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A lot of my friends – tons of friends – are alone this year, this Thanksgiving. Many folks are estranged from their families; from friends or from a life they once had & held.
I know this feeling. Estrangement.
And I will tell you that there were many days – many days – more than I care to count – where I’d rewind, replay, re-adjust, re-calibrate, recall, & review all the crazy ass-shit that went down, all the shit that went sideways & just blew up. Imploded. The pain was unbearable. And what I can tell you, what I know – most of the guilt & shame & regret we carry around – schlep around – is not our own. It’s not. We inherited it; a collection – a greatest hits album – an entire lifetime of family history: the anger, the shame, the guilt; years of he said, she said, they said. Fuck you, no, no fuck you. fuck you more. Years of crap. Years of garbage piled on top of more garbage.
Years of mistakes & wrong turns & rebellion that are treated like felonies instead of misdemeanors – without forgiveness, or acceptance. There is nothing worse than having the past thrown up in your face over & over & over again. To be reminded of all the crazy crap you did when you didn’t know better. When all you wanted was to be seen, to be heard, to be held – when all you wanted was to be loved.
And the truth is – the rub is – everyone has their own shit.
Everyone has their own guilt.
Everyone has their own crap that they have dealt out, that they spewed, that they tossed into the heap.
Everyone has stuff that they need/want to hide, keep secret. Everyone has stuff they want hidden deep – way deep – kept in the darkness.
We are all broken. We are all filled with shards and jagged edges and sharp pointy pieces that can hurt like a motherfucker. We are all imperfect creatures. Each & every one of us, and my heart breaks, cracks, for all my friends who will sit alone this year wishing for forgiveness over stuff they said or did when they were younger. Foolish. Over mistakes they made because all they wanted was to be loved or liked, over actions they took, words they said, because they wanted a piece of a memory, a token of a love from someone they once cherished, adored. A reminder to hold. Wishing to hear the words: I’m so sorry. To hear the words: I was wrong. To hear the words: I hurt you, abused you, mistreated you.
We treat our own so unkindly and we wonder why the world is so deeply chaotic, so deeply troubled, so deeply wounded, so deeply steeped in pain & suffering; so unforgiving, so horribly mean-spirited.
So for all my friends and all the folks out there who are deeply, deeply pained, who are sorrowful during the holidays because they have been discarded, dismissed, forgotten, left out – please know this – we get to choose who we wanna share our lives with. We get to choose who we want in our lives. We get to choose the folks who lift us, inspire us, make us feel like we swallowed the sun. We get to choose who we walk side by side with, and stand with. We get to choose who we love. Blood may be thicker than water, but water is so much easier to clean up.
So, please, love yourself.
Please, forgive yourself.
Believe in the greatness of your own life.
Believe in your beauty.
Believe in your own amazing, stunning, messy, complicated, gorgeous life.
And if anyone – one soul – makes you feel that you are not worthy, not enough; if anyone makes you feel small, insignificant, less than – they do not deserve the privilege of you.
I hold you tight.
Ray, thank you for allowing us to post the link to your story https://medium.com/@rayngoldberg/the-three-stories-where-i-have-to-deadname-myself-644985dc26eb
You are an amazing individual that I am proud to call friend, and almost MISPACHA (family.) As we approach 2020 many changes in our world/society are evolving and if we are lucky we can journey in life that makes us feel whole. Too many of us have traveled down many paths taking right turns when we felt the urge to turn left, or going straight when we saw something on the horizon to our right. It takes courage to climb a mountain but when we do and we reach the APEX we can agreed that the sight is beautiful.
I hope your beautiful story will enlighten and encourage others to live life and dance as if no one is watching!
Hey reader, I have a question for you. What is it like, being cisgender in the tech industry? What sort of challenges have you faced? Do people treat you well? It must be really scary, being yourself in such a competitive and high-speed environment.
If you’ve never been asked these questions before, then congratulations; you are not an out transgender person who works in tech. In fact, it’s possible that you may have asked somebody else these questions in the recent past. That’s OK! It’s natural to be curious, and I’m sure you want to be a good ally to your trans coworkers. How will you know how to act if you don’t ask questions, right?
Today’s your lucky day, because I am going to tell you the definitive answer to “what does it mean to be transgender in the workplace?” After you read this, you will never have to ask another trans techie about their experiences, because you will already know the answer, and will be able to act accordingly.
Are you ready?
Being a transgender person in the workplace means having this exact conversation, over and over and over, forever. The question can only be answered by the question itself, ad infinitum. We often spend so much time justifying our presence to others that it begins to feel like our reason for being there in the first place. Why are we here? We’re here to tell you why we’re here.
I’m not here to make you feel bad for asking these questions. Well, maybe a little bit, but I want you to understand when your well-intentioned allyship stops being helpful and starts being intrusive. The fact of the matter is that we’ve got a job to do here, same as you; we just have a few more obstacles to maneuver around as we do it.
If you are serious about making your office a more inclusive environment, remember that changing these things is hard work. Your LGBTQIA+ coworkers will probably want to help or advise you, but it’s as unreasonable to expect them to do it all for you as it would be to have employees with mobility issues to commission handicapped parking spots. We can do it, but it’s not in our job description, and it’s an unnecessary amount of physical and emotional labor to demand of us on top of the actual work we are there to do.
With that in mind, here are some easy steps you can take towards making your workplace welcoming to transgender people. This list is by no means exhaustive, but you’ll find that even these small changes can have a remarkably positive effect on morale, engagement, and teamwork.
First and foremost, respect people’s pronouns. Yes, including the singular “they”, and yes, including ones you haven’t seen before. Consistently misgendering people is the fastest way to make them feel that they are in a hostile environment. Model correct pronoun use yourself, and reprimand cisgender employees who refuse to do so themselves.
Will you get pronouns wrong? Almost certainly. Contrary to what the media may tell you, transgender workers can tell the difference between mistakes and malice. When you do slip up, apologize, correct, and move on. Dramatic mea culpas do more to make us uncomfortable than using the wrong pronoun now and then ever could, because it makes us feel like the jerks in the situation.
An easy way to head off these confrontations is to normalize including pronouns when introductions are called for. This might seem odd to you; one complaint I’ve heard several times from cisgender people is “but my pronouns are obvious.” Good for you, but this isn’t the case for everybody. If the only employees in your company that introduce themselves with their pronouns are transgender, then that’s a way they are othered, a marker that they are separate from everyone else. By making pronouns a default part of introductions, then this barrier between cis and trans workers is torn down.
Does this seem like a lot? It really isn’t, but be prepared for pushback. For some people, even this small amount of consideration will be far too much. The people who push back hardest will probably surprise you; some of them will be people you’ve worked alongside for years, people whose politics you thought you understood. Transphobia isn’t limited to any side of the political spectrum, and can be found in even the most empathetic and liberal individuals.
This leads us to a harsh truth. Transphobia cannot be tolerated in the workplace, whether it manifests as refusing to respect a coworker’s pronouns or harassing them for using the correct bathroom. When it occurs, if you really are serious about fostering an inclusive environment, then your transgender employees will look to you for support. Be prepared to offer sensitivity and diversity training to employees who exhibit transphobic behavior. Stricter disciplinary actions may even become necessary.
Being an ally isn’t easy; as somebody once told me, it’s a verb, not an adjective. It means putting yourself out there, to serve as a shield between your marginalized employees and those that would harm them through actions and words. It also means being open to criticism, and accepting that you do not understand transgender people’s experiences the way you understand your own. If you have the strength, humility, and empathy, then you can make your workplace a beacon of inclusion.