I cannot express in words how difficult it can be to open ourselves up and be vulnerable to another human being. In doing that, we give that person the power to hurt us, possibly even destroy us, with the information we share with them.
Sadly, in today’s world, far too many people will take advantage of another’s vulnerability and use it against them. Need an example? Just look at Facebook or SL Secrets where people are regularly outed for being gay, trans or for simply struggling with something in real life that impacts their second life.
Now, I have never hidden the fact that I have dabbled in BDSM in my past. When I think back on my experiences there, I think about all the times I submitted to a partner…or when a partner submitted to me. When we do that, submit to another, we become incredibly vulnerable. We expose not just our wants and needs to another human being, but we also expose our bodies to possible harm if the person who takes the power abuses it. After all of my years of working in health care, I cannot tell you the number of times I treated victims who endured their abuse under the guise of BDSM. As someone becomes bound and restricted, they are completely at the mercy of another human being; and there is no way to guarantee that other person won’t take advantage of the submissive’s vulnerabilities to harm them either physically or emotionally.
When you disclose that you are not heteronormative, you take this same risk.
I wrote about this before. However, when I wrote about the fears of being vulnerable and disclosing, I wrote about it in a very positive sense. I wrote about how scary it is to disclose to someone that you are transitioning and that, every time you disclose there is this fear you won’t be accepted or it will be used against you in some fashion. When Eclipse did their piece on being transgender in SL back in February, the author made an excellent observation about how many people in SL are struggling with Gender Dysphoria. She also spoke about those who are transitioning and ended up being outed by someone they trusted. Since I first disclosed almost a year ago, so many people have reached out to me. Many who are struggling with their gender identity but have not yet been able to find a way to address and move forward in life being their true selves. Some of them are married and have kids. Some of them are under family pressure to live the “normal” life. Some of them live in areas of the world that are completely unaccepting of transgender individuals.
I mean, even in the best of cases, there is still the fear of rejection and loss of loved ones. Just look at the members of my own family who have rejected me.
Aside from the fear of losing people you love, there is also the fear of having someone use the information you have shared with them against you in a negative way. This is a very real fear and one many don’t think twice about. It’s also something that has happened to me recently.
I have shared with you all before some of the difficulties of dating when you are transgender, even within SL. I have also shared experiences with you, like the people who are flirtatious but unexpectedly ghost you when they finally read your profile. I have talked about being called a liar because I didn’t disclose right out of the gate. All sorts of negative experiences. Most of them however, I am pretty used to. The one I am about to share with you… well… it goes to show that when make ourselves vulnerable, it can sometimes come back to bite us in the ass.
So, I started talking to this guy not too long ago and things seemed to be going well. We were flirting and having fun with our new found friendship, so I took a risk. I took a risk knowing that many guys will see my pictures and say hello, without every really looking at my posts or reading my blog. So much so, that many are completely clueless to the fact that I am transitioning. While many of my friends tell me I don’t owe it to anyone to tell them early on, I usually do. My thought behind it is…if someone is interested, that can be a make it or break it factor for many people and I would rather tell them early on before I become too emotionally vested in them.
So, I tell this guy and he says he is fine with it. I’m excited. We keep flirting and having fun.
Then I confronted him on something he had done that I didn’t agree with…something that had upset me. Maybe I came out of the gate a little hard, but I was really bothered by what I had seen. As I shared this with the guy, things started to go downhill in the conversation. Most of what was said in the conversation, while upsetting in the moment didn’t bother me too much. Lord knows, I’d heard the same or worse in my marriage. But there were two things that were said that, even now, leave me struggling to work through my anger.
The first statement had to do with the fact he felt I should just automatically cut him slack on what he had done because he accepted me as being transgender.
The second statement had to do with the fact that I had never openly disclosed my sexual orientation to him…despite the fact I had been reciprocating the flirting the whole time.
I know I need to let go of the negative feelings I have about these statements. I know I need to let go of the anger and move on…and that is entirely on me to do. However, I am still pretty hot that I made myself vulnerable in disclosing the details of my gender, and this is the way someone decided to use it against me in a disagreement. This person took my willingness to be open, honest, and vulnerable; and tried to turn it around so the situation could be bent to their favor.
It is this type of manipulative behavior that causes so many of us to become defensive and begin to expect the worst. It’s because of incidents like these that so many in transition live their lives in stealth. It’s because of incidents like these that I have people who have Gender Dysphoria and/or are transitioning, who are only able to be their true selves in SL, reaching out to me and telling me I am the only person they have told and that no one else can know. Its because of events like this and the non-cis gender identity shaming we see on Secrets and Facebook, that causes so many to hide in the closet, afraid to tell anyone at all that they are transitioning.
Its because at one time, that person took a leap of faith and made themselves vulnerable. Exposing themselves to someone else, sharing who they really were…and someone used that to shame and/or manipulate them. Its because of incidents like this that we have people coming into SL, creating avatars for the gender they identify with and yet still living in fear that someone will find out who they “really” are. Its because of incidents like these that people continue on living a silent nightmare, horrified and sickened by their own bodies, because they know they risk discrimination and possibly even physical violence if they disclose.
While there are many of you who have always been so loving and accepting of me, we also need to put a stop to people acting like dating a transitioning person is a Get Out of Jail Free Card. Most of us transitioning, we know full well that many of you will love and support us but could never date us. Most of us are ok with that. We get it. We understand sexuality in a way many may never understand their own. But we also need to be respected, just like everyone else.
The funny thing is, even if someone may not like what I have to say when I confront them about an issue, whether I am romantically interested in them or not, the fact that I come to them with the problem speaks volumes. If I don’t respect someone, I am not even going to bring up the problem. I am just going to cut them off. If I respect you at the start of the argument (and I say that because I may not respect you when it’s done), the fact that I am even bringing up the concern screams that I respect you and believe the problem is something that can be worked through. But when you take my gender identity or my sexual identity and try to use it as a weapon against me, I am going to have a problem… as should anyone who has those things used against them.
In saying all of this though, we also need to find ways to work beyond those hurts. As I said, I need to find a way to let go of the feelings I have about this individual and what they did to me. Why? Because that promotes healing in me and remaining angry at them only hurts me. Also, anger and shame (thankfully I haven’t had any shame about that incident) cause us to build walls, preventing us from being vulnerable with the very people we actually SHOULD be vulnerable with.
In the end, I do want to share that vulnerability and not be afraid to tell someone I like that I am trans. I just wish others wouldn’t use it as a means to hurt me.
See it on Flickr.