Autumn Interview #3, February 2016
Coming out makes you feel so much more comfortable. You dont have to devote so much energy to curbing your every emotion and aspect of your personality. You are able to focus on what you are doing. I feel like I have become a much better writer than I was before I accepted I was transgender. I am much more confident and dont feel detached from what I am learning about. Its just me making those points. I feel passionate about what I am learning; it makes it so much easier to write.
It is hard for transgender people who must go to the emergency room, even in blue states. They are often harassed by the very people who are treating them. It is unbelievable, shocking, especially because youd think that nurses and especially doctors had seen it all. The situation in hospitals as to where to put a transgender person, in a male or female room, is akin to the bathroom situation. Its almost like those decisions are made to avoid any unpleasant situations. Transgender people are made to bear a huge amount of discomfort themselves just so everybody else doesnt have to deal with it.
Can I see both sides of the issue? I try to be understanding so that I can be at peace with myself, so that I can talk with cisgender people better, not feel as hurt, but there are so many people who do not understand the transgender persons side. I am reminded of my best friends reaction. They asked why they should have to accept it. They hoped I would take their rejection in the spirit of how baffled they are. And thats the one aspect that I just cant get over. They are asking me to understand their lack of understanding of me.
There is a social group of transgender students at Rutgers, but unfortunately
it consists predominantly of undergraduates. They are all at least 10
years younger than me so there is a disconnect between us. It is hard
too because when transgender people can pass they dont
want to identify as transgender, only as the gender that they are. Its
difficult as a result to establish the critical mass for such a group.
I have not been able to establish relationships with other transgender
people, but I have established a good social network at my school and
my relationships with other people have become so much better.
When I first started transitioning, I was so happy because of my own self-acceptance, but now that it has become an accepted fact, I want to tackle outside issues and stand up for myself. For a lot of LGBT people, when they come out, sticking up for themselves becomes such a fundamental part of their role. There is certainly a time when vigilance becomes counterproductive, but at the same time, if you are in the majority, the white person or cisgender person or a male, you sometimes act as though you are the one being persecuted or ignored. Its never just one thing, its the sum of everything. The hostility that still pervades the culture, thats what I am angry about, not just one person. You always have to keep one eye over your shoulder.
What does it mean to me, ultimately, to be female? Thats a huge question. I dont think there is any one answer. In my case it has to do with my expression, how I see myself when I get up in the morning. Although my body is male, my soul, my spirit, my brain is female. It just feels natural and appropriate, the female side of things. But also, its on a spectrum, not always a completely binary thing. Gender can be a matter of expression, a matter of identity, a matter of roles. A lot of feminists feel like we should move beyond the concept of gender. I just feel like I am authentic when I express myself this way. Identity is so abstract, really difficult to pin down.
There is a transgender scientist by the name of Julia Serano who talks about how society is oriented toward masculine qualities. Even within feminism there is a hesitation to emphasize any feminine qualities. It is difficult for men who want to do things in stereotypically female ways; there is so much hostility toward it. It seems like sensitivity and warmth and empathy, even though we say they are good things, arent emphasized as much as being self-reliant and independent and strong.
I cant help wanting my hair to grow longer. I cant help wanting to wear skirts. I cant help wanting to congregate with women socially. I cant help feeling that I am more comfortable expressing myself as a female. I feel seen when people see me socially in the female role. It is a moving target, and its ever morphing. But there still is that polar male/female dichotomy. When people see me as a man I feel hurt. Other transgender people have their own feelings about what it means to be a woman or a man. And everyone is entitled to their feelings.
In the beginning of my transition I saw more of the big picture. I was blind to some of the more subtle ways that prejudice is ingrained in people. A lot of people understand in the abstract what transgender is but they havent processed it fully. There are still of lot of contradictions in their thought process and a lot of ways they dont get it. Its tiring to feel like you have to be your own advocate day in and day out.
I do think of myself in many ways beyond transgender. Im a baseball fan. Im from the Northeast. Im a relatively liberal person. Im a huge history buff. So I can spend a good part of the day not thinking about myself as a person who is transgender. It has helped me a lot to see transgender issues as being on a spectrum, not just a black-and-white issue.
I worry that I will have difficulty finding a job because while people profess to be open, they might not really, and more broadly I am worried that while people may be personally comfortable, they might worry about having a transgender person on staff. Will it alienate clients or hurt their business? Make it difficult to work with community members or other stakeholders? I feel like if I dont educate people about what I go through, people will remain ignorant and be oblivious.