It was the moment when I had realized I had become invisible. A coworker of mine pointed out how I used to be the “go to” person at work and now it as if I didn’t even exist. It was said as an observation and not out of criticism, but the point is clear that even though I am the same person, with the same brain and ideas, I am no longer valued the same as I was while presenting a “male” persona. I asked my coworker why he thought that was the case. Was it because I am transgender, female or both?
Now the cisgender women out there are probably letting out a collective sigh as they read this and say “welcome to life as a woman,” but lately I find myself having to figure out exactly why I am being seen as less than as I try to make it through the world as my true self. My coworker really didn’t have an answer for me regarding why I was no longer the “go to” person, but it was clear to both of us that I was experiencing a loss privilege or stature in some regards.
“..it is the kind of thing you can’t fully understand until you are on the other end of it.”
I used to be able to walk into a meeting and immediately have the attention and respect of everyone in the room as they all paid careful attention to what I was saying. My ideas weren’t easily dismissed as they are today. When I worked in the music business people would answer the phone right away when I called, now I find it hard to get one even returned. No don’t get me wrong, I am not here to whine about this or feel bad for myself. It is a badge of honor for me to go through the same crap my cisgender sisters have been dealing with since the beginning of time. What I am saying is that the further along in my journey I get, the more I understand the concept of privilege and the disadvantages of losing it. Though it was something I was always aware of, it is the kind of thing you can’t fully understand until you are on the other end of it.
So my coworker and I had a discussion about privileges. Actually being or even incorrectly perceived as a white, Christian, male is at the very top of that pyramid. It is just the reality of American society. If you are anything contrary to that status, you begin to lose advantages. As my coworker began to understand what I was saying, he pointed out that he lives in an all white neighborhood and everyone on his block thought he was a drug dealer because his skin was darker than everyone else on the block. The fact that he is a hard working family man and a good father was irrelevant because he was judged off of these preconceived perceptions that many people have. It took him years of living in that neighborhood for people to let go of their perceptions and finally realize what a good person he was and that he was not a criminal.
“The sad truth is that people assume what society tells them about others.”
The sad truth is that people assume what society tells them about others. Did I some how lose my ability to think once everyone became aware that I was female? Did all the talents that I may have possessed as musician suddenly get removed from my soul once I came out as transgender? Female strike one, transgender strike two. And with that came the true understanding that I still have many privileges. There are people out there who have many more strikes than me. The more diverse you get, the more strikes you have. Even though I am still a transgender woman, I have white skin and there are people out there still wishing they had it as good as I do.
In the end, I matter less to society because I am both transgender and female, but I still have it much better than many others. In spite of the strikes against me, I am still handed privileges because of other advantages I have. And with that I feel I have a responsibility to help not only my community, but also anyone else who may be disadvantaged by perception. Regardless of who you are – your background, skin color, religion or gender, if you are out there feeling perplexed as to why people are marching in droves and organizing, you may just be sitting on a perch of privilege. You may actually be one of the umpires who are dishing out those strikes. People need to be judged by whom they are inside, not by your perception of them as a race, gender or religious group. This is something we hear every day, but nobody really listens. So I am asking everyone to listen and then do something about it. It is time for us to stand up for each other regardless of our differences, regardless of our perceptions.