In my previous two posts (Part 1 & Part 2) I wrote about my experiences in obtaining a name change and a new drivers license in a new state with a new name. I alluded to some deeper meaning in those posts that I would like to take some time and explore here.
To summarize, the judge presiding over my name change accused me of being deceptive because I was a “female” changing my name to a “male” name, and reminded me that I would have to work hard to not deceive people. He gave me a hard time but eventually signed off on it. Then, the DMV issued me a driver’s license with a male gender marker, despite my providing supporting documentation that I’m legally female. I rejoiced over this oversight (in this state you need surgery and a subsequent court order for a legal change on a driver’s license), but quickly felt guilty, anxious, and shameful about “cheating” the system and having “incorrect” documents. I returned to the DMV the following day to alert them of this error but the teller would not change it back without my original birth certificate. I showed her all of the documentation I had yesterday that has that stupid little “F” written all over it but it didn’t matter. I can’t be sure, but I think the teller might have changed it back without today except she was really hung up on the fact that I was born with a “male” middle name. Alas, I now have a driver’s license with a male gender marker until I return with my birth certificate.
I am ecstatic to have one piece of ID that has what I feel to be the correct gender marker, but I still feel anxious about it. This whole process has also made me think about the policies, laws, requirements that dictate gender in this country and why the system is so twisted.
We have this term in social work — self care. As a social work student, it means stepping away from the things we encounter in textbooks and field, leaving work at work, and taking the time to just enjoy life for awhile. As a transguy, it’s meant separating myself from messages of transphobia, ending the cyclical process of internalizing that transphobia, and finding ways to forget about my gendered body or positive ways to reinforce it.
I felt self-care was a particularly important topic to cover given how much anxiety and depression some of us feel around our identity, bodies, transition, etc. We have a lot to deal with and we don’t always give ourselves the room or the time to talk about our emotions or through them in self-positive ways.
Before getting into further discussion about these difficult emotions, I wanted to post a list of positive outlets and low-cost / free / easy ways to practice self-care in our daily lives. This is by no means an exhaustive list as everyone has their own way of doing things. And maybe some of this is obvious, but personally, I know I can use a little reminder every now and then to slow down and take care of myself.
I’ve been avoiding seeing my extended family for quite some time now. Me being trans is not the reason, so much as it is yet another reason. I grew up not seeing them at all — my mom and her siblings had been at odds since I can remember and I had predominantly only heard negative things about them. I assumed they were judgemental, insensitive, unapproving, conservative. I came out as gay when I was 16 and so did both of my siblings. My sister told the one member of my extended family I’m close to — my grandmother — that we had all come out. My nana showed me the unconditional love I’d always admired her for and said ‘I don’t understand, but know that I love you’. And, from that time, was always open to meeting our partners. I heard word from her that the rest of the family didn’t really approve. It felt like there was yet another reason for my little family, just me & my 2 siblings & my mom, to be the black sheep of our clan. And it added to my suspicions that the rest of my family was not a group I wanted to know and they probably didn’t want to know me either.
I have been struggling a lot lately with the issue of ‘passing’ and ‘being stealth’ at work.
I know not every trans guy out there is in the same place as me in their life — but I bet that some of you can feel me on this one. I recently moved, recently started ‘passing’ almost 100% of the time. I started a new job, and this is the first environment I’ve been in where nobody knows anything about my past that I don’t share. This might have sounded like a dream come true to me about 2 years ago. But, living it right now is spinning my head around.
I like people not doing a double-take at me. I like people just judging me on the quality of my work. On my personality. On my interests. I like feeling that people are not discussing me behind my back. I like not having to educate people impromptu about being trans and being queer. I like not having to worry about people’s judgements of me jeopardizing the way my life is.
When I started my job, I made a decision that I’ve been struggling with quite a bit. I told myself that I had to draw a hard line when it came to sharing at work the fact that I’m trans. And, I made the hard decision to not tell anyone at work unless directly asked if I’m trans.
Now, I’m not sure how to live with the anxiety of maintaining my stealthness, not really wanting to maintain my stealthness, the guilt over not being true to myself and my community, the prospect of coming out at work, and the stress of defending gender-variant people when I hear hateful things being said..without revealing myself.