I’ve always struggled with belonging. It’s part of what makes me, me, I guess… a constant suspicion that something isn’t right about who I am, or what I’m doing, or even why things happen in my life. Yet a much larger part of me, frankly, doesn’t care how uncomfortable I am and acts in complete defiance of those thoughts.
Understanding womanhood has been no different for me. I am a woman, a beautiful, resilient, strong one, but finding my place in womanhood often comes with challenges, ergo my appearance, my attitude, my strength and career, and an often perilous unwillingness to give up in the pursuit of improvement and happiness.
In the real world, I’m a transgender active duty service member, so I must disclose to you, readers, that the opinions expressed in this article are my own and do not reflect the view of the Department of Defense or the United States government.
As a federal employee, the intent of the proposed transgender memorandum written by the Department of Health and Human Services effect me personally. Despite having changed my gender completely on every legal document discerning of who I am, I’ve become increasingly at risk of losing that identity by a crusade set on seeing me removed. First they came for my career and now they come to erase the possibility of my existence in the first place by removing ‘gender’ from the equation. It’s easier to get rid of something when you kill the roots and all of that.
So, perhaps the most inclusive form of womanhood that I’ve experienced so far has been the consistent attacks against it.
The first time I realized this was in a pretty big way, when my white, male doctor tried to warn me that by taking “women’s hormones”, specifically, as a “man taking women’s hormones”, I’d go crazy, yet, he vocalized that how supportive he was of me being transgender and of me transitioning. He couldn’t explain “how” I’d become more crazy, and finally found a way to vocalize his concern by saying “Well, you know how women are. You’ll be like that.”
It hit me like a slap to the face I guess. I wanted to ‘be like that’, I looked up to women and prayed about being just like them, in every possible way, for so long. His perception of women was that, as a normal, they were crazy. This was just a different way to say that ‘women are hysterical’ by someone who I thought ought know and care more, someone educated and privileged and, in that moment, directly and ideologically in charge of my wellbeing. He didn’t stay my doctor for long after this.
One of the more surreal experiences was the loss of friendships. Coming out wasn’t hard for me, I did it one day during roll call pretty early after the Air Force’s iteration of guidance for transgender service members, and for all intents and purposes, it was a positive experience for me. There was a very small scattering of disparaging comments from some of the more brazen civilian employees, but not a single one of my brothers and sisters made me feel unwelcome, with a bare minimum of inappropriate questions that were handled in a professional, calm manner… that is, until many months later when they felt emboldened.
Twitter has, a lot of the time, brought to me some of the best friendships and joy I’ve had in my only sort of young life. So it came with a lot of sadness when I saw a tweet by my oh so loving elected leader from this favourite social community of mine that I was suddenly and abruptly ‘not welcome, capable, or worth being’ in my career. I was pulled into an office that morning to asked, as all good First Sergeants do, if I was okay and if I could work or needed time off. I could work, but of course I wasn’t okay.
Not all of my once supportive coworkers remained supportive. “Well, of course he’d ban it. If you’re born with a dick you’re a man, why should the taxpayer be responsible for you to cut off your pecker?” was the very first comment I heard about it, said someone I never expected. More of this said differently with the same underlying meaning from increasingly empowered bigots followed and it wasn’t very clear to my supervision how to handle it, except from my section lead, who put an immediate stop to any and all comments once she overheard an argument from someone who supported me and someone who didn’t. She didn’t care how powerfully they felt about their opinions, I was to be treated with the same respect I had before and that was that, except that it wasn’t. What had been said was said and there wasn’t going to be take backs later, they weren’t disciplined and I was moved somewhere else where the animosity couldn’t be felt in the air.
These people have mostly been silenced in the greater public voice. Uniformed leadership understands that there isn’t room to treat me with disrespect and adversaries are denied a public forum to talk about me negatively to their begrudging dismay, but I’m constantly reminded that the threat looms just around the corner, or that it’s ‘only a matter of time’ for them to be given the freedom to be hateful.
I’m stronger than them, though. I will continue to outlast and stand in defiance of hatred by doing my job and performing at a level that isn’t easily matched by others. I mean, you know how women are, don’t you? If you don’t, this is how we are… we’re strong, capable, and we persist through an existence of continued hatred. Our bodies are constantly being debated by the court of public opinion and courts of law if they even belong to us, our minds are thought to be inferior and our opinions don’t really matter.
This battle, for me, continues here with the Department of Health and Human Services’ transgender memorandum. I am a tall, muscular woman. Taller than most men and certainly built stronger, yet, my body continues to confuse these people who hate me. I face increasing discrimination by the powerful and people temporarily in charge and the discomfort for myself and, certainly, others continues daily. I’m doing the things that need to be done by being the positive metric, but we still need help. Gender exists and cannot be stamped out overnight to further support an agenda that says womanhood is only about your vagina or chromosomes and being a man is all about having a cock. That it’s something that can be defined.
This isn’t just about our bodies. For me, it’s been about overcoming my adversaries and fighting for our rights. It’s been about being ignored, denied, ridiculed, shamed, and so many others. It’s been about living in fear that I won’t get to decide who or what I am, but, it’s also been about being understood by other women. Having my concerns shared and plights acknowledged. Transgender women are women, and transgender men are men.
Get out and vote. We can and will win this fight together.
The author of this piece declined to take the payment for writing this blog post and so we made a donation to a charity of their choice which was Transequality.org