Every once and a while I see people assert that being trans is a “mistake”. Being trans isn’t a mistake, it’s just another way to be. So when someone takes as an axiom that being trans is somehow a “mistake”, let me assure you, they are mistaken.
My legal life is like the Internet’s DNS servers right now. My name became my legal name yesterday and I just made the change to my DNS entries so, right now, Paige Rudnick is floating across the the internet, updating DNS servers as it goes.
If only it was so easy to take care of all the people I need to notify.
One of the best gifts transition has given me has been my freedom from so many of the fears that once ruled my life. One of the fears I happily lost is being prosecuted or having judgement passed on me by people who where surely going to do it. Nowadays, should you be a conservative or a member of some other group that is often cast as unjust to the LGBT community in the media or via “common knowledge”, I’ll be meeting you under the belief that you will turn out to be bigger than your politics because, typically, I’ve found that’s been the case.
Though I remain disappointed when people or organizations turn out to prefer to discriminate.
I’m also hurt when people or organizations assume the worst of me.
Twice now, it’s been brought to my attention that there has been legal paranoia around me. First, was when I came out. As soon as upper management found out they went through a legal thing (I don’t know what it was exactly hence I’m calling it a legal thing) to protect themselves. Then when I interviewed for my current position, my interviewers were told multiple times to be careful around me so I didn’t sue later.
I’m not naive. I’m well aware there are those in the transcommunity who are more than eager to lawyer up if given the opportunity. I am aware of that. But I don’t want to get tied up here and now in with when I would or wouldn’t support a lawsuit because what I do want to talk about is basic human decency.
In the trans community there is this idea of going stealth. That is, when the transperson does everything they can to cover up their birth sex. I’m not going to get into the politics of if stealth is a good idea or a bad idea here either. What I am going to do with it is ask what is the temptation to “go stealth?” I think an answer is, in part, to make being trans not a problem.
When I personally came out I was dedicated to the idea of not making my being trans a problem to a fault so I waffled on what bathroom I should use when I was asked. My awesome HR director at that time had no such reservations and instead insisted, “You’re a woman, you’re using the women’s room.” Though she did offer to do a shared bathroom too. “Whatever you need to be comfortable”, she’d said. So my point is, they were dedicated to making me feel welcome and just another one of the girls in the office.
As for my job now, my interviewers treated me with basic human decency. By the fact that HR sent out the message, “Don’t get us sued” it’s obvious that they knew I am trans when they brought me in. But they gave me the same fair shot as anyone else and ultimately a job based on my technical merit. My wish, should we somehow get the chance to do things over again, is HR would give their people enough credit to be big enough to not discriminate and that they’d trust me to not create an issue that isn’t or wasn’t there.
I must admit that had I learned about HR’s freakout before I took the job I hope I would have taken that information as a portent to the situation I was getting myself into. In truth, some days in my current position I feel like the people in HR expect me to come in wearing a suit and tie saying some crap like, “I’ve got my head on straight now!”. Yeah, that ain’t NEVER NEVER NEVER EVER EVER going to happen. That said, what makes the situation sad is my bosses are good people if “Aw geez MEN! Gagh!” inducing sometimes. My co-workers, they’re the same as anywhere else I ever worked or gone to school. Some I want to get to know better, some I’ll take or leave, one or two are “that person at work”. The situation is normal. They all don’t make me being trans a problem or treat me any different than any other gal. I wish I could say the same for HR cause then, I’d have the best job I ever had.
When I first heard about Chelsea Manning my reaction was, “You’re not helping!” and it took me a while to figure out why I had such an intense reaction. I had an urgent need to get to the bottom of it too cause my heart wanted to just support her, yet I could not help feeling upset over how sensationalized she was going to be and ultimately was by the news. The picture of her in her car floating around, the misgendering in the reporting. At some point my true problem became obvious to the point I don’t know how I missed it: I didn’t have an issue with her, I had a problem with the military and the press sensationalizing her and the inevitable assertions from uninitiated cisgender people that what the military put her through made her trans. All of this is completely unfair to her.
Coming to terms with being trans is no easy task. Coming out with grace might just be impossible. In my anecdotal experience usually there is a long phase of denial where you make every effort to fit into the life you were born into. While without question there are many brave female soldiers in the branches of our military, that does not change the fact that for many Male to Female trans people they see the military as not only an opportunity to serve their country, but a way to connect them to the manhood they don’t have but want to find in themselves so desperately because it’s the “easy way out”. I’m not accusing Chelsea of having this motivation, I’m just saying that it exists and aware that it exists the military must be understanding when a trans person enters the ranks.
But right now they are not. Right now trans people are excluded from service. Right now they deny the care that Chelsea so desperately needs. Part of me wants to assert that for as long as the United States Government withholds Chelsea her Hormone Replacement Therapy and the care she needs, the United States Government is practicing torture. This is because time and time again I have seen when trans people accept themselves and are ready to go, they’re ready to go now! The pain that Chelsea must have been put through already by being denied care while knowing that care is available to others out there, despite my acquaintance with similar pain, I can still only imagine the intensity.
So the problem here is not the fact that Chelsea or anyone of us is trans. It’s that she’s in a situation that is using her being trans to make her life harder for her. Being trans been made to threaten her employment, the situation is withholding the care she needs and it’s making her a spectacle in the process.
Here Chelsea’s position is not unique. Here she can find solidarity with her trans sisters and brothers working at jobs without insurance, keeping them from affording treatment. Or, too often, working at jobs with insurance but with a section neatly carved out that denies them any coverage for what they need. At best her trans brothers and sisters often take home less of their paycheck because of their medical bills, at worst they can’t get treatment at all with some then risking self medication for salvation or back alley surgeries. Sometimes, with deadly results.
I would be remiss in not mentioning the physical violence that the most unfortunate experience first hand, many times at the price of their life. Make no mistake, these situations are horrible and terrifying as I quickly gathered from a few close calls I’ve had. But what makes the systematic, institutionalized making being trans so hurtful and violent in itself is, it’s chronic, and it affects so much. As stated healthcare is affected and with the money being spent on healthcare not as much can be saved for retirement. Then it’s just outright isolating. It’s like a child being singled out on the playground for having braces or glasses or something else innocuous. How could Chelsea really belong to the military when she had to hide herself out of fear of retribution? How can an employee really be apart of a company when that companies health plan denies coverage so thoroughly to the things they need?
Personally I have surprised people because, on the whole, I have a positive outlook and I believe in innate goodness and compassion in people. Sure there are bad news stories and I have experienced mistreatment myself but, I am not a victim in life because of who I am. I’ve learned to embrace and celebrate my contribution to human diversity and I’ve learned that far far more often than not, others are willing and happy to celebrate with me. In so doing and as an added bonus, I’ve been freed of so much of the fear that once bound me! Life, is really quite wonderful.
Let Chelsea Manning have her transition. Tear down all systems that harass trans people only for the wonderful journey they must take. Then sit back and watch us bloom! Unencumbered.
Every once and a while I hear someone say, “Wouldn’t it be great to be cisgendered? Then we wouldn’t have to face so much discrimination.” They either say that, or something to the effect of it would be nice to be the gender we identify with without having to be trans too. Well, every time I’m confronted with that idea I staunchly oppose it. No, I don’t want to be cisgendered. There is nothing wrong with me being a trans-woman. It’s those who actively work to make life harder for transpeople, gays, lesbians, bisexuals, women, blacks, hispanics, etc. for no crime other than we are who we are that need to be addressed. Those who discriminate and or vilify us for who we were born to be.
I don’t want a magical cure for these entities either. They need to learn that you do not discriminate. They need to learn that discrimination is wrong and unjust and that discrimination won’t be tolerated. They need to learn it’s a good idea to be an ally. How will we teach them? That I don’t know.
That I don’t know.
But I, we, have to try. Compassionately.
Thank you for your attention.