One of my main goals in life is to live a values based and ethical life. This is an easy thing to say, a much more difficult thing to do. As a trans* person it sometimes feels impossible. One needs to balance professional, private, personal, familial and societal concerns. How can you be ethical if you are not out? How can you say you are living ethically if you know that your being trans* will be deeply hurtful to those you love? How can you come out as trans* if you know that your children will suffer as a result? These are just some of the issues I need to juggle and agonise over every day.
Let me just say that I am not interested in transitioning or living full-time as a woman. This is simply not something that I would consider. I do not feel massive amounts of dysphoria necessitating a change. I am deeply concerned about the long-term negative side effects of taking hormones. I am also aware that I enjoy my femininity and my masculinity. They are both parts of the quintessential ‘me’ and I am not sure I would ever want to completely surrender either one. I enjoy being able to express my femininity as much as I enjoy expressing my masculinity. The trick is to find a balance.
I do however wonder how ethical this is. One of the reasons that I do not wish to come out at work is that I am acutely aware of the benefits of male privilege. It is a thing and it works for males. You are taken more seriously, you earn more, you don’t need to fight against sexist nonsense and no one wonders when you will be going on maternity leave (for example). Society generally treats you better, you are safer, you are taken advantage of less and you are assumed to be capable until proven otherwise. This is often not true of women (whether cis or trans).
By remaining firmly ‘male’ at work I am able to keep this privilege securely in my back pocket. Why would I risk surrendering these advantages? Only a mad person would do so. But how ethical is this? I do not (at least not consciously) promote male privilege, but by refusing to relinquish the power and privilege am I not part of the problem? Is it better to try to effect change from within? I have always believed that you do not need to be biologically female to be a feminist and I have always championed feminism for it is something that I believe in. Similarly I suspect you do not need to be trans* to support transgender rights. But what does it say about us as a community if we are too afraid to say who we really are?
There are no simple answers here. Perhaps if I had no personal commitments I could be more true to myself, but I have a spouse, I have children and they rely on me. It would be unethical to put their material (and emotional) well-being at risk because of a need to show solidarity with my cisgender sisters. Would it even be useful? I wouldn’t be the first person to surrender privilege and the world didn’t change (much) when those that came before did so, so why should my family suffer more because of me?
So now in addition to questions about personal and professional integrity, self-awareness and self acceptance I am now beset by a whole new range of questions. I think I will have to err on the lesser of two evils here. My primary loyalty has got to be to those closest to me. I need to do what is right for them and it is for that reason that I remain semi-closeted. This certainly does the trans* community and even cis-women few favours, but until such time as we have a more accepting and equal society it is a necessary evil for me.
How true of many of us. In many ways this could have been a blog written by myself with possibly one minor difference in that I could easily surrender my masculinity totally A) If I were brave enough and B) If I did not have a deep commitment to family. As it is like you I can embrase and enjoy both my male and female sides and essentially I have no major gender dysphoria issues. I know that I shall remain as I am and I accept and can live with that.
In one respect you are very much ahead of me in that Mrs D is aware of Daniella and accepts her where as, as far as I am aware Mrs M has no knowledge of Michelle. If I were over this one massive hurdle I do feel being out in other respects would be simpler. I suppose the whole issue around acceptance and ultimately being ‘ethicial’ is tied in with greater public awareness and acceptance but I somehow feel at this point in time we are still very much in a ‘Catch 22’ situation. Things are begining to improve I feel but we have quite a way to travel yet to get to the stage that the gay community for example are at.
Lots of thought provoking stuff in this blog. Thanks for sharing it.
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A better question I think to ask yourself is living ethically being perfect. We are only individuals struggling to do the best we can in a world that is not perfect. That pulls us in different directions because we do have to compromise on what we think is right. Like you said it often boils down to picking the lesser of two evils and going with that. It may leave us conflicted because we cannot do everything that we think is right.
If anything I would say your one of the most ethically people I know. You are honest and show strength of character by admitting to things that you feel is not right. You don’t make excuses by trying to justify it being right, but own up to it. In a world that expects perfection and is critical of any little flaw that is a lot to be to just say your human and doing the best you can. Thank you for sharing yourself like you did and giving me and others something to think about 🙂
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Thank you for the very kind words.
“…because of a need to show solidarity with my cisgender sisters.” In my experience you’ll find very little solidarity there.
I suppose solidarity cuts both ways. If we feed into the TERF narrative hen we can expect little solidarity. But if we show ourselves to be truly concerned with women’s issues we may slowly win some people over. I find some of our trans sisters to be anti feminine in that they lack real understanding of what it means to be female. This leads to divisions between us and genetic women and fuels prejudice against us. Ironic how prejudice feeds prejudice. But then I am both something of a feminist AND an idealist…