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 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.

 

Revel in the small victories

I’ve been on estrogen for about six months at this point. and though day to day its hard to notice any particular changes, the overall effect is beginning to become quite pronounced.

That would be good news enough but I took a big step. I bought some new work clothes last week, and I’ve been wearing them all of this week, the kicker being that they’re women’s clothing, not only do they fit better then my old clothes, I haven’t created some huge uproar or destabilized the universe.

A pair of pants might not seem huge but I was pretty concerned the first day I wore them, the pockets look different, they’re a different cut, I could think of a thousand ways people would notice. I just focused on the fact that people generally don’t notice things. and lo and behold, they didn’t.

Now I’m more comfortable at work, I feel like more confident that I can be out at work and most importantly I’ve taken a tangible step toward transitioning at work. Sometimes the victories are small but much like a fresh strawberry, the smallest ones are generally the sweetest.

It’s the little things: Man hands

My firm has offices spread across the country so we use video chatting services to communicate quite often. So as I was walking by our administrator the other day I stuck my hand in front of the camera. I know it’s not a particularly funny joke but it’s my way of saying hi.

“Oh those are just (my) big man hands in the way.” says the woman in my office.

One of the worst parts of coming out is that you expose yourself to being hurt. The little things are what hurt. My hands aren’t even that big, they don’t really bother me. In that moment though it was all consuming.

Like most people I just want to be treated with respect. Which means even a basic amount of dignity and social pleasantries being extended. You don’t point out someones obvious pimple, you don’t stare at the mole, you don’t stare at the only minority in the room, you don’t make fun of a Trans person’s less appreciated characteristics.

It might make you feel like you’re guarding yourself and have to step on egg shells. I’d feel bad if I hadn’t had to walk on egg shells and guard myself at all times for every moment of my life.

Most people know they should be nice to the people around them, they’re just not used to being around Trans people. It only takes some time to think or to ask the question to treat us like you would treat anyone else. It costs you nothing.

On a side note I know I’ve been talking about a lot of negative experiences lately, I will try and start writing some positive posts.

Disrespect as a management tool

I’m going to broaden my audience a bit today and talk about something that affects anyone in any work place. it’s when a manager/owner tries to minimize the efforts of an employee through a lack of appreciation or by disrespecting that employee.

It’s a pretty toxic thing, unfortunately it comes from a very honest place. Which makes it rather insidious. As a manager you think to yourself, I don’t want employee x doing that task, I have employee y for that. Employee x should be focusing on their actual job. See, pretty obvious stuff.

The way of actually dealing with this is to address why employee x is doing something outside of their responsibilities in the first place. The answer isn’t always that they’re trying to get out of their actual job.

A lot of mistakes when you’re managing people comes from an inability to understand the entire situation. Everyone manages based on what they know, a good manager understands that they can never know everything but is constantly working to understand and improve their awareness. A bad manager will never realise that they are working with incomplete information. Most people fall somewhere in between those.

The difficulty is that if your manager was perceptive and understood their role, you wouldn’t need to read this. If your manager has fit the bill for what I’m saying they don’t think they’re doing anything wrong and its incredibly hard to change that opinion.

This puts a caring employee n a pickle. The obvious answer is to stop helping and wait for the problems that you’ve been highlighting to break down to the point that even the most pig headed manager notices. This is pretty tough to do when you have an aversion to watching disasters unfold, like a reasonable person does.

This is a dangerous proposition as you are likely to be involved with any collateral (no matter how minor it might be) because of your proximity to it. The best option before you is to try to understand why your manager is taking the position they are/ The other possibility is that what you’re saving isn’t that big a priority. It doesn’t ultimately matter, or that there’s a bigger plan then you’re aware of.

This brings me to the central point, communication is key. Communication leads to understanding. Understanding is everything,. If you’re frustrated reach out, maybe not to your direct manager, and likely not to their manager. Find someone else who might be privy to more information and seek to understand. Or if you are comfortable with it talk to your manager about the issue and express why you’re tackling it.

At the end of the day everyone situation and structure at work are different, but you do need to come to some understanding. If you constantly feel belittled and disrespected for the effort you put in eventually you’ll end up blowing up.

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!