The Overt Quality of Trans Nonacceptance

I’ve tried really hard to give my bosses the benefit of the doubt. It’s been difficult, I had a thought the other day about it. They have made my transition possible, but they have made it difficult.

Well that all changed yesterday.

After months of subtle coldness, and constant disrespect. They decided to go full on overt discrimination. We regularly hold client events, as an office we all go out, meet with our clients, we give a presentation. Not usually a big source of muss or fuss.

One of the partners comes to me yesterday as we start getting close to getting ready to leave. He asks me if I could stay back and keep the office open. He doesn’t want me to be a distraction. Also asks would be a strong word. I don’t feel I had a choice in the matter. I told him he could ask whatever he wanted but that he was being a little mean. That I could do as he asked, but that he was being mean, that it was a mean thing to do.

His response, I don’t want you to think of it that way.

Now, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to put together that excluding me from something everyone else in the office was going to, an event I regularly attended in the past, is discrimination. All becauseĀ  my gender identity and expression differ from what they consider appropriate for their clients.

I knew the road would be rocky, but to be honest in this day and age I didn’t think I’d have to face overt, in your face exclusion based on who I was. The subtle stuff, 100%. The only consolation is I now know there’s transphobia in their hearts whether its hate, or fear or ignorance festering in their heart I don’t know. I have seen the darkness in their hearts, and I’m afraid of what’s next.

Pushing past being a pushover

I’m a pretty confident person, not always by choice, part of it is my profession and part of it is who I am, mixed in with a healthy dose of unending opinions from people about being Trans. So I know I’m fully capable of expressing myself and letting my opinion be heard. Yet, I don’t always choose to do so and I’m starting to wonder why.

I’ll give an example of a situation I find myself in, my office is small there’s only two of us here full time. So to keep the office open we both go to lunch at different times. Since graduating and starting my career I’ve always taken lunch at noon, for one simple reason. I love it. I worked in restaurants from high school until graduating from college. I never got to eat lunch at noon when I was working, because everyone else was.

Getting to eat lunch at noon was a meaningful thing to me, I had moved on I ate when I wanted to, I got to enjoy lunchtime as it happened, not serving other people. It doesn’t take much to make me happy.

So when the woman I work with started last year, she came in and claimed my noon time lunch. Which at the time I didn’t think mattered that much, but it bothered me. I’d been here longer, she was changing my schedule, but I wanted to be nice and accommodate her, starting a new job isn’t always fun so I thought I’d be nice.

One problem with being a pushover is if you push back, people get offended and weird about it. So last week I’d decided after nearly a year that I would really like to have my noon lunch time. I missed it, I enjoyed it. It was meaningful to me. I wanted it back, I was even willing to compromise, she could have it more then me, she takes three days a week, I’ll take two. That doesn’t work for her, she wants to alternate weeks, that’s fine I’m flexible.

Today’s the first day I’m supposed to take a noon lunch, I’d even kind of forgot about it because she’d reacted so poorly I didn’t think it was on the table. She brought it up today, and insisted, but first needed to tell me that she didn’t like this at all. Then diminished my feelings by saying I don’t even care.

I hate when people tell me how I feel, and part of its my own fault. I keep my emotions so close to the chest that 90% of the time they’re wrong. But don’t diminish things because I don’t seem to care about them. I don’t express myself well at the best of time and something as simple as a lunchtime is not going to move me to great passion.

But it does matter to me.

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.

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.

 

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.