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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,


About sifankahale

I retired from an astronomical observatory and now live on the Oregon coast where I teach astronomy and give talks and presentations. I am enjoying astrophotography, kayaking and hiking in beautify Oregon.

2 responses »

  1. wow, that’s so interesting how you’ve experienced the differences you’ve been treated both as male and female with regards to ability, strength, respect. Being transgender gives you very unique perspectives. I think there’s a memoir in the making.

  2. “This is more subtle, but I’m finding it harder to ‘break-into’ the conversation these days.”

    This wasn’t a problem in my cohort — we had worked together about 15 years when I transitioned — but I was often ignored if I joined a circle of men at a symposium despite having a PhD and decades of experience. Made me laugh and gave me insight. We began hiring nuclear- and combat systems-trained young women, and the glass ceiling began to crumble.


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