One of the challenges that people face when they transition from one gender to another, or into a non-binary, is that we often have to be our own advocates during transition. We are usually representing ourselves to doctors, psychologists, our employers, faith communities, families, friends and in many other situations. Often this also means that we are required to be educating the people we are dealing with. When we are going for changes in documents, health care, accommodation at school and work we are also in the position of having to educate those we are needing the accommodation from. All of this is on top of the stress and challenges we have in ourselves during our transitions. This leaves little energy for wider community activism and education.
In the first year or two of my transition I did not have much, if any, energy to spare for advocacy, political, or education work. It wasn’t until about two and a half years after the beginning of my transition that I was able to do this sort of work and it is only in the past year that I have really gotten active. This brings up a question: Why am I engaged in advocacy and activism now?
The short answer is, it’s who I am, it’s part of my personality to be active in this way. I was practically weaned on politics and have followed politics all my life. I’m also not satisfied with having something changed only for me when I’m not the only one to encounter a situation. Often it can seem easy to just shut up and leave a situation, or a place where there are systematic problems. I find that I have a hard time doing that.
Recently I had a situation with the health clinic I attend. I had my annual physical and if I hadn’t been mentally prepared as well as in a good place overall mentally, emotionally and spiritually, it is very likely I would have ended up in crisis as a result of the physical. As it was it took me a while to get my equilibrium back after the examination. I could have said nothing. I could have just found another doctor and tried to forget about the problems at the clinic in how I was treated as a trans person. I chose not to do this.
I realized that given the nature of this clinic there would be other trans people who would visit the clinic. Some of those people might be a vulnerable place in their own journey. I realized that in order to be true to myself that I couldn’t just let it go. I sent in a comment explaining that I had concerns and that they were best discussed in a meeting. I was granted the meeting. When one engages in a meeting like this it is as stressful as discussing the incident that led to the concerns being expressed. One is having to go back and essentially re-experience the event. In the end it was worth the effort to open this discussion. The person I met with was interested in what I had to say, what my experiences were, and most importantly listened to my suggestions for solutions. My own personal care issue is being dealt with right away. The organizational issues will take time. Overall a positive outcome so far.
That said, there are situations when the results of sending in a complaint or concern is not acknowledged, or one is brushed off in a meeting. They can be depressing, triggering, angering, upsetting, often all rolled into a series of complex reactions. In my experience it’s important to have ways of dealing with these complex reactions in a healthy way. Not always easy, and not always something I’ve been able to do.
Both the positive and negative are part of my journey. For me being open and active, being an activist and an educator are part of who I am. It is also partially driven by my faith and the call to make the world a better place. Not everyone is able to be an activist, and we shouldn’t expect every trans person to have to be an activist, yet that is the situation many are placed in by society.