A Supportive Community?

[Author’s Note: You know what?  Fuck it.  i’m done apologizing for not keeping up with a schedule.  i’m done making excuses, however valid and true they may be.  i thought if i was able to keep myself to a writing schedule i would get more readers and deeper discussion and comment threads, but to hell with it.  This is my blog, and i’m going to write what i can when i can.  Now, on to the business at hand with this particular post…

This post has to do with a situation that some of my friends and i are having to deal with in the real world.  i need to vent my feelings and frustrations on this situation.  i need to write it out, and i need to write it in a way that won’t feel like i’m shouting into an empty wilderness.  i am not doing this to “air dirty laundry,” and to that end, i will not be using any names in this entry.  Those who are involved who may end up reading this will recognize themselves and others from their roles–and possibly pronouns–but no one else needs to, or will, know the specific individuals unless the individuals in question make themselves known.

Should this be done in a more personal manner in a one-on-one fashion in the real world?  Possibly, but the systemic difficulty of actually accomplishing that in anything approaching a timely fashion will also be enumerated within this blog entry.  Moreover, the problem is not solely confined to a single individual in this case, but at the moment appears to be endemic to the group almost as a whole as it is currently being run.  i do not wish to burn any bridges with this, and i would like to see the situation resolved peacefully rather than having to turn my back on a group of people who i had spent close to the last year coming to value and respect.  But the torch is standing by, should it prove necessary.

This is also probably the longest Author’s Note i’ve ever written.  We now return you to your regularly-scheduled programming…]

[Author’s Note #2: In the time since my initial posting of this, i have located and identified three instances of wrong pronouns that got thrown in by my tired and emotional brain.  i have fixed these incorrect pronouns, and the piece should now read as intended.  However, this goes to show that everyone is imperfect, even we non-binary types mess up occasionally, but we own those mistakes, fix them, and continue to work toward improvement.  We definitely do not act as if our mistakes are not our fault, or that it is the fault of the person who prefers certain pronouns that theirs are difficult or confusing.  We apologize, we fix it, we improve, and that is what we expect from everyone else.  We generally won’t hold a grudge as long as you’re trying…]

By what measure should we define the success of a support group?  Is it the total number of members?  Or is it perhaps the total number of members who report having found help and support within the group?  i think it is something that is simultaneously more nuanced and more simple than either thing.  To me, the success of a support group (much like the success of most social endeavors) should be measured by how the group treats those most in need of help.  By that measure, i think that one group in particular has some work to be done.

Those of my readers who know me personally or follow me on other social media will already know that for a little less than a year i have been attending two different Transgender support groups in the city about 35-40 miles north of where i’m living.  One of the groups is an open group to which anyone can walk in (within reason).  The other is a closed group that actually has monthly meetings with a therapist, and membership takes time, interviews, and group consent to attain.  It is, unfortunately, the closed group (arguably the one that should be the more supportive of the two) with which a few of my friends and i are taking issue.

The issue, in part, has to do with non-binary acceptance within the group.  There are also issues with the way the group is run and the processes by which the group is currently operating in specific cases.  Finally, the problem extends to the way the group has treated one member in particular.  Between all of these issues, which will be illuminated in detail below, it doesn’t even take the noble (if only a minor character) guard Marcellus to tell us that “something is rotten in the state of Denmark.”

My awareness of some of these issues goes back as far as a few months, but everything came to a head for me starting about three weeks ago.  i had just gotten back from a trip to Boston with my family to see my sister get hooded with her Ph.D. in virology.  We had literally just landed and i turned on my phone to check messages.  Shortly thereafter, i received a message from a member of the group with whom i have a very close relationship (who shall henceforth be known as the Receiver for ease of expression), and who is also part of our small collection of non-binary people in the group.  Xyr message essentially said that xe had not made it to group that evening, but that a member of the group had contacted xim and simply said that she needed to talk to xim about “group stuff” sometime soon.  Knowing xim as i did (and knowing that we have a lot of things in common), i knew that a vague message like that would be totally freaking xim out as xe imagined all the possible worst-case scenarios that could play out from such a message.  It also didn’t help that the person who sent the message (who, for ease of expression, we shall call the Sender for the remainder of this piece) is someone with whom xe has had issues and personality clashes previously.  It also worried me a great deal, because i have been privy to the issues that xe has already previously experienced within the group.  So i took it upon myself to do a little fact-finding.

i messaged several different people and got some very vague notions of what was going on.  Essentially, the Receiver had come up (in xyr absence) during the group discussion, and a number of things were said that needed to be communicated to xim.  i heard issues like money having been loaned to xim, but not used in a way the lender found to be the most responsible, the issues that xe tended to bring up in group during check-in were apparently too heavy, that the group was not a therapy group but a support group and xe made people in the group feel guilty, that there was concern on the part of the mandated reporters in the group about some of the things that xe shared, that there was confusion about xyr gender identity, that there were misunderstandings about xyr physical issues, and other somewhat vague concerns.

i was also informed that the Sender had volunteered to broach the subject with xim.  This immediately set off massive warning bells in my mind.  The Sender has not only been the source of a number of personal issues that the Receiver has experienced within the group, but she is also not the most diplomatic person in the group by a long shot, communicates bluntly regardless of the emotional effect she might have on people, communicates using an aggressively directive communication style, and has outright disrespected the Receiver on several occasions, included repeatedly and unapologetically misgendering and using the wrong pronouns with xim.

This combination of factors told me that i needed to take some kind of action.  The way that the group was choosing to deal with this issue was not the best way to ensure healthy and productive communication.  Instead of working toward a resolution, the Receiver would feel singled out and attacked if things continued along the course that they appeared to be moving.  i communicated these concerns to one of the people with whom i was able to get into contact who had actually been present for the group discussion that evening.  i expressed my extreme concern over the choice that was made for who was going to broach this subject, and posed an alternative proposal for how to handle this in a more full-group sort of setting, in which people who supported the Receiver would be able to be present as well as all those who had issues with xim.  The one-on-one mediation approach was misguided for this situation, in my opinion, both because of the way the Receiver would likely respond to it and because it was clearly not a simple one-on-one issue at stake.  The person who i was talking to that evening said that she would pass along my idea, but that it probably wouldn’t happen because “we have a way of doing things in these situations.”

Over the course of the next few days i received a number of messages and calls from the Sender.  i was informed that i should not have gotten myself involved in this issue.  i was told that i had overstepped my place as a group member in trying to advocate for the Receiver.  i was told that i should never have even known that this issue was being brought up with the Receiver until after the situation had been resolved.  i was also told that the alternative method i had proposed was not going to happen, because the way the group handles mediation is the only way it is allowed to, and that this method was part of the official way the group does business (more on this later).  i was also told that such a group conversation couldn’t happen in a timely manner right now anyway, because the group has a bunch of potential new members who have been sitting in on meetings this whole month, and this wasn’t the sort of conversation that should be had in front of them (although at this point, i almost feel like such a conversation SHOULD be had in their presence so that they can see that this group is not always the accepting utopia the flowery language of the Covenant makes it out to be).  i was then asked, since i had already become involved anyway, to help facilitate communication between the Sender and the Receiver.

The Sender assured me that she would be diplomatic in her communication, that she would give the Receiver time to speak xyr piece, and that the situation would be handled in a delicate and understanding manner.  She promised me that she would make an effort to maintain this tone, and that she would handle the mediation in an even-handed and open-minded manner.  This, combined with the utter lack of alternative options that had been presented and my general desire to see conflicts resolved in timely and mutually beneficial ways, convinced me to encourage the Receiver to have the conversation with the Sender.  Since the Sender has a career in healthcare, i figured that this was likely an attitude that she could adopt, at least for limited times, so i went along with it.  Eventually, that conversation was had, and it was none of the things the Sender assured me that it would be.  Silly me for buying the bill of goods she sold me.  Also, from a more professional perspective, the Sender must have a bedside manner comparable to that of an enraged white rhinoceros.

(Also of note, despite my repeated use of the Receiver’s preferred pronouns throughout each of these conversations, the Sender couldn’t seem to bring it upon herself to use the right pronouns a single, solitary time.  That on its own should probably have told me all i needed to know about the sincerity of her assurances.)

After this conversation took place, the Receiver came to me, the other non-binary person in the group at the time, and hir girlfriend, and we had a long discussion about everything that had been said and done up to that point.

Before i get into the content of the discussion that was finally had between the Sender and the Receiver, i must speak a little on the nature of the Receiver’s situation.  The Receiver identifies as a non-binary demiguy with a fixed identity of 80% male and 20% female.  As such, xe considers ximself to be both part of the non-binary community and the Trans male community.  Xe has chronic health issues, including chronic pain, that prevent xim from seeking conventional employment and receives government assistance.  Xe also has two dependent children.  Xe doesn’t drive, as xyr old van broke down and xe couldn’t afford to get it repaired, so xe essentially had to sell it as parts.  As a result, xe gets most places in town by either walking or taking the dodgy city buses when xe is unable to find a ride with someone else (which seems to be most of the time).  Xyr chronic illness means that xe must often walk with a cane, and that any extended walking takes a great deal of energy to accomplish.  These are necessary background details to understand as i go into the details of the conversation as i have received them from xim, which i will deal with point by point.

Xe was told that xe made people in the group feel guilty because of some of the things that xe has shared.  This is actually a somewhat reasonable reaction, at least to begin with.  The Receiver comes to group with a number of unique issues, many of which are more extreme than those brought forth by almost every other member of group.  A group so taken by surprise by the level of depression and hurt in a person may very well feel a sense of guilt that they are unable to do more to help that person.  What is absolutely not justified in any way is turning those feelings of guilt back around on the person who is the source of them.  Shaming a person because their problems make you feel guilty because you lack the time, energy, or other resources with which to help them more effectively is never right, and treating a person like the severity of their problems is entirely their fault, and they thus have no business even bringing them up is downright despicable.  This is not an isolated case, either.  The Receiver has felt this in a palpable way for a number of months that xe has been attending group, and eventually stopped sharing anything at all during check-in, allowing xyr feelings to fester and receive absolutely none of the support and attention that the group should have been providing.

Xe was told that the group was not equipped to deal with issues that should be worked through with an actual therapist.  That’s well and good when you are speaking from a place of sufficient privilege that you would actually be able to afford regular sessions with a therapist.  The Receiver is not, and is not likely to be in the foreseeable future.  The only emotional support network xe has is xyr friends and the members of the support groups.  The Sender essentially just told xim that xe was not welcome to seek help in this particular support group.

The Sender also mentioned that some of the things the Receiver shared in group were troubling to the mandated reporters in the group.  As an example, saying things like “there isn’t any food in the house” could be taken as parental neglect.  Well, two of our non-binary members (myself included) actually are mandated reporters, and we both agree that, for one thing, saying such a thing in a support group is not necessarily fodder for a mandated reporter hotline call, and for another thing, statements like that are hyperbole (that’s exaggeration for people like the Sender, who apparently don’t understand what that means) directed at making light of a situation.  The Receiver has also personally assured us that xe was not speaking literally, and that there has never been absolutely no food in xyr apartment whatsoever.  Only a literal genie or someone with a personal ax to grind would seriously consider that to be anything other than hyperbole.

Xe was told that a support group for Trans people was not the place to talk about financial difficulties or issues with xyr children.  Well, excuse me, but where the fuck else should xe talk about such things?  It’s not like the variegated troubles of xyr life fit into nice little boxes that can be compartmentalized and only aired in the “proper” environments.  And this is to say nothing of the fact that financial difficulties and issues with children are ABSOLUTELY related to Trans issues, to the point that they are almost symbiotically linked in many cases.  Not only that, but other members of the group bring up plenty of family and financial issues, and no one in the group bats an eye.  Xe does not need to be shamed for the classification of issues that xe brings to talk about, and xe especially does not need to be singled out as the only one receiving such shaming when others bring similar topics and issues in with them.  Xe needs to be supported.  It’s a fucking SUPPORT GROUP, right?  Isn’t that what it’s supposed to be doing?

Xe was told that xyr presence was actively keeping a member of the group from attending.  No explanation aside from that was provided… no reason why xyr presence was such a problem for this person, nor any clues as to whom this person might be.  Apparently the Receiver’s mere existence and attendance at group has been chasing someone else away from coming in some terribly vague manner.  Again, this is a problem that should be addressed by the person who has the problem, rather than being put in the mouth of an unsympathetic disciplinarian.

Xe was told that members of the group felt that xe was taking advantage of other members of the group.  This probably goes back to the financial issues once again.  My other sources who were present for the group discussion that occurred in our absence informed me that one of the topics that was brought up specifically was when someone loaned the Receiver some money, and then the Receiver came out to eat with the group after the meeting was over.  This may be a conversation that could reasonably had at some point when it’s not packaged in with the other six tons of bullshit, but in truth it smacks somewhat of the extreme right wing pundits and politicians who are trying to prevent families on government assistance from buying such healthy foods as fish, lobster, and similar items viewed as “luxuries,” a step that will only continue to perpetuate the cycle of those in poverty eating unhealthy processed foods and continuing to live unhealthy lifestyles.  The thing about lending someone money is that, once you have loaned it, if you didn’t explicitly specify what it was to be used for, you no longer have that authority.  You may not like where it ends up going, but that is more on you than it is the person who borrowed it from you.  Grow the fuck up and actually talk to them personally about it instead.

As far as other people who are supposedly being “taken advantage of,” i have a feeling that this was at least in part directed at me.  As i have said above, the Receiver is someone with whom i have a rather close relationship, and i have been helping xim out with the meals we go out to after group, essentially buying xyr meal.  i do this because i honestly want to do it.  Xe doesn’t ask me to, and i absolutely DO NOT begrudge xim it.  i want to spend time with xim, i want xim to be included, even when xe can’t necessarily afford to come along on the activity.  i want xim to have fun, and i want to have fun with xim.  i do these things of my own accord, and xe is absolutely not taking advantage of me.

One final thing that may be contributing to this whole “taking advantage” narrative may be the Receiver’s reliance on others for transportation when it can be arranged.  Yes, it is true that xe doesn’t drive.  No, it is not xyr fault, and when transportation cannot be arranged, xe walks or takes the bus.  But my question is why is this even an issue in the first place?  Xe lives right there in town, and any detour to help xim get to group would take, at the very most, five minutes to accomplish.  i live 40 miles away, but i can often find people to help me get to and from group, and that’s an 80-mile round trip each time.  It seems to me that if members of the group truly valued the Receiver as a member and truly wanted to help and support xim, a five minute detour in their route to group would not truly be that much to ask.

On a related note, i heard from a neutral source who was present for the discussion three weeks ago, that someone brought up an anecdote about having seen the receiver walking on the sidewalk with xyr cane, but that rather than using the cane, xe was twirling it and “walking just fine.”  The insinuation of this statement seems to be that the Receiver exaggerates xyr condition in order to falsely drum up more sympathy from the group.  Newsflash for those who don’t understand chronic pain: it is not a constant thing.  Chronic pain comes and goes as it pleases, sometimes effected by things such as weather or emotional state, but sometimes simply at random.  Xe doesn’t always necessarily need the cane, but xe probably had it with xim just in case.  Citing a single anecdote of one time xe was seen not using it does not make anything approaching a convincing case for falseness on xyr part, and it betrays a severe lack of knowledge, empathy, and sympathy for xim.

Xe was told that the group was not a charity.  Yes, those exact words.  No shit.

Xe was told that xyr gender identity was unclear and confusing.  Xe was told that xyr identification as both non-binary and a trans man was a source of confusion (despite the fact that xe has explained xyr identity on numerous occasions, and it really isn’t xyr fault if people ignored xim).  Xe was told that xyr choice to sit with the other non-binary people in the group made it more so, because we all have weird pronouns.  Xe was also, for whatever reason, told that my singular they pronouns were grammatically incorrect (they’re not, by the way), and that our other non-binary member (at the time) was also confusing because ze uses a different set as well.  This betrayal of prejudice toward our non-binary members, as much as anything else, made this fall firmly within the realm of “my business,” which the Sender was so gung ho about it not being.

And again, this is not an isolated incident by any stretch of the imagination.  The Receiver is rather routinely misgendered or has the wrong pronouns used toward xim, not just by the Sender, but by many others in the group as well.  Moreover, despite the fact that xe identifies as a trans guy in addition to a non-binary person, xe feels that xe has been systematically excluded from conversations and support from the other trans men in the group.  Xe outright asked them for help with specific aspects of transitioning on one occasion, and was essentially ignored.  Meanwhile, when a couple of new trans men came to visit the group one night a couple of months ago, xe overheard the exact conversations that xe had sought out being had right at the other end of the table where we were having dinner.  This problem, clearly, goes deeper than a conflict of personalities between the Sender and the Receiver.

Xe was told that xe would be receiving “a strike” due to this exchange.  Why?  Our foundational documents have a section on a three-strike policy to help police our membership for being out of covenant with the group.  The Receiver was simply flatly told that xe was receiving Strike One for this situation.  Those of us who were present for the discussion that was had after this conversation took place cannot find any way in which the Receiver has broken the covenant.  Here is the text of the covenant (written by the Sender herself, no less), word for word:

Our lifetimes have taught us that by coming together we are made better. We have learned that shared adversity is better faced, that shared sadness is lessened, and that shared joy is enhanced. In sacred trust, we promise to spend time together in mutual support and heartfelt caring for ourselves and each other. We pledge to offer the best of ourselves in loving-kindness to one another. We pledge to give and to take support and advice with an honest ,open heart. We solemnly promise that we will model behaviors within our communal circle worthy of this sacred trust and true to the dignity of our community; we ask to be reminded of this pledge should our behavior fall outside this promise. In the spirit of these solemn promises, we pledge to grow together in our individual uniqueness, our shared diversity , and our limitless birthright as Human beings…

By our figuration, the Sender has actually broken covenant with the Receiver.  She has told xim that xe is not welcome to share xyr adversity and sadness with the group.  She has rescinded the offer of mutual support and acted in a way that reflects neither heartfelt kindness nor an honest, open heart.  She has not modeled behaviors that are worthy of anything even remotely approaching sacred trust or dignity.  So this is me reminding her of this pledge, because her behavior has for damned sure fallen outside of this promise.

When the Receiver was finally offered the chance to speak ximself, xe was so overwhelmed with all of these things and the emotions attached that xe was in tears and couldn’t truly advocate for ximself with anything approaching effectiveness.  This is not the way a supportive community deals with an issue.  This is not the way a supportive person communicates with someone who is already known to have issues with depression.  This is not the way a human being talks to a fellow human being.  Period.

When our non-binary group had our discussion, we decided to take a look at the group’s foundational documents and look really closely at the exact wording.  Along with finding that the Three Strikes policy did not apply to the situation in which the Sender was doling out Strike One to the Receiver, we found another interesting fact.  There is, in fact, no precisely codified procedure for how mediation is done in this group.  The guidelines that are there specify that individuals with disputes should try to handle them one-on-one, and if that doesn’t work it should be done with a neutral party.  The problem with attempting to apply these rather vague guidelines and the traditional “we’ve always done it this way” approach to this particular situation is that this isn’t a situation in which a single member has a problem with a single other member.  This situation involves an entire group of the membership who have their own separate issues with the Receiver.  This is not a situation that should have been handled in a single go in a single one-on-one discussion, and the Sender is sure as HELL not a neutral mediator in this.  The best way that this could have been handled is probably my original idea that i floated at the very beginning of this situation three weeks ago, but was rejected because “we have a way of doing things that has always worked in the past.”  Here’s another newsflash: one-size-fits-all solutions rarely actually do fit all scenarios, and the lack of openness to input from someone who knows the Receiver EXTREMELY well is troubling.

This is also not the only time that the Sender has overstepped her prerogatives as group member.  i have heard from several sources, both in our non-binary discussion group and among neutral parties, that (despite the fact that our foundational documents state explicitly that there is no leader or “owner” of the group) this individual often acts as if she is the leader, holding court from a position of absolute rule.  From what i understand this tends to come in cycles.  She will start to grab for power, and someone will eventually tell her to take some steps back and let the group run itself.  Well we appear to be in the upswing of a power grab, because she is certainly acting the part of an autocrat right now, and her dismissive attitude toward anyone who disagrees with her views is only one evidence of that.

Unfortunately, much of this current power grab appears to be directed at the Receiver, and her attitude toward xim is quiet toleration at best, with downright disrespect and contempt at worst.  The Receiver had previously decided to never run a group meeting again, because the last time xe did, the Sender refused to participate in the activity at all, and actually fell asleep during it.  Whatever protestations might be made of such things as working a long shift or being tired from a long week, if someone lacks the basic respect for the person running the meeting, or is so completely exhausted that they can’t physically keep their eyes open during it, perhaps they just shouldn’t fucking come to group and should spend that time in bed getting good, restful sleep instead of openly insulting another member of the group with their complete lack of regard for xyr feelings.

On top of all of that, the Sender has repeatedly attempted to dissuade me from being close to the Receiver.  When we first started to become closer, the Sender pulled me aside and had a “heart to heart” conversation with me about how she didn’t think me pursuing any sort of relationship with the Receiver was a good idea.  And even after all of this shit erupted over the past couple of weeks, the Sender has continued to try to pull me over to her side, dangling carrots in front of me by telling me all the things that i’m missing by not attending group these past few weeks, or telling me that she thinks my voice would be valuable in the non-binary breakout session that was planned for yesterday.  i see it for the underhanded, Machiavellian stratagem that it is, though, and i will not be fooled by her silver (but forked) tongue again.

Potentially more troubling than all of that, however, is the timing of this entire situation.  To begin with, the discussion about the Receiver that touched off this entire situation was done in a group meeting in which not only the Receiver was absent and unable to face xyr accusers directly, but also when the rest of our non-binary group was similarly not at group.  This cloak and dagger pettiness is incredibly worrisome in a group that is supposedly formed for the mutual benefit and support of all its members.  It became even more troublesome when i heard from one of the non-binary prospective members this past weekend at Pride that they had not only heard about this incident, but that they had heard two different versions–one told by the Sender and one told by a neutral party.  This speaks to a pattern of behavior, rather than an isolated incident, and honestly makes me wonder what else other members of the group are holding against me besides the apocryphal grammatical incorrectness of my preferred pronouns.

Secondly, this conversation about the Receiver, and subsequently between the Sender and the Receiver, took place the week before we had a bunch of prospective new members about to start sitting in on group meetings, and that fact was used as an excuse to keep this from being handled as a group.  i was told that we wouldn’t be able to do anything for this entire month of June because we didn’t want to air all of this in front of the new membership.  Well, like i said earlier, maybe they should see this seedy underbelly of pettiness and strife.  Maybe they should see something other than the rose-colored glasses of a sunlit utopia with which they are more than likely being presented (i know i was when i was prospective member).

In all honesty, it is entirely possible that i am finished with this group.  It is entirely possible that this post will result in my being summarily ejected from the group.  Even if it doesn’t, however, i still may not return.  It is my assessment that this group is not, in its current form, a safe environment of support.  This assessment is especially true when it comes to those who identify as non-binary, and the fact that there are two more non-binary people looking at joining the group worries me.  Will they be subjected to the same level of disregard and sometimes even contempt that our current batch of non-binary people have experienced?  i don’t know.  i hope not, but i honestly don’t know.

i don’t know if i will go back.  i know that the Receiver currently has no plans to.  Xe has chosen to wash xyr hands of the group entirely, and reports that xe has felt much better about life in general after having done so.  Maybe that’s what i should do, too.  Quit going to the closed, and apparently harboring veiled non-binary-exclusive attitudes, group and just keep going to the open one.  Because right now the closed group is not truly a support group.  It’s a members-only club, and the membership in the club seems to be controlled by a single individual who has figured herself as the de facto leader.

According to my previously-stated measure of a support group’s success, this group is not successful in the least, and until something changes, i think i’m done with attending.

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The First Step, Part II

Well, my mother finally got the letter.  Her reaction was kind of a mixed bag.  Some of it made me hopeful (including the fact that she used my preferred name in the salutation), some of it not so much.  She appears to ignore or simply choose not to deal with some of the issues that i brought up in my letter, but there was a lot in there, so maybe that’s coming…  She also seemed more offended by the timing of the letter than anything else, which is odd, but not something that I could really do much about, because I put it in the mail for the very purpose of not allowing myself to wait for the “right time” and never finding one, and therefore never delivering it.  Unfortunately, it just happened to arrive the day after a big reception and tribute concert for her upcoming retirement, so it soured that experience for her.

She also has urged me in the letter and verbally to possibly resign from my school district and find a new professional direction.  She thinks that coming out publicly while working here will only end badly, with scandal.  i’ve done a lot of thinking on this subject, and i think my plan now is to teach one more school year (my Provisional Certification will last one more year) and transfer my academic program from the Master of Arts in Teaching to a Master of Science in Student Affairs in Higher Education.  Not only will this allow me to work with students and keep up the aspects of teaching that have mattered most to me, but it will also qualify me to do so at the more generally accepting University level.

Also, when i get my driving privileges back, i’ll be able to get myself out of town more often and away from places where i am likely to run into people who would have professional consequences if they were to see me being more myself.  i’ll be able to escape the trapped feelings that i’ve had for most of this school year more often and release that pressure.  Between those two things, i think i’ll be able to manage things better, although a significant part of me still wants to just drop all the facades, come out publicly, deal with whatever scandal comes out, and at least set some kind of precedent in this area, rather than hiding for another whole year.  Because i shouldn’t have to.

Anyway, in the interest of fairness and equal representation, the full text of her response letter is below…

Dear Raiyne,

I am responding to your letter in sections, trying to untangle the sometimes discreet issues that you have woven together.

They are:

  • My love for you
  • Your disclosure to me about your gender
  • Your career path
  • Your financial responsibility
  • Your curious timing
  • Our relationship
  1. I love you unconditionally. Always have. Always will. “A mother’s love knows no bounds” is truly true. I’ll be loving you-always. The love and desire for the happiness-and yes- success of your children overshadows the urgency of almost anything else. You have no idea the pain it causes me to EVER see you suffer. And that you have been tormented for so long is heartbreaking to me too. An example that bears repeating is that each time you have had a seizure, the fear and hope for your well-being is devastating. I have so wished that I could take the seizure disorder away from you. I would gladly suffer it myself instead for you, but it doesn’t work that way. I mean it. Read these words again. No buts.
  1. I accept you for who you are. I don’t understand it, but I will make it my mission to educate myself about transgender to be able to better relate to you. You will need to be patient with me, and I am guessing your father, too, as the whole name thing is something that you have been contemplating for a long time, but for us this whole thing is brand new. We are human and it will take some time.
  1. Teaching public school in Southwest Missouri may not be for you. One of my concerns is the potential of career suicide if you handle this in certain ways. Even if you intend to leave education, which isn’t necessarily a bad idea, I would not come out while I was employed with. You have until May 31 to resign without penalty. I suggest that you do so. This district remains in at least the last century in many ways. I would like to think I have made a difference in that area, but they may just humor me. Coming out at work will not end well. This area is not ready for that lesson. It would not be worth the pain and suffering, in my opinion. I agree, I think the parents would be the worst, but many of the staff would not be far behind. I don’t want to see you go through that misery. You don’t deserve that. If you’re intending to start over, start over. From what you’re saying, you will not be able to stay licensed after next school year anyway. And it doesn’t sound like you have that desire either. If you intend to quit, please submit a written resignation now so they have time to find someone. The district has been very good to you. But if you wish to stay, I suggest that you consider this: if I were mentally struggling with something that did not directly relate to my position, I would not see the relevance in sharing and making it public. Your private life is just that. I do not want to see you suffer for a cause that this area is not going to progress on yet. In time… things are changing in the world.Tolerance: Ignorance is hard to tolerate; so is narrow-mindedness. But should tolerance encompass these viewpoints? Or not? I struggle with that sometimes. It is hard to tolerate, but I believe those others considered ignorant and narrow-minded have the same rights too. If we profess tolerance, the respect cannot be based on judging their validity.
  2. When I say you need to grow up, it is about financial and work responsibility. I have seen you put less into the job this year than I would have predicted and it has troubled me greatly. This is because I know you could distinguish yourself, get a good reference, and move on to a place or position that you would find more suitable. As an administrator in this district and your mother, I tried to spark your enthusiasm and interest.

Financially, I am most shocked by the reality that you are once again on the hook for a great deal of money that will result in no benefit (credits) to you, but you have to pay anyway. I am pleased to hear that you are making progress and I believe you.

When I say you need to grow up, it is that basic attention to what I consider adult responsibility that I am referencing. Money isn’t everything, but I don’t know how to get along in this world without it. This has nothing to do with gender or my oppressiveness. It is a fact.

  1. The timing of your letter shows me a selfishness which saddens me. I am ending my career and this week have been honored for making a difference, in my life where there has been rarely been an hour that I have not questioned whether I made a difference at all. This insecurity may surprise you, maybe not. Last night was a once-in-a-lifetime experience that it would have been nice to absorb. Tonight, after returning from rehearsal, I would have loved to read all the facebook comments and have my moment.
    You chose that very time to bring my world crashing down around me with indictments of me that shame me. Your dad says that it bordered on cruel.
  1. If you have kept this torturous secret for such a long time, you might have allowed me to have my moment before you chose to unload this on me. But it feels like another person’s feelings do not enter into this equation. When this is all said and done, I hope you will be able to just for a moment reflect on how the timing of this letter affected another human being—your mother. I tell you this for your reflection in general. The examined life, reflected on for how to make it better, is very worthwhile.

Please do not do to me what you accuse me of: You do not know my heart and intentions. You, as we all do, interpret them through your own lens, and sometimes, as you know from experience, that can be mistaken. You had intertwined your great resentment of me into all of the issues, but I have tried to separate them. If you know me at all, you know that I have an urgency to see everyone be the best that they can be. Perhaps to you, success has seemed more important in my eyes than happiness. But that is not true. I believe that lack of success can be a great barrier to happiness. And if I could help remove that barrier, maybe I could assist you on a road to more happiness. You may not like that or agree with it, but it is true for me.

You say that I often ask one question too many. Perhaps you don’t remember that the last time a chain of lies was discovered, you asked us to press and ask more; you said it would help you try to be more honest and forthcoming. Did I misunderstand?

You don’t know me at all if you think that I “use emotions as a tool to discredit and dismiss the feelings of others.” I think most people who know me would say that I do quite the opposite and seek to understand. I have never and will never dismiss your feelings. And you cannot presume that I “never gave it a second thought.” That is the projection that you accuse me of.  I am very sorry you feel that way.

I am also very sorry if I have failed you in all these ways and probably many more.

I am hurt beyond measure, but this is not about me and I will get over it and hope to grow from it.

Words like lip service, violate boundaries, pry, invade, not your business, condescending attitude are not words spoken in love. I truly do not understand how you think I “completely disregard my self-destructing son.”  The pain this makes me feel is two-fold. I have attended to “stuff “with you so as not to invade your privacy in your very private life. I can help you with work, but feel helpless and without knowledge and tools when I don’t even get to know what is troubling you, so I opt for the pragmatic help.

I/we have helped and helped and helped and offered more rejected help. I want you healthy more than anything.

In conclusion and most importantly: How can I help you? Do you really feel that you are internally self-destructing? If we can’t help, can we help you find someone who can???

I love you. Re-read number 1 and 2 and repeat.

Love,

Mom

Posted in Anxiety, Depression, Emotion, Gender, Gender Fluid, LGBT, Transgender | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The First Step

So i know i keep saying i’ll do better at keeping this thing updated and all of those repeated protestations of scheduling and such, but i think a big part of the problem has been that i needed to write something else.  i have needed to write something else for months, perhaps years–something that has been floating in a few different pieces in my brain for various lengths of time.  Anyway, i think it’s been part of what has been clogging up my writing process for so long, and i’ve finally done something about it.  i’ve written it.

Essentially, the form this took was a ten-and-a-half-page long novella of a letter to my mother.  i needed to clear the air on a few different things with her that have been in our history for many years.  i have also been increasingly torn up by the necessity of living a double life out of fear for what might happen to me professionally if i were to be outed by someone else.  So instead of waiting for someone else to do it to me, i’ve decided to come out myself and see what happens (and that way be prepared and not get completely flat-footed if i have to remake certain aspects of my life in order to live my truth).  This letter was Step 1 in that process.  i have since printed it and sent it via conventional mail, so it is now out of my hands.  It is done, and the trepidation i feel about the eventual reaction is increasingly outstripped by the feeling of freedom and release for having finally done what needed to be done.  i will post the full text of the letter below with proper names obscured.

Dear Mom,

Please read this letter in its entirety before taking any action.  I was prepared to never have this conversation with you.  I had pretty much convinced myself that both of our lives would be easier if I could just hold out and keep it to myself long enough.  You would retire, you and Dad would move out of state, the necessity of constant up close and personal interaction would fade, and I would be free to be more fully myself in your absence.  During the holiday times, when we would inevitably come together in person, I would be able to put the mask back on, if just for the few days that we were in each other’s company.  That way we could maintain a peaceful relationship without the awkward tension of what I’m going to tell you in this letter ever being a problem.

However, events, deep-seated emotions, depression, and a lot of serious thought over the past couple of months have necessitated that I rethink this position.  I will need to do something about the situation in which I have found myself much sooner than I had anticipated even a few short months ago.  As a result, there’s pretty much no way to avoid you hearing about this anyway once I pull the trigger on what I feel I need to do.  This process is going to result in a lot of unspoken emotions and baggage coming to the surface, so I’m writing this letter instead of confronting the issue in person because I have difficulty dealing directly with uncomfortable issues with you in person.

Before I go any further, please understand that I know that everything you do in regards to me and our relationship comes from a place of love.  I know that you want to help me, and that you do truly love me.  Because of our history, including things that are out of my control entirely and things that I could have handled better at the time, your love has been colored by fear, worry, and disappointment.  Moreover, it seems to me that your fears, worries, and disappointments have become so powerful that they have taken control of your emotional reactions and have taken you to a place where you have become overzealous.  You invade privacy, you violate boundaries, and you often ask that one question too many that pushes you from the realm of curious inquiry into intimidating inquisition.  Even though you have the best of intentions at heart, the level of invasiveness makes it difficult for me to be honest with you.  You push and you push and you push, and I retreat into a shell of silence and lies, because I know that if I give you the wrong answer it’s just going to become another incident.  I feel cornered and my fear and anxiety take over.  It’s a fight or flight response, and as we both know, I’ve never been much for fighting, so I instinctively choose flight.

That’s why this letter is addressed specifically to you and not to both you and Dad.  I feel more comfortable around Dad.  I feel like I could tell Dad almost literally any possible thing, and he would accept me and try to help me move on.  He would probably need some time to process emotionally in some (or even many cases), but after taking that time he would be there for me without character judgement to support me in whatever direction I decided I needed to go.  The problem is that if I tell Dad anything, it generally comes back to you, and I don’t feel that safety with you.  You pay lip service to the idea of supporting me no matter what, and I think you think you really mean it, but your actions have not borne that out historically.  Instead of focusing on how to make the future right, your focus is on the transgressions that have taken place in the present and the past.  This has become such a driving force for you that it gives the impression that nothing is ever truly forgiven in your world.  Literally everything I’ve ever done wrong is fodder for the failure hit parade that seems to always get dragged out every time something goes wrong.  You never seem to move on, and that doesn’t allow me to move on.

The other key difference between you and Dad is that Dad says he just wants to see me happy, but you say that you just want to see me successful, and what you really mean is that you just want to see me successful according to your personal, limited definition of what success looks like—a definition with which I often find myself disagreeing.  This can furthermore be seen in the fact that you ask me if I’m taking care of business and pry and prod and poke at me over that.  When you ask me how I’m feeling and I give you a throwaway answer, you rarely pry, prod, or poke at that.  I’m not saying that I want you to; I would really rather you never pried, prodded, or poked at all.

What I’m saying is that your focus is on my success, whatever the emotional cost to me might be.  You place the practical concerns over the emotional ones, even when the emotional concerns often have a profound effect on the practical ones.  This is why you are able to worry about <sister>’s emotional state but completely disregard your internally self-destructing son.  You have accepted <sister>’s practical and material success as a given (and for good reason, as there is pretty much no possible way she won’t be successful, at this point, and I am just as proud of her for that as you are), so that allows you to worry that she’s having emotional difficulties and “burning out.”

Well, you know what?  I’ve been burning out for most of this year, but you haven’t seemed to notice or give a damn about that.  You may say that <sister> has bigger concerns and larger problems, and that may be true.  You may say that I should just suck it up and take care of my practical responsibilities regardless of my emotional state—it’s something you seem to be fairly adept at.  I’m not cut from the same cloth as you.  My emotional state is all-consuming, and while I may have learned how to conceal it after years of bullying by peers in elementary and junior high school, it is not in my personal make-up to be able to be able to engage in such emotional subduction for extended periods of time.  I cannot function when I cannot feel, and it always catches up with me.  You may see this as weakness, but in an odd way, I actually see it as a strength.

But now I’ve gone on an extended tangent and lost the original thrust of this letter (although some of that is material I’ll probably come back to later), so I’m going to try to get it back on topic.  By now you’ve figured out that I’ve been lying to you again.  The truth is that on some level I don’t think I’ve ever stopped lying.  There has almost always been something that I have felt the need to keep shrouded from you.  I’ve explained my basic reasons for it above, but it generally comes down to the simple fact that you almost always ask at least one question too many.  You take me out of my comfort zone, into an area where I don’t want to share everything, and where it frankly becomes not your business anymore.  They say that you should never ask a question you don’t want the answer to, so maybe it’s time I give you exactly what you want.  Time to open up completely and let it all come tumbling out.  Maybe if I clear the air between us, we can start to rebuild whatever relationship we have left.

Let’s start with the most recent stuff.  You already know that I’m not as on top of my finances as I’ve said.  Well, the truth of the matter is that I’m not as on top of my academics as I’ve said, either.  I’ve basically let everything slide with my Master’s Degree this semester.  I told you that I turned in that big paper, the MoPTA, that I told you I need to write.  I actually haven’t written a single word on it.  My student teaching observations did get done, but only because my observer came here and found me and did the observations.  To be completely and totally honest, I’ve been completely rethinking public K-12 education as a career.  This is mainly because I’ve also spent the entirety of this past school year (and the summer before it) rebuilding my entire sense of self.  The result of this has been a boiling cauldron of stress and anxiety and depression that have permeated almost my entire existence for the majority of the last nine or ten months.

The reason for all of this stress, anxiety, and depression while working to reconstruct my entire understanding of my own existence is because I came to a realization over the summer.  Mom, I’m Transgender.  To be more specific, I am Gender Fluid, a non-binary gender identity that is neither wholly male nor wholly female.  Basically, if you think of gender as a continuum between being entirely male and entirely female, I kind of float around in the middle ground in terms of my internal gender identity.  And I’ve never really felt entirely comfortable identifying as a man, to tell the truth.  But I also didn’t feel like I was entirely a woman either, so even though I had had thoughts that I might be Trans from time to time, it never really presented itself seriously until recently, when I was reading and discovered that there was such a thing as non-binary Transgender identities.  Suddenly everything clicked.  It felt like coming home.  In the time since then, I’ve been attending meetings of a couple of Transgender support groups that meet in Springfield (I’ve been getting rides to and from with other group members since my driving privileges went by the board).  So that’s another lie that I’ve been telling you, because that’s what I’ve been doing most Sundays.  I haven’t been going to Freethinker events every week.

So why did it cause such stress and anxiety?  The simple answer is my job.  I’m Trans, and that sort of thing isn’t the most accepted thing around here, to put it mildly.  I’ve heard of other Trans people who have lost jobs, careers, friendships, even been disowned by family simply for being Transgender.  These concepts have made it so that I feel like I have to live in fear, putting on a mask and hiding my true self and constantly being wary about betraying too much, being outed, and losing everything.  To be perfectly frank, I’m not that scared of how my students would react.  Young people are increasingly more and more accepting of people in the LGBT community as time goes by.  I’m not even that directly worried about colleagues or administration.  What scares me the most is the potential (and probable) caterwauling uproar that would be raised by parents if my true identity were to be made public.

So I hide myself away, only allowing the real me to come out when I am alone or among friends who know of my gender identity.  It has come to the point that I am not myself more than I am myself, and I have found myself pulling away from the idea of staying in education if this is really the life that I will continue to live in this career.  I won’t survive it.  So I’ve made a decision.  Instead of continuing to run and hide, I’m going to meet this challenge head on.  If being Trans is going to lose me my job as a teacher, then so be it.  I’m done hiding.  I plan to come out publicly, to own myself and finally live my truth.  If I lose my job as a result, I am in a position where I could switch gears academically and move into a more accepting field.  If I do not, then it will fill me with a newfound sense of enthusiasm for this career field, and I will be all the better for it.  Either way, living in this world of uncertainty is eating me from the inside out, and I need to make a change.  I have sent an e-mail the professor in charge of my MoPTA, who is also one of the main professors in charge of the MAT program itself, explaining this situation and why I have fallen behind in my classwork.  I have yet to hear back from him, but his response will also help me to determine where to go with this in the future.

I am writing this letter primarily to inform you of this particular fact.  I am working on the beginnings of my social transition.  I have yet to determine if I will undergo any sort of physical transition, but I have no plans to do so any time in the very near future.  However, as part of my social transition, I have chosen a new first name by which I would like to be addressed: Raiyne.  I know this will be a difficult adjustment for you; you’ve known me as <legal name> for all of my life—you even gave me the name in the first place—and I understand.  Choosing this name was an incredibly long, very detailed, and extremely personally meaningful process that I will spare you from having to read over right now, but it is a name that I feel more closely reflects the person I am.  Also, please use the non-gender-specific pronouns “they, them, their, etc.” when referring to me in the third person from now on.  I know that this is a lot to take in and learn on such short notice, but if you can work toward making this transition with me and addressing me by my preferred name and pronouns, it will make me feel loved, accepted, and respected.

Now, before you try to explain it away or find a way to dismiss it, let me tell you that I’ve thought through just about every possible objection there is to this, and they all pretty much fail out of hand.  I’m not delusional, and this is not a recent development—I can remember specific instances going back to my childhood where I danced on the continuum between male and female to one degree or another.  Hell, one of the reasons I got bullied in school was because I acted in ways unbefitting their idea of male children.  So when I got a little older and started internalizing gender roles a bit more, I pushed all of my non-male feelings down and acted as male as I possibly could, even turning up my nose at things that might be considered “girly” even when I might possibly enjoy them.

Furthermore, this is not the product of anxiety, depression, or any other mental disorder.  I know this, because I first started really looking into this at one of the times that I have been most satisfied with my life in a long time; I had just gotten officially accepted into the MAT program, my provisional certification had gone through, and I’d just gotten a new job as an actual classroom teacher.  Things were good.  But they weren’t really, because I still hadn’t confronted this aspect of my identity.

I am also not just doing this for attention or to feel “special.”  There are plenty of other ways I could go about doing that with much less wailing and gnashing of teeth.  Why would I willingly choose to out myself with an identity that experiences one of the highest rates of suicide and murder out of any subgroup of humanity in this country?  Why would I willingly potentially throw away my entire career as it has stood heretofore just for the cheap and fleeting thrill of being the momentary center of attention?  No.  This is me, and it’s not going away.

Finally, please don’t simply dismiss this out of hand because it doesn’t jive with your vision of what I “should be.”  You did that years ago when I told you that I was bisexual.  You asked me how I knew and if I had ever had a male partner.  I was uncomfortable and a little bit offended that you felt the need to ask that question in order for me to “legitimize” my sexual orientation, so at the time I lied and told you no.  It seemed like the safe answer at the time, and that thought seemed like it was confirmed years later when you reacted to the fact that I was having sex with <The Woman> with such scorn and disapprobation, but in the long run it has been a mistake, because it allowed you to dismiss and ignore the fact of my bisexuality.

So here’s the truth.  I’ve had sex.  I’ve had sex with more than just <The Woman>.  I’ve had sex with multiple different partners of various genders over the years, and even sometimes with multiple partners at the same time.  I’m not ashamed of it, and I have only hidden it from you because I know that our sexual mores do not see eye to eye.  For me, sex can be the most intimate sharing of self that is possible between individual human beings, but it can also be a fun way to pass a few hours and achieve a healthy physical release; it’s all in what the individuals involved are looking for, and it’s on those individuals to openly communicate those desires and needs.  That being said, I haven’t been stupid about it.  I have always used protection, and I get myself STD tested periodically (still no STDs, by the way).  I do everything in my power to be conscious of and minimize the potential risks.

You tell me that you want me to grow up.  You tell me that I need to be an adult and take care of business.  Well this is what it’s going to start looking like for me.  My adulthood may not conform to your vision of what adulthood should be, but the good news for both of us is that it doesn’t have to.  My adulthood is whatever I define it to be, as it is for every other individual on the planet.  Do I have things I need to work on with myself still?  Absolutely, and I like to think that even though I still backslide on them from time to time I am continuing to make progress.  For example, I have not once been overdrawn in my bank account in the five years since I came back to Branson from Columbia.  Not.  Once.  I have maintained a credit card responsibly, keeping it below the limit and paying it down to zero almost every month since becoming a teacher and paying more than the minimum due every single month since even before then.  I am making progress, and treating me like every mistake is a sign that I have made no progress whatsoever is unfair and disrespectful.

Moreover, it is true that I engage in recreation more than you think I should.  I go and have “playtime” as you like to sneeringly call it in your attempts to further infantilize my lifestyle.  Well consider this.  During my “playtime,” I have made lasting and incredibly close friendships.  I have developed a “family of choice” that often feels closer and more loving than my blood relations.  Between my weekly D&D nights, Pub Quiz, and the Freethinkers and support groups that I have been attending, I have created an overlapping and strong support network that I know values me and accepts me for whoever I am while also taking an opportunity for much needed stress relief and relaxation.  Simply put, my “playtime” has literally saved my life.  That is not hyperbole.

I hope that you have read this letter in its entirety.  I know you are probably feeling very hurt, and likely quite offended, by much of what I have said here.  I also know that you have a tendency to focus on the emotions you are feeling and use them as a tool to discredit and dismiss the feelings of others.  The last time we had a difficult conversation in person like this and I spoke the truth and tried to express how intimidated and emotionally unsafe you make me feel, your response was that you were hurt and offended, as if the mere fact that you felt that way automatically made me wrong.  You then dismissed everything I said and never gave it a second thought.  I urge you in this case not to do that.  Your hurt feelings are valid.  I have kept much from you and kept you from knowing the real me for many years.  However, your hurt feelings do not make my hurt feelings any less valid.

To that end, I have a request.  Please take my words to heart.  Re-read this letter as many times as you need to, and do not call me or try to get into contact with me right away.  Allow your emotions to cool a bit so that you can really interface with what I have told you in this letter.  When you feel ready, if you want to have a conversation in person about this, I will be willing on a couple of conditions.  First, come to the conversation with an open mind and free of judgement.  Take me as I am, because that is all that I can be.  Second, do not try to rationalize or dismiss me.  Speak with me as a fellow adult and not as a child to be corrected.  If you come to the conversation with a dismissive or condescending attitude, I will leave the room.

Finally, if you decide that the hurt is too much and that you can no longer bear to have me as family, I will understand.  It will hurt like hell, but I will understand.  You have often used the words “I know you hate me” during difficult conversations as a way to disarm my replies, but please know that that cannot be further from the truth.  If I truly hated you, I would be able to dismiss your rejections and criticisms out of hand, rather than being emotionally derailed by them for hours at a time.  I can’t do that, so if this ends our relationship, it will hurt me more than you know, but I will understand.  If you no longer wish to have me along on the Alaska cruise, I will also understand, and will work to repay you for the ticket.  I hope that we can move on from this and rebuild, but I will understand if we cannot.  Thank you for taking the time to read this.  I’m truly sorry for the hurt that I have caused you.  I love you, Mom.

Posted in Anxiety, Bisexuality, Depression, Emotion, Gender, Gender Fluid, LGBT, Transgender | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Other People’s Work: “Why I’m Angry: An Anti-Theist’s 78 Reasons”

[Author’s Note: i promise i’ll start posting original content on here again soon.  (i know, you’ve heard this before from me…)]

This is a well-put-together list that very much jives with my own feelings on many of the subjects addressed.  It makes a nice companion to Greta Christina’s excellent book, Why Are You Atheists So Angry?: 99 Things That Piss Off the Godless, as well.  I encourage all of my readers to go check out both Greta’s book and this blog entry (as well as the rest of barrierbreaker’s material).

“Why I’m Angry: An Anti-Theist’s 78 Reasons”

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Other People’s Work: “7 Ways To Show Love To Someone With Anxiety/Depression”

comingout3x:

So much this! Thank you for writing this!

Originally posted on Be Brave, and Talk:

The hardest people to love are the ones who need it most.

In honour of Valentine’s Day, here are some ideas for showing love to friends and family members with anxiety/ depression:

1.) Give Compliments:

Chances are, someone who suffers from anxiety/depression also struggles with self esteem. Help her challenge her feelings of self loathing by giving her sincere, specific compliments. Being specific is really important, because it will make her more likely to remember what you said later. It will also make her more likely to believe you. For example, instead of saying, “You’re a good mom,” you could say something more meaningful: “You are so patient with your children. I love how you encourage them to keep trying. They are so lucky to have you.”
One thoughtful, genuine compliment has more power than 10 careless comments that feel like flattery. Put your heart into what you say.

2.)…

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It’s Not Quite Dead (Name) Yet…

[Author’s Note: So apparently a month between posts was too short, and i decided to go for a month and a half this time…  Seriously, though, i really do intend to make an effort to post more regularly on here.  i’ve just had a lot of stress and, to be perfectly honest, major depression lately, and (as tends to happen when i get really depressed) everything got jammed up in my brain.  On top of that, i’ve been working on staying ahead of myself this semester with both work school and class school, and not quite succeeding at that.  And in my leisure time i’ve been trying to create my own campaign setting for 5th Edition D&D.  i could try to use any or all of that as an excuse for my lack of sitting down and writing on this blog, but the fact remains that i’ve had six consecutive days off from work (last weekend plus four snow days), and i’ve spent most of that time mindlessly playing World of Warcraft or watching my backlog of episodes on Hulu.  The truth is that i really have no excuse; i just can’t seem to motivate myself to really do anything productive (or even semi-productive, like writing on this blog), and every time i feel like i’m starting to crack the shell of this massive mental block, it re-solidifies before i press the advantage.  Anyway, i’ll probably follow this up soon with a news update from the past month and a half.  Right now, i’ve got something that’s been sticking in my brain for a little while, and i’m going to try to use that to get some writing momentum built up…]

Many of my readers already know this, but for those who might not, here’s a quick background for what i’m about to write.  Among the Transgender community, names can be a tenuous subject.  It’s a part of the process for many Trans individuals to discard their given name and choose or create a new one that better reflects their actual self.  Their chosen name then becomes their real name for all practical purposes (and all purposes whatsoever, if and when they legally change it), and the old given name of the wrong gender is generally referred to as their “dead name.”  The term also has a verb usage–when someone dead names you, it refers to them calling you by your dead name instead of your chosen real name.  This becomes a serious issue, especially in the case of family members or others who outright refuse to refer to a person by their real name and insist on continuously dead naming them.  To say that this is considered to be quite insensitive would be an exercise in extreme understatement.

An extra layer of complication is often added in cases such as mine.  i am not out publicly, mostly for professional reasons, as i have explained in previous posts.  Because my public persona is still living under my old given name, i am actually addressed by it more often than i am by my chosen name.  i work five days a week, and my old name is pretty much all i get during that time (along with being called “Mr. ______” and “sir” by students, which doesn’t really help).  Even much of my leisure activity during the week is dominated by my old name.  Most of the crowd at the various structured leisure activities i attend on a weekly basis are not aware of my chosen name at all.  i only really get my chosen name on anything approaching a consistent basis on Sundays, when i go to my support groups.

As a result, my chosen name often still feels a little odd to my ear.  i definitely prefer it, but it isn’t the name i usually am addressed by by any stretch of the imagination.  So my “dead name” really isn’t dead yet, and i haven’t gotten to a point, either professionally or emotionally, where i feel offended by having it used by others.  They don’t know any better, so how can i fault them?  (Beyond the fact that they tacitly prop up a societal structure that makes me live in fear of revealing myself fully to the world, that is…)  i’m just… used to it, and i can’t really consider my given name a dead name.  Not yet…  Maybe not really ever, if i stay in public education…

This makes for an interesting mental state for me, where i don’t even feel hurt when someone who should know better accidentally refers to me by my old name (it happens… not often, but everyone makes mistakes now and then… especially the ones that knew me by my old name before my chosen name).  i don’t feel justified considering the old name a dead name when it is still the name that i am called by for at least 80% of my day-to-day life.  Would i like that to change?  Yes.  Do i see that as happening in the near future?  No, probably not.

So what is the best way to proceed with this?  In a perfect world, i would be able to explain to everyone with whom i have contact that my old name is no longer my preferred form of address.  i could also comfortably introduce myself to new people using my new name.  Unfortunately, it is not a perfect world, and the constraints i have placed on myself for professional reasons (while admittedly at least somewhat arbitrary and mostly self-imposed) still apply to my situation and are unlikely to change soon, if at all.  So i guess i just have to grin and bear it for the time being, which, since i haven’t been able to have the chance to truly acclimate to the old name being dead, won’t be too absolutely horrible, i guess…

It’s just yet another reason for me to wish i was in a more understanding geographical region than here in the buckle of the Bible Belt…

Posted in Gender, LGBT, Life, Personality, Philosophy | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Quickies: News Update 1/7/15 – UPDATED

Well, i had my neurologist appointment yesterday morning, and it was pretty good.  To begin with, the doctor said that my breakthrough seizure was probably at least partly due to my medication change, and my feeling fine since is more than likely a good sign.  he was also able to allay many of my parents’ fears about me living alone, and as of last night i am back to staying at the house that i am housesitting.

i also read some more information about the high degree of co-morbidity of epilepsy and depression.  It’s apparently over 50%, and can be really severe in some cases.  It also has a tendency to present in somewhat unique ways when it comes to epileptic individuals, including periods of less-depressed mood, or even euphoria, when external events are not so bad–and this gives my “unclassified bipolar” diagnosis from a few years back new context.  It isn’t necessarily that i have a  unique form of bipolar disorder that makes me fluctuate between manic and depressive phases rapidly (sometimes multiple times during a given day).  It’s more that the combination of epilepsy and depression create this unique state of affairs in my mind.

In other news, i have, of course, gone back to work at the school, and i am still feeling ambivalent at best about teaching.  i feel like my motivation and energy in the classroom are really suffering from this, but i can’t seem to shake this existential crisis in which i’ve found myself.  i have, however, been toying with another alternative to the ones that i had been thinking about…  i’m sorely tempted to just say “Fuck it all,” drop all of my pretenses, come out publicly, and let the professional chips fall where they may.

This temptation is even stronger since a conversation that i had with a student toward the end of the school day yesterday.  As i was roaming around the room keeping an eye on my seventh hour class, i overheard the word “Transgender” in a conversation.  When i asked what they were talking about, the student revealed to me that she had a cousin in kindergarten in my district who is a Trans girl.  She also told me that the school district is accepting her as a girl and accommodating her needs.  This was a reassuring thing to hear, especially after my principal essentially told me to watch my back in becoming the faculty advisor for the Gay-Straight Alliance that a student is working to form at the high school.

So i still don’t know what to do or think about my life right now, but there’s definitely a part of me that would love to just be myself and let whatever happens happen.  At the very least, it would ease some of this knotted up tension that feels like it’s killing me from the inside out…

UPDATE: 5:00 PM

Well, so much for that bit of positivity.  This afternoon i had another breakthrough seizure.  This one happened in front of students during my seventh hour class.  Luckily, my students reacted very well and sympathetically.  A couple went to get help from the office and the teacher across the hall, and another one who happens to be a first responder helped get me into a safe position and kept an eye on me until the seizure passed.

The upshot, however, is that i’m back to being stuck at my parents’ house, at least for the time being, and my neurologist doesn’t think i should go back to work until he’s had a chance to see me once again.  To that end, i have another appointment scheduled for Friday at 11:00 AM.  Hopefully the doctor will clear me to live alone again, because this really fucking sucks.

…shit.

Posted in LGBT, Life, Personality, Psychology, Quickies | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment