclusion, losing access to conversations. I’ve even talked about how I don’t have the right to talk in meetings where others with fewer credentials do.

I recently asked for an apology for one of the more blatant exclusionary events, coincidentally I was placed on probation again the next day. One of the partners talked to me this week and told me that gender has never factored into one of their decisions.

This amongst a group entirely made up of white men, three of whom are middle age, who generally create an echo chamber for themselves.

As an aside one of the powers of inclusion is when it comes to decision making. Groups will eventually come to a consensus, and if everyone involved has generally similar backgrounds and experiences they are likely to come to decisions that reinforce that worldview. Inclusion in groups places diverse people together which creates opportunities for disagreement which refines decisions and makes them stronger.

I can not know how any of the conversations around me are had, I’m not around for them. I can know, that we as humans have numerous mental biases that lead us to make self-reinforcing decisions. If we have nothing to shake our brains into reviewing information, we know that they don’t bother, and we make the same decisions over and over again.

So though no one may have actually said “let’s discriminate against ‘trans professional’ because they’re trans and make sure their transness doesn’t offend our clients.” It is very likely that the conversation went something along the lines of, “I’m not sure if our clients will understand what’s going on with ‘trans professional’ and it would be easier on our clients if ‘trans professional’ wasn’t around to discomfort them.” Which has the exact same outcome. For the exact same reason. So when you have four people make a decision who themselves have never been left out of a room based on any factor of their sexuality, or race, or gender. It’s hard for them to imagine the devastation when they do it to other people.

There are reasonable reasons people can be excluded from things. The activity may not be applicable to them. as an example I’m very involved in our business, but I know very little about providing the services that are offered, sending me on a technical course on any of those topics would be a waste of time and resources. It makes sense to better utilise what we have available and send someone who can use the information. That’s not discrimination.

To circle back around, now that I’ve told my most recent episode of this saga, I want to get to my point. It’s become less and less clear to those around me why I put up with this. Things seem to be getting worse not better. Crying at work has become a norm for me. My professional career which I’ve spent the last seven years attempting to start looks increasingly like a non-starter. Yet I go in, and take the abuse. I hold my head up high.

I don’t know the intentions of those who cause me pain. I don’t know what reasons they have for causing me suffering. I do know that if I walk away I tell the world that if you don’t want a trans person in your workplace, you can treat them badly and they’ll leave. I tell the world that there isn’t a place for people like me in my industry. I tell the world that I wasn’t strong enough, and that I was defeated by hate.

I am not yet willing to walk away from that. Though it pains me greatly each day. Though the hurt and the suffering seem unbearable I wake up each morning. Most days with a smile. I walk into the office and do what I love. I don’t know if it will work out. I don’t know if I’m making a terrible mistake and shouting into the hurricane.

I do know that I will hold my head high, and that I will not be pushed aside. I will endure, and maybe someday even grow and prosper.

I will not let old men stop me from helping others because I am different. I will help others because I am different and can’t be stopped.

 

 

 

“Are you going to get pregnant?”

I’m a transwoman, so I have know for a very long time that I won’t be able to give birth. That I won’t ever carry a child. There are plenty of women that can’t, some are bothered by that fact, others aren’t, either option is right.

What isn’t right? Mocking me because I can’t carry a child.

Which is what one of the partners decided to do when I asked about our health benefit program’s coverage for fertility treatment yesterday. I might be a defective woman who can’t get pregnant, but my wife isn’t so we’re looking at our options, whatever they may be.

One of the things I will say being trans has robbed from me is that experience. It is a deep pain, and one that I don’t think ever can heal, it’s just a fact. It doesn’t bother me day to day, but it does hurt me.

“You need a sense of humour.” was said partner’s response when I said he was being mean and hurtful. With tears in my eyes. My chest constricting. I felt like I’d been punched. Actually, that’s inaccurate, I can take a punch in the gut. I can’t, it seems, handle having one of my deep seated insecurities thrown in my face.

This was a bad moment. A particularly bad episode in the series of abuses large and small that makes up my professional life lately. I recently went back and read, my rather naïve belief that when I was told I would be accepted I actually would be. That I believed that having time to go to appointments was a sign of respect for my transition, and not just a lack of concern around my schedule. I always put in more then my fair share of time.

I remember a time when crying was not a part of my workplace routine. I don’t miss it, because of the pain it meant I had to endure silently. The pain of a shed tear when living honestly is far lighter then the anguish of a tear unshed because of a life in the closet.

Now I know that that support and acceptance only went as far as the first sign of difficulty. That the courtesy of respect was contingent on not actually presenting femininely. That so long as it didn’t disrupt the business in any way shape or form I could, in the confines of my own head, be whatever I wanted to be. So long as none of our clients were disrupted. Disruption including things like acknowledging the existence of trans people within the firm.

I won’t stop though. I love what I do, I care for my clients. I don’t think there’s anyone around who has the perspective I have. I know my voice is important, and I have something to say. I might not be able to carry a child, but I will carry my head high.

What does being an Ally mean?

I work in a small office, most of the time there’s just myself and another woman in the office. We have other small offices and as a team we keep in contact digitally but in real life, I’ve got one person working with me most days.

So if you can imagine that I was very nervous when I came out about disrupting our relationship. if things didn’t work out well then the small space we share was going to get real awkward real quick. My co-worker is an American, and had said some things in the past that had me worried. She was the person I was the most nervous to tell on the team.

Now a year later, she’s probably my biggest supporter. I know it hasn’t always been easy for her, but I wanted to talk a little bit about how she helped me out.

She was the first to try and start using my real name and pronouns. It was hard for her at first. I remember talking to her and asking why she was having a hard time. It was because no one else was doing it. It would be easier when everyone else was on board. I asked her, why don’t you be the leader then, you be the one that tries. And she did.

When the partners have made decisions that have harmed me, or have pushed ideas that I’m not comfortable with, she’s listened, she’s helped me work it out in my own head what I want, and most importantly she’s given me the confidence to stand up for myself. She’s never spoken over me or for me. She’s stood up for me when I wasn’t in the conversation. She’s helped me find a voice for myself when I felt powerless.

She’s opened her mind up to a lot of new ideas. I’m pretty amazed with how much our relationship has deepened because of this transition. We got along before, but now we’ve grown together and have a deep friendship that I truly value.

Being an ally isn’t about shouting or standing against injustice at every turn. There’s going to be problems, constantly. Being a good friend is the first step in being a good ally. Not accepting the problems that occur, and working to solve them in a constructive or meaningful way. Not every battle can be fought by proxy, when someone just needs you to be strong for them, that’s the hardest part, being strong from the sidelines.

Sometimes the most valuable thing you can have on your side is the knowledge that someone else cares about what happens to you. Transitioning, coming out, can be incredibly lonely. It can be isolating. Sometimes just keeping the fire stoked is the warmth you need to get through it all.

 

 

Remembering Without Wallowing

I had a chat with my wife last night. We were talking about a few things, but one thing we often fall back into, is trying to understand our lives and what happened. Neither of us had kind childhoods, neither of us really had childhoods at all. That experience has shaped who we are, and I believe we’re on a good path. But we struggle, myself more then her, with how to remember and understand, without wallowing in it.

I don’t mean wallow in the sense that I can’t escape these feelings, or that they bog me down daily. But I do have a hard time when remembering the past, with finding the positives. There weren’t many, So it makes sense that it’s difficult. Yet I have to reconcile my current positive state with the negativity that spawned it. Which I can’t do. I don’t know if I can ever appreciate how bad my early years were.

I understand that there’s always someone who had it worse. I’m not saying I was the most hard up kid in the world. But something I have come to understand is that we are all the most important characters in our stories, so I’m going to be the most important character in my story.

To truly remember means to accept the negative, but to also accept the positive. Unfortunately, being trans, and not feeling accepted is a really big undercurrent of negativity to even the most positive of experiences. That everything was tainted. That I didn’t get to be myself. It often feels like I was forced to live someone else life, That my life was one of duty and responsibility to maintain the illusions of those around me.

It’s hard to feel a lot of joy when you’re denied the most basic dignities, to be treated as the person you are, not the person people perceive you to be. It’s a scary place to be. And it’s easy to wallow, but I also think it’s important to remember where I’ve come from. I don’t want to hide from my past. But it’s getting harder and harder to acknowledge it.

 

The sweet taste of joy

I don’t even know how to title this post. I want to take a chance to talk about mixed feelings. Transitioning has been in many ways very difficult and scary, and in other ways one of the mot rewarding and fulfilling things I’ve ever done.

What I need to do a better job of expressing, especially to myself, is the joy and contentment I feel by feeling like myself. It’s odd how the better I feel the more obvious the bad feelings are. When I was miserable and in the closet I was fairly even keeled. Now I’m all over the place emotionally, and I couldn’t be happier about that fact.

It’s become difficult to be a moderate person, to feel moderately, live moderately. Sometimes I feel like a kid with incredible swings in mood, though I know they’re not very big to most people.

I never thought sadness could make me happy. I had never experienced happy crying, I had never been happy to cry. Yet, I have learned to embrace and love the lows as much as the highs. As winters chill makes summers warmth so enticing, so too does sadness’ cold embrace make the warmth of laughter and joy all the richer.

I have a brain that likes to think and I let it run away from me sometimes (all the time) but in my heart when my head is quiet, I can hear the gentle song of joy hanging in the air.

Feeling Rough

I started this a couple weeks ago, I came back and all it said was I am feeling rough.

Its amazing how much worse things were about to get. I don’t know if I’m ready to talk about all of this yet, I still feel very in the moment. Things have gotten difficult at work. As I’m sure some of you can tell from my posts lately the spectre of hate has been floating around lately. Things aren’t easy in my personal life either. but I did want to point out something about this whole blogging thing. It really helps. I sometimes go back and read old posts and its interesting how much healing some time can bring. Things aren’t always easy, and I do often wish they were just a little bit easier. But I still continue on.

It’s interesting how being trans was a very consuming thing for a very long time for me. I lived in constant fear, and I was constantly worried about it, like a fly in a quiet room it was always making itself known. The more comfortable I am, the less comfortable people around me are. As if being proudly trans is offensive. As I gain the confidence to be out, and dress how I want and be who I want, and feel as I feel. The more those around me are afraid of it. The quieter the fly is for me the louder it is for everyone else.

Maybe its because the fly is new to them. That this is all new and eventually they won’t notice it. I hope so, because the more people focus on what they can do to make the fly go away instead of what is hard or what they can’t do. The easier its all going to be for everyone.

And maybe that thrice damned fly can finally go away.

Discrimination: Subtle vs. Overt

Discrimination is a bad word these days, diversity and inclusion is in, discrimination is out. So did we abolish discrimination? Obviously not, but we changed its characters. Back in the day it was socially acceptable to openly hate someone because of some element or another. Now you have to be careful and hate them quietly. You could obviously treat everyone with dignity and respect, but that’s hard and doesn’t make you feel good, so just hate quieter and you won’t feel awkward at family get togethers.

When people think of discrimination they think of the overt kind. Segregation as an example. Where there is a very obvious difference placed between two peoples for the detriment of one and the improvement of the other. What has happened is that these behaviors have largely become unseemly, so that its become preferable to create institutions and practices that move people and resources away from each other so that, no there’s not a segregated water fountain, but oddly there seem to only be white people at this park.

So subtle discrimination comes from the same troublesome belief that not all people are equal, that not all people deserve the same dignities and that not all people deserve equal opportunities. It’s shameful but it still exists. It comes from hate, it comes from fear, it comes from envy. It does not come from a positive emotion.

So how does this subtle discrimination become enforced. In very quiet ways, in a lack of opportunity, in a need to prove yourself above all others. I remember a joke by Jerry Seinfeld “I’m not afraid when I hear I have a female pilot when I’m flying, because I know she had to be three times as good to get there then a man.” That’s subtle discrimination. When you expect more from someone with no basis, it’s discrimination. When you try and teach someone a lesson because they don’t conform to your ideals that’s discrimination. Basically when you lord your power over others that don’t comply with your world view you are discriminating.

I made a comment to my employer that their behaviour recently had a discriminatory slant to it. I told them that I hoped their actions weren’t based out of discrimination, but that I had concerns that they were. Since coming out their tones and understandings have shifted. I have changed as a person, or more accurately stopped trying to be something I’m not. I’ve been dropping my walls and letting myself be a person. It’s tough, but its healthy. Change always creates some sort of fear. Fear leads people to try and stop the source.

I want to impress upon anyone reading this. That its not your fault if you want to be who you are. If you’re trying to be a good natured, honest, caring, and concerned person. You can’t really go wrong. Don’t let others push you to fear what you are because its inconvenient. Don’t let yourself fear what you are, and hold yourself away from who you are because someone is pushing you away from it. It’s hard to maintain your confidence, especially when you’re already scared. Don’t invite in other hate to your heart. Know when you’re being manipulated, know when you are being pushed back into a corner, and know that you are worth being a person like everyone else.

Being yourself is part of the path to a contented and happy life. Some of us have to start further behind on that path, but don’t forget that a satisfying life is ultimately your own responsibility and you can’t afford to let others doubt corrupt you, if you’re anything like me then you have more then enough of your own doubt to get you through the day.