Infinite Love

So I want to talk about one of my biggest barriers to coming out and living as my truest self. The fear that nobody would love me. Hardly a unique phobia and certainly not specific to being trans. But it can hold you back if you let it.

I first started exploring my gender in college when I began accessing language to describe my experiences. I think that trajectory would have led me to coming out 5 years earlier if it hadn’t gotten sidetracked by getting married at 21. It’s a long story and off track for this blog but besides getting married too young we had a multitude of other problems that were apparent pretty early on in my 6 year marriage. And all of those problems meant that my personal growth got put on the back burner.

The biggest thing that contributed to me getting in that relationship in the first place and held me back from letting go of it when it wasn’t working was my fear of being alone and not finding someone who would love me for being me even as much as she did. When I did finally discover myself as a genderqueer pansexual, my wife asked me not to come out widely because she didn’t want to answer questions about my identity and sexuality. That alone should have been a sign that I wasn’t actually loved for who I was but yet I clung on for another 4 months before I got the nerve to leave. All because of this irrational yet common fear.

What I found beyond the confines of my straight, monogamous, ciscentric marriage was a world of infinite love and a community where I could be accepted both for who I was now and for who I would be tomorrow. I found my way through OKCupid and Meetup.com groups into the vast, semi-secret world of queer polyamory.

For those not familiar, polyamory is a form of ethical non-monogamy focused on informed consent of all partners involved and centered around the idea that love is not a finite resource to be hoarded but an infinite pool that only grows when love abounds. Time is of course the limiting factor and everyone has a practical limit to the number of authentic relationships they can juggle, whether that is friends or intimate partners. But in poly I found both friends and partners (and many shades in-between) who are unafraid to use the word love, who can open up the vulnerable parts of their hearts honestly, and who embrace my identity, even when they don’t understand it.

Today I have an amazing fiancee who I live with, two wonderful girlfriends with partners of their own, and a multitude of friends and lovers in community with each other. All of us encouraging each other to be ourselves and love ourselves as we are.

I’m not going to pretend it’s a magical fairyland with no problems or transphobes but beyond the heteronormative veneer you see in the press, the poly community I have seen is the most accepting place I can imagine. And more importantly, I learned that it’s ok to be “picky,” that I should and could be loved for who I am, and that I don’t need to be everything that one partner might need.

I’m not saying polyamory is for everyone or that it is the only way to find love outside the binary. That’s just an important part of my story in finding access to the idea that love is not finite. The key detail here is that you can find people who love you for who you are and you don’t need to compromise your identity to be lovable. But that fear of loneliness and the concept of love as a scarce resource are barriers to finding that happiness.

Live your life proudly and boldly as your truest self. I believe that is the sexiest thing you can do. And when you do that, people will want to be around you and you have a better chance at finding someone who loves you as much as you hopefully love yourself. When we hide who we are we lose our best shot at authentic relationship with other human beings.

Sure, you may lose some “friendships” that you never really had in the first place. But I bet you would lose them as soon as something serious happened in your life anyway. And there are real and tangible dangers to being out and visible. But find the places were you are safe, the communities where you can be real, and do exactly that. Be REAL, authentic, vulnerable, and honest. Once you start letting go of the idea that you aren’t deserving of love (which can be a lifelong process) then you can find it.

 

Being genderqueer at work

This week I did what felt like a really big thing for me – I asked my supervisor about wearing feminine clothing at work. And while I had built it up in my head as this huge conversation, it was actually very chill and amazing. She was fully supportive of me wearing a diversity of professional clothing that felt comfortable to me and didn’t have gendered expectations of what that looked like. I felt so valued and respected that I walked out of there and immediately gushed on Facebook about how wonderful it was.

This wasn’t the first conversation we had about it but this felt like the biggest deal to me. I started this job 7 weeks ago after leaving a job I had been at for 3 years where I came out slowly while working there. No one at my previous company treated me badly because of my gender and I had several wonderful allies there, but most people didn’t really seem to get it and didn’t ask questions to understand. When I tried wearing more gender affirming clothing I got less compliments and people seemed a little awkward around me. So I eventually gave up trying until my last week when I stopped giving a fuck and came into work in dresses and skirts.

I’m not the greatest about asserting my gender and pronouns and I feel incredibly awkward having the “coming out” conversations at work. My role is very service oriented and the mindset of making everyone else’s job easier is hard to break. I chose when I was interviewing not to come out and I dressed in fairly masculine attire (with purple in my shirt of course) based on the advice of a couple trans women I spoke to who said that getting the job is ultimately more important than being yourself all the time. But when I was starting to be introduced to new colleagues with he/him pronouns it felt really weird. I didn’t want to correct my teammates while they were talking and embarrass them so I didn’t know how to come out tactfully. When I finally had a moment to breathe and sit down at my new desk I decided that I wanted to just get it off my chest and tell all three of my main teammates at the same time.

I sent this email to them on my first day:

I keep forgetting to mention this when we’re talking and I’m a bit shy about correcting people but I thought I should tell you while we’re still doing introductions and meeting new people that I prefer they/them pronouns for myself. I’m genderqueer which is a nonbinary trans identity. Happy to talk about it more but I wanted to let you all know while I’m thinking about it.

Example: This is [Genderbeard]. They are the new support staff for Dr [X].

I was happily surprised to quickly get supportive responses from them AND to have them immediately start using my pronouns in emails and introductions. They stumbled a bit of course in the first few weeks but so do I, even referring to myself in third person sometimes. I’m happy to say that my boss has not only consistently used them for the past few weeks but she corrects others in the office when I’m not there. She said the example sentence was particularly helpful which is something I should keep in mind.

14068270_10154337504049360_7239371262427352616_nThe first few weeks on the job I continued to dress in what most people would perceive as gay male fashion (bright collared shirts, fashionable shoes, colorful pants) partly because I was testing the water of the office culture and mostly because I didn’t have professional level femme clothing yet. But the last couple weeks I have started to incorporate more androgynous blends of colorful “men’s section” pants with blouses. On the quiet summer day I talked with my boss, this is what I was wearing. ->

In our conversation she not only affirmed that the only expectation was a professional level of clothing appropriate to the day’s activities and guests but emphasized the non-gendered nature of our dress code. She told me she already had conversations with HR about how she and them could best support me only to sadly find out that they had no clue and no resources. When they jumped to wanting to use me as a spokesperson for all genderqueer people at the company, she defended me and emphasized her view about treating me with respect and not tokenizing me. Needless to say, I was overjoyed with her response and I feel incredibly lucky to have found this job and this team.

To make an already long story short, the take home message here is that sometimes your own fear is the biggest barrier (and the financial resources to buy new clothes maybe). If you take a risk and put yourself out there you may be pleasantly surprised by the response. I agonized for weeks over how to have these conversations and when I did I was met with only support and respect. I’m so glad I took the risks I have and I’m excited to continue building up a professional wardrobe and sharing it here.