Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Coming Out As Transgendered Today: Not Everyone Feels Safe by Jeff Utnage

Coming out as trans was just supposed to be an individualistic thing. I figured I would come out as trans officially. It was not about being "special" or trying to form a new identity because I hate myself. It IS about being bold and feeling it is time to let my friends and family inside of my heart a little further. You see, usually I do not allow anyone past a certain point in my heart because it is fragile and I do not like it being hurt, I guess I was feeling stronger than usual.

This does not mirror everyone who is trans, this is not every one's story. The imagery most folks get is that coming out as trans is easy, that there is no longer anything to fear. That the folks we see on television or who have magnanimous public images have completely paved the way for everyone else, "fear not, because Laverne Cox and Janet Mock have done it!"

What people do not understand about these women, and many others, is that they exposed themselves in the most vulnerable type of way. It is very scary to be precisely you and face the onslaught of ridicule you know is coming, because believe me, it still does.

What if you need a job and you are not passable (meaning that you still look like your birth assigned sex, not your gender)? Do you show up as a really fem, pretend gay man and then surprise them on your first day of work "surprise, I'm a chick." What about using a public bathroom? Can you really tell me that whole thing is sorted out?

Deciding to reveal your gender identity is an act of bravery and nothing less. It is scary and riddled with anxiety, believe me. Some make it look easy, effortless, like you just wake up and boom! Your instantly amazing looking in a dress. Like when we look in the mirror and we still see the dusting of facial hair, despite the fact we just shaved.

Prison adds challenges to trans folks. First, trans inmates have always been treated very, very poorly. Usually as direct property and punching bags. This has gone on for so long that despite major efforts on behalf of hundreds of organizations and staff we still face unusual amounts of ridicule and beratement. We still must be diagnosed with a mental dysphoria in order to receive any "treatment" (hormones). That is a fight in and of itself. What if you have had extremely negative experiences with mental health staff? Who do you turn to then?

It is vital that incarcerated individuals receive the necessary support. For many of us our criminal behavior is driven from deep-seated self-limiting beliefs. Whether that's not feeling worth anything which leads to drug abuse or not having the necessary tools to cope with normal emotions or any of the other various ways in which ones morality deteriorates.

Rehabilitation is more than possible for so many individuals, it is entirely realistic to leave prison healthy and functioning and society ready. As it stands some of us fight to make sure we are able to rehabilitate ourselves and advocate for our peers to do the same, in many cases making micro-communities for accountability.

Self-acceptance is a major part of healthy living, in or out of institutions. Under no circumstances should it be okay to make someone else feel self-conscious about themselves intentionally. As humane people we should only be creating communities that foster positive growth.

Food for thought.

With Love
Jeff Jeffebelle Utnage
 
www.lgbtqprisonsupport.com

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