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.

Advertisements

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.

A Transwoman’s Respect For Her Father

fathersdaymeme-gendoikari
Gendo Ikari meme created by Ren

My father and I have always had a unique kind of relationship. One driven by our individual aspirations and spiritual/philosophical insights. In my youth, he endeavored to imbue me with as much knowledge of “family” and “being a man” as he could. In college years after my parents divorced, we would often be cheering each other on towards achieving our goals in life. I know he did his very best to be a good father, and after learning why he left my mother I don’t fault him for making that choice.

In truth, more times than not, his good intentions for me weren’t always the best. He often assumed that I needed advice when I rarely did and I would counter his advice with what I’m already doing to keep everything in balance for my life. In reality, I probably learned how to debate and play “devil’s advocate” because of the intensity of our discussions at times. All I really wanted was for him to hear me and not believe that somehow my thinking was flawed due to my age, but that seemed nearly impossible. Even still I took away that he always said that he would be here for me.

When it comes down to it, he is someone that believes he always in the right and will rarely accept anything beyond his own Christian beliefs. More times than not, I only took bits and pieces away from our discussion while he probably took nothing of what I had to say. He is a mix of old school and new school influences, except he hasn’t taken the time to grasp the extent of how much times have changed. Relying on the past to counter my forward thinking only results in us butting heads – I understood him, yet he didn’t understand me. At least, we were still talking.

So when he found out via Facebook with the rest of my 300+ “friends” that I was transgender which resulted in him not speaking to me for three months, I could have felt betrayed. Instead, he became a hypocrite in my eyes. When he finally called me, I laid into him and, by doing so, opened up a dialogue for potential understanding of what he was trying to cope with. Over that conversation and the next, his willingness to accept me at the base level seemed like he would come around in time.

Our next conversation was a complete 180. He was no longer listening to me and began doing what he did before – using his past experience to vilify my present lived experience which he couldn’t possibly comprehend without living my life firsthand. I go into more detail in this post, but overall it was a table-flipped mess that I had no desire to salvage.

I haven’t spoken to or interacted with my father since that conversation eight months ago.

So, besides my opening paragraph, what positive things could I say about him on this Father’s Day? A few things actually. Every year, I always remember the advice he gave to me as a young child while playing a fighting game.

Always stay on your opponent. Corner them until they can’t do anything but accept defeat.

This advice I have applied into every aspect of my life. My resilience and resolute attitude to learn and lead have served me well and continue to evolve as I take on more life-altering challenges. I don’t know the meaning of “give up” and I’m very grateful for that as a pillar in my personality.

As for something more recent, despite him tearing down the foundation of our relationship as who I am now, that exhausting conversation eight months ago opened my eyes to how much I had unconsciously disregarded my blackness and history. As a black woman, I see so much value in my race now than ever before. There is power in not allowing myself to fold under society’s perspective of being a minority. In loving myself more and more each day, my Black heritage is now something I carry with pride. The idea of being a “strong black woman who don’t need no man”, oddly enough, is pretty accurate to me these days. 🙂

Even though I’ve lost what seems like my entire father’s side of the family to “old school” thinking and lack of education of transgender matters, I don’t hate him. I did enough of that as a teenager. As an adult, I accept him and his inability to adapt and respect me just as I have done with my mother. All that matters now is that he can be a father figure to those in his life who value him. I will continue to thank and respect my father for the good he has given me and continue to move forward, regardless of him ironically (and almost hypocritically) distancing himself from the child he worked so hard to be close to all those years.