My forehead is still trickling a bit of blood and the bruising hasn’t quite subsided all the way just yet. I should have seen it coming, but didn’t. I mean really, I’ve talked about it, written about it, and joked about it and still ambled on in my merry way until I smacked right into that invisible barrier head first and fell to my knees. In my defense, it was a lot closer than I had expected it to be, and someone had cleaned it so perfectly that I never even got a glare of reflection. Some sticky fingerprints or dead birds laying around it would have been nice. That way one might think twice before making a great leap of faith and end up crumpled on the floor ashamed and just a little bit broken. Should I not have expected that being trans? Let’s talk about that a little bit.
I’ll be flat out honest here. I have no idea whatsoever if my gender identity was much or at all a factor in what happened. It could just have easily occurred if I went for the position as ‘Michael’ and I would have been just as surprised and crushed. I have no reason to think it because the company has been great and very supportive of my transition and I do not feel like I have been discriminated against in any way, shape or form. At the same time no one really knows what lurks in the hearts of others, and I was reasonably (no, paranoid) sure that some members of the interview panel are a little uncomfortable in my presence. These are things I will never really know, but it does make me wonder.
I decided to do some intense research on the subject and posed a half-assed question on the Association of Transgender Professionals Facebook page. If anyone would know about glass ceilings and career stagnation, it was this mighty collective of transgender corporate acumen. The overall theme of the responses was “Consider yourself lucky you have a job”, “Get used to the view, you aren’t going any higher”, and “Have you considered an exciting career in fast paced over-the-phone sales?”. Ugh. Fuck that. Not just the last one; all of it.
As trans people, many, if not most of us, sustain significant blows to our sense of self-worth simply as a function of our existence. Even aware of this, I consistently rate myself far lower than my peers and superiors rate me in any type of feedback and often feel unworthy even when there is no justification for it. I’m sure this is also one of the factors that contribute to the high suicide rate. While some consider this putting on an air of victimization, in reality it has more to do with feeling wrong in one’s own skin for years and decades, followed by the ubiquitous stares and awkwardness that follow transition. Even the most robust of egos is not immune to such a Chinese water torture of subtle but persistent pounding. Knowing this, however, begs the question; are we unintentionally limiting ourselves, or worse, shooting ourselves in the foot?
While there is no doubt whatsoever that being trans carries with it negative connotations in the minds of others who have the power to limit or empower our success, I have to wonder if we are often complicit in steadily boosting them up while that ceiling is being installed. Is it not then possible that with confidence and conviction in our own intelligence, skill, experience, and talent that are completely exclusive of our trans state of being, we can overcome the innate obstacles external perceptions bring? I’m not going to lie to you here; I really like this idea. Yes, it bites that misinformation and prejudice persist regarding who and what we are, but so many other demographics, different in superficial characteristics alone, have managed to push past being entrapped by complacent acceptance of other’s opinions.
I am still sore and bleeding. I do still feel the tilt of the world that is making it difficult to feel steady on my feet. I’m also getting up and dusting myself off, just a wee bit smarter than the day before. I lost that round and it hurt, but I’m not close to being done fighting. Whether I decide to make another great leap up where I’m standing at this moment, or choose to shift to the side, pick another target and move so quickly they never see me coming, I’m not giving up. I will never accept that this is the best I’m ever going to do when I know I can do more. The shackles of my own making are coming off; they are doing me no good. I will not yield.