#CaitlynJenner : My Attempt At Reflecting on Pop Culture

I’ll admit, once upon a time my wife and I did binge watch some Kardashians on Netflix while we were both sick. I can’t pretend it was not a guilty pleasure. But we haven’t followed much of their lives since (besides the occasional Kanye & Kim news). But suddenly, the whole world was drawn in by the gossip about whether there was something going on in the family. Did a family member have a big secret?  The world has since gotten to know Caitlyn Jenner.

As I followed the story on social media yesterday, I couldn’t help but reflect. Anything that Fox News Correspondents link to the decline of the Civilization must be a good thing. And I also saw people on Twitter freaking out that Caitlyn was being called brave, and not the troops (honestly I don’t understand peoples logic about how calling her brave takes away from anyone elses bravery)- but if it was making people flip out on social media for stupid reasons, it also had to be a good thing.

So, everyone acts like some huge accomplishment happened yesterday.

What actually happened?
1) Caitlyn is now able to live her life authentically. Anytime anyone can do that I think it is a positive.
2) A Trans Woman made international news with her journey… It’s my hope that spurring conversation is a good thing.
3) Hopefully some young trans kids see that there is hope for their journey. Transgender people have a 41% attempted suicide rate… if Caitlyn gives any trans kids some glimmer of hope, it is good in my book. I wish I had seen visible trans women growing up.
4) Caitlyn is an example of the daily misgendering that many of us face. I know I am sick and tired of being called he, sir, and my birth name. She is dealing with the same. Hopefully people reflect and see that what they are doing is hurtful both to her, but also to friends and family members in their own life.

What did not happen?
1) Transphobia and our societies unjust treatment of Trans people did not suddenly end. Real work for social change needs to happen.
2) Trans women of color are not suddenly saved from the very high murder rate that they face.
3) Trans people every where are for the most part not extremely wealth, with most either living in poverty or barely making a living wage. We did not all suddenly come upon great wealth which would enable all of us to have our transitions make us fit societies expectation of what a man or woman looks like.
4) Trans youth are still proportionately higher in facing homelessness due to rejecting families. It is nice that Caitlyn has a good family, and it’s great to have them demonstrating to the world what acceptance is- but most trans people do not have that reality.

Overall- Best of luck to her. She has done a fairly okay job at her sudden expectation of being a trans spokesperson. I have seen her say “not everyones journey is like mine” and she has tried to discuss violence towards trans women of color. I hope she grows and uses her fame, and wealth, to help make a difference for the trans community.  How do you feel?

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Transition: Authenticity

I’ve been trying to piece together this blog this morning, but much like the last blog it may end up being somewhat of a stream of consciousness blog. So bear with my thoughts and hopefully they are coherent.

As I’ve come out and as I’ve mentally transitioned and as I’ve transitioned to living as the real me this year, some things that I do and ways I act have changed. When I look at it, I see it as me taking off the old mask and act that I had built up over the years. It was something I had to build up so I was not outed. I knew what to do to be seen as a guy.

So, as I’ve embraced authenticity in my transition, I find myself stepping back to make sure that I am not simply building up a new facade based on what society has told me about being a woman. While it is impossible to separate yourself from social pressure, I believe it is important to step back and examine your life often. I don’t want to dress or act a certain way just because thats what I am told, I want to do it because it is who I am and how I feel most comfortable.

I do believe that is what I am doing at this point. I am not transitioning into another facade, rather I am transitioning into authenticity. I am embracing the real me.

It is so nice to finally feel somewhat comfortable in my own skin. It is nice to be perceived by others as the woman I’ve always known internally that I was. There are adjustments that I have to make mentally- getting used to things that cisgender women grew up with- like the male gaze or having fashions that show way more skin then I ever did growing up. But my mind is so much more at peace now that I have transitioned into authenticity.

Anywhoo- thats my reflections for this Monday…hope any of it made sense to you. I’m off to go watch the new Taylor Swift video again.

Mental Transition

So I’ve often talked with friends about how I feel I have noticed a mental transition from male to female. I will likely write a few blogs thinking about “Transition” and what that means, this being the first of them. There is the chance that this may end up being word vomit, but I hope it is not, and feel free to ask clarifying questions or say “wow thats brilliant Em”.

I am going through a transition this year- I finally have truly fully come out and am living my life fully as the real me. At home, at jobs, at church, and at my soon to be seminary. This has been amazing- to finally embrace the real me.

But I feel like over the course of the last few years of coming out that I also made a mental transition. I think that this was a very important step of my transition process, and one that people do not actively discuss as an element of transition.

Much of it has to do with a sense of leaving behind privilege, but also letting my mind embrace what it has always wanted to do instead of hiding behind a mask. Let me dive in a little.

Growing up, I heard from society loud and clear messages of what was expected both of men and women. And while many cisgender people internalize their assigned gender, I internalized both. I hated the fact that I was never going to measure up to being the woman I knew I was, but at the same time was also trying to put on the mask of being one of the guys.

While receiving male socialization was mentally torturing, I feel it is important to acknowledge that it happened, and that in fact it did shape me during my younger years, as much as I did not want that to happen. I could aim for whatever careers I wanted. I could say I want to be a pastor without people saying that women are not supposed to be in ministry. I could have unquestioned authority about topics I talked about just because I was born male. I hated being male, but it was so easy to stay in that privilege. I think that despite my gender identity being female, I grew into a very privileged male mindset in how I looked at the world.

When I hear people say that men have it hard, or that feminism is not needed, I can only laugh, because I had male privilege, and I have now felt the loss of it. It exists.

So as I came out (starting way back in May 2008), and began to be honest about who I was, I still often stayed in the same mindset. I had to control things. I had autonomy. To be fair, I had my male privilege still.

One of the greatest things my wife has done for me is to introduce me to thinking critically about gender and feminism. I was challenged so much. I had hidden my real self, and embraced this mask of male-ness that I had built up as a defense against being outed- but I had all the benefits that came with it. So as I transitioned and came out-I had to put that mask away, even if it meant losing the benefits it came with. And wow that was tough. I had spent so long trying to fit in to the guys club that it was difficult to break the habits I had set up to keep me closeted. But they were an act. They weren’t the real me. I had to get rid of them to find out who the real person was beneath the mask I had built. No need to be so macho. No need to repress emotions. No need to think that the world always had to be in my control.

I can not point to a specific day or even really a time frame, but I can just tell you that at some point my brain made a jump. Suddenly I was letting myself feel. I was not constantly repressing the way I thought, what I wanted to do, or how I wanted to act. I hear other trans women talking about how estrogen made them so much more in touch with their emotions, and while  I do not doubt that- I wonder how much of that is also just a mental transition happening since taking estrogen is also associated with having finally come out of the closet.

Of course thats not saying that embracing myself has all been easy and happy. Now, even more so, I feel the messages that society sends to women coming into my head. Telling me I must be skinny. Must be beautiful. Must be desirable. And heck these thoughts are hard on your average cisgender woman, but they are also torturous when combined with my gender dysphoria. I look at myself and see all the ways I do not measure up

I’ve had a lot of people tell me after coming out to them that they knew something was different about me. I have to think that it is partly due to this mental transition. Even before making my life transition this year, I was not fitting in as “one of the guys” anymore.

So yeah. This seems like a lot of random thoughts. I hope it made some sort of sense. I just wanted to write about it, and about the changes that have happened in my life bringing me to this point.

Thanks for reading

Em