The Person Inside ... The Gulf Between Us

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Transgender Soup for the Soul

I wrote this after emerging from the most vulnerable period in my life. It is a letter to my younger self. I was probably channeling Polonius, who counseled his son, Laertes: "And these few precepts in thy memory see thou character." ...

I. You Are a Gift.

Your gender has nothing to do with your worth as a human being.

You deserve to be treated with dignity and respect.

Your gender is not broken. It is neither more nor less than anyone else’s.

It is a part of your fingerprint on the universe. Be proud to of the mark you leave.

You do not burden the world by being you. You are, in fact, a blessing.

You remind everyone that nature is wonderfully diverse. You enrich a room merely by entering it.

Your identity is not “too complicated”.

Yes, you are unfamiliar—but you are no more complicated than anyone else.

What complicates things is others’ desire for and assumption of homogeneity

— their version of homogeneity.

When others react to you, they are defining themselves — not you.

If they mis-pronoun you, they are merely reflecting who they are — possibly rude, possibly mistaken.

 

II. Your Gender Is as Sacred as Your Soul.

You do not have to conform to anyone else’s notion of gender.

This includes the notions of other transgender people.

Your body is your own.

How you feel about it is for you – and only you – to judge.

What you choose to do with it is for you – and only you – to decide.

You have as much a right to privacy as anyone.

You do not owe others intimate details about your personal life in order to be treated with dignity.

Nor need you measure yourself against others’ beliefs.

You are, in fact, the yardstick against which belief systems should be measured.

Belief systems – be they religious, political, or intellectual – should be measured by their ability to make room for individuality and authenticity.

You have been brought up in a world that seeks to demonize and erase you.

You have probably internalized a lot of that.

That is not your fault. Be gentle with yourself.

Remember: If you cannot see the beauty in yourself, how can anyone else?

 

III. Be Gentle with Others.

Although you are not broken or complicated, you are unfamiliar.

It is human to hesitate at the unfamiliar.

Others should not blame you for being unfamiliar.

You should not blame them for finding you so.

You enrich others’ lives by breaking patterns and forcing them to reexamine the world.

Celebrate your gift.

But remember that you also make people work a little harder. (“Which pronoun do I use?”)

You add to their stress. (“What if I get it wrong?”)

It isn’t your fault. But it isn’t theirs either.

Just as you are not broken for being trans, others are not broken for finding you a puzzle.

Accept people for where they are in life. Work forward with them from there.

Don’t blame someone for where they are coming from. Ask only that they commit to moving forward.

 

IV. Don’t Distract Yourself with Misplaced Blame.

We are all creatures of habit. Habit makes life easier and safer.

It reduces error. It speeds response time.

You are a pattern-breaker.

Your uniqueness introduces error into otherwise simple situations.

Incidental errors are a product of the pattern-seeking mind.

Don’t let others’ incidental errors define you. But don’t use them to define others either.

Let incidental errors define the situation – not the people.

Just as others should not blame you for your gender, you should not blame them for how their mind works.

Be vigilant against hatred and willful ignorance.

But don’t confuse these with fear of the unfamiliar and human error.

Celebrate your uniqueness.

But remember that painting outside the lines isn’t easy.

 

V. Be Open and Loving.

Ask others to honor your future. In return, promise to honor their past.

Although you may want to rescript old memories, remember that others may want to cherish them.

Measure others by their willingness to reach beyond themselves to connect to you.

But hold yourself to the same standard: reach beyond your identity to honor others’ sense of themselves.

Remember that we all trade in stereotypes; we all carry prejudices.

It is rare for anyone to connect beyond the superficial – even with people who look like them.

But when we finally do, something wonderful happens.

When we connect to the person inside each other, we magnify the human spirit.

By all means, protect and celebrate yourself.

But strive to reach beyond. Be trans and then some: be human.

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Tina White

Tina White

Tina White is the Executive Director of the Blue Ridge Pride Center, in Asheville, North Carolina, and a member of the board of directors for the Human Rights Campaign.

Tina spent 35 years consulting to and working for global corporations. Her specialty was large-scale business transformation: redesigning companies to pursue new strategies and improve performance. She has since shifted her focus to activism, writing and speaking. She speaks and writes on issues of diversity & inclusion, organization transformation, social justice, and personal identity.

Tina is the author of Between Shadow and Sun. She describes her 50-year struggle with gender and her wife's efforts to embrace her revealed identity. She holds an MBA in Strategy, Marketing & Finance from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business and an AB in Economics from Princeton University. She and Mary live in Asheville, North Carolina.

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