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Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Meditations While Mowing- On Low Self Esteem

Today, once again, I contemplated playing golf. I have taken it up again a year and a few months since my cervical spinal fusion. I feel so much better and hadn't been able to do outside yard work for the last three years either. My friend "Janet" from college is an excellent golfer and on the state ladies' golf association board. She plays in tournaments around the state and I admire that she has continued to play at a competitive level after having become a recent survivor from breast cancer.

Girls, get your mammogram. Do it for the people you love even if you don't want to do it for yourself. It might be embarrasing the first time, but you will be treated respectfully and while it is uncomfortable, I can think of other medical tests that are less pleasant. If you are without insurance or have low income, your local health department and community hospital can help! For many, there are no costs involved.

One of the benefits of feeling better is being able to mow again. Mowing is something I have enjoyed in my adult life. Plenty of sunshine makes me feel wonderful! I also have time to think about a lot of things and it is a wonderful time to nourish my spiritual condition. This is a very important thing to do at this time in my life with many major changes in process. Being able to mow gives me time to be reflective and mindful of what needs to be done, not only for myself, but for others as well.

I am trying to be a good daughter as we go through my father's final illness. I'm learning many lessons about myself and about taking care of myself. One of the things I have been learning is to take much better care of myself. Today I was sore, decided I shouldn't play golf because of being sore, and I still had a lot of mowing to do. I have a lot to mow to begin with, and I have begun doing Mother and Dad's home so there is one less thing my mama has to worry about.

While I was out there mowing my Mother's huge yard, once again I had my "fingers forcibly pressed upon that firey braile alphabet (Tennessee Williams, Glass Menagarie)" and experienced a uniquely female experience that is uncomfortable. Too much bounce to the ounce.  I wasn't wearing a bra and I need to when I mow. I had my diamond ring on as I usually do but neglected to put it away because of being in a hurry to get their place done and finish up mine. It takes almost five and half hours to do it all.
As I mentioned this gives me plenty of time to meditate and contemplate things that I often don't have the time to think about otherwise. I'm soaking up the sunshine and thinking about things personal and things impersonal.  Sometimes it is a spiritual discipline and I think of the matters that are greater than myself. I spent some time on this today. I thought about those who need help and asked for help for them. I think about the many things I'm grateful for. I think about what I need to do and take responsibility for in order to improve my overall wellbeing.

I spent some time thinking about why so many of us in our community experience low self esteem. I think it develops as a result of our realization that we are different from others, even before we know what that difference is. So we are speaking of people at a very young age when this begins. We know we are different from other boys and girls and we intuitively recognize that most often being different equals bad, especially when the differences are pointed out frequently in something said by the ones important in our lives such as "Why can't you be more like.....??" If you hear that a lot, especially the younger you are, it's going to create feelings that you aren't ok to begin with and then soon after you discover what that difference is. You aren't like the other boys who you are supposed to be like, and you aren't like the other girls who you feel you are like. Quite the internal conflict for a very young person, isn't it?
After a while, it becomes more and more apparent to others and is pointed out to the young person. "You need to act like this because boys...... or don't do that, you are acting like a girl...." Generally, people in this situation are often physically and emotionally abused and sometimes even sexually abused. It creates very low self esteem if it is allowed to go on. It will have life long consequences for that person if it is not prevented from happening or stopped as soon  as it becomes known.

We know that people with low self esteem are much more likely to suffer from depression and anxiety, substance abuse, poor academic and career performance, problems with forming positive and healthy relationships with others, poor self care and increased mortality rates due to suicide and accidents (because people who don't care about themselves aren't careful about their activities). Even when these people are relatively successful in various areas of their life such as career or a sport or with a good relationship, they often have difficulty in seeing themselves as being successful in these endeavors.

Low self esteem is often difficult to treat because it presents in so many different ways as I have pointed out. We professionals tend to treat the symptoms and often don't address the low self esteem that creates the problems. That happens because individuals with low self esteem frequently are unable to identify why they have low self esteem. They know they have it, they need help identifying the lies that were told to them about themselves as well as the ones they told themselves and bought in to so much  that it has become their reality and their "truth" about themselves.

The hard part is being vigilent in identifying these negative beliefs and especially being comitted to replace the self deception with more objective and healthy beliefs about oneself. Yes, we all have things we do poorly, never did well at, and most likely never will. And, that's ok. We have to be objective enough to be ok with that. For example, I will never get to be a medical doctor because of my inability to be able to perform math well enough to have that career, but I have a wonderful career as a therapist, I have been able to help untold numbers of people directly and indirectly. I know I have saved peoples' lives. It's been a very satisfying career for me. I don't dwell on the failure of not becoming a doctor. I am also a very caring person and I go out of my way to help others if at all possible.

The failure is in not also recognizing that we are amazing women in other ways than what we are not good at and being able to celebrate ourselves for those wonderful things that make us good people. Its our responsibility to recognize these wonderful things and to take joy in these qualities. We need to recognize there is nothing wrong with being a transsexual. That took me awhile until I took the responsibility to change how I felt about myself. How about you?

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Losing Male Privilege

As I come closer to completing my transition, I have learned what male privilege is by becoming more aware of no longer benefitting from male privilege as time goes by. This topic is much like male privilege itself; easy to enjoy if you have it and like an onion that you peel as you come to understand it in the context of what is lost.

It isn't the easiest thing to define. You know it when you experience it and you know it when you experience its loss. Of course when you lose male privilege in transitioning, you also learn about female privilege. Its a trade off and each has its benefits and its costs. Female privilege is a discussion for another time.

When you have male privilege, you don't worry where you park at night. You park wherever you want where you can find a parking place. Not anymore for me; now it is important to park as close to the door as possible when out shopping at night, and you are looking for a place under the parking lot light as well. It feels even safer if you have someone to escort you to your car and be sure you are safe when leaving. When you leave the restaurant or mall, you are sure to have your keys in your hand when you walk to your car, and you look under your car from a distance to be sure no one is under it. You look at the floor of your back seat to be sure no one has broken in. That is something you need to learn, it's part of being safe when you are a woman. We just learn it a lot later because we didn't grow up without male privilege. Most women are aware of and have developed strategies to cope with male privilege when they were young girls. It was a life long lesson. Becoming aware that you don't have that privilege can be most surprising when you notice it. I appreciate that Dana, my therapist took the time to spend teaching me about being safe as a woman in our world when I first began traveling to give workshops around the country.

Another aspect of male privilege is in the difference about how men and women are expected to handle conflict. Men can be confrontive and do not expect to be subjected to poor treatment in their interactions with others when they perceive that they are not being treated fairly. Now I am learning to be mild in expressing dissatisfaction with how I am treated and to attempt resolve a dispute in a gentle and conciliatory manner. This was pointed out to me very directly by two women I know after a conflict with another health care provider over HIS inconveniencing me at my job over not keeping to his scheduling.

I have noticed that when in conversation with a group of men, my opinion or that of another woman presen, is frequently asked as an afterthought, if at all, and usually I dont venture an opinion unless asked. I had to work on that one!
I don't see some grand plan to keep a woman in a one down position by the patriarchy in all of these examples. Many of these culturally oriented differences in privilege have developed, right or wrong, due to things we tend to be better at for a host of reasons. Some of these differences are archaic, some are based on biological differences, some are based on the biological differences in our dispositions as a man or a woman and some are derived from social roles. I appreciate a man who will offer to help me carry heavy objects and offer to to make sure I get to my car safely. I like it when a door is opened for me too. I think it's ok to ask for help.

These are some of the observations I have had since transitioning. Have you experiences with the loss of male privilege you would like to share?

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Further Along the Long and Winding Road


 Recently, I have had a few unfortunate personal circumstances and these have been needing my full attention.  As a result, I have not posted as frequently in the last few months. I have two other articles I have been working on for this blog. I also have not been working on a text for clinicians that I am writing. It's about providing care for transgender patients from the perspective of a transsexual who is also a well seasoned psychotherapist.

That is ok, it will get done in the future and it won't disappear. I have too many things happening to worry about things that will take care of themselves. I do have a strong desire to continue these projects.

I spoke to my own therapist today and we mainly spoke about the present unhappy circumstance. That's an external issue. I also have had my desire to speak to my supervisor put on the back burner because of the last three months of what has been going on. Today I had a very unusual conversation with two of my female coworkers who included me as another woman and not as a male. It could not have been as a female teasing a male. It was a simple female to female conversation about a subject of feminine interest. I simply answered honestly and felt quite comfortable.

However, this does seem to make informing my supervisor imperative considering another development. I had a second encounter with another professional in my field who knows my male presentation professionally. I reintroduced myself (for the very first time) as my female true self. It was evident that he recognized me. Turns out he calls my supervisor from time to time as they are friends. I would rather be able to present this information to her first.

In any event, I'm feeling close to being ready and when I feel the time is right I will set up that appointment. I do want to process it a bit with my therapist and have wanted to for about 8 weeks, these things keep getting in the way darn it!

Hopefully I will get a chance to talk to my therapist to fine tune my game plan next week and the nest couple sessions and then go forward with speaking with my supervisor. She is a fair minded person and has always been my best supporter of transgender care at the hospital. I'm very proud of my front office staff coworkers (two of who were having that conversation with me today). They are always especially kind to my transgender patients, NEVER make mistakes with names and NEVER mix up the pronouns. How cool is that?!

In any event, I am close to the tipping point with my employer and feel ready. Just please please please let me get through the external tough things going on, so I can get this accomplished

Monday, May 7, 2012

The New EEO Transgender Inclusive Policy


On April 20th 2012, the United States Federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission found that in title VII of the 1964 act should be interpreted to include transsexuals and transgendered people. This is a tremendous advancement for us, though there is still a long way to go in our long hard road to equal standing in our society. It does not automatically grant us equal protections in the private or state government workplace.

This policy means that federal employers (the government) may not discriminate against transsexuals in employment situations. There is a question that has arisen whether Federal EEOC policy applies to those who are contractors with the government and require them to comply with EEO standards with regard to gender orientation because they receive federal funding. The most responsible sources I have talked to have informed me that this is the case.

This is not the law of the land today. Many of us will mistakenly believe and continue to feel that this applies to every employment situation. I wish it were true. In order for that to come about, most states' judicial system will have to visit the issue through litigation, which may become a lengthy process if appeals have to reach each state's Supreme Court.

However this is the first major milestone in affording us equal rights and could be what is needed to compel Congress to pass ENDA. It is important to understand that it was the Democrat party that obstructed the passage of ENDA. It was passed in committee, and sent for final markup. The Democrat chair of the committee, did not move the bill forward and it expired in his possession. Not that I believe it would have moved forward under Republican leadership either. We simply must be aware that one's political allegiance is no guarantee of advancing our rights, though it is the Democrat party that has helped us the most. Still we do have allies in the Republican camp and it does not serve us well to blindly endorse one party or the other. We need to learn about each member of the House and the Senate and determine who will help us advance our quest for civil rights.