Barbwire and Roses: Part Two - Coming Out at Work and Being "Trans Enough"
And, please, keep your opinions of trans-ness out of my bedroom, thank you very much. See, no matter how I change my body, it doesn't effect how I personally prefer to have sex. If my female partner wanted to put me in a Catholic school girl uniform and fuck me from behind, GREAT! Sign me up now-- I'm not even joking. My opinions are mine, just as yours belong to you, but don't push them on me or judge me and how I identify with them.
The light shown off of the glass table-top in the conference room, reflecting the faces of my assembled co-workers. To my left sat my executive director, directly across from me the one woman I had run head into more than once in the three years while working for this association. I glanced at my two directors a little further down the table and they smiled encouragingly at me. I tried to smile but I think it came out more of a grimace.
This Monday morning had been a long time coming. It had started back in June when I found the courage to tell my director about being trans. What I expected to take a week or more to happen wound up only taking two days... I remember going home early the day she told me. I had a horrible head cold and as I was preparing to leave she told me she had gone ahead and told the other director and they had gone to the executive director to discuss the needed changes.
“You have support,” she said, “all the way to the top. Just talk to him when you’re ready. He’s expecting you.”
I had been so happy I almost cried sitting there at her desk. I couldn’t believe that not only did I have the support of the two female directors I worked under on a daily basis, but now I had the support of the male executive director whom I had thought would shoot the whole thing down.
I wanted to talk to him that very week but he was getting ready to get married. So I waited. After he got back from his honeymoon in July we were all buckling down to prepare for the huge annual conference we do every year. While part of me was relieved to not have to approach him yet, another part was screaming to get it over with. It wasn’t until half-way through August that I was able to find the spine and the time to go and talk to him.
To say it went well would be the understatement of the year. He was nervous but his many years of experience as an executive helped him stay focused and friendly. He was kind, and genuine, and knew how to put me at ease. He was happy that I felt comfortable enough to talk to him and my directors about this. He wanted me to know right away that I had his complete support and that there would be a zero tolerance policy towards the staff should anyone take issue with the changes taking place. We decided that the best way to handle the public was just to say that (previous name) no longer worked there but that William would be more than happy to help them with whatever they needed. He told me they’d get me new business cards, new log ins to the systems, and a new e-mail address the following week after my announcement.
He asked how I wanted to do it and I said a single meeting, where I could just blurt everything out and then run away, would be best. He agreed to it and told me that after I said my piece he’d be informing the staff that they were expected to respect the changes and adhere to them. And should there be anything inappropriate he would not be putting up with it. He likened it to if we had a person of color on staff (an all-white, almost completely female staff is the current status quo) and someone was over-heard making any remark regarding that person’s race. That would not be tolerated and neither would anything being said about me.
I told him I’d prefer not to be in the room for that and he agreed. The meeting was scheduled for the following week.
I was hoping to do it sooner than that due to my participation in a leadership class outside the office this year. Another association hosts a 6 meeting course on association leadership. Two of my co-workers are in the class with me. The first class is the most crucial. It’s your introduction and the first bonds of networking are forged. This class has been important for me since I started my job three years ago. I finally met the requirements this year and I didn’t want to start off not being able to be myself. But I had no choice.
So Monday morning I sat in the conference room looking at the questioning faces of my co-workers. My executive director started the meeting and let them know that it had been called because I had something I wanted to share. I can’t remember what I said although my assistants both said it was a really good “speech”. Basically I told everyone how much I loved working with them and for the association. Then, I told them that there were some personal changes in my life which would be bleeding into the office. I outlined the changes – name, e-mail, who I am in the office now – and asked them to do their best in dealing with them. I let them know that I didn’t expect anyone to get it right all the time but that I just asked they continue to respect me as I respect them. I ended it by saying I welcomed any questions they might have – in the privacy of my office – and then I bolted.
I got back upstairs to my office and tried to not black out from hyperventilating. A few minutes later my co-workers who work on my floor came back up and the executive director came into my office to give me the full report. He told me that the one person we had both worried the most about (the 70 year old bookkeeper who was as saucy as they come) was the one who stood up and said, “I’ve been through this before. At a previous place of employment a young man became a young woman and I’m going to tell you what to do. You treat him with respect, just as you want to be treated, and there won’t be any problems.”
Wow. I couldn’t believe it. He was shocked, too, and we had a good laugh over how it’s always the one person you least suspect who surprises you. He said the rest of the staff did very well, too and left my office. My assistants filled me in over the next couple of days about who had what to say in a more negative light. I’m happy to report there was very little. One co-worker felt I shouldn’t have asked them to make the change until my name is *legally* changed. But she wasn’t necessarily ugly about it, just slightly exasperated. Of course, I could have waited. But the state of Florida is one of the hardest places to make a gender/sex change. Good ole South and the Bible Belt. I will be changing my name, and soon, but it will most likely not be finished until the new year.
Everyone’s been good to me at work. Not much seems to have changed other than my name and the almost constant apologies when they forget or get it wrong. I’m really lucky, and I know that, and am grateful.
There’s a really odd thing, though. Why is it so much easier for these straight, conservative co-workers to accept me and my gender identity and it’s so hard for other trans folks? It’s an extreme pet peeve of mine, actually. There’s this sort of standard that trans people tend to hold each other to and, when you’re found lacking, you’re considered “not trans enough”.
It’s ridiculous! Not trans enough?? What IS trans enough? Am I less of a transgendered man because I’m not ready to run out and chop my tits off this very minute? Am I not trans enough because I don’t wear a latex cock in a nylon sock at my crotch? Because I like to have “lesbian sex” (*don’t* get me started on that term) I’m not “man enough” or trans enough? All that mentality does is cut our nose off to spite our face. When we squabble amongst ourselves, and cut each other down, we destroy the strength that is only found in unity.
But that’s a familiar rant, isn’t it? I mean I’ve been saying the same thing for years about some aspect of the queer community in general. Lesbians do it when they put down their sisters who are “too dykey” or look “too straight”. The community (using that word for queers makes me want to laugh except I feel too sick to) does the same thing when we give bi-sexuals shit for not “picking a side” or “coming off of the fence”.
Just because I don’t fit into your model of what is “man” or what is “trans” doesn’t mean my feelings are anymore invalid than yours. Just because I constantly question myself (as I do in all aspects of my life) doesn’t mean I’m wishy-washy or shouldn’t be taking the steps I’m taking to accept myself and make my life happy. I’d blame it on the years of having to meet the psychological modules that trans folks have had to meet but I think it goes deeper than that. It’s like, until you’ve been through what we’ve been through you’re not good enough to be called “one of us”.
No, I’ve never been beaten for who I am, but I’ve been friends with those who have and when it happens to your ‘family’, it happens to you, too. I’ve been yelled at, verbally cut to pieces, and looked at like I was the scum of the earth. I’ve felt so horrible about myself that I’ve wanted to die because I didn’t feel I fit in anywhere. What invisible standard to I have to meet to be accepted within the community I should be allowed in without question?
There are those in the trans community who will treat you like some kind of freak if you like your female parts or even acknowledge you have them. And, god forbid you actually refer to them as something that makes you feel better about your body. There are those out there who believe that you’re a woman, period, until you’ve had complete surgery. That if you don’t have sex, every time, with a dildo (when with a woman), then you’re having “lesbian sex”. These are the same people who think that you can’t call your clit a dick, but it is perfectly okay to consider your fake cock a real extension of you and to wear it all the time because it’s “a part of you”.
What? What? I don’t feel that way, personally, no, but I respect anyone’s decision to refer to or think of their body in any way that makes the feel good about it. But don’t you DARE look at me like there’s something wrong with me because I’m okay with having a clit and a vagina. If I could snap my fingers and have genuine male equipment? You bet your ass I would. But I can’t, and neither can anyone else.
If you have bottom surgery (common term used to refer to having your actual sexual organs changed) going from female to male, the statistics aren’t good for a favorable result. So you now have a piece of your forearm (or other skin source) rigged into a penis shape. It’s still a piece of your body – the body that was born female – and it will never ever work the way a biological male’s penis works. It’s all about making your body work for *you*, not for anyone else. So why do we keep doing this to each other?
And, please, keep your opinions of trans-ness out of my bedroom, thank you very much. See, no matter how I change my body, it doesn’t effect how I personally prefer to have sex. If my female partner wanted to put me in a Catholic school girl uniform and fuck me from behind, GREAT! Sign me up now, I’m not even joking. My opinions are mine, just as yours belong to you, but don’t push them on me or judge me and how I identify with them.
I’m sorry for the rant but a couple of my very good friends right now are feeling the squeeze of not being trans-enough and it’s infuriating. It’s so hard to arrive at accepting this about yourself that then having to feel like you’re not doing a good enough job of it is enough to make you want to throw your hands up and give up. That is not what we need. I will never know what it’s like to be born male and to live my life as a man. I’m only a couple of months old at this point and it’s slow going learning to adjust. Even if I live for another 60 years I’ll never know what it’s really like to be a full-fledged man.
My goal is just to continue to be true to myself and to hopefully help others along the way. As long as I can look at myself and feel good about who I see, I’ll be alright. I think that’s something we should all strive for – not just trans or queer folks – but all of us. When you’re done looking at the site, go to a mirror and just look at yourself. Do you know who you are? Do you accept who you are? Do you love yourself? I don’t, but I’m getting there.