Recently, I went to an amazing conference of an organization advocating for youth, of which I am an advisory board member. This is somewhat remarkable. A year ago, my boss made me go to their conference for the first time. I looked at it and was…non-plussed (somewhat mirroring how I hated and feared kids before I started grad school). But I went (I follow orders, most of the time). And I loved it. People took me under their wings, introduced me to their colleagues, I felt like I went home with something like three hundred new friends. And I kind of did. I wormed my way onto their policy committee, and this year I presented part of a plenary on the position paper I helped write (my first plenary). And I got invited to my board position. I sort of love these people.
Friendships complete your heart, or,
erm, if you’re alone on business travel,
a mirror works also.
I feel like, as I’ve started coming out, I see queer everywhere. The next paper we’re doing is on LGBTQIA+ issues. So this is the twelfth paper, and it’s quite random that it happened to be on that topic at this time in my life. I took a deep breath and offered to help the author in any way I could (since I’ve done one of these now, and others outside of this organization), and a deeper breath and explained to him the personal side of why. And he was amazing and gracious and I’m helping him along, although he knows what he’s doing by himself. One of the first conversations with a friend reconnecting when I got to the conference was about how her contract was coming up and she was thinking about leaving her organization. Why? Because the organization had taken the position that a trans young woman referred to them was “a man” because she has a penis. And she is seriously considering quitting because of it. Amen, sister. I did not actually cry when I heard this story, but the tears were welling up.
I came out to several more people while I was there – because at some point, and since and I see this family twice a year mostly, and like for my parents in Florida, this change may come quickly for them. I have to stop here and say that, after coming out to probably sixty or seventy people, at least, in the last six months, I’ve had all of one neutral response, and no negative responses. Everyone else has poured love and acceptance on me. I know this isn’t typical, and I grieve for my brothers and sisters who find rejection, fear, or hatred. But the love I got here, again, overwhelmed me. How it was okay to pause in talking about kids and talk about me, in this professional context, and I even felt comfortable to talk about my eating disorder history, about which I’m still very secretive. And how people were interested in my experience, and actually understood it pretty well, and saw me as bringing yet another strength to the table.
If I delve into my self-esteem issues, over time, I’ve learned how to accept a compliment, I’ve mostly learned how to respond to criticism. I have to admit I’m still expecting people not to love me, and I still melt when I’m loved and don’t always know how to say thank you adequately enough, although I want the people who love me to know that my heart beats with thankfulness for them. I don’t always have good boundaries. I don’t do anything terribly embarrassing, but people who see that I’m “smart” don’t really understand how much a creature of my loves and passions I am (I don’t think I’m stupid, but I feel profoundly misunderstood when people see being smart as a primary strength of mine, because I have never felt that it was the central unifying principle of my identity). I take everything personally. Apropos to my blog about signal amplifying, I have a tradition of drawing people into my life that don’t care about me, and want to be celebrated for their lack of caring about me, and I’m ashamed to admit the extent to which I have celebrated them for what they’ve done to me.
On the other hand, and bewildering to me that I achieved it, I have had the luck to draw into my life so many people who don’t fit that pattern, and the rate at which these people who challenge my older experiences come into my life is increasing. They don’t want to be celebrated at all but love me without cost or regret. When I started transitioning, a part of me wished I didn’t do all these things like committees and boards and all this frenetic networking. It adds hundreds of people to the list to whom I’ll eventually have to come out. But when I am loved (not just respected) in professional spaces like this one, my heart is overwhelmed, yet again, and I view all these daring people, who accept me, who love me, who pledge to stand up for me (and for others), not as a burden on my coming out parade, but as the very blood that flows through my veins and keeps me alive.