Wednesday, 2 August 2017

A love letter to myself

First of all, asshole, cut yourself some slack. You don't need to be first in line to tear yourself down. Please trust those who are important to you to be honest with you. You have done a thorough job of culling the people from your inner circle who do not value you, who take and never give, and who generally seem ambivalent about your continued existence.

You are good people and the folks you've kept around recognize that because you've been putting effort in to making sure they know you love them. Trust them to love you back. Trust them to support you when your brain is on fire. Trust them to offer kindness and soft places to land when your mental health and circumstances have you rolling around on broken glass.

It's ok if they disappoint you. It's ok if they're not psychic or don't have the immediate, innate, ingrained, or practiced skills to support you in just the way you want. Give them more to work with. Let them try again. Let them be human and don't let their inexperience with support be proof that you do not deserve and will never receive the support you want. Not getting it and not asking for it hurts either way. Ask for it. Keep asking. It's ok. These are the people you are close to. If they are unable to provide it, trust them to tell you. And if you can't verbalize all that you want, and feel disappointed in the results because they're not psychic, remember to have compassion. For them for not knowing this path. For yourself for continuing to seek it out.

You are on a terrifying path of loving and allowing yourself to be loved. Of truly, actually being vulnerable and sincere. This is a brave path to take. It's ok to acknowledge your own courage. It's ok to be open about the fact that this kind of love is scary and challenging and requires a lot of effort. It takes nothing away from the results to honour those pains. It's a sign of your own growth and maturity that you aren't try to hide your struggles out of misplaced shame or humility. Take pride in making conscious efforts to make the folks you love feel good about themselves. Take pride in moving just far enough beyond your insecurities to let people love you.

You are in this with yourself forever. Practice the love and compassion you project and be gentler with yourself.

Saturday, 29 July 2017

Rambling thoughts of the part-time femme

*insert obligatory acknowledgment I haven't posted in a while because of life and navigating capitalism and such*

I've been working in IT for about 8.5 years since I graduated college. I really enjoy the work, I enjoy the nerdery of it, I enjoy the challenge, and I enjoy upgrading my skills to advance my career. 

The part that I'm not so keen on is the sexism. I'm not thrilled that the most likely reason I never got a chance to get into network cabling because the owner wasn't comfortable with setting me up in a hotel room with his other male workers during out-of-town, overnight installations. I courted the owner and that job, and he was very impressed with my eagerness and skills, but it never went anywhere. 

I'm not thrilled with answering the phone and saying, "IT department," and men assuming I'm the secretary and not the person who is going to be resolving their issue. Or with those same men making a joke about how their wives might balk at them getting help from a woman. I could really do without that ever having happened.

One of the things I can safely say I'm the least fond of is showing up to my work Christmas party with my wife (then-fiance), all femmed up and looking hot, and having every single head turn to watch us. Fine, looking as hot as I do in a tight dress and stiletto heels I'm probably going to get some attention. But to have eyes on me and my wife the whole night? That's sincerely uncomfortable. And having a drunken coworker hug me and try to pull me onto his lap so he could kiss me? Those memories just make me want go back and set the place on fire.

To avoid those kinds of micro aggressions (and straight-up sexually aggressive bullshit), I've made the conscious choice to dress mostly masc. I've kept my hair relatively short, I've dressed in slacks and often shapeless dress shirts with sports bras, and I haven't worn makeup to work. To my mind, I've been doing this to try to fade into the background and be treated like "One of the guys" (especially since I can count on one hand how many women I've worked with directly) and only get attention for my work and not my appearance.

Now, closing in on a decade in this profession, I've found myself working with a crew that I trust and feel comfortable with. I've made the conscious choice to give myself the freedom to mix it up and dress femme some days. To grow out my hair into a femme hairstyle. To actually wear makeup to the office, outside of the annual Christmas party. To wear more form-fitting, yet still office-appropriate outfits. It actually feels really good. 

And I realize how fortunate I am to be able to turn this off and on and be able to navigate my work environment in this way. I'm a white, cis woman with an average frame and don't have large breasts, and, while I think I'm a solid average-5, I do benefit from having conventionally attractive features. I blend, is what I'm trying to say. There are so many folks who have a lot more points of oppression who are unable to navigate others' prejudices the way I have.

Yet, it's kind of proving to be a mindfuck at the same time. The attractiveness standards for being dapper and handsome are far different from the ones for being considered beautiful. I can throw a vest on over a dress shirt and make sure my hair isn't awful, and BAM! I'm dapper. I can make a queer person weak at the knees at a hundred yards. But femme takes work. Traditional femme, in any case. To my mind, for myself and without applying these stupid and arbitrary standards to anyone else, femme requires eyebrow maintenance, shaving, makeup, bras that may or may not dig into my ribs and shoulders, and hair that behaves and is neatly coiffed. Wanting to be read as femme has come with wanting to be considered beautiful and not just "cute". To be frank, it's probably some male-gaze bullshit I'm navigating, yet it's still there and it's loud.

It's complicated. My feelings about it kind of all over the map right now. I'm thankful I'm in a place where I can figure this stuff out, but at the same time wondering if it's worth it and maybe I should just go back to focusing on being a dapper queer. Except that's not all I am. I love being dapper and debonair. But sticking to that is only half of what I am. 

One thing has helped. It has helped to look to the other folks in my life who are non-binary or gender-queer, or who generally just run the gamut between the extremes of masc and femme and everywhere in between. I see them and I think, "Wow. They are so cute/ glam/ stunning/ beautiful/ powerful when wearing makeup, and are also unbelievably precious when they don't. I adore their goddamn faces either way, and they very likely feel the same way about me." It's a conscious effort for me to try to see myself through other folks' eyes because I recognize most of us are usually much more accepting and compassionate to others than we are to ourselves. 

I think I'm just going to have to keep going where the spirit takes me and let my insecurities take care of themselves. Wish me luck.