On Conforming

I’ve touched on this topic without ever directly discussing it.

The concept of conformity, of yielding to the group is one that I struggle intimately with.

My very existence sets me apart, my experiences are different then the majority of peoples, my perception of events is changed by my experiences and thus I interpret the world a little differently then the majority of people I interact with.

Yet, I am always acutely aware that it is their world. We live in a cis-centric heteronormative world. No matter how hard I try I can’t escape the fact that I am different, that my life is not the same as most people’s, and as such my experiences and opinions are different and at times difficult and inherently confrontational.

I am challenged at times to keep my opinions to myself, when problems arise that are so gendered in nature that I want to scream “it doesn’t matter” but I have to stop myself, I have to conform to the environment I’m in and understand that the way I perceive the world differs from others. Problems that I see as a result of a specific way of thinking are traditional values passed down generations that can be painful to challenge for others.

I’m sure there are many ways that my opinions and ideas challenge the orthodoxy of others. The fact that I and others like me exist inherently challenges rigid and defined gender roles, ideas of gender, and the role that gender has in our lives.

So conforming is both something I am pushed to, upholding feminine roles and ideals, not challenging sexism, and confining myself to a more narrow few of femininity then I truly believe because the alternative is transphobia. Yet conforming is also somethign I loathe and wish desperately to break free from, because it’s unilateral about appeasing an external world that still won’t like me, while also infringing on my own internal liberty.

Forcing conformity onto those that are different is evidence of a sick and disillusioned people, enamored with an ideal that can’t exist and afraid of a reality that forces them to acknowledge hard truths.

 

Ego sum. ego existo

My very first post, was around the purpose of why I started this whole blog in the first place. I had set out to create a guidebook for trans professionals. Which I would hope is evident from the name of the blog.

What I didn’t know at the time, was how difficult it was going to be to get the life experience necessary to begin to write that guidebook.

Transitioning is hard. It takes all of your courage, and it takes all of your strength. I know I spent my entire life dreaming of a day like today, where I’m sitting at my desk, in my own office, with some time to think on my hands, and a little bit of reflection in my heart. Whether I particularly dreamed of the office is irrelevent, what I’m intending is that I had some comfort and space to just exist.

That’s ultimately what it comes down to, ego sum, ego existo. I am, I exist. The original writing of Descartes, I think therefore I am. I think the original speaks more broadly to my truth. Because I thought long before I was.

Let me explain that better. I spent most of my life in the shadow of myself, trying desperately to unwind myself from the shell that surrounded me. To confuse matters more, we’re more then just ourselves in the single context of our mind. Though the mind is the source of our reason, and thus our self. It is within a social world, a physical interactive world that the self is actualized and realized.

So my own thinking mind was never enough, could never be enough to realize my entire person. It is only within the context of it’s expression truthfully could I begin to know myself and just be.

It’s difficult to explain but the last year has been the process of introducing myself to me and learning to express myself to others, for the first time, openly and honestly. Learning how to understand my emotions, feeling them with the richness and endless possibility that exists, not just repressing and suffering under their load.

Now I feel like I am, and therefore I exist.

 

 

 

Fear is silence, silence is fear

I want to talk about fear.

I have had to accept over the last year that for all my guile and wit, what has really ruled my life is fear.

Originally it was fear of being outed, as I got older it was fear of the unknown and fear of failure.

Now that I’m out, without the singular fear of being outed to overwhelm the others, I’m left with the other structures of fear I’ve built up in order to survive.

Living in a world that doesn’t accept you, doesn’t want you, and would rather you not exist is hard. It’s exhausting. I read a little quote recently, it said “Every breath a trans person takes is an act of resistance.” I want you to think about that for a second. Because it’s true, by continuing to exist there are a lot of people who are offended, whose worldviews are challenged, and ultimately, who are enraged.

Only Homogeneity will ever be enough for those that desire a homogeneous society.

Existing is a burden at times, life gets every one down. It’s hard, and its messy.

Living in constant fear however, is exhausting. Everything takes on a greater scale when you’re trying to just survive. Every minor problem is intense. You are forced to live in a position where you can never make a mistake. You must live perfectly, and without flaw. Though you are flawed further by this process. It’s a horrific way to live.

Professionally, all of the troubles and trials I’ve faced have been laced with a singular fear. The fear that I wasted a decade of my life on a career that was doomed to fail from the beginning. The idea that no matter what skill and expertise I bring forward it will never be enough.

I’m afraid that I will always be defined by what I am, not who I am, not what I can do, nor why I do it. It’s a terrifying thought.

I’m afraid that no matter how hard I struggle, I will work twice as hard, only to fail while others succeed. That I will then try thrice as hard, and only fail harder, and fail myself.

I feel as if I am floundering at times, gasping for a breath I can’t get. Hoping for a moment of peace to find clarity. Trying to find context within the miasma of bias and hate, and to see through the fear in others eyes.

I wish I could see past the betrayal in men’s eyes. Men who swear there is no boys club, yet resent that they allowed me in. Men who swear women are equal, yet feel betrayed I saw past the curtain. Men who tell me they are modern and accepting, yet now guard every word they say to me. Men who feel betrayed and lied to, yet hurt me every day and wonder why I am broken and bleeding, forcing my own feelings of shame and betrayal into hiding.

Fear forced me to hide who I was, for many years. I hid who I was even from myself. Being honest and open is hard, it makes it possible to be hurt in the first place. But I don’t want to be ruled by fear. I want to be more then that. I want to be my own person, I want to breathe my own air and speak my own truth.

Fear forced me into silence. Silence is what kept me in fear.

If every breath is an act of resistance, then let every word be an act of rebellion.

 

Baring your Soul: The nature of introspection

I don’t truly believe that introspection is a trait limited to people who find themselves a member of a minority group, whether it be cultural, racial or of a sexual or gender nature. I will say that I believe that being a part of any minority requires more introspection then being part of a majority.

I can’t speak for any experiences other then my own. But our society demands a far better explanation of those who are different, then those who conform. So those that differ, in order to stand on their own two feet. Need to understand why they are different, and what it means to them.

Knowing yourself is incredibly difficult, and often times painful. It means confronting your negative qualities. It means accepting the source of your positive qualities. It means understanding the decisions you make, and why you make them. It’s an exhausting process that doesn’t always leave you in a better place.

Constant introspection is a demanding process. Whether you do it on an ongoign basis or you take time to work through the issues doesn’t really matter. What matters is you work to find some understanding of yourself.

The very act of observing something changes the nature of it. When you go from living without understanding to living with it, then your decisions are cast through a different lens. There are no innocent actions, as every action is considered. Even impulsive decisions can be understood because the source of the impulse can be traced.

This means that between you and your self, there is no innocence, there is no casual forgiveness. You are always responsible for your actions, you are always responsible for your thoughts. This is a heavy weight to bear when you make a mistake. Knowing yourself makes your soul heavier.

If everyone truly knew themselves then there would be no difference. But when you have groups of people who have to work through all of their issues, their trauma, their desires and dreams. Who intimately understand their very natures. Then place them beside someone who has not been forced to do so. It can make you bitter, and resentful.

Introspection can make you a better person, and it can lead you to a truer and fuller happiness. But the happiness of the ignorant will always seem easier and more attainable. There’s a jealousy for me, that I was never able to just innocently be. I had to be something, I had to understand something. Because of who I am I have never been able to live, from moment to moment.

I have always needed to worry about protecting myself, I had to know my surroundings, those around me, and myself to ensure I didn’t put myself into a position to be harmed. Living on that razor thin edge is tough. It’s painful and ultimately, it might bring you greater joy and happiness or it may bring you nothing but misery. No matter what it will leave scars.

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.

Playing Pretend

It’s funny the questions I get about transitioning, and especially I find how people word things.

One of the most interesting things is when someone says “when you were a man.”

I’ll be honest, I was never a man. Obviously it was pretty uncomfortable I went through a lot of effort to get away from it. I’m also a financial professional who is white. I walked away from a lot of privilege, not that I ever wanted it.

But the idea that I was ever a man is crazy. It was a part to play. I often think about the issue of trans actors, especially with the few trans roles out there. There’s always a controversy because invariably they cast a cis man to play a trans woman. As if that trans woman doesn’t know how to play a trans character. But honestly, even those trans folk that don’t choose to be actors, have had to be actors.

Having to wear a gender identity that isn’t your own is exhausting and grueling. It requires a constant level of analysis and understanding, because you have to make your way in the world in a way that doesn’t feel natural. You have to question your initial reactions, your instincts constantly, lest they expose you and place you in danger.

So no, I was never a man, I just pretended to be one because it wasn’t safe to be myself. I was apparently pretty good at playing pretend, because no one ever guessed I was trans. Yet I was constantly fearful of the tiniest slip. Which is probably why I never outed myself.

We all have to play roles that don’t quite fit in our life. We need to be something for someone because that’s what they need in the moment. I’m talking about the surreal experience of living a second identity, honestly from a very young age too.

I was never a man, I just donned that identity out of fear. it never fit, and honestly I wasn’t very good at it. Yet it got me to where I am now, in only a few pieces. But I’d rather live a single day of honest, sincere, unyielding truth then a lifetime of pretend.

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.