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.

The only people without

The only people who fell never near

The only people without fear

Living softly, hollow, shell cracking

The only people lacking

Turned and twisted, reduced with mud

Souls heavy steps, shallow thud.

Sun has broken, clouds subdue

In heart of hearts, hope does renew

The only people without fear

Sing silently their story’s near.

Losing Agency is the hardest part of being Trans

I’ve talked about the letter you need to move forward with medical transition before and how hard a process that really is. I want to delve deeper into a what is unfortunately a core facet of being Trans that I never really hear about. It’s losing your basic agency.

If you’re not sure what agency means its basically the ability to make your own choices. We’ll call it free will. For the vast majority of people, regardless of their struggles, still get to exert free and unrestrained agency. Even the poorest among us still get to make basic decisions about themselves.

One of the most mortifying realizations about being Trans, and looking to transition, is how woefully dependent you are. You do not have agency over your body once you come out as Trans, you do not have the right to make decisions about your body. That’s the whole point of that letter, you need to be proven capable first, by someone else.

The only real choice you get is whether or not to come out. Once you’re out, in many places you’re exposed to legal discrimination, being Trans isn’t protected by law in many places, on top of the social discrimination everyone likes to remind you of constantly.

Once you come out as Trans a funny thing happens. All of a sudden it becomes acceptable to those around you to ignore your wishes, while simultaneously policing your actions. This is usually done as advice to protect you from the ‘others’ that don’t accept you. If someone does this to you, it’s because they’re uncomfortable plain and simple.

So you don’t get to make your decisions when you’re Trans about your own body unless proven capable (a situation that hasn’t been medically acceptable for anyone else since the 70’s) if you do come out as Trans people will immediately stop respecting you as much as they did, and then be rude enough to pretend its in your best interest. This all culminates in a feeling of bitter helplessness. I’ve told the story about the flag my boss made me take down, as hard as that was, the conversation thereafter where we discussed his right to know about my transition to protect me was worse.

Yet what can I do? An asshole that knows they’re an asshole is probably better then one that is but doesn’t know.

I am a professional, I have accreditation and licenses. I am responsible to my clients and their interests. I make large decisions and provide critical advice daily. Yet forever I will know that beyond all that I wasn’t assumed qualified to know if I was ready to be myself.

Am I really?

Am I really just some parts?

Am I really not allowed to start?

Am I really just a laughing stock?

Am I really key to hatreds lock?

Will I really feel the pain?

Will I really be treated sane?

Will I really be a nanny?

Will I really always be some Tranny?

I am more than your insanity.

I am risen above your animosity.

I am more then any part.

I am more within my heart.

Each step is exciting

I got a package in the mail today, inside are some new clothes. Those clothes are decidedly, pretty androgynous. The big thing is that they are for me, and they are for public wearing.

I don’t know about everyone but I’ve grown a bit of stack of clothes that fit me and I like, but they were never purchased with the intention of being seen by anyone. Some are fun, some are racy, and some are boring and dull. I’ve stopped buying clothes for me to escape to a feeling of normal. In the last few months I’ve started buying clothes normally. It’s a big step and I’m already a lot more comfortable.

I bought new work clothes. Awkwardly, men’s clothes don’t fit as well anymore, I’ve started to take on a more feminine shape and on top of being bigger means that there’s just not a lot of room extra space in these shirts around my midsection, while simultaneously there’s an awkward amount of fabric loosely hanging off my back.

I didn’t really know that there was that much of a difference.

A big part of this process is discovering yourself, I’ve never really had cause to figure out what kinds of colours I like to wear because men’s clothes are boring and come in unappealing colours and patterns, the trouble was usually finding something interesting.

There’s a whole new world out there for me now and Each step forward is a another in which I feel like I have a place in it.

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