Well I’ve been working at my new job for about 6 weeks now. It’s been good. The people I work with are great. The clients I’ve had have been nice. The clients of other staff that I’ve been introduced to have been fine for the most part. I’ve been open and out about being trans and it’s been no big deal, just another facet of me. I guess it was just a matter of time though before some sort of ripples disturbed the unusually placid acceptance I’ve found.

It not been anything upsetting, or outrageous. Far from it.

One of our recently hired team members starting asking me a few questions about my being trans. She explained that she’d grown up in a small town and simply had never met or known anyone who was trans before. She said if it was too personal to just let her know. What I told her was that I have no problem answering questions that are asked out of a genuine desire to learn and understand. The only ones I did not appreciate occur out of some voyeuristic desire to have their curiosity titillated, when it becomes more about the person seeking some sort of thrill and not really caring to understand. However unlike many other times when the questions tended to be about surgery, medical or sexual issues, she was more interested to know how my daughters and family felt about my life path, about how my being trans impacted them. I didn’t have any sense of morbid curiosity from her. Rather just a concern that the people who were closest to me had been able to accept me and the course my life has taken.

A few days later the topic of job discrimination came up at work. A colleague that I met at a recent class had expressed she was surprised I was working at a salon that wasn’t already busy. She felt given my depth of knowledge I should be working for a dermatologist or plastic surgeon. When I shared this with my co-workers, one of them said, “I don’t know why you aren’t, but we’re glad you’re here instead because we’re lucky to have you.” When I said that I had interviewed with several over the years, I’d never been hired. What works against me is my weight, my age and the fact that I’m trans. Even if they interviewer isn’t sure they often sense there’s something different about me and people do not like to deal with different. And I do not fit the image many such places want – young, thin, pretty, attractive. My co-worker was surprised that people would refuse to hire me because I’m trans. She said, “What would that have to do with anything?” It had never occurred to her that transpeople would be discriminated against. She’s experienced discrimination for being African-American before, and our receptionist schooled her on the existence of age discrimination (she and I are in our 50’s). I said that while I will never know exactly what it has been like for her to be discriminated against because of her race, I do know how it feels because of other factors. We all agreed such discrimination is often subtle and impossible to prove legally. Yet she was further amazed when I explained to her how few states, and countries, have any protections in place for transpeople. That in most of this country we can be denied employment, fired, denied housing and even medical care. Simply for being trans and that with no laws protecting our rights, we have little legal recourse. We are one of the last segments of society that it is legal to discriminate against.

Another day while having lunch, one of the stylists shared with me that he’s been asked by a few clients, “Is that a man or a woman?” Why he felt the need to share this with me I do not know. Yet his response to said clients shows his support. Basically he told them I am a woman. His point of view is that if someone presents themselves as male or female, that is what people need to accept them as, regardless of what their birth sex might have been or even what their genitalia may or may not be (No one has asked if I am “complete” or cares whether I’ve had surgery or not). He asked his client, “Why should it matter to you? Unless you plan on dating her or sleeping with her, all that matters is that she is an amazing esthetician.” (of course I cannot recall what he said word for word but am relating things as accurately as I can) Ah but if only everyone could be so open-minded, accepting and stay focused on what is, and isn’t someone else’s business. Unless you plan to sleep with someone, or become romantically involved with them, then their gender and intimate physical details are not only none of your business, but should not concern you. The same goes for people’s sexuality, race and religion.

Again though, he really didn’t need to share this with me. How he interacts with me on a daily basis tells me he is accepting and supportive. As a transwoman I know that there will be people who do not know what to make of me, may actively dislike (and yes hate) me without ever knowing me, who may disapprove of me and who will judge me in the most negative ways, simply because of their own ignorance and prejudice. I will run into it enough and have to face it in direct encounters. I don’t always need to know about incidents I missed.

Yet in each of these three occurrences, the end result has been those I work with achieving a bit more awareness and their reactions demonstrating true acceptance and support.

In a similar vein, back when I was working at another place (a hellish blend of retail and salon run by one of those Wicked Witches of the South who my very existence drove batshit hostile) I remarked to my then roommate (not to be confused with my current Wonderful Roomie) that clients all seemed to love me and that despite Wicked Witch’s hostility, my co-workers did too. The only co-worker exception was another Mini-Southern Wicked Witch. While I was sharing how good it felt to be accepted and appreciated by clients and co-worker’s, Former Roommate felt the need to say, “They probably don’t. More than likely they just think it’s cool to be able to say they know a tranny as it’s all the rage and the In Thing in the media.” I have no desire to dwell on whether or not her assessment was right and I was deluding myself into feeling liked, or whether she was just envious and full of crap. What did, and still does, bug the heck out of me is even if she knew her assessment to be true, why on earth would she feel she had to say it? Why would you in essence say to someone who was supposedly a friend “People are only acting nice to you because you’re an oddity and part of the latest social craze. They really loathe, pity or despise you.” Why make it a point to cast a pall over another’s good feelings, especially when they didn’t ask your opinion as to whether or not what they felt was real?

So people I ask you to think before you speak and ask yourself, “Why do I feel the need to say what I am thinking and will it make the person I am saying it to feel better or worse and will it make their life better or not?” Sometimes things are better left unsaid.