Friday, January 20, 2006

Are we working toward acceptance?

(by Shari Williams)

At the gentle urging of Michele, I am reposting a personal blog from a couple of weeks ago. I hope it generates some productive thoughts and honest feelings we can share.
Peace and love
Shari

Hi Everyone!
I have been rather slow in my blogs as of late. I guess that is because I sometimes feel like I am preaching, and that is not what I want to do! I recognize that being TG a very individual experience. How we feel, the reasons we do what we do, and even how we express our feelings are as different as we are from each other. But we all share one common thing, the need to express or incorporate the feminine side of who we are. That is the one thing that links all together.
We all go about expressing those feelings in very different ways. Also the way in which we share our feelings vary drastically. Some are able to be open and honest with the ones they love, some decide to keep it a life long secret, and many are in between. I am not here to decide, judge or to preach to anyone about their choices regarding opening up to others. That is a decision you made at some point and will continue to live with for the rest of your life. Everyone has their reasons for what they do, and they alone are responsible for those choices. I guess the only rule I would suggest following is that if your actions could hurt others then it may not be a good choice. If that is the case, please remember there are always alternatives and I urge you to explore them.
Acceptance. Everyone wants it, but are we really willing to work for it? We as a community will gain acceptance only through being “out” and letting the rest of the world get to know us. But being” out” is something that most TG individuals don't feel they can do. So we are stuck with finding a better way to further our cause. How about this one. If you are “out” to anyone, treat that person with respect and honesty. They deserve it, and in return they will do the same for you. We in the TG community have so few folks (relatively speaking) that are able to be “out” that we need to take advantage of the opportunity to put a positive image on TG individuals when we can. You can do your part as well. Are you out to anyone? A friend, GF, wife, family member, etc. If so, ensure you treat those people with respect and honesty about the TG issues you have decided to share with them. By doing this, you will advance the TG cause further and faster then with anything else you can do. Remember we are all in this together!
Peace
Shari Williams

3 comments:

Laurianna Payot said...

Hi Shari,

Though we have not yet had any direct contact or exchange, I think that I may have written briefly to you to say, as I here reaffirm, how very much I have enjoyed your postings and how very much inspired I am by your example. It would be scholastic of me to attempt to insert my own viewpoints among all the encompassing and compassionate nuances of your own commentary, but I did want to tell you that you seem to me to be such a sincere and lovely soul. I think there is some wisdom in simply allowing ourselves to be more at ease in being all that we can be in the exploration, integration, and _expression of our natural femininity, and to do so ever more openly, with our heads high ... and our shoulders back!. There is neither hurt nor challenge in that for anyone, don't you think?

Hugs and Hugs and much much love,
Laurianna
Love and Light

Jacqueline said...

Dear Shari,

I have to first commend you on the astuteness with which you observe how all transgender people's journeys of coming out vary. These variances, of course, affect the degree to which transgender individuals are accepted. I have to confess, however, that I am a little bit puzzled by the following:

"I guess the only rule I would suggest following is that if your actions could hurt others then it may not be a good choice. If that is the case, please remember there are always alternatives and I urge you to explore them."

In the hope of fostering genuine discussion here, I am wondering if you can help to clarify what "actions could cause hurt" and what other "alternatives" to coming out might be.

I suppose I am somewhat confused here because I think intuitively I understand what you're driving at about the hurt issue. For example, if one has children and coming out may cause them hurt, then I suppose you would suggest an alternative to coming out. Where the rub lies for me is that if a transgender person continues to deny his or her true self by choosing not to come out because of the knowledge or anticipation that such an action may hurt someone else, then is not this continued denial of self-expression also hurtful, in this case to the transgender person? I realize that every person and his or her living situation is unique, so I suppose I am asking for some clarification about the understandably difficult balancing act of (first and foremost, from my point of view), self-acceptance together with the desire to want to mollify loved ones' fears and anxiety about coming out.

As I suggest above, I am hoping you could also shed some light on what those "alternatives" to coming out might be. You're absolutely right that there remains an entire spectrum of transgender self-expression, from the completely closeted to the completely full-time, real-life transitioned person, with all points in between. Yet does choosing to settle on one of those lesser/closeted points along such a spectrum constitute an alternative to coming out further along the spectrum, or is there something entirely different about which you refer? I think I and others here could certainly benefit from your insight. For what it's worth, as Jacqueline I am out to my extended and immediate family (including my daughter), my girlfriend, my roommate (who is also TG), and to many TG friends and advocates. However, I am not out to my colleauges and in my professional world, so I suppose I am somewhere in the middle of such a spectrum of self-expression. My reluctance to not come out in my professional world stems from what I think (?) you might construe as "hurt" in the sense that I am concerned about, for example, work-place descrimination.

Finally, let me reiterate that my queries here are in no way meant to be an attack on your savvy observations. I count myself lucky to be able to share in your knowledge and insights. So thank you for helping to advance our acceptance in the world!

~Peace, Love & Light,
Jacqueline Smyth

Miranda Skye said...

Yes .... The rub. I AM denying myself in saving my family more grief at such an already challenging point in time. I will not be coming out to them, maybe not ever ... but nothing is static. I am somewhat miserable but sussing out those "alternatives" at the moment. I think Shari's response below sums up my feelings also.

-Miranda


Shari Wrote:
Hey Jacqueline!
Thanks for the great comments, and I hoped the article might generate some discussion, so thanks again! As for causing hurt, I guess I am referring to my own experiences and realization about my TG feelings as well as individuals I have known. If being “out" hurts the ones you love, is it worth it? Is it necessary? Could you live without being “out" in that part of your life? Could you delay "coming out" to help the ones you love? Can you make compromises about "coming out" with respect to your family/loved ones needs? Is "coming out" vital to your physical or mental existence. The answers to all these questions are no doubt individual, but they do require some serious thought. How about the expression of our TG feelings? Are we honest with our loved ones in that regard? Do we engage in behavior behind their back, or tell them half truths to do what we want? These are just some of the "hurts" I was referring to in the statement you quoted. We as a community will have a hard time working for and demanding the acceptance we deserve when we can’t stand up to the scrutiny of good behavior.
Being "out". We all need to decide to whom we want to be "out" to. I don't believe that everyone needs to be "out" and every situation and every person is different, I was merely suggesting that if you are going to be "out" act in a honest and responsible manner. Be a great example for the TG community. If as an individual you do not feel comfortable being "out" then by no means should you be. If being "out" to casual acquaintances or work partners would not benefit your TG life then you may not need to be "out" to them. There are sometimes where discretion is called for. But when it comes to your closest loved ones, the decision to be "out" is very personal and will depend on may factors. Each and every person experiences and situation is different. It is a decision on the most personal of levels.
In the statement you quoted, my concern, and I hope I stated it well, is that many TG individuals(as well as the general public) engage in behavior that if known to their loved ones, would result in hurt(deception, infidelity, etc), see the examples of hurt above. What I was trying to get across is that you owe them better than that, and that your (our) actions reflect upon the TG community as a whole. We need to be the best role models possible to further our acceptance in the publics’ eyes not to mention those we are closest to.
As you aptly point out, self acceptance is critical to good mental health, but self acceptance does not require ignoring or disregarding the feelings of others. It can not be a one way street. There is a happy medium to be struck here. All I propose is that in the drive for self expression/awareness is that we don't loose sight of the importance of the respect that others deserve, especially our loved ones.
As for the tricky balance between self acceptance and sharing your TG acceptance with others, that is a question only you can answer based upon your circumstances. Jacqueline it sounds like you have a pretty good handle on where you are and where you want to be. That sis the hard part sis! As for the fears of loved ones you spoke about, in my experience the only way to ease those fears is to be totally honest with them! Yes, it may be upsetting at first, but being honest will earn you respect and besides they deserve it, and so do you!
What about the alternatives to being ”out”? Well that is a bit tougher. If you don't want to be "out" you can still support those who are, or you can make it a point to make sure TG issues are discussed openly and honestly with out the gross generalizations that often occur. Show others with different lifestyles the respect they deserve, in short "the golden rule". If you are not out, it may not matter to you, but for those who are it will help to promote understanding and acceptance. Remember, we are all on the same team here. I guess in summation, live the "golden rule" and be honest with those you love. Work hard at being honest, tolerant and accepting of others and maybe, just maybe it will teach them to do the same. For me, I really think that it all boils down to this. As I go through this life and explore and express my TG feelings I will do my level best not to hurt or deceive others. I will be honest, accepting and tolerant of others and will in turn work toward earning the respect of those I love and care about.
Thanks for the great questions I hope this clarifies what I was trying to get across.
Peace and love
Shari Williams