One of the things I have always enjoyed about writing is that it brings clarity to my thought process. The formality of writing something down – the decisions that go into word selection, word placement, punctuation, sequencing of ideas – forces me to think through things logically and coherently.
For this reason I can usually tell when something big is still in the process of coming together in my mind by the exercise of trying to write it out. If I can’t get it into words and yet the ideas are jumbling around all over my mind, that’s a sign that something major is brewing upstairs. I don’t necessarily know what it is, but I can tell when it’s over because I can write about it after the fact.
I’ve got that going on lately and it has severely limited the repertoire of trans-related things I am capable of writing about. Yet I don’t want this blog to be my stream-of-conscious dumping ground. It’s kind of got a theme, you know? It’s written right under the blog title: “Diana’s thoughts about navigating gender transition.” If I start writing about my favorite television shows, and work issues, and the kids’ latest illness it becomes… well it becomes Facebook. And I’ve already got a Facebook account.
So in lieu of my preferred, essay-like writing style, and yet still keeping to the blog theme, here’s a few brief thoughts on my mind.
- When I see young trans people try to make sense of older trans people’s lives it’s apparent that they cannot conceive of a pre-internet world where information about trans topics was rare and specialized. They seem to think the only difference between the world then versus now was cultural tolerance, and that’s not even half the story. They literally cannot imagine what it was like to not have any information – not even the words – to make sense of your gender confusion. Nor can they conceive that information used to be so localized. Growing up trans before the internet age was hugely influenced by your geography in a way that just doesn’t apply in an age when Google is everywhere. Of course the opposite is just as true. I can’t imagine what it would have been like to grow up trans with all this information around. What would that life look like? It’s so different from what I knew it’s like imagining the life of a completely different person. So yeah… the trans generational divide is fascinating to me. And I’m jealously admiring the green, green grass on the other side.
- Ninety percent of the advice I’ve seen about transitioning in the workplace is horrible. I got a sense of this when I was planning my own workplace transition. But I see it a lot more clearly now. So I’d like to offer a few items of better advice to anyone still planning this:
- Pay attention to your own intuition. If you think your employer/co-workers seem likely to reject your transition, you’re probably right. Take this seriously into account in your transition plan (“seriously” does not equate to “hoping it all works out anyway”).
- Even if you do believe your employer will be cool, make a transition plan which includes the possibility that you’ll lose your job. Call it Plan B and feel free to hope you never have to use it, but don’t skimp on the planning.
- Hold yourself to a higher performance standard than any of your coworkers – before, during, and after transition. Most employers will be far more persuaded by your value to the business than personal feelings.
- Look for others of your target gender in similar positions at your workplace who are well respected (if you can’t find any, remember point #1). Study their habits and their manners of dress, speech, and communication. Use them as professional role models.
- Do not, under any circumstances, justify behavior that would be unprofessional in your former gender by assuming your new gender gives you the excuse.
- Do not assume anyone at your office has any good information about trans people or gender transition. Not your boss, not your friends, not your HR department. If you want them to know you’re not like the trans people they’ve seen on Jerry Springer, assume that you’ll need to educate them.
- I am really tired of the constant attempts by some within the trans community to label others within the trans community (i.e. you’re not a trans-this, you’re just a trans-that. you don’t get to be called “her” you’re still just a “him,” etc. ad infinitum). Yes, it is important to discuss ideas about identity, sex, and gender, and in the process labels and categories get thrown around. But at the same time – jebus! I don’t care what the label de jour says about someone. People are not labels. They’re human beings with feelings, and doubts, and a lot more questions than answers. And if they’re battling with any form of the weirdness we call gender dysphoria they’re living through a bit of hell, or at least did at one time. Despite pretensions to the contrary, most of the other-labellers are not skilled theoreticians about all matters trans. They’re mostly just people trying to sort out their own place in the world and lashing out in frustration when others seem to get in the way. Or sometimes they’re just being a**holes. In any case I wish they’d all stop it.