I’ve been thinking about finding freedom as a transgender person. As you may know, transgender people are often the target of discrimination.
Last week a friend of mine told me a horrible story about discrimination she experienced at the hands of police officers in a small town. She hasn’t given me permission to share her story so I’ll just say that it made me aware of how much work there still is left to do in this country and in the world really if we ever hope to be equal, and her story made me want to cry.
After I was finished crying, I thought about my own experiences. Most of the pain I’ve experienced has been accidental. My main problem has been internal; I thought there was no way to explain who I was and that nobody would understand or accept it. Gradually, as I came out of my self-imposed prison, I discovered that there were plenty of people who did understand, accept and Love me–including the family I always wanted to have a relationship with. Most of the people I’ve lost since coming out were people who I realized I had outgrown because my self-esteem and happiness were growing. Yeah, I lost one person who was very important to me, but the worst that happened was that I spent a while crying and allowed people who cared about me to comfort and support me.
Now, I don’t say all that because I believe at all in comparing situations to see who has had it “better” or “worse.” Even though my experience has been relatively pain-free, the pain I experienced was more than enough to make me wish I could kill my male identity and make myself the woman my body said I was. So I know that all sorts of pain can lead to tragic results, and I’m grateful I had the self-awareness to realize I can’t kill my identity without killing myself, and that a year later I’m here, emotionally sober, and a good deal happier.
But it did make me wonder why my experiences were the way they were and why I have experienced less discrimination than other people have. It’s not that I want to experience these things–my goal is for less people to experience them! But I thought if I could figure it out, maybe there was something I could pass on to people who are struggling and the people who want to support them.
Now, I know that discrimination is a complex thing and a lot of times it has to do with more than just being trans. I’m white, which unfortunately still is a privileged class sometimes, and I’m female to male which I think is more accepted because transphobia and homophobia often have hatred of women at their base. But I also think there is something beyond that which I would like to discuss.
In my work, I seek to teach others that while discrimination and inequality suck, they are not in control of us. Recently, as Americans celebrated Independence Day, a significant number of LGBT Americans on my Facebook and Twitter feeds expressed feelings that there was nothing for them to celebrate because they were not truly free. I know that there’s some truth to that. I know that discriminatory policies and bad laws impact us all. I know that once I meet my partner and we fall in Love, we’ll be grateful to live in NYC because I may legally still be female, which will make our marriage a same-sex marriage. I know that one of the reasons I choose to be self-employed even though it’s sometimes frustrating and difficult is that I don’t want to have to pretend to be female to keep my job (not that I could do that anyway since my hormones are working incredibly well so far to masculinize my body.) I could list a lot of ways that discrimination affects all trans people–including myself–every single day.
However… and this is a big however…
I have chosen to live my life as if discrimination is mainly irrelevant to me. I don’t mean that I ignore its existence or that I don’t feel for people who suffer unfairly. I just mean that I focus on doing things that make me happy. I Love writing and speaking and that’s what I do. I do think it would be easier to have a steady paycheck, so I’m currently searching for a second job working with an LGBT organization that supports the same goals that I am working towards. I write for money and I write for Love and I integrate my understanding of discrimination into my fiction so that we can make a better world.
In short, I live my life as a free man despite the laws and the opinions and “society” (whatever that means). I try to be as grateful as possible for the opportunities life affords me and the little things that add to my happiness. I’m pretty free and happy most of the time. The biggest challenge I’m facing is how to motivate myself to write articles that are not in line with my purpose on a temporary basis so that I can earn extra money. (Today I wrote a bunch of articles about the best types of curtains and blinds…) When I hear about discrimination, it does piss me off and I do take it a little personally because I am transgender, but I don’t make that the focus of my life.
There are some people, of course, who are political activists, and these people make discrimination the focus of their lives so that they can fight against it. And there is nothing wrong with that. I’m not politically minded for the most part, and I really appreciate the people who are on the front lines of the fight for equality. Me, I hope to contribute in a different way–by sharing my personal story and personal experience and encouraging individual members of our communities to keep living and to find their personal center and to live free lives regardless of how much freedom society allows us to enjoy.
I think it’s sad that I was hesitant to write this blog. I know there are some people out there who are really suffering and who will think I am dismissing their suffering. I ran into a depressed trans person recently who somehow equated me saying that it’s possible for them to see their challenges as challenges and not permanent barriers to transition to me judging them. It’s not my intention to judge anyone or make it sound like living a good life is simply a matter of smiling all the time and bearing the pain.
I don’t believe that it’s easy for anyone to live happily. Happiness takes time and effort just like everything else. We have to build positive relationships with ourselves, think about our thoughts and feelings, and work on changing negative and unhelpful behaviors. It can be even harder to do this if you’re reacting to a lifetime of hate and discrimination. But I think it’s possible to be happy no matter what anyway, and I think it’s worth it–that we are worth it.
Thoughts? I always Love to hear from my readers.
THOUGHT OF THE WEEK
Everyone is coming out one way or another, all the time.