As If Staff Meetings Weren’t Awkward Enough

Staff meetings.  Although I’ve heard them referred to as “staff infections” or “stiff meetings” by my friends, I don’t mind them.  Our amazing administrative assistant brings in a homemade coffee cake and our department of eight fun females and two token males go around the table and often get sidetracked with one of us sharing a story from the weekend such as walking into a new sex shop unknowingly because it had a fabulous window display, the affordability of massage treatments in Thailand and the current bath salts phenomenon that has us all afraid we will be eaten by a person who is under the influence. Our fearless leader tries to keep us on track, but it’s no easy task.

As we went around the conference room reporting our various works in progress we got off topic (per the usual) and started talking about the guy who works on our floor in another division of the company who yells at himself (or some figment of his imagination) during the breaks he takes in the back parking lot.  Everybody laughed.  I’ve never seen him; I’m not full-time, so I miss a lot of the good stuff, like employee appreciation breakfasts, white elephant gift exchanges and, apparently, solo tirades that are growing increasingly alarming.

“Oh, and what about the she/he?!” someone said.

My heart got hot.  I held my breath.  I knew who they were talking about.  I didn’t say anything.

“Oh my god. I know!!!!  A year or so ago “it” was using the women’s restroom and washing “her” or “his” or “whatever” hands next to me, and the other day I saw “it” using the men’s room!  I wonder if “their” boss knows about that?” a co-worker said.

“What’s the deal with that?! Did she/he get permission to switch bathrooms?” someone else asked.

“Ewwww, that is so wrong.  Just pick one, man, are you a guy or a girl?!” said one of the men in our department.

A co-worker who knows more about C.J. than most people looked at me in alarmed sympathy. I felt like everyone in the room was talking about my son. I felt the need to speak up for the, what I’m educated-guessing to be, female to male transgender person down the hall.  But part of me wanted to say nothing.  It used to be easier to say nothing, now it’s not.

I looked at my grossed-out coworker guy.  At the last staff meeting, he showed us pictures of himself holding his newborn son.  He has no idea if that sweet baby in his arms’ gender and sex align. He could be holding a gender nonconforming child or a transgender or transsexual little being.  He has no idea what he could be in for.  No new parents do.

“HE appears to be a female to male transgender person,” I said, my heart racing as every eye turned to look at me.  I’m usually light-hearted at work, the person to crack jokes while working my ass off.  I’m serious about my work, but not my demeanor.  I caught most of the people in the room off guard with my serious tone.

“What does that mean?” someone asked.

“Transgender means that a person’s sex, what’s in their pants, and their gender, what’s in their brain, don’t match up.  It happens during the person’s creation.  He is actually brave for transitioning from presenting as a female to presenting as a male,” I said.

Crickets.  All eyes on me.  I’ve never been that serious with this group in my life.  The grossed-out coworker guy with the newborn gave me a disgusted look.

Then the person next up to report on their workload broke the silence with a list of assignments.  I wanted to leave the room.  Maybe I shouldn’t have said anything.

“That was so awkward!” I said to my C.J.-loving department friend later in the day.

“I know. I’m sorry,” she said sympathetically.

“It’s just hard. I feel like I have to educate people and stick up for people like C.J.  I can’t just sit back,” I said.

“I know.”

Sometimes I feel safe in certain places.  Like they are separate from my family life of gender issues.  I felt that way at work.  Few know about C.J.’s creativeness with gender.  Work was a place where I could let it all go the most.  When my two worlds collided it felt overwhelming.  I went home and told C.J.’s Dad about the staff meeting.  It was still really bothering me.  My grossed-out coworker guy with the newborn was still bothering me.

“You know, you don’t always have to be an advocate. People say shit about gays and lesbians and trans people all the time at my work, I just have to ignore them because I’m not going to get into it. I’m not going to let them know about my son. They don’t deserve to,” C.J.’s Dad said.

I can’t do that.  I wish it were that easy.  I never thought I’d be an advocate for anything.  It seemed exhausting. Now I know that I was wrong and right.  I was wrong.  I would become an advocate.  I was right.  It is exhausting.

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68 Responses to As If Staff Meetings Weren’t Awkward Enough

  1. Uncle Boris says:

    I don’t care who it is, unless there’s a physical threat I’ll challenge anyone’s racist, sexist, trans or homophobic slurs or any other discrimination for that matter.

    I draw some of my confidence in this from the “Racism; it stops with me” campaign we have over here. I work for the Australian equivalent of 911 and will tell people off on emergency phone calls where it’s safe to do so. I also educate people or even just subtly point out their unacceptable phrasing in the hope they go away and think about it when the emergency is over.

    On one occasion I received a call about a suicidal trans woman who was transitioning, the caller – a ‘friend’ – kept saying the same thing as your co-worker “he/she/it/whatever”. I was able to not only get the police out to help her, but educate the caller on how they could better support their friend.

    I have some understanding as to why, but I’m a little upset for (not with) your husband not feeling confident to speak up at least some of the time. A few extra cops with more understanding of people unlike themselves would be an asset to the force, they don’t need to know the ins-and-outs of your family life…

  2. Clay Severns says:

    I don’t meant to be the ass-hole here, but I can’t help but feel bad that probably no one will ever stand up for that man who yells at ‘himself’, you know what I’m saying? Sorry, it’s just that’s my soft spot. I can’t help but read this entire post and focus all of my sympathy on that.

    I once had a friend back in the day who couldn’t change in either the women’s nor the men’s changing rooms-unwelcome in both. The poor kid had to change in the bathrooms down the hall for gym class. People just don’t get it, do they?
    —Clay…

  3. Jake Oster says:

    Thank you so much for standing up not only for the LGB but also for the T and everything else in this community! I am only 19 and it is hard for me to sit around and listen to people say such rude and uninformed comments. At least you educated them a bit at least on your coworker’s identity. Thank you thank you THANK YOU!!!

  4. Anna says:

    Something about this post really bothers me. It’s what your husband hears at work, and that he hears it so often that he’s had to learn ways to deal with it. What is wrong with people? It’s shocking to me that it is STILL ok for people to vocal their discrimination anywhere. I shouldn’t be surprised at the prevalence of comments at your husband’s job. I hear things like this every day. Sometimes, I guess, I forget how much I hear it. Sad.

  5. Junien says:

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for having the courage to stand up for us! :)

  6. DAVID A MORSE says:

    I love and respect the way you and CJ’s dad are raising him. As a disabled man I deal with others responses to my disability all the time. Even after the ADA signed by Bush, I get remarks about how I am selfish to demand access to businesses.

    Your husband feels he should not respond to comments at work, and I must disagree. While you did not want to, you did the right thing. If you and your husband do not speak up to your coworkers now than CJ and others like him will have to face their children.

    You may or may not affect the attitude of your coworker, but its worth the effort if you can help someone like CJ have to face one less bully. Kids that bully others like CJ learn their values at home. Too many like CJ, gay or not, take their own lives because we adults have too often not outgrown our hateful ideas.

    “You know, you don’t always have to be an advocate. People say shit about gays and lesbians and trans people all the time at my work, I just have to ignore them because I’m not going to get into it. I’m not going to let them know about my son. They don’t deserve to,” C.J.’s Dad said.

    The last statement is wonderful and shows his unconditional love for CJ, and he is also right that you don’t ALWAYS have to be an advocate, but he is wrong because if he is not an advocate than who? Coworkers are not merely strangers on the street, you spend hours each day and learn about their families. Why should you have to hide CJ from them?

    I am sick of complaints that gays are pushing their sex lives on us but those like your coworker can show baby pictures? When I see a baby picture of my brothers girls, I have no trouble understanding how they were created but I do not focus on it. Its the minds of people like your coworker which focus on sex.

  7. Pingback: A few thoughts for the chicken-buyers and the chicken-boycotters. – Debt of Gratitude

  8. cheridc says:

    I am happy you spoke up about your beliefs. Just wondering if anyone spoke up for people battling mental illness and schizophrenia?

    …started talking about the guy who works on our floor in another division of the company who yells at himself (or some figment of his imagination) during the breaks he takes in the back parking lot. Everybody laughed. I’ve never seen him; I’m not full-time, so I miss a lot of the good stuff, like … apparently, solo tirades that are growing increasingly alarming.

    Do you feel it is okay to talk about this person and laugh but then be so upset when someone laughed at this other co-worker? I am not judging. I think I have my hot buttons and focus on them but then not see someone else’s buttons. I think it is funny that no one else saw this as the same thing.
    Just wanted to point this out.
    I do think you are a great mom, person and writer.

    • Hi! This is a good question, something that I wanted to address in the blog post but didn’t. Parenthood and this journey raising a gender creative child has made me MUCH more compassionate and way less judgmental (among MANY other things). I did feel uncomfortable when my coworkers started talking about the first employee from down the hall, the one who — to the best of my amateur knowledge — probably suffers from some sort of mental illness, trauma, etc. I was honestly trying to keep up with the conversation because I have never ever seen him or the behavior that they were discussing. Then the conversation quickly moved to the employee from down the hall that I wrote most about. Had the conversation stayed on the first employee, I would have said something or tried to steer the conversation in a different direction. Hope that makes sense! Thanks for asking, C.J.’s Mom

  9. I love your posts as usual and this one in particular caught my attention. I work for a university in South Florida – a private university that is run by old- school Cubans (meaning, most, not all are very close minded). I recently conducted a Domestic Violence in the LGBTQ Community panel last week and one of the speakers proposed to help our institution organize a club specifically for the LGBTQ community. To back track a little, I would say about 80% of the university staff and faculty didn’t event know what LGBTQ meant when I started posting the flyers around campus. After some showed up to the panel and had their eye-wakening experience they realized what the topic was about. Shocked! I was able to quickly determine that this was taboo around this campus. When I proposed to work with the speaker on starting a group for LGBTQ students and staff to join I got rejection, confussion, and a big NO. Simply, our Hispanic community here is not tolerant to the topic and it is because you end up fearing what you don’t know. Sad but true. I won’t stop until I can become a more active advocate for this group – our group – to participate more in campus activities that pertain to this topic of such relevance in our society.

  10. Max says:

    Thank you. I don’t know what else to say, except that on behalf of CJ and the rest of the LGBTQ tribe, thank you. I have found in my life that we don’t always get to pick our battles; more often, our battles pick us.

  11. sanil says:

    I’ve been reading this blog for awhile and I enjoy it but don’t usually comment since I don’t have much to say. Today I will, though. Thank you so much for being an advocate when you don’t have to be. That co-worker might not change his attitude, and he might never be corrected on it again. But at the least, he’s been informed and knows not everyone agrees with him, and maybe someone else at the meeting will be interested and keep it in mind the next time they hear somebody talking like that. It takes time, but it does make a difference.

  12. Keri says:

    Thank you so much for speaking up for that person. I am a queer-identified female and my fiancé is a female-to-male trans person who has literally been beaten for being who he is. Regardless of how CJ identifies in the future, he’s lucky to have you as a mom.

  13. nico says:

    Hey CJ’s mom. When you referred to that person as “he” during your staff meeting, do you actually know that that is the gender pronoun that that person prefers? Or are you assuming based on the fact that the “mens” washroom was used? Just because one uses a gendered washroom, doesn’t necessarily mean that that individual also identifies with that gender.

    • Lymis says:

      Really? That’s what you took from this post?

      She made it clear that she was only guessing that the person in question is transgendered, but based on what she knew, I think it’s a solid guess, and it’s a reasonable guess that the shift in restrooms at work would parallel a shift in pronouns. Otherwise, why change restrooms?

      Her other choice was silence, and allowing “it” and “she/he” to be the pronoun her fellow employee was discussed by. I think she made a brave and compassionate choice to defend a stranger from bigotry.

      I certainly can’t read this blog and think that if she were actually introduced to the person, she’d ask about the preferred pronoun.

      Well done Mom!

      • Lymis says:

        Darn. That if she were introduced, she’d FAIL to ask about the preferred pronoun.

      • mark says:

        Seriously. I can’t imagine anyone meeting someone and saying, hi Martha, is it, and which pronoun would you prefer to be referred to? And will that be today, or everyday?

  14. 1cellinthesea says:

    Wow, I’m exhausted just thinking about what you’re going through… I have a bad habit to overthink and over-analyze… I also am very demanding with myself, so it’s really tough picking my battles, cause my mind won’t leave me alone. I’ll be in a constant inner struggle if I don’t act like my code of ethics dictates, and that is very draining, to the point that prevents me from lighting up and spirals into depression… that’s why picking your fights like Dan said is so important, it will save you strength and time that will be better applied appreciating your wonderful child. But the thing that sucks is… you’re a mom. It’s (unfortunately, for your peace of mind) natural that you feel the need to speak up for CJ’s sake.
    Just know that when you choose to ignore it, it doesn’t mean you’re a coward or anything. Just means you decided to let people continue to abide by their own ignorance. You’re still one hell of a woman and a role model, at least in my book!

  15. femmemcgee says:

    thank you for speaking up. I am a lesbian and present very “femme” so 90% of the time no ones “gaydar” goes off when they meet me. And it’s not something I announce when I meet new people. So I have often sat, silent, fuming, unsure of what to say. I’m getting better about speaking up, but I am always so thrilled when an ally speaks up for me.

  16. Fg68at says:

    I understand you verry good.

    I’m myself gay and masculine (can be a little queen in the right environment, but not very trained in it.) In my entire life i was 3 times in drag at carneval time: In 3 grade, in 8 grade, both times at school, and with 22 at a clubbing. My primary scholl was only 5 minutes away, so i go. I was so proud as one stranger on the street ask me if i was a girl or a boy. :-) I don’t know why we choose this costume. Propably because it was cheep with clothes from my cousine, and i had the habit to play shortly before bedtime with my long undershirt “dress”.

    Some comments make me speechless, because i don’t expect it. Like my captain from the fire department about my coming out (he know it already, but i felt, there should be a little talk, so he could ask things, if he needed.): “Don’t touch my fireworkers. And say if you are infected with AIDS, so you can go then. (for the safety of the others)” I had expected many things, but not this.

    Sometimes i’m to slow to have the right answer or comment. And there is sometimes the time to choose to come out at this time or not. (Not nescessary in your case.) One time i was as computer engeneer in the office of an client, a big travel bureau with 30 agents. I had allready detected 3 gays in the company. I was standing in a single bureau, the manager who works in this room bend to pull a plug from the plug socket in the floor and say: “In this company one must now be careful if he bend, because we have now 3 [some word between gay and fag] here.” He, bend over with his ass to me. :-) Should i say something or should i stay silent? What schould i say? 2 minutes later i had the right answer: “And you have the heart to bend before me?” But it was too late for this.

    Mainly if it more as an single comment or false things, i must also talk, like you. At my time in the military, some of my camerades talk 2 or 3 days wrong about AIDS. I know it better, so i had to correct them every time. At pillow talk one aks me then, if i’m gay, because i know so many about AIDS and HIV. :-) I say yes. Also at bulletin boards i can not always stay silent. Sometimes i make an account anly to reply at one bad comment (if there are no others.) To explain things, this is also my drive to work with Wikipedia.. I choose from time to time how i react, but i can also not stay long silent.

    At the comment from your husband: “People say shit about gays and lesbians and trans people all the time at my work” … And many LGBTs go not to the police, because they frear the shit they say about them. He is at an important place to made the world better. Or should your son in 15 years fear about comments, because he is not viril enough? He must not came out about your son, and he must not do it all the time. But little by little he could change the mind of his coworkers. There could be a training how to adress these things in the right manner especially in his environment. He could make contact with oe of the following organisations: Golden State Peace Officers Association (California), Gay Officers Action League (NY), Gay Officers Action League of New England, Florida L.E.G.A.L. (Law Enforcement Gays And Lesbians), or Metropolitan Police Department’s Gay and Lesbian Liaison Unit (Washington DC). There could be more out there, or they have contacts.

  17. Dave says:

    One important thing to consider, which your post and many of the comments make clear, is how essential it is for the allies of marginalized groups to speak up. Most people aren’t going to say this sort of stuff to the faces of the people they’re making fun of, so the opportunity to correct and educate is usually denied them. In other words, thanks again for sticking up for people who all too often don’t have the chance to stick up for themselves. The worst ignorance is usually the subtle, indirect kind like this, and you really are making people’s lives better when you challenge it. Just another reason you are awesome. :)

  18. I have some friends, three sisters, who have a friend (that I don’t know) who is apparently going though a gender realignment (is that what it’s called?). They think she is doing it for attention. (I don’t know if she has changed to being called “he” yet) Because “she’s always been crazy and depressed and doing things for attention.” And plus, she has a baby, so obviously she’s not gay, so how could she be a man? They were making my brain hurt.

    I tried to explain to them the differences in sex, gender, and sexuality. That someone could be born with girl parts, feel like a man on the inside, and be attracted to men sexually. They just stared at me. Then one said, “So, does that make her gay?”

    I thought about it for a long time. I thought that it must be nice and easy to grow up in a family where everyone is born the gender they feel, where everyone is attracted to the opposite gender, where life sails along easily without family deaths or estranged family members or “no one tell Grandma that Cousin Stan is gay, because she doesn’t know, and she’s just going to die soon anyway, and it’s better not to tell her.” It must make it easier to look at those familys and judge and laugh and gossip.

  19. Chris says:

    Thank you for your bravery! I know the feelings your mind and body experience during unplanned advocacy moments.

  20. Gabrielle says:

    Gender identity and gender expression are now covered under the “sex and gender” portion of Title VII. Those kind of “it” comments are illegal and completely inappropriate at work. I’m in HR, and we just attended a webinar to help companies handle transitions, language, etc.

  21. Mark says:

    I think your approach is admirable. Your husband’s approach is understandable, as is the comment above that we have to pick our battles, but I think they ignore an uncomfortable reality: CJ won’t always get to pick the battle. Sometimes the battles are going to pick CJ. And yes, our job as parents is to prepare our children to deal with these situations, but when we have the chance, I think most of us would prefer to take the stumbling blocks out of the road for our kids. In a lot of ways, I think that every battle we don’t pick is one that CJ will have to fight later.

  22. Paula Turner says:

    As always, I am inspired by you and your approach to life.
    I was comforted to read that you had some anxiety around bringing this up, only because I often feel that way. When I feel a conversation going in a direction where I know I will have to speak up, my heart moves up into my throat. I am not embarrassed by my beliefs, but I want people to stop and think and therefore I feel it is my strong emotional connection to my beliefs that stir up this anxiety.
    And the other thing that really struck me – when some of your co-workers find out about CJ, sadly they will feel that this is the only reason you spoke up. This is where we have to make inroads too – having everyone speak up for everyone else. We had a discussion at a staff meeting about a homophobic parent and I was pleased to be able to have a co-worker speak about the subject as she did it so passionately, articulately and with conviction. And no one questioned, as they have done with me, whether she spoke up for any reason other than it is the right thing to do.

  23. Marco Luxe says:

    Using humor is easy on you and kind to your coworkers. After saying “he’s brave”, you can say “and you never know who among us is trans [or gay, etc]” adding a big and obvious wink. That’ll stun everyone into thoughtful confusion, while it’s only a joke to you.

  24. Tommy says:

    I am reminded of the other thresholds you have crossed on your journey with C.J. The discomfort you felt with grandparents, then teachers, and now co-workers. While it is not your job to defend the trans person at work, your remark was a brave move to make that person less “the other” to your cohort. You are a sophisticated, well educated woman; sought after by universities and media about your experiences. After discreetly checking your employee handbook to see if your company does include transpeople, I would simply express mild disbelief the next time someone makes an ignorant remark, smile, and inform them of the facts with an air of “well everybody knows that”. Poor thing, he is living life in the dark. You haven’t compromised your personal life as it is none of their concern in a place of business. You are merely helping your coworker avoid a potentially career threatening mistake. Then offer them some homemade coffee cake.

  25. DAN says:

    I agree that it gets tiring to be the “lone voice of reason” or the “educator”. It reminds me that with all things our expectations have to be kept in check. Our expectations can be so frustrating especially when we want the world to be a better place. (And in your case for your wonderful child.)
    My biggest frustrations come when I realize that if I cast my “pearls of wisdom” only in front of “pigs” I am probably going to be disappointed. But I do still so want a world of peace and acceptance that I often speak too soon or at the wrong crowd. Quiet termination and sharing with those willing to listen and share back is always my best route.
    Thanks for your wondrousness!

  26. Jamie says:

    I’m really glad you said something. I do not have children, and I happen to be cisgendered and heterosexual, but I teach high school, and outside of the school I work with an LGBTQ youth group. I used to be a little quieter at work when kids would express disquiet/disgust at homosexuality, because in my mind I was trying not to insert personal politics or spirituality or what-have-you. But then when I thought about it, it would be appalling to let similar racist comments go unremarked upon, so I feel it is really important to advocate in the same way for respect towards the LGBTQ community. It can be tough; even a trans student of mine called one of my tests “gay”! It’s that pervasive! It sounds like you handled it perfectly, and as others have said, you probably planted a seed.

  27. I know what you mean about advocacy being exhausting. Every day I am exhausted from advocating for the LGBT community. I am the mother of 3 sons, one of which is gay. You ABSOLUTELY did the right thing. You did not react with anger or lash out at anyone. The topic came up and you merely reacted by providing information on something that they obviously did not know anything about. My guess is that people are mulling what you said over and over in their minds. I can guarantee you that the next time they see this person, they will not be able to keep your words out of their mind. This is how change happens.

    • Meadowlark says:

      Yes, this exactly. Maybe the encounter felt so exhausting and discouraging partly because you didn’t get the “happy ending” right there at the meeting. But because you spoke up, your co-workers will not be able to look at their (possibly FTM) colleague in quite the same way again. They’ll be hearing your voice. And that starts improving things for the colleague you defended.

  28. Lisa says:

    I think you are an amazing woman on a difficult journey and you need to be gentle with yourself. “Coming out” to our friends can be difficult, and, as I’m sure you know, it’s a process. For me, it happened as I spoke in defense of crude workplace comments, not unlike the ones your coworkers spoke (sadly, it was in a teachers’ lounge). Speaking out in defense of LGBTQ men and women led me to let my colleagues know that my son was gay. Little by little the word got out and I felt surprisingly relieved. Now, people don’t make those comments in my presence, they ask questions, and I am in a position to educate. I think of them as I do my students who engage in bullying, as people who need to be educated. I guess all of us who have been entrusted to care for and love our LGBTQ children are really teachers. Good luck on your journey. For what it’s worth, I think you are doing an incredible job!

  29. Sometimes you have to put it out there on the table. My eldest had to have that kind of moment her freshman year in college with her new room mate. The very first day church came up and my dear daughter made sure to mention that she went to a chuch that is open and affirming and has lots of gay and transgender members. Boom! Dropped that on the new room mate like a bomb! When we asked why she felt a need to have that conversation THE FIRST DAY my wonderful daughter said she wasn’t sure where the church/religion conversation was going but she wanted to make sure the room mate knew up front where my daughter stood so there was no misunderstanding. I was very proud!

  30. I’m so glad you stood up for what is right instead of what was easy/expected. Even if you only made one person in that room stop and think, it’s progress. You are so brave and so good and the LGBTQA (man is that acronym getting overwhelming) community is lucky to have a person like you on our side.

  31. susie linsley says:

    Very brave. And you absolutely did the right thing. Although it’s exhausting being an advocate, it’s the only way to educate ignorant people like your coworker. You’re right; that coworker doesn’t know what he is in for and I hope that if he ever finds himself in a similar situation, he would love and support that child uncondtionally like you have. CJ is very lucky to have amazing parents.

  32. mark says:

    y’know, one other thing crossed my mind here, which may be right or wrong, but when the other co-worker, obviously a woman, talked about the rest room use, and the pick one gender thing, it occurred to me that maybe that is the crux of the issue with the whole transgendered or gay issues that come up becuase of the confusion on presentation. For example, if the person presents completely as one gender or the other, then be consistent about it and the confusion of he or she is removed, or at the least much lessened, and people may be more accepting even while not being agreeable with it. I don’t mena that one needs to be consistent in all facets of what the steeotypical gender behavior is. But for someone such as CJ for example, he likes to wear princess dresses, or skirts and whatever, but to me he is NOT presenting as a girl really, just as a boy who likes to wear or do what typical girls wear and do, it does NOT mean he’s any less of a boy, and hence should use a gentleman’s rest room. He is not, in my opinion trying to pass as something he’s not. he just likes what he likes.

    Anyone who merely takes on some attributes of the opposite gender does not make them either/or at all. But if that individual y’all were discussing kinda flip-flops between today a man, tomorrow a woman then that might explain the confusion, or even the decision that this person doesn’t know what they want, so how can I possibly decide at any one time when I see them. I firmly believe that men can use women’s traditional products and vice-versa without any need whatsoever in making anything more out of it than that. They’re just products with no inherent gender in them, so why the attachment to the individual being something other than just that is seriously beyond my comprehension. I’ve never understood that, from little on. Maybe there’s something wrong with me, but I don’t think so.

    Perhaps a first step in this would be the promotion of unisex rest rooms that are common in Europe. we’d of course find that disconcerting, but in time we’d all come to accept that. That’s of course not the answer, but a step to not get hung up on what restroom one chooses to use. But the way it stands now, if you’re going to identify as one gender or the other, no matter your sex, and not even adding in the sexuality component, then be that gender in practice. Alternatively, if you’re a boy that identifies as a boy, but who just likes skirts and other typical girl products then present as that. Our society has just put, in my opinion way too much emphasis on “markings” of gender as being reality. We get that to change and there will be much reduction in the issues at least in that arena.

    • Richelle says:

      >>But if that individual y’all were discussing kinda flip-flops between today a man, tomorrow a woman then that might explain the confusion, or even the decision that this person doesn’t know what they want, so how can I possibly decide at any one time when I see them.<<

      Without more information, I wouldn't assume there was necessarily any "flip-flopping" going on. I once knew someone who was transitioning F to M, and I remember when what I would call the "daily life" transition began. At that point, "Dave" was prepping for the initial surgery, undergoing all kinds of counseling, and had been advised to begin living life as a male person, even though he still possessed female genitalia.

      Yes, it was a little odd at first to those of us who'd known him for some time as a female, to see him suddenly using mens' rooms and to get used to calling him by his new name. But we got used to it. Assuming that this co-worker is transitioning much the way "Dave" did, his co-workers will just have to get used to him presenting as male from now on. And if there's an occasional foray back into the ladies' room, well, "Dave" admitted to us that decades of life as female did get him into the habit of using that one and that in the first few months of his transition, he sometimes fell into old habits when distracted.

      • mark says:

        That’s a good point about habit and why that may have occurred. My point was though from the perspective of the observer and how then they may be confused, and hence lack of understanding and negative commentary. That’s what I was trying to get across by the unisex restroom comment. I wasn’t’t clear.

    • nico says:

      What I’m interpreting in your message is your advice for folks to avoid discrimination and an intention to advocate for gender diversity, but you’re still boxing people into having to consistently identify and and present as one gender or another. Gender identity and gender expression are not the same thing. Someone may identify as one gender, but express themselves as another. People may be genderqueer, or not identify with any gender at all, etc etc etc. What you’re asking is that everyone align their gender identities and gender expressions, but then that’s actually not inclusive at all…

      • mark says:

        Not at all. I was talking about in general and specifically within the context of this story. I’m all in favor of crossing lines, but that wasn’t the context of confusion from people who don’t understand it at all.

  33. I would suggest coming out one by one. Let your allies inform your enemies that you have a gender non-conforming child. Your allies acceptance will serve as a role model to the rest of the group. It is one thing to accept your child. It is another to have a colleague accept your acceptance. It is a more lengthy process, but in time I suspect things will get better.

  34. Larry Hammack says:

    Bravo for your advocacy… you may not think it made a difference, but by speaking up, you gave them an opportunity to think about what they were saying and their participation in a potentially harmful dialogue. Perhaps they will think twice now before speaking. Well done.. and keep up the great work with CJ… your blog is a joy to read.

  35. Amandna says:

    You did the right thing and it will be so much easier next time. Your coworker learned something from you, whether you felt it at the time or not.

    Uncle Uncle nailed it with the HP quote.

  36. mark says:

    So sorry you had to experience that, in some ways it’s a loss of innocence and trust that was there before that stupid comment. Your co-worker obviously didn’t have a clue about anything, as when you said what you did he said, “what is that”, which truly showed how ignorant he was, which is why he said what he did. This won’t change his mind on anything, because he is not living an experience. But at least you know where he stands and can protect yourself a bit better.

    This same scenario happened to me a couple of weeks ago with friends, the “it” word came out, repeatedly, and my wife looked at me because she knew what I was thinking, and was scared of how I was going to react. Because I knew that a discussion at that time was not the time nor the place, especially dealing with folks who have made up their minds without any benefit whatsoever of researching or questioning on their own, I chose to act as your husband, and I remained noticeably very quiet, and that conversational topic died very quickly.

    I’m not particularly proud of my stance at that moment, and have questioned myself if I did not say something for fear of losing friendship in general, or if I consciously understood that at that moment it was a losing proposition with no possibility of gain, which in the end I think that was the reason. In another situation where the person was present, and this conversation somehow got into, then I would certainly come to their defense, and not worry one iota of the consequences. But again, a diffrent situation and different motivation.

    Given the place and cirrcumstances, I really think you chose the right action-informative but not overly so.

    • Sometimes even simple unconfortable silence on a subject can speak volumes about your stance.

      • mark says:

        Indeed, kira, .indeed. Even at 12 midnight, in the darkened screenhouse, I believed my silence was loud and clear. They know I’m a therapist specializing in gender issues, so yes, they knew, through their first instinctual comments and subsequent silence that they had crossed a line.

        This whole issue is so emotionally charged that it’s hard to separate the real from the expected responses.

        I don’t consider my friends stupid nor ignorant. What i do think is they are so insecure that they don’t really understand what a caricature they’ve become. I think that’s more common in this issue than we believe to be the case.

        I happen to be cis and heterosexual and yet cross stereotypical gender lines in small ways because I like them, snd they mean little to me. It may seem odd, but literally I do not see issues with it at all. I was raised in a strong feminine environment, so it’s normal for me to think in those terms of style and behavior. My masculine role model is wonderful but not to the extreme stereotypically. That’s a good thing considering my innate personality. All I’m saying is that reality, at least for me, is somewhere in some middle space. I must be on to something because I have a lot of clients who are attracted to my practice because I clearly stated I am not judgmental. I truly only want to help them get past the struggles they have with their issues, and how it impacts the movement forward in their lives. That’s it. Nothing more. If it doesn’t harm themselves, or anyone else, I say then what is the problem of yours you want to deal with? Because what you’re telling me is somehow you want to deal with their problems, and that makes no sense to me. At that point we look into that aspect as therapy. Lol!

  37. Kimberly says:

    I was really hoping for a happy ending at the end of that staff meeting. I’m so sorry, but I think you did the right thing.

  38. whatyouwant says:

    You did the right thing. You’re right…the guy doesn’t have a clue. But maybe, in the future, he’ll remember what you said.

    Jesus, why can’t people just be kind to each other!? I’m not saying that as a prayer, but perhaps I should be.

  39. Tiffany says:

    I would like to applaud you for your advocacy. Our community can use as many supporters as it can get. I will say that I was mildly horrified at the idea that a policeman’s coworkers regularly use discriminatory language. Isn’t there some sort of sensitivity training required before starting a career in law enforcement? Especially in California? I realize that you’re in Orange County, but aren’t those sorts of laws statewide?

    I understand the need to choose one’s battles and the desire to keep the peace at one’s workplace, but I think it’s especially important that your husband speak up in that sort of scenario. I know it’s hard, but what if CJ–or someone like him–were to encounter a policeman who was less than sympathetic to gender creativity? It’s difficult, but we absolutely need law enforcement officials to be as informed as possible.

  40. I really don’t understand why people think that’s an appropriate way to behave at work – it’s just not professional on top of being offensive and frankly ridiculous. Good on you for saying your piece about it!

    I work in a pub in Britain which is pretty traditional, a lot of our regulars are on the older side so I find myself gritting my teeth a lot and putting up with offensive comments (to be fair they’re not malicious, it’s just the language/attitude they’ve been brought up with) – I might have to start making a bit more of a point about it.

    Thanks for giving me something to think about! xx

  41. repek says:

    Thank you for this post!
    I experience situations in which I feel I need to speak up, but it´s just so damn hard, all the time – so it´s nice to hear from someone else who handled the situation so well. I feel you were right to speak up on the matter, and I have a lot of respect for how calmly you did it!

  42. whawhawhatsis says:

    Good for you! It’s very hard to speak up like that to people you know. My daughter is a dwarf, so for many years I’ve found myself needing to advocate about the insults that are used towards dwarfs — “midget” is the social equivalent of the N word to most dwarfs these days, and all the midget wrestling crap gets really, really old. Yes, it’s difficult to speak up to people, but it’s really the only way to start changing the way people think about things. I hope I’ve helped people to not just toss midget jokes around casually any more without thinking about how hurtful it can. Calm, non-judgmental education in a situation like yours is the most effective way to bring about fundamental change. I hope you take advantage of future opportunities to continue the dialogue, especially with your one coworker.

  43. scotto alan says:

    agreeing with dan… happy to know a strong woman like you!

  44. Kat says:

    This is why I am an advocate all of the time. I do not have a close family member who is transgender, though I do have many friends who are. I am a sexuality educator and I feel it is my responsibility to speak up and educate in all sorts of situations in order to “take the heat” for family members who can get so overwhelmed. I hope that I can correct some misconceptions before they say something like this to a trans person or their family. I hope that your coworkers make the effort to find out some information and become advocates themselves!

  45. Uncle Uncle says:

    It takes a great deal of bravery to stand up to our enemies, but just as much to stand up to our friends.
    J. K. Rowling
    As always, proud of my sister. March with your bad self.

  46. Jenny says:

    You were brave Mom! Way to go!

  47. My son is black. I don’t hear racist remarks very often, but when I do I try to take the time to explain in an appropriate manner why the remark is racist and thus should not be used. We do have to advocate for our children, even if the offender doesn’t know that’s what we’re doing.

  48. Tears, this is so much at the core, isn’t it.
    When, how, and who should step up, speak up, and speak out.
    Today, I picked up a hitchhiker as I always do. And the guy proceeded to use the “Nword” when telling me his story. It shocks me still to hear Anglo people use that word that has been so harmful. I sad to him, after a moment, “I know we’re from different generations, however, racist language isn’t allowed in my vehicle. And you’re here “for the ride” as it were, so please refrain. No need to discuss it any further, just know, this is the line.”

    At the end, I give him some money and moved on. And somehow I hope maybe he’ll remember this …and that’s what I hope for your coworkers. They have cisgender privilege. And you helped to shake that up.

    And I love you for it.

  49. Dan Goldman says:

    You’ve got to pick your battles and be strategic, as every good advocate knows. Your co-worker is as fortunate as CJ to have someone like you in their life. This small, but incredibly important, act of kindness will have countless unknown positive effects. Not unlike this blog. From one advocate to another, job well done!

  50. scutaloo says:

    Well, at least USA doesn’t tolerate jokes about “how much women and|or gay men enjoy being raped” at working place in working hours.

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