Not Backing Down

I’m back at work and the misgendering is already in full gear. I also received several lectures about how asking people to treat me the same way I treat them (by gendering me correctly) is way too much to ask. It’s invalidation after invalidation. When I’m invalidated, I’m sent the message that I don’t matter and that the other person’s comfort is more important than the recognition of my full existence. The harm is multiplied when someone then goes into why what I am asking for is such a burden and so difficult for them to manage.

In sitting with these experiences, I feel prodded to share the pain that they cause me with the people who cause them. The issue with doing this is any guilt they feel will likely lead to increased defensiveness and additional invalidation. I do think that it is worth speaking about the dysphoria misgendering causes to a wider audience, as those who are capable of empathy and compassion will be motivated to stand in solidarity with trans people and to correct others who harm us.

One of the biggest costs I am enduring is increased isolation because putting myself in environments in which I know someone will harm and no one will do anything about it is Retraumatization 101 for me. My complex PTSD/dissociation issues are creeping into my experiences as an open trans person in that I am triggered by feelings of betrayal and elements of abuse when people carry on as though I am the binary gender I was assigned at birth. These same people ignore my mental health issues on the whole as well, so the layers of invalidation are starting to stack quite high.

As I sit with this experience for a longer period of time, what I realize is that the powerful vulnerability I set as part of my mission statement for 2020 has to be targeted in its application. I do not need to open up to the people who are hurting me. I need to open up to the people who can do something about it, namely to my HR department and potential legal resources at my disposal.

I don’t have an option to run away when my employment is at stake, so I need to assemble my game plan. What disgusts me in this is the fact that trans people can be stereotyped as being litigious, when, along with other marginalized groups, I’m coming to see the reason we may be viewed that way is that our attempts at soliciting respect through interpersonal means are completely disregarded. A person can only take so much mistreatment before they have to stand up for themselves. I have little faith in the legal system, but I know any progress I might make will pave the path for anyone who comes after me.

In considering what I am dealing with in the context of the many forms of oppression and marginalization that exist in American society, the commonality that I find is a commitment to responding to the whims and proclivities of those who already have a disproportionate amount of power. In my situation, those who are cis-het are sheltered from the consequences of their exploitation of those of us who do not or can not conform to their worldview. This toxic stew is further concentrated in the power of its poison for those who face racism, xenophobia and the like.

I feel so disgusted in knowing that the people who mistreat me have vulnerable young people who trust them and look up to them, ripe for harm as their unchecked prejudices and biases play out. As this feeling of revulsion rises in me, I always come back to the same thought: I can never slip fully into us/them; I am vulnerable to the same prejudices and biases and must be vigilant in my own inner work in this area. I must do better and I must do what I can to force those whose bias harms me to do better. We can only change ourselves, but we can seek consequences for bad behavior. If you are trans and/or non-binary, where are you at on a scale from acquiescence to riot in terms of how you respond to misgendering? Where have you turned to for support? How have you taken care of yourself in these experiences?

Trans-Androgynous, Non-Binary and More

As it’s the end of the year and I’m engaging in a lot of internal processing, I decided to spend some time reflecting on my journey thus far being out as a trans and non-binary person. I will be discussing my current way of conceptualizing my gender. I will also talk about both social and physical dysphoria and how they affect me.

Self-Understanding

It has taken me some time to find language to describe my experience of gender and I still don’t feel that I’ve quite come to a perfect phrasing. I label myself as trans and non-binary. In terms of being trans, even though I am on T, I feel that trans-androgynous fits me better than trans-masculine. I want my gender and sex to be read as non-binary, not as a man or a women. Although I connect with both masculinity and femininity, my primary experience of gender is outside of that framing. I don’t yet have a complete ability to describe what I consider this to be, I just know that it exists.

Community

I have significantly more social dysphoria than I do body dysphoria. For me, this means that I am affected by being misgendered more than I am by looking the mirror. What makes cis-centric viewpoints especially painful is that most cis people in my life try explain away the pain I feel when I’m misgendered, rather than validate my perspective.

Because of my social dysphoria, I find non-binary affirming spaces to be places where I feel more comfortable. Unfortunately, the only ones I’ve been able to find thus far are online. Many people in the queer community still divide trans people into trans-femme and trans-masc perspectives only, leaving those of us who don’t fall into this fuzzier version of the binary with limited places into which we feel we fit.

Gender is a primary way humans sort themselves, so, in interactions with people who don’t understand my gender, I tend to feel a sense of invisible alienation. Most people will place me on the binary without my consent and then react with shock or surprise when I remind them I don’t belong there. I am hoping my continued advocacy and attending pride events and such will help me connect IRL with others who can relate to my experience.

Embodiment

I’m taking both low-dose T as well as combination birth control. This isn’t a recommended HRT plan, but is necessarily for me because of the medical conditions I have. I feel quite a bit of conflict internally about being on T, as I don’t particularly want hair changes. I have gotten some but they are not yet past a point where I feel totally uncomfortable.

Even though I have issues with some of the physical changes associated with T, I absolutely love how my body feels on it. My physical stamina has dramatically increased and my chronic pain has diminished. I am quite short but have always seen myself as a bulldog; T is affirming my sense of strength and allowing my natural abilities at being handy/mechanically-minded to come through more fully. Many people describe a narrowing of their emotional range on T; mine has actually grown and I’ve been able to cry in situations where I would not have before. My viewpoint on certain situations has shifted and I feel more certain of myself.

Conclusion

On the whole, I experience a bit of ambiguity about some of the physical changes I’m undergoing. I have a decidedly stronger reaction to the social issues that affect me as a trans and non-binary person. I feel excitement about continuing my journey of self-understanding and coming to a more complete understanding of myself in terms of my gender.

As I Am (In the Cards)

Today’s card draw was about finding my voice as well as inwardly listening. I quickly came to a truth I’ve been ignoring, which is that I am harmed when people fail to perceive my gender. Specifically, I’ve had incident after incident in recent weeks where someone who knows I’m trans uses an incorrect pronoun for me and then acts like I didn’t say anything when I spout “they” in response. I feel invisible in those situations, and the interaction brings up strong feelings related to my childhood trauma.

I feel uncertain as to which direction to go in, mostly because being more forceful will inevitability lead to me being regarded more negatively than I already am. My primary choices, if I want to possibly be heard, are to interrupt the person and tell them “please use they pronouns for me,” to try to talk to them privately afterwards, or to start wearing my pronoun pin in all social setting. None of these options appeal to me, perhaps because I want them to perceive me as I am, rather than to have to be strong-armed into “respecting” my gender.

I think what gets under my skin so badly is the fact that being trans is really hard, and, rather than my so-called friends and supporters giving a care about that fact, they are instead putting me in a position where I have to become antagonistic in order to get my needs met. I think they should be the ones putting in the effort, not me, just as I put in effort to be sensitive and conscious of how I speak to them. In ignoring my pronouns, they are in effect acting as though I’m not trans, like we can simply carry on as before.

Given that I am not likely to get very far in resolving this or any interpersonal conflict, I turn instead to what I need to offer myself to cope with environments in which, despite showing up whole, only pieces of me are welcome. My first course of action is to limit my exposure to these environments. Next, if I have to be in them, I need a recovery period in which I allow myself all the space and time I need to come back to self again, including giving voice to bitter, misanthropic and angry parts. Finally, I have to spend time reflecting on my own shadow and the areas in which I allow my privilege to silence another’s truth. If you are trans, how do you handle being misgendered by those who know better? Which types of self-care are most helpful to you?

Accepting My Situation (Today’s Simple Pleasure)

For today’s simple pleasure, I decided to contemplate and post about ways in which I’m coming to accept both myself and others (in different ways) as I grow into who I am as a trans and non-binary person. This involves both how I perceive myself and how I make sense of others’ (inaccurate) perceptions of me. It is encompasses my role within the queer community.

In terms of my self-perception, I find myself toggling back and forth between wanting the physical changes that come with taking T to happen more quickly, and being terrified that something will occur (mostly hair loss) over which I’ll have regrets. Again and again, I have to come back to trying to find solace rather than fear in the unknown. The mental effects of T have been amazing and have led me to want to stay on it for as long as I can.

Misgenderings abound. Whenever I try to talk about being on T with cis people, I am asking if I want to “go all the way” or “pass.” I try to explain that, no matter what my body looks like, it is very unlikely that I will be correctly gendered because of other people’s ignorance or willful denial of non-binary people’s validity and existence. I have felt drained and angered at times by the non-stop misgendering I encounter every day.

Yesterday, however, I felt a slight gentleness come over me when someone mislabeled me as my pet’s “mother,” as I realized that, with strangers, I’m finding little utility in fighting to be seen for who I am. My response is acceptance not in a “it’s okay for this to happen, nbd” kind of way but rather in a “this person’s misconception doesn’t define me in any way” sort of response. Cis people often show a reliance on childhood understandings of gender and an inattention to cis privilege that is pitiful to me; some people and situations are not worth investing in to try to persuade or educate.

I think what I am coming to understand is that I do not have to fight the gender revolution alone and I do not need to see myself as the sole bearer of responsibility for creating a safer environment for any trans and non-binary people who may come after me. I can be who I am and allow my understanding of myself to continue to evolve, and I can be selective in terms of who I engage with on topics related to gender. Accepting the realities of my current experience allows me to do. What in your life are you working to accept? What would be different in your life if you were able to take in what is actually going on?

Giving Myself Permission to Pause (Today’s Simple Pleasure)

When you’ve spent most of a Monday crying, your week is probably not off to a good start. I had to deal with blatant transphobia, mis-gendering and a dismissal of my past experiences of sexual abuse, all wrapped up in a high-pressure, high-stress situation this morning, and have been dissociating–going in and out of full presence of mind–ever since. When I get like this, I have no filter and overshare, so I also managed to come out to someone as trans who I perhaps should not have. (Their reply was “trans, what’s that?” so yeah it went not so well).

Time distortion occurs with dissociative disorders, and, for me at least, is accompanied by loss of planning and organizing skills. I will start taking incoherent actions without being able to follow one step to the next, as if my short-term memory is lost. Sometimes this includes aimlessly driving or wandering in circles. I can’t stop until I’ve done what I can to feel resolved for the day.

This time, I lost over four hours before I was able to slow down enough to complete my simple pleasure. I’m writing this post and listening to music not to “calm down” but to try to be here instead of in one hundred places, scattered across time, at once. I despise with every cell in my body the fact that people and situations still have the capacity to trigger me into this state of bewilderment. As I pause, I learn the same lesson I do whenever this happens, which is to do everything in my power that I can to not add to this kind of suffering in the world but rather to reduce it. I want to humanize and connect rather than alienated and de-person others. First, I have to gather myself back to my core. How have you paused today, and what did you find when you did?