One of my most vivid UC Santa Cruz memories is of the dorm house’s RA knocking on my door and inviting me to the Rainbow Theater’s Thanksgiving Day Play and Discussion Group–do you enjoy your turkey with a side of GENOCIDE!?
For the next few years I couldn’t really enjoy the holiday. In the back of my mind, I had this irritation, this sense that I somehow had to justify my lack of guilt. Because let’s be honest: my ancestors stole a fucking continent, but I don’t want to spend the holiday thinking about that. But I never really felt thankful, either. I felt obligated to feel thankful. Or, no, I liked the idea of being, not thankful per say (I don’t believe in a deity to thank) but appricative. I liked the idea of taking a day out of our hyper-consumptive lives, sitting around with friends and family and appricating what we have instead of fretting about what we don’t. But however much I thought the idea was beautfiul, I never lived it. I never felt appricative of anything but the day off and the free feast. And somehow, this insistence–not entirely unjustified, if a little shrill on my RA’s part–that we temper our apprication with the understanding of the grim history behind white settler expansion gnawed at me. Frustrated me. Made me realize that I wasn’t thankful.
I don’t have that problem anymore. Neither the guilt, nor the irritation. I understand the history, I remember it. But I don’t let it prevent me from enjoying a day of being happy for what I’ve got. Because this year, I have something to be truly thankful for. This year, I have a real reason to stop whining about what I don’t have, and take a moment to count what I do. I did before, but now I know, now I can feel it.
And what I have is this:
I have a place to live, that I pay for with my own money from my own labor. I have food that I eat that doesn’t come with a side of foodstamp flavored shame. I have hormones that my doctors can’t deny me anymore. And most of all, I have friends who saved my life.
I am thankful not to be homeless. I am thankful that I can transition.
I am thankful not to be alone.
Today is the Trans Day of Remembrance, the day we remember our dead. Not honor them. Not mourn. Remember.
Because nobody else does.
A few minutes ago I stuck a foot out of the closet at work. During my weekly coaching meeting with my manager, I asked to speak with him in private. In a small break room off the main floor, I sat across from him and in a meandering, halting way told him I was trans. First I spoke of the mysterious medical issue he knew I have, then I told him it was related to something I’m doing, and finally I managed to force myself to mention that November is Trans Awareness Month and then quickly follow that up and tell him that I am trans and I am transitioning.
His reaction was excellent. He told me that any further details were between me and HR, unless I wished to divulge them to him, and cited the law that enforces this. He assured me that the process of transition from an employer’s perspective is well understood by HR, and that it would be easy to switch my accounts over to my new name. I think I’m a lot more reassured by his instant and scrupulous adherence to HIPPA than if he’d tried to “be my ally” or something like that. My relationship with this company is strictly professional, and I don’t want them to get too personal about this. I’m much more comfortable with a formal process, strictly regulated by Oregon state law, and with HR aware of just how big their liability exposure could be if they screw me on this.
I’ve seen other trans folk here at work, I kind of expected this to go well. Still, it was the scariest thing I’ve done in months. After telling my manager, I clocked out for lunch and went to sit on the toilet until I stopped shivering. I think I’m okay now. I don’t think I’d have had the courage to say this if I’d waited another day. I hadn’t intended to do it today, but after making the decision last night, it seemed, all of the sudden, that I should do this immediately before I got cold feet. It went as well as it could, and I still feel kind of nauseated and shaky.
Tomorrow I talk to HR and keep moving forward. Can’t look back. Can’t hold still. Gotta keep rolling before I get stuck.
One of my clearest memories of San Francisco is the last time I saw the city from a good vantage point. This was after my expulsion from Thrillhouse. I’d landed on a friend’s couch in Oakland, and caught a ride back to the city with her on her commute. (By the way, Liz, if you’re reading this, thank you.) She couldn’t drop me at my destination because she had a tight timeline to get to work, so she drove me to her office and I walked from there into downtown. She works for a publisher that lives up on a hill in the south part of the city, and as you walk down the road from their offices you’ll crest the hill, which drops off so sharply you can see over the roofs and across San Francisco. I began the long walk downwards. The plan had been to catch a bus, but I ended up walking the whole way to the library, where I was going to return some books for the last time. In just a few short months I’d learned to navigate the Mission and its surrounding districts almost as well as any town I’d been in. Looking back on it, I don’t think I realized I’d probably never be coming back, and yet I ended up taking this long, solitary walk through the southern half of the city, as if I were saying goodbye. In San Francisco I was scared, helpless, and dependent upon the goodwill of others, but there was something about that time that made me feel awake, like my life was finally starting. Some taste of risk made it real. It is not my home there, and never was, but I will always love San Francisco for the rare, painful sense of being alive.
Since I moved back to Portland and started working again, I’ve lost that. Now I’ve got enough money to eat and buy an occasional book and not feel guilty about it at all. I have a sense of security that has been so long departed from me that I scarce know what to do with it. I have a work week, and the weeks tick by smoothly. I look down, I look up, another month is gone. But not this month. Because this month, I start making bad decisions again. This month it gets scary again. This month is Transgender Awareness Month.
And this month I come out at work.