“We are not what other people say we are. We are who we know ourselves to be, and we are what we love.”
– Laverne Cox
In taking this journey to be me, I had to take a long had look at myself, all those who have been important in my life and the world around me. I have written before how some of my views on the world vary from others who are transitioning. When I was doing my counseling internship and in talking with others who are on the quest to be who they truly are, I have butted heads with others about what warrants a micro aggression or discriminatory behavior versus what is an honest mistake. Today, I think I found perfect examples of both cases.
Every day, my hospital conducts safety calls. It’s a time for all leaders in the hospital to take 30 minutes to an hour to discuss any safety issues that happened over the past 24 hours, what is being done to address those issues and the potential for any safety issues in the upcoming 24 hours. In addition to the hospital wide safety call, we also have a call just for our division to discuss these same issues. I am not on the call every day but am on it enough. We rotate between myself and a couple of other managers in my department. This weekend was my weekend in the rotation to take the call.
As we did the division call this morning, they called for the report for my area. I gave my report, reported we didn’t have any concerns and then announced an incident that my department was not at fault in but we were a part of and that I would be assisting with the investigation. As I finished the report, the leader of the call thanked me…and used my old name. It was early and my coffee was still brewing so I initially thought I had misnamed myself on the call. Didn’t think much of it because I know the leader well and I know where he stands on my journey.
Not 30 seconds later, I received a text message from my Associate VP apologizing for my being misnamed in the call. I responded telling her I thought I had misnamed myself. She called and told me that I hadn’t given my name but that the director who was leading the call had been out on his honeymoon and had missed the announcement about my transition. Before she and I could even get off the phone, my email alerted me of a message from that director.
He apologized profusely for his error and admitted he had not yet caught up on his emails. In what was one of the most sincere emails I have read in the business setting, he went into his apology. While acknowledging he had missed the announcement of my return, he also said that didn’t relieve him of his responsibility to have known. He shared his admiration and respect for me. He congratulated me and assured me I had his support. I know the guy. I could hear his voice as I read his email. I also know where he stands on cultural diversity. I emailed him back, told him he had nothing to worry about and I thanked him for his words. I wanted to make sure he knew that I harbored no ill will towards him because I know the type of man he is and that I did not want him to beat himself up over the error…because I already knew he was doing just that.
This is the perfect example of the honest mistake. It’s one where some who are transitioning would scream that someone was disrespecting them and dead naming them when, in this case, it was the furthest thing from the truth. All of us who are on this journey need our allies. This man was one of them before the announcement was ever made. Had I freaked out, he may not have been supportive of me or others in the future. As I have always said when it comes to things like this, look at the person and the situation.
However, just a few hours later, I found out about something else that was said. And this time, it was horribly offensive and insensitive. Had anyone come to me upset about someone having made this remake to them, I would have told them they had every right to be offended and upset.
One of the things that is always interesting in SL is seeing people write about kindness. Whether it’s on Facebook, in their profile, Flickr or a blog, people often write about loathing a world that is unkind and insensitive. They write about how they are good people and they won’t tolerate poor and disrespectful behaviors. We all see it. We all hear people talking about others being kind or leaving them be.
Now, let me preface what I am about to share by saying that none of us are perfect. We are all human. We are all going to make mistakes. Just last week I shared a post about how I had unintentionally hurt some of my friends in the aftermath of my surgery and my return to work by not being present for them. It was never intentional…but I hurt them none the less. And like any person who does cherish kindness, I made my sincere apologies and if I have needed to make some sort of amends, I have. That’s what good people do and despite my feelings over what I am about to share, there are so many of you who are good people.
So…the incident. I was talking to a friend today about something they were dealing with. As we were talking, this friend shared they had been talking with someone else the other day and this third party brought my name into the conversation. As the conversation went on, this third party made a comment about me. The third party, knowing I am transitioning, decided to make a statement about my gender identity and my status as a woman. When this statement was shared with me, I kept my cool but it took everything I had to not say something to the third party.
Now, I looked at this person’s profile. I had viewed it before. In their profile there were statements upon statements about being kind and how they had no time for people who weren’t kind. They went on about how we needed to respect and lift up one another. They talked about how they would not tolerate unkindness. They went on in their profile about what a kind and caring person they were. Yet, despite what this person put in their profile, they went and made an extremely ignorant and offensive statement about me.
As I said before, people make mistakes. At work, I have people apologizing to me profusely for misnaming or misgendering me. It often happens in a case like this morning or like when I was working in the command center at work last week and things were hectic and people just, out of habit, refer to me in the ways they have for so many years. I get that. It’s going to happen. But to go and make the statement that was made about me…inexcusable. Despite someone pledging that they are a kind person and won’t tolerate unkind behavior, they go and throw out an ignorant and offensive statement like they did about me. To me, that stinks of hypocrisy.
As I tried to cool down from what I learned, I reached out to a trusted friend to discuss the statement. My dear friend helped get me calmed down so that I didn’t lose my cool and say something I shouldn’t. I also went back to a chat I had with another dear friend of mine just a few days ago. It is actually a chat I referred to in a post just the other day.
This other friend has supported me for years. She has always had my back when on the topic of my transition and, at some of my lowest points, has lifted me up with her words. As I have worked to adjust to my new life, it’s been hard at times. The self doubt and frustrations can build so easily after so many years of questioning who you are and where you fit in the world as a transgender person. This friend though…she makes sure I never lose sight of who I am. And the other day, in our message exchange…in just a few brief sentences, she gave me more strength than she will ever know. I hope she won’t mind me sharing her exact words here, though I will keep her identity private.
She said to me:
“I was born female. With that came certain privileges that I have been taking for granted my entire life. You on the other hand were not born into the right body and you have endured seemingly endless turmoil as a result. Yet, here you are still fighting to establish your identity as the woman you’ve always known yourself to be.”
I haven’t told my friend yet, but I printed this statement from her and am carrying it in my purse now. It’s going to be one of those statements I pull out for years to come to help me when I struggle due to other people’s ignorance and callous statements. This message from my friend will help me better see the honest mistakes. It will also help me to remember who I am and what I am striving to achieve every day despite the ignorance and unwillingness of others to learn more about the transgender population.
It really is a shame that in 2020, we still have people who define others solely by what rests between their legs. If that is how someone judges me or any other transitioning individual, then they don’t know us and obviously haven’t taken the time to educate themselves. I’ve always said that some of the greatest compliments I have ever received have been those where I am told they had no clue I was born in the wrong body or when my girlfriends tell me that I am girlier than they are. Our essence defines our gender far more than our anatomy.
As for me, I love who I see myself as because otherwise, there is no way I could endure statements like the one described above. Otherwise, there would be no way I could tolerate some of what I deal with as a transgender woman. If I didn’t love the woman I kept suppressed for all those years, I probably wouldn’t be alive today.
To the director at work…thank you for your support and your incredibly kind email. Thank you for being an ally.
To the person who made the ignorant statement about me…I suggest you take a long, hard look in the mirror before ever speaking about another person.
See it on Flickr.
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