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Monthly Archives: August 2014

A Witness to Gender Differences – the Glass Ceiling – it’s Real

the glass ceilingI just saw an excellent article on societal gender differences.  Jessica Nordell in her article “Why Aren’t Women Advancing At Work?  Ask a Transgender Person” makes a number of very good points:  “Having experienced the workplace from both perspectives, they hold the key to its biases.” she wrote in the New Repblic eZine.

One major point is that there is a finite window where transsexuals like me, that are mature, have a scientific background and have experience in both genders, will be available to give unique witness to how people treat men and women differently . People 40 or 50 yrs ago did not fully transition and young people now are taking puberty blockers and will never have the experience in the other gender. The window of time for the world to hear and record our stories is only now.

What this article points out and what I have been saying – is that I have experienced life as a male (and careful here, my bias is that I experience male birth sex BUT as a gender of a woman). As they say, if you are living in a black and white world you have no concept of colors. Living as a man (gender) in a male (birth sex) body (what we term ‘cis’) – or vice-versa, a woman (gender) in a female body (birth sex) – you are in a black and white world. Not that I and other transsexuals see beautiful brilliant colors – be we ‘do’ see colors and as this article points out, our perspectives and stories can be very helpful and constructive for everyone.

The article specifically talks about transsexuals being in a unique position to witness how people respond differently to gender, especially if they stay in the same job through transition.  Topics that were mentioned that I personally resonate with include:


Being taken seriously:  as a male there was a certain amount of non-questioning of my opinion by others.  As a female I find that I have to defend my position a lot more.

Blame it on the hormones: reacting the same way to similar situations as before, now as a female people have made comments that my reaction was due to hormones.

Assumptions of weakness and non-capable-ness: Men will step in to do something for me or take over (or attempt to).  One example, I have already embarrassed a few when they could not lift something or do something physical and I stepped back in to hold it as ‘they’ recovered.   This also goes for holding doors or other seemingly ‘gentlemen’ types of actions.  ‘We’ (woman) can tell the difference between someone actually being gentlemanly vs taking over, assuming we can not handle a situation.

Not being heard: As a man, I had a voice and was heard and listened to.  This is more subtle, but I’m finding it harder to ‘break-into’ the conversation these days.  It is taking more effort and then as my first point above – I have to explain/defend my point of view more critically.


Qero-ShamanBut I want to add that there is a lot more than just being witness to the reality of the glass ceiling.  And this goes back to the shamans, healers, medicine women and high priests of old, which to a sizable extend were transgender people.  In life, transsexuals experience this ‘color’.  This gives us a unique gift to be able to help others and to bridge the genders of a particular society.  Once we go through our journey, to the depths of our being, akin to the phoenix we arise but as a wise crone, able, if society allows us, to be of great service.

Perhaps this is one reason we are put down, misunderstood and mistreated.  Perhaps we possess something that power fears, something potentially immensely transformative.

All I can say is that I’m 3/4 way through that infamous valley and am climbing up to the col.  I’m here for those that wish to converse and learn.  However, I have no time or patience with trolls or phobics.

With much aloha,

Sifan

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14 Month Summary

Everything is now focused on next month:  SRS.  Because I’m ‘older’ they wanted a cardiac stress test.  Now, I’m in pretty good shape and that, for a stress test, is bad news.  It means they keep you on the treadmill longer, faster and at a higher incline (and keep increasing until you start pumping harder).  The good doctor brought me up to heart rate required for the stress test, looked at me and said, “want to see what you can do?”.  You know, I must be slow in the uptake or maybe I was just not completely taking in what he just said.  Well, from my perspective, all hell broke loose – not supposed to run just walk fast, the darn thing was now a ramp to the ceiling – but, like a fool, I did it.  Then he asked me again – I think my muffled huffing response sounded like a yes.  Right after they had me lay down and they took sonograms of my heart – asking me to ‘hold my breath’ – I was like “WHAT” – that’s not fair and it’s impossible!!  They actually can measure the thicknesses of the different walls, measure blood velocities, etc.  Very impressive.  Well, I passed – however – about three days later my entire upper chest was sore and I had what seems to be a muscle strained under my arm.  It took me a few more days to finally connect this to the stress test.  I was using my upper body – hands on the front bar of the treadmill – to do a lot of work.  When I hike in the mountains I use hiking sticks that basically do the same.  My legs are in the best shape because of the walking/hiking I do, but my upper body was not used to that.  It’s now almost a week later and at last I’m slowly recovering.  Wow – mental note – don’t accept a ‘dare’ from a doctor doing a stress test on you!  Unfortunately, I had to work up at the summit the rest of that week – this really zapped me.

I was sent an invitation to a private FaceBook group for those that have surgery with Dr. S. in Thailand – and for those that have been accepted for surgery.  It’s turning out to be a great resource.  Everyone is helping everyone, lots of good advice, worries, complications, things around town and the clinic and doctors weigh in as well.  So good sound advice.  One person said they just arrived – about 20 others replied with where they are meeting for breakfast, who to see and what to do before hand.  I joined the fray and said I would be arriving next month and already I have 4 other gals (two from here in Hawaii) that will be there the same time – we’ll be getting together!  By far the best is to go back about 1 year and read all the questions and answers, issues real and those easily fixed, what to expect and how everyone else has fared.  I have lots of good advice and perhaps an even better idea for what to expect almost each and every day I am there (one month).


 

One of the purposes of my blog site here is to help others, especially those that are older, to get the information they need to understand and know what this is all about.  To that end, I plan on making as many posts from Thailand as I am able to.  Some might be a bit detailed but I’ll warn you right up front – continue to read at your own …. whatever ….  I’ll probably write the first one tomorrow – about planning and pre-travel.


 

On a different note:

I had a conversation with Lisa a while back.  I was telling her about catching myself in unconscious automatic behaviors, feminine behaviors, behaviors that were not learned or made automatic by rote – how could they be.

We went out to eat at a restaurant in an outdoor mall (most of our malls in Hawaii have open air promenades).  We had a wonderful meal and had strolled down the open air mall talking and admiring clothes and nick knacks in the store windows.  On the way back to the car I mentioned that I had just noticed how I instinctively held my skirt down before a gust of wind suddenly blew and then smoothed it out.  Then it struck me that there are many other instinctive automatic things I do as well – feminine actions that I did not learn and was unconscious of doing.

What is intriguing is the recognition that these behaviors or actions were unconscious and very normal – what I would describe as just being me.  This is in contrast to before when I was presenting as a male – most of that had to be leaned and was deployed  ‘consciously’.   Having had to do this for the majority of my life, it sometimes baffles me to realize that most people have never had to consciously ‘be’ what society says is their gender.  That for most people, suddenly realizing that they are acting authentically, is simply never seen or experienced.

I learned quickly at a very young age.  I saw what happened to others, the harassment and bullying they endured and I was blessed with a quick intellect that allowed me to quickly assimilate their examples into a workable model for my own existence.  I learned to keep my truth inside – not hiding from myself – but to present what was expected.  It’s sort of like the cliches “pick your battles” or “work from within the system” or “know your truth and pick the right timing”.

The other fascinating aspect of this, was that I had a detached presence as I watched these behaviors unfold.  That was what prompted the conversation with Lisa.


 

And, I thought I would include a response I wrote to an article questioning why a ‘man’ would ever ‘want’ to change into a woman, considering all the disadvantage:

I’m a transwoman, let me see if I can make some sense here – I can only speak for myself. I was born this way, this is not a choice or something I ‘want’. It’s who I am. The issue becomes how do I deal with this – not about which gender has it easiest. There are a lot of false stereotypes and beliefs surrounding this – that compounded the issue for me as well. As a result it took me until I was older to sort out what and who I am. Just like everyone else, I had to sort out what was real – then I had to accept who I am and then despite all of that plus, as you stated “the disadvantages of being a woman in today’s society” – to proceed and become true to who I am. The fact that there is so much against this should speak for itself.  It has nothing to do with advantages/disadvantages, etc.  For many trans* it is life or death (or even a living death) – makes the disadvantages seem moot huh. To have your core being at odds is very disconcerting. Ask yourself if you really know what it feels like to be a woman (or man) – I mean, do you really know? On a personal level the only way to know is to actually know the opposite. For a trans* person this is a daily and deep question: who am I – not what do I want to be or the relative merits of one gender vs the other. This was one of the reasons it took me so long to come to terms with and accept who I am. The mind does a wonderful job of trying to protect and therefore deny or explain away things it thinks will be harmful – especially in this case. I am glad that trans* issues are becoming better known and slowly things are getting better – especially for the younger trans*. I hope they don’t have to go through what I and many others have.  My hope is that society will understand this better and drop all these pre-conceptions, stereotypes and false beliefs.

With aloha,

Sifan

 

On a Roll ….

Beach-..-surf-crashes-down-ocean-wave-energy-wallpapersI was swimming at big beach in Makena today.  We had nice rollers coming in, probably from the two tropical storms that passed south of us this last week.  I would be knee deep in water just before the wave, then look up and see the crest of the wave high above me.  I estimate the larger sets were between 6 and 10 feet.  It was like an elevator ride – if you were out far enough.  Otherwise it was a washing machine!

There were tons of boggie-boarders on the beach today.  They would run toward the ocean, throw the board out in front of them then jump/stand on it and surf ‘into’ the waves.  As they hit an incoming wave they would do tricks:  twirling, u-turns and surf back in and sometimes would do flips into the air.  One guy got about 8 feet of air on a larger wave – very impressive.

Of course, if you are going swimming like I was, that hard part was timing the sets so that you enter or leave without getting into the ‘wash machine’ – tumbling over and over.  I was out swimming and back sitting in my beach chair 3 or 4 times today, so I ran that gauntlet successfully a number of times …. except for the last one …

Like a good girl, I did my ‘due diligence’ – watched the sets, waited for the lull, and headed out of the water to the beach.  I got up to only knee deep when the boggie-boarders on shore started running like crazy into the surf and the other people on shore were wide eyed and pointing to something behind me.

At the same time, the water from the last huge set was now rushing out to the ocean from the beach.  I could not move against all that water going out.  Then, all of a sudden, I was on ‘dry’ sand….  Then it got dark and I noticed water falling from the sky IN FRONT OF ME – I was in a TUBE.

Up/Down, Back/Front, Left/Right  – these normal directions we take for granted MERGED into oneness – and then became totally irrelevant!  Split seconds later I am standing in the same spot, on dry sand again, facing the beach like I was just moments before …. and standing!  I shook out my wet hair and continued my walk up the beach to my chair like nothing happened ….!!

It was a very uncomfortable ride home.  I took my shower right away when I got home (standard procedure at the Kahale residence), and that’s when I figured out what was so uncomfortable.  Now, sand in a bikini is not nice – not at all.  However, this was not your everyday ordinary sand over in Makena — nope.  It’s coral sand.  Imagine taking billions of sea shells and crunching them up until they are sand sized.  They are still the sharp sea shells you know of if you break them up a little – only now they are even tinier!  The effect is that once you get them under something that is tight against your skin (bra band, straps, etc) they tend to ’embed’ themselves in one’s skin.  In other words – they didn’t just wash away in the shower – they had to be SCRUBBED off ——  grrrrrr.  I’m also positive it’s going to take a number of days/showers before I’m finally free from them.

Did I mention WHERE these were embedded?  I have to work up at the summit tomorrow and this week.  Let’s just say I’ll have some reminders of my wonderful swim in Makena ……

With Aloha (watch those waves),

Sifan