On Being Trans Professionally

What does it mean to be an out trans professional?

What does it mean to be out, to be authentically yourself?

I’ve talked a lot about how I feel about my situation. I’ve written about what’s happened to me along the way. I’ve written about how I’ve had to become a person who could not just survive but thrive, mostly painfully and generally long after I should have.

Being out is a state of vulnerability. That doesn’t imply a negative connotation, vulnerability is how we grow. It does mean opening up to the possibility of being hurt. I’ve talked before about how ones gender identity can be used against them in numerous ways, but being out is giving that power to others, there’s times that it hurts. There’s times that people will use it against you.

Being out means being vulnerable with others, being open for your own sake and sanity, and not having that openness reciprocated. It means being kind to yourself when others are not.

The reality is that anyone you work with, whether you work in a large or small organization nor whether you deal with the public or not, likely doesn’t have a profound amount of experience with trans people. If you’re lucky enough to work alongside other trans people then maybe you’re the exception, but for most folks you’re looking at being a lightening rod for people’s concepts on gender.

Gender doesn’t specifically refer to transness, or your gender identity, but people’s entire concept of gender, their feelings towards gender norms, their feelings on sexism, their feelings on sexuality and plaster that on to you.

So it’s tough, you’re navigating the expectations of others in a very real way. While likely also navigating your own issues.

In my experience coming out, living authentically, and dealing with my issues has opened up a Pandora’s box of underlying feelings and shortcomings. From a lack of emotional constraint, on account of the not having feelings before, to a lack of developmental milestones that express themselves in unique and interesting ways.

So the short answer to being trans professionally is that it’s complicated, it’s not bad, in fact it’s quite good. It’s difficult to manage the wall of expectations, the weight of bias and judgement that follows you. For which it takes a tremendous amount of patience, it also comes with the talents and skills that come with looking yourself to the depth of your soul and denying everything anyone every told you about yourself. Talents and skills that most people won’t have.

So it’s hard, and difficult, but so is being trans, and the upside is so much better then the alternative.

Trans Day of Visibility

Pretty late in the day to be writing this, but I figured I’d express something for the occasion.

Before I came out I thought I’d be the loudest proudest most out person that ever lived, I’d be uncompromising from day to day. I’d say my piece to anyone, regardless of whether they’d listen.

In retrospect that opinion is exhausting, even writing it out feels tiring. My visibility and out-ness varies from day to day. Passing, a concept I never really gave much thought to because I didn’t think it would ever apply to me, comes and goes. I don’t know if it’s because the thought of my transness is so discomforting to them that they just block that possibility out, or that I appear far more femme then I thought I would. Both are probably true, as well as other options.

I guess this is all to say that I try to be visible every day, sometimes I need to point it out, or a tactical outting for effect when the situations requires the flair. Do I need to fight every battle? No. I need to survive, and every day I hope to look up and see a few more folks like me at the table.

Someday it’ll happen I’m sure.

P.S. When I looked up Trans Pride for an image the boat was the only option, and I couldn’t walk away from that.

On Not Belonging

There’s a tremendous amount of pressure that I often feel when interacting with others. Call it a weight to carry a burden to bare. I often think of it like friction. There’s a feeling of difficulty that goes into just existing in this world.

The concept of intersectionality is one I think of often. There are often moments where I feel like I’m straddling three different sets of rules and expectations. Rather then high wires each feels more like fishing line. Impossibly hard to balance on and even when you succeed it pierces your flesh.

The intersection of my femininity with my queerness and my transness often creates huge potentials for this friction. My transness makes my femininity conditional and more heavily policed. My queerness is often difficult to express because it’s so intimately related to my transness that it’s off putting or difficult to understand by cis queer people. So each element works in concert to further restrict my range of social acceptability.

It often leaves me in a position where I feel tired. The burden is heavy. The conditions of my existence in this world are limiting. Every action I take needing to be applied through multiple filters to consider not only the impact on me but the reception of others. Often the expectations contradict. Expressing transness often comes with the effect of losing the conditional acceptance of my womanhood.

It’s difficult to say but I often feel like my emotions and expression is too difficult for others to handle. No one likes when you make them feel bad and when my humanity causes others to feel uncomfortable your very presence causes that negative reaction in others.

I’m a walking reminder that the world isn’t as simple or as easy as we like to pretend it is. Rather the. Folks taking a second to question their own biases thoughts or feelings on the subject. The usual response is to put the responsibility for their discomfort on me.

Which gets back to the friction. When your existence makes people uncomfortable and the responsibility for that discomfort falls on you. Then your life is spent wading through negativity, which grinds you down.

There’s no grand solution here. if you’re wondering if there’s anything you can do exposure and understanding do work but incredibly slowly, slower then you might like. But know that you’re not alone and together we can make it through.

On Standards

There’s many ways we are held, and hold ourselves accountable.

Standards are a generally understood way of upholding that accountability, the big question, is how do they get applied.

I could, and probably should talk about my own issues with setting standards for myself, and on the unconscious way I’ve tried to hold others to those standards. The latter generally being a bad idea, and the former generally being poorly executed.

Let’s talk for a second about professional standards, or even more broadly about standards in the workplace.

Any working environment is going to be a hodgepodge of standards to navigate, from basic things like safety and just general social nicety to more complex codes of conducts and professional liability and responsibility.

These aren’t inherently bad things, we all need to work in safe environments, we all need to get along. When accessing professional services we should expect a certain quality of work. Those are end goals and not the application of standards themselves.

Whether it’s rules based on principles based, the application of differing standards provides all kinds of potential for subjectivity. I’ve taken a long way to get here, but lets examine that for a second.

Is someone who is socially unpleasant at times more or less likely to break a safety rule? Not inherently those two things aren’t related. However if we find someone difficult to deal with or unpleasant in some way. We’re far more likely to associate their propensity to break social rules, with other rules. They may not be any more unsafe then the average person in the environment but you’re going to be more likely to notice or react to transgressions.

So, here’s where we get to the crux of the issue, what if, by the very nature of your existence. Considered socially uncomfortable. Even the most progressive minded and well intentioned folks are susceptible to biassed thinking and the isms and phobias.

So how do standards end up going from something that makes sense, a common set of guidelines to ensure professional, safe, effective work gets done. To a tool of oppression?

It goes back to that simple premise that someone who is a member of a social minority has already broken a social rule by existing in a space. Whether it’s a sense of discomfort that then makes you feel uncomfortable and therefore feel like the person has put you out by existing, all the way up to outward hate. Existing as someone who is a visible minority breaks the established rules of a space. Especially in hetero-normative, cis-normative, white-centric, ablest spaces. When the default for social conduct doesn’t include your existence then every further standard is that much more closely monitored.

It’s in part why the tropes around excellence exist, why you have to work x times harder to get y less distance. When you’ve already broken a social convention every other rule, standard, guideline, is that much easier to be considered cross.

The stress created is immense, It’s not enough to exist, because your existence works against you. You must thrive, you must succeed in spite of who you are.

Which is a standard of exhaustion for those on the wrong side of it.

I Came Off Hormones

Around Christmas time my wife and I decided we wanted to start a family, and since I had the other requisite component I made the decision to come off hormones. So far it’s been fine, it’s a weird experience. I don’t know what I expected but I don’t feel like I did before coming out. It’s a different experience.

It has made it harder to express myself. I thought at first it was because things have been kind of better lately that I didn’t feel as much of a need to write. It’s really become apparent that I just don’t feel as much of a need to externalize my feelings, because they’re far more deep seated. Testosterone is a weird hormone. I’ve been joking lately that  I don’t know why we trust men with any real decisions because they’re so hormonal and emotional.

It’s true though, I don’t cry as easily, I don’t feel as strongly, instead I just get moods that don’t end. If I’m upset I’m upset forever if I’m sad there’s no quick way to release that. You have to wait until it either subsides or hits some kind of critical mass before you can deal with it. Testosterone makes your emotions seem fuzzier, more distant, less pressing. Yet far more controlling. There’s less flexibility to deal with your emotions once they’re actually at a point they can be dealt with. Sure you can suck them back in and restrain them but then how much longer will they fester?

It’s harder to relate to people, I find my empathy has returned to a more intellectual empathy, it’s less sincere, I don’t feel the emotions alongside the person. I can read them, I can feel them, but not as strong. In that way I feel like I’m back in the closet, only this time I’m feigning an emotionality that I don’t feel as strongly.

I look forward to going back on hormones. I do miss them. There’s a simple elegance in feeling, dealing, moving on. Instead I’m stuck festering and stewing on how I feel.