Monday, April 6, 2015

4-6-2015 Entry: Moving, and Overcoming Transphobic Bathroom Policies


Hello all my lovely readers! First, I want to apologize for how AFK I’ve been over the last two weeks or so as my docket at work exploded and packing has taken over my life. Our apartment is officially a disaster zone with piles and piles of boxes crowding every inch of the living spaces so that even doing something simple like watching TV has now become an exercise in claustrophobia training. Give it another week and I might just qualify to go on a manned space mission to Mars! In addition to the mountains of boxes, between which is only a slightly traversable walking space, all of our shelves and bookcases are completely empty, with the exception of dust and cat hair, of course (seriously, how can a 10 pound cat produce so much damn hair?) The cabinets are all but empty, with the exception of a handful of bowls, plates, and glasses. Really, the only things that haven’t been packed, aside from essential dishes/cookware, are the TV’s and Xbox’s.

We close on the house 72 hours from now (almost exactly at the time of this writing) and good God it cannot come fast enough. Our apartment has always been rather small and somewhat crowded, but this current living condition in mountain’o’box town has got to end. The dog is officially freaking out because she doesn’t know what the hell is going on at all. The cat genuinely DGAF, except for when she’s derping out over all the empty boxes she can play inside. In fact, the sound of something being knocked over in the middle of the night by the cat playing amongst the packing rubble has become so frequent that neither my wife nor I care enough to get up to investigate it anymore. CRASH! THUD! Frantic escaping by cat = MEH, ZZzzzz…ZZZzzz…

As I indicated a few days ago with my brief pop-in post, some issues came up with the house that were not so awesome. Part of our contract with the sellers was that they were to take full responsibility for any and all assessments that were currently levied against the house. They, of course, didn’t read the contract closely enough to realize this and found themselves in dire straits when it became obvious to them that they were going to have to fork over a great deal of cash at the time of closing because of existing assessments on the property. So, upon further negotiation (which we were not obligated to even do because they’d already signed the contract) we decided to be nice and assume half of the assessments for them. I’m hopeful that doing this nice thing will bring about further positive Karma in this transaction and will compel the sellers to make additional efforts to effectively clean the house before we do the final walkthrough. So far they have been rather nice and fair with us, so I’m hopeful that that mentality continues, even when they don’t have to maintain it. Overall, this assumption of half of the assessment will raise the cost of our monthly payment by about $20 a month for a few years, which isn’t great but it isn’t a tragedy either.

Okay, so now onto the big news! At my last writing my work was still sticking with their initial decision to not let me use the women’s bathroom when I went full time, even though the building manager had told me directly that they’d changed their policy. I was, more or less, in a holding pattern, waiting to see what my employer did. I knew the HR lady was in contact with the building manager, I knew the building manager had told her about the updated bathroom policy, I knew my HR lady had asked the building manager to keep their correspondence confidential (seemed a bit suspicious), but I didn’t know if my work was going to change their policy to reflect the building’s policy. I left work on Thursday not having heard anything from HR and began my early weekend (took Friday off for mental health purposes, mainly to reduce stress levels and have some quiet alone time) wondering if I was going to have to involve a lawyer in my problem. I actually spent most of the weekend trying not to think about work at all (it just seemed too depressing), so when I came into work on Monday to find an email from my HR person saying that the building had changed their policy and that my employer was going to honor that policy, I about fell out of my desk chair.

I was so elated after reading that email that I could hardly function for most of the morning. I’d won. I’d been told no and refused to take no for an answer and had ended up winning! The building manager looked further into what their policy should be because I was bold enough to write her a letter expressing who I was, what I wanted, and why I wanted it. I could have been too afraid to stand up against my employer or the building by assuming that they had the power and I didn’t, but choosing to do the opposite netted me exactly what I wanted. I wanted there to be a set-in-stone policy that said I could use the women’s bathroom once I went fulltime because I never wanted to be harassed about my decision to do so without having a solid foundation to come back at my harasser with. If anyone at my work tries to say I shouldn’t be in there or that I can’t be in there, I now have both the building management’s and my employer’s permission to protect me.

I know I’m at risk of spraining my arm muscles by patting myself on the back too enthusiastically but I want everyone to know what this victory feels like for me. I’ve spent the last few months seeing all of these stories and issues about transgender people in bathrooms and it just sickened me. It made me so sad that other parts of the world and my country weren’t as accepting as my state is (we have gender protection laws in MN), but then, out of nowhere, the same thing was happening to me. I had laws that were intended to protect me from discrimination but I was being told, like so many others, that I couldn’t use the correct bathroom for my gender because of rules set in place by people who aren’t transgender and who don’t understand gender dysphoria. I mean, the amount of anger, frustration, and despair I felt about this subject can never adequately be put into words, and it would have been so easy to just give up. Every defense mechanism inside of me wanted to just give up. I even honestly considered quitting HRT because of this bathroom decision. I use the restroom at work so many times a week that the thought of doing that in the men’s room while presenting as increasingly female, was enough to drive me to completely second guess everything.

The whole surety I had as a transwoman, every ounce of confidence I’d accumulated about this new identity as Emma was shaken and called into question. Was I really going to go through with this if I was going to be treated like a man nonetheless? Was it really worth the pain and agony of undertaking and patiently waiting through HRT transition, if at the end of the day, I was still going to be treated as if I were male? Wouldn’t my life be easier if I just quit while I was ahead, if I just decided to live my life as Robert, the effeminate man instead of Emma the transwoman? My mother sure would be happy. My wife would probably feel somewhat relieved. My employer sure would feel better.

I cannot put into words how difficult it was for me to sift through all of that doubt, anger, and fear to find a frame of mind that permitted me to reach out to the building manager in an effective way. I could have raged, I could have been pissed off (I certainly felt that way) and written a rather scathing email to her or my HR person about how bad and wrong their policy was. I could have gone straight to an attorney to see if I could file an EEOC claim. I could have done so many things in my reactionary state of mind, but instead I decided to try to approach things diplomatically. If I could appeal to the building manager in such a way that I displayed how human I was; if I could show her how I had feelings, desires, and fears then maybe, just maybe, she would reconsider her position, and it worked. By bringing a visible, human element to a policy decision instead of it being an objective decision about someone she didn’t know and would never meet, I was able to change her mind, or at the very least second guess her initial decision. And that is what I hope everyone who reads this blog post retains from it, that when we as transgender individuals willingly divulge ourselves, our feelings, our desires, and our fears, we are met with compassion.

 I believe that so many transgender and non-binary people are inherently afraid of coming out, of being exposed, of allowing people to see beyond their defenses. I believe that so many are worried that if they show any degree of weakness, any degree of fear or pain or anguish as a result of their various oppressions, then they will only be further oppressed. I have found, however, that the exact opposite is the case. Oppression, in every form, comes from the dehumanization of those being oppressed. When transgender and non-binary people are invisible or only on the periphery, it is easy for those with privilege and the social power of being “normal” to dehumanize them. It’s easy to see TG/NB people as weirdos, or perverts, or sexual predators when they are invisible and misunderstood, but once they become visible, once they are seen and understood on an emotional level, they are given human status once again.

I know it’s scary out there, I know it’s hard to have someone say no or reject something so important to you like this bathroom issue was for me, but we cannot give up. We must keep trying, if not for ourselves, then for the transgender and non-binary children born every day. We must work to make the world a kinder place for them so they don’t have to experience the trials we did and do.

But we cannot cry foul and then villainize those who’ve wronged us either. We must stand tall and show those people that we have hearts, and souls, and minds too, in addition to our confusing body conditions. We must show them that we have feelings and emotions just like them, because in their hearts, they do not want to hurt us. In their hearts they are suffering themselves (from fear, or anger, or pain), and when they see our suffering in such a raw and human way, they are given the opportunity to connect with us, and that connection has great potential to change them forever.

Perhaps my example will never be something people look up to. Perhaps my words will fall on deaf ears, or only be heard by a select few. Perhaps I am one of the lucky few who can claim victory over ignorance and transphobia, but regardless of how much clout I ever achieve in this trans revolution that’s going on right now, just know that my heart goes out to each and every one of those trans/non-binary people out there fighting to be recognized. My heart goes out to all the supporters and accepting friends/family members of TG/NB people, because you serve as the greatest example for the cisgender population. Every time you stand up for us or we stand up for ourselves, we gain more visibility, and slowly but surely we change the world around us for the better. Every day is getting better and better because of our continuing work towards recognition.

-Emma

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