You Simply Can’t Be Liked by Everybody (but You Can be Liked by Some)

(My riff as a transwoman in recovery on the PurposeFairy series 9 Reasons Why You Should No Longer Care About People’s Approval; all creative credit belongs to to that author.)

I had a phone call from my sponsor this morning for the sole purpose of letting me know the positive effect I have on some other people.  He likes me; I think the world of him.  It hasn’t always been this way  in my life.

The cascading effect of alcohol on depression is not an abstract.  I spent incredible blocks of time in my previous life obsessing about my lack of friends on Facebook.  I was on an incendiary self-destructive track which only halted when I stopped using…and I stopped obsessing about being liked.  I think the reality was that I wasn’t liked particularly.  Whatever witty and brilliant pearl of wisdom I dropped online was in fact ignored, but I couldn’t find the reason and I’m not sure I really wanted to.

Keeping things simple, I’ve found a causal effect between living authentically, responsibly and in sanity and being liked by enough other people to make life interesting and meaningful.  Luminita Saviuc is right.  Everybody is not going to like me, whether for good reason or who knows why.  But the last couple of years has proved this hypothesis for me.  Not only far more friends I have but far more honest friends who tell me their truth, who genuinely listen carefully even when I try to hog the spotlight, who ask me questions that make me think, who call and message me without agenda other than to find out how I am.

I need to be liked by some people.  Their affirmation fertilizes my soul.  Every now and then I need to spot a friendly smile.  But I don’t need anymore to be liked by every last person in this world.  I do expect to be treated with respect as the woman I am.  But we don’t have to be friends.

I just can’t see any way around this.  Worrying about the people who don’t like me gets generally in the way of life at best and is self-destructive at worst.  It feels so good to stop beating my head against a brick wall.

Love, Denise

The End of the Fear of Touch (or Things I Notice About Estrogen)

Okay, let’s get this part out of the way right off.  Now that I take estrogen, I have a figure and having a figure is why I started taking estrogen.  But whether I am a B cup or C cup or whatever is nowhere near the deal our culture makes this out to be.  The best part of estrogen is about what happens in my mind, how I relate to other people.

Prompted by this essay by trans man Thomas Page McBee who speaks about what it means to be a man in this world with personal space, here is my perception about what it means to be a woman in this world who never felt at home with that space.

As male I went crazy inside every time any person I didn’t know extremely well got physically close.  I too gave off an aura in a crowd – stay away from me and my testosterone, stay out of my way, give me the respect of space.  Unlike McBee and, I think, many men, I didn’t like feeling that way.  Those boundaries always felt forced; I hated testosterone with an unholy passion.

And then along came estrogen.  Estrogen is not a miracle drug, but finally I feel inside how I ought to feel.  In the space of one year, I no longer flinch, glare or push away people who touch me.  People touching me and myself touching people back feels as normal as breathing.  

My female friends started doing it first as the estrogen started to have more effect.  They place their hands on the back of mine or on my forearm while they are talking.  They bump up against me playfully when sharing a joke.

Personal touch and permeable personal space is the most important part of estrogen for me.  This change confirms that I was right all along; I was never truly male no matter what the birth certificate said.  

And I like this.  A lot.

Love, Denise

Living on the Bare Minimum

I was a lot younger when I worked for minimum wage. Having any money at all that I had earned was an important rite of adolescence. I worked hard at the drive-in for that $1.70/hour, but I also made more money than any of my friends. Of course, gas when I first learned to drive was $.28 per gallon!

Living on the bare minimum requires courage and determination. I dispute any notion that the working poor are somehow deficient in work ethic and I believe they deserve better. Difficult as it is to live on the financial minimum, it remains difficult to live on the respect minimum as well.

A certain notion floats around this world (which often includes the LGB community as well) that transgender people should be satisfied with toleration. We should feel lucky to be accepted by even that much. Sometimes this thought is manifested in the argument about public accommodations – trying to assert rights to use gender-appropriate restrooms is pushing the envelope too fast.

I’ve lived, sort of, on the bare minimum of respect my entire life. I dreamed countless nights of at least being tolerated for who I am as a gender-variant person. But with increasing time in recovery and a new spiritual awareness of being created in the image of God, I’ve come to a new understanding.

Toleration is no longer enough to sustain life. My time has arrived. And so has the time of other gender-variant people around me. We’ve paid our dues. The larger community around us needs to celebrate our lives. We are entitled as productive citizens to a respectful attempt to understand us. It is time to move beyond toleration.

Denise

Beyond Tolerance – Gustav Niebuhr

Give Up Labels

(my take on the tenth part of 15 Things You Should Give Up to Be Happy)

I’m not so sure labels are in themselves the problem. Like any young child, I learned to label the world around me in order to understand and to navigate things and places which were sometimes not safe.  Any person who cannot name her world is at a terrific disadvantage.

The abuse of labels – now that is a different story.  Understanding that naming this world also means that my naming scheme is not comprehensive and in constant need of tweaking is critical to human education.  Insisting that my naming scheme is not only comprehensive but absolute, even divinely mandated, is an abuse of the gift I was given as a human being. 

Abusive labels pop up in some surprising places (to me, anyway).  I was surprised to learn, for instance, that certain radical feminists insist that I cannot be a woman.  I will be forever labeled as a “man in a dress”, a gender saboteur of the worst stripe of oppressive class, a variation on the same theme I would have expected from certain politicians who have absolutely nothing in common with radical feminism. At best, I cannot be trusted.

When I casually mention that I am a former Baptist minister, that label carries such strong cultural connotations that people often do not hear that I became a Baptist because historically Baptists (as well as Quakers) were strong on the priesthood of all believers and religious liberty.  Baptists in Massachusetts went to jail because they refused to pay taxes in support of the Congregational church.  They also went to jail when they did not baptize their infant children.  Abuse of labels works hand in hand with misunderstanding stereotypes and cultural mythology.  Abuse of labels leads me down a path which can well end in powerful falsehood.

Using labels is a lot like handling dynamite – a great tool if you’re trying to get a boulder out of the pasture, not so great if you’re throwing a stick over the side of the boat to catch fish (yes, I’m a fan of Crocodile Dundee).  Handle labels with great caution and give up the abuse of labels.  It will make living a whole lot more effective and pleasant.

Why Marriage Equality Makes a Difference to Me

When the question to amend the Minnesota Constitution to limit marriage to one man and one woman appears on the ballot in November, there are a number of sound logical arguments why Minnesotans should vote no.  We could talk about why a constitution should ever be amended and whether this question qualifies.  We could talk about the support for marriage equality from large corporations who want to access a highly-educated work force as well as reap gay dollars.  But as Farhad Manjoo of True Enough: Learning to Live in a Post-Fact Society says –

…sometimes getting more information about a controversy doesn’t produce a better foothold on the facts—sometimes, strangely, more information actually pushes us deeper into the cocoon of our long-held views.

So I’m not going to make those arguments unless somebody asks.  Instead I want to tell you what difference marriage equality makes to me, a transwoman.

I’m not crazy to ever get married again.  I now realize that a big reason why I ever got married (more than once) was all about convincing myself and then others how masculine I really was and ignoring my personal truth about my real identity.  A lot of people got hurt in the process.

Unlike most people, I’ve performed numerous marriages as a pastor.  I learned from counseling sessions and wedding preparations that more people than not viewed what we were doing as a cultural right with little attention to the religious significance.  I performed weddings that, looking back, I should not have.  I did the service out of lack of courage in the face of church and/or community pressure and I know the marriage failed.

I’m a real person many of you know personally who is as apt to be attracted to a man as a woman.  (Sexual orientation has no correlation with being a transsexual and I may understand it differently than you.  But in my life it is as real as your orientation is to you).  If I ever fall in love again, if lightning should strike and I find another to grow old with, I want to be able to do it.  I want to have the same rights and status as other people, no matter who it is.  I want that person to be there to hold my hand as I pass into whatever waits beyond.  In short, like every other human being, I need to be loved. It’s…personal.

So when you fill out that ballot, whether it’s marriage equality, gender non-discrimination or public access for trans people, think of me.  I’m a real person and I count.

Choices I Never Thought I’d Need to Make

I just ran into an “interesting” quandary.  I’ve been updating my LinkedIn profile, working hard to get this job search off top dead center, and now I need to decide how to handle recommendations that were written for my former male self.  All the recommendations are written with my male name and with male pronouns but my LinkedIn account is written for Denise. These are recommendations that I earned because I do a good job on time and that should have nothing to do with my transition to an authentic self.

I can see where a number of people have accessed my profile over the last few months.  How shall I account for my obvious name change?  Should I even try?  Should I return to previous clients/customers, some of whom don’t know of my transition and that I don’t really care to come out to, and ask them to either edit the original recommendation for name and pronoun or allow me to edit the original recommendation?  Is it ethical for me to just edit the recommendation myself for name and pronoun?  And just how much difference is this making in a prospective job environment where I’ve sensed some measure of de facto discrimination even when state law prohibits discrimination based on gender identity?

I never thought I’d need to deal with such questions.  I can’t think of anybody other than trans people who ever need to ask such questions.  Such is the terra incognita of life as a person outside the perceived gender binary.

Affirmation 22 – I Am One With All Life.

Affirmation 22 – I am one with all life.  I believe that creation is essentially good and that I am a part of that creation just the way I am.  I am indeed one with all life.

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