What Freedom Looks Like

So much of my life has changed since I left my mother’s nest. As likely eluded to in past posts, my departure was not by choice, but rather out of my mother’s desperation to have her freedom. The same freedom I had strived for nine years of my post-college life to give to her. The same freedom that all of my well-laid plans failed to accomplish.

The strange thing is how in just three months, I feel as though I’ve experienced more than I had in those long nine years leading up to turning thirty in just the past three months. Most likely, that feeling can be attributed to the majority of my 20s being rife with gender dysphoria, financial and emotional struggles, my rise and fall from grace within corporate America, and a daily bath in self-loathing. My path to self-discovery began at age 26, self-acceptance at age 27, public admittance at age 28, and mental maturation into the self-confident, charismatic woman that once only existed as a transient existence within this blog. Regardless of the insanely arduous path that has led me to this point, accepting my mother’s [legal] ordinance to leave and becoming self-accountable in every possible way has radically broadened my personal ideologies & goal-setting standards.

In layman’s terms: I have rapidly cultivated a much sharper understanding of what I want and believe I deserve out of this life.

Now, a month and a half into this new chapter of my 30s, I walk taller, trust more, set smarter goals, and indulge in ways I would not have done before. My identity has virtually been carved in stone & no one dares to question the legitimacy of my womanhood. In the last few months, men have begun making passes at me when I’m only wearing basic problem area cover-up on my chin. Quite honestly, this truth continues to baffle me.

As I type this entry on my phone while washing clothes on my own in my local laundromat for the first time, more and more do I feel as though I am slowly grasping the life – what it’s really like to be “busy” – that my mother led for so many years. I was able to find a place to live with a male roommate who I discovered is a closet geek. I’ve taken the next step in transitioning from a 7-day work week split between two part-time jobs to taking the plunge with one relatively flexible, full-time position with a relatively new company franchise that welcomes my creativity & business acumen. This new position now opens up my schedule for putting more time into my voice-over work, exploring new skill sets, running needed errands, & being social with minimal sacrifice. All coming with a suitable paycheck and a healthier work-life balance.

My life as a 30-year old woman rapidly continues taking each decisive, difficult stride one goal at a time despite clawing my way up from practically nothing.  In the face of intense doubt & bloodied pride, I become accustomed to the painful crashing through each wall of uncertainty, defying any and all which dares to hold me back from reaching my destination. The legacy of my life shall echo through the ages. I will settle for nothing less.

Freedom is like a new, untrained pet given to a child. An immediately gratifying source of joy in the initial moments, the new owner holds it close only to be peed on without warning. The child quickly discovers it was all a farce as the pet requires so much more effort and attention to maintain than they could have imagined. However, if they remain diligent and train the pet well, moments of joy can still abound amidst their constant demands. Alas, the child’s perspective of pet ownership will never be the same and relies solely on their own will to either care for it or hate it.

I have chosen to care for this “pet” called freedom the best way I can, loving my self and life more than ever.

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More than just a pretty face

Yesterday, on my break, I overheard an older man flirting with what I perceived to be a fairly pretty woman. If this was just  any man, I wouldn’t be writing about this. Given his voice and choice of words, I quickly realized that he was the same man who had flirted with me just under a month ago in the same establishment just as I was about to leave.

He began his flirtations just as I was receiving my food on her opposite side. I’m not going to go into detail about what he said and did, but he used the same level of persistent charisma as well as his “I work here” line before ordering her a slice and drink. All the while not noticing that the not-so-put-together woman next to her – almost incognito in a way as I was wearing glasses, no noticeable makeup & had my hair up – was the same very put-together woman he tried to give his number to.

Not all cis males are like this and being a transgender woman makes this really easy to accept. However, being a transgender female is exactly the reason why it’s important for me to remain vigilant and aware of my self-worth and intuition. This does not apply to just me, but to other humans like me. Cisgender or not.

With regard to my personal narrative, transitioning later in life as I have seems to come with a lot of baggage. For example, lack of self-love, body dysphoria, low confidence levels on most fronts, self-doubt, etc. We typically want to be “seen” as a form of validity in our fear-mongering society. The best way to achieve that? Grabbing the attention of a person within our sexuality’s alignment. Even if that person isn’t someone we particularly are attracted to, we’re so hungry for that attention and validation that we typically wind up settling for just about anyone who will accept us at the risk of being outed, deemed “damaged goods”, or, in the very worst case, assaulted.

That lack of awareness and self-worth is what “chasers” look for. They settle and never grow in their strength, relying on the honeyed flirtations of the cis population to make them feel like they’re worth something. This is the most dangerous path for anyone, not just transgender people, to end up on.

As the fight for human rights and transgender/queer equality continues to rage on, I wish to remind my transgender siblings to seek not the approval of everyone. That is an exercise in futility. Rather, become the best version of “you” possible through building your own foundation of self-worth, self-love, and self-confidence. The pattern is obvious; selfishness for the sake of your own survival is necessary. When others refuse to hear you or see you, do not allow their actions or words to have power over you. Take control of how you believe others should acknowledge you by consciously making daily decisions to value yourself – how you look, who you are, and what boundaries won’t be overstepped.

The “younger” me, fresh into my transition three years ago, may have fallen into the emotional trap of allowing myself be so easily affirmed by that man to the point of having my self-worth of him “seeing” me as a woman to be stripped away. Thankfully, the only affirmation I received was knowing my intuition to use the “my significant other wouldn’t approve” line when he offered me his number was right on the mark. And the only thing I gained from him was being momentarily irked he didn’t offer to pay for my food like he did with his new flavor of the week.

The Joke Is On Us. Literally.

original-girlwithglasses-by-bifidus
Original art by: bifidus

Read an article  posted by Kira, a fellow transgender blogger, about how the media and society continue to make it increasingly more difficult for the trans community – and most importantly, our very real life-threatening struggles – to be taken seriously. This immediately got me thinking about whether or not there were any instances in my own life where I allowed people to get away with the off-handed commentary or “joke”. Funny enough, this was very simple to remember.

While involved in what was never meant to be a short stint in Sales/Marketing, we were having a group training meeting before heading out to the field. The leader of said meeting was aiming to draw a similarity between memorable, legendary people, one-hit wonders, and what it meant for us to be the former instead of the latter. When the time came for shouting out famous people, everyone was getting into the game to see how many they could get on the whiteboard.

And then someone shouted “Caitlyn Jenner.”

The next few seconds were an amalgamation of chuckling and mild affirmation, but with two quick moments standing out. The first was the guy next to me off-handedly saying something along the lines of “You mean Bruce Jenner right?” The second was someone quipping about transgender thing being confusing.

That moment happened so quickly in the midst of an already chaotic shouting match that there was only enough time for me to process feeling offended. Mainly because my leader knew I was transgender, yet continued to roll with the insults disguised as lighthearted, offhanded jokes. The majority of the crew didn’t have a clue I was transgender, but the momentary attitude shift of 15 twenty-somethings in response to mass media’s poster child of the transgender narrative was extremely telling.

I find that humor is birthed from one of two places: Either loose hearsay subject knowledge, or completely educated subject knowledge. What people don’t understand is that the former is exactly how the majority cis people are erasing those in the transgender community. With every offhanded quip and “harmless joke”, people are continually being conditioned to downplay the aspects of our reality that are inherently why so many of us are being murdered, assaulted, and given the short end of the stick. The education and awareness of the “T” in LGBTQ is severely lacking; cis people are using ignorance as a scapegoat to justify making their fellow uneducated cisgender friends laugh about our struggle for acceptance & equality.

We aren’t being taken seriously. At all. Our true fight for human rights keeps getting derailed by petty non-issues like the bathroom bill, fear-mongering bullshit. Activists are forced to squander resources to debunk the baseless myth of transwomen being pedophiles while the number of hate crimes against transgender people (the majority being women of color (WOC) like myself) continues to rise. And yet, the jokes keep flying and politicians keep using us to  pushing their single-minded agendas at our expense.

Meanwhile, passive onlookers wonder why so many activists and writers like the one I linked above are so angry. This is why I continue to advocate in my own, non-violent way. Using educated knowledge to open people’s eyes to transgender matters as well as improving the human connection as a whole has become one of my life’s purposes.