#wontbeerased, Grieve, Advocate, Take Care of Yourselves

I want to first say that I identify as a cisgender male. I’m writing advice that I hope will help, but I recognize my privilege while I’m writing this. If you’re someone who is trans, gender-queer, non-binary, or non-cisgender, and you have a piece of advice that I’m missing here, please contact me. I will consider editing this post and adding to it.

There are covert signals of discrimination that are all around marginalized groups. Then there are overt ways of discriminating. Both are harmful in their own ways. This week, I know that the anti-transgender memo was a blatant form of discrimination. I can’t even imagine what it would be like to have someone tell me what gender I had to label myself with.

I do recognize how discrimination and these types of messages can leave people feeling scared, angry, confused, and isolated. This can even lead to trauma. There is nothing that is more normal than all the negative stuff you can experience in situations like this.

Here are some considerations I want to name before I offer any advice:

  1. Fear of non-cisgender people has nothing to do with non-cisgender people. The real gender role conflicts are about protecting an established culture. In other words, the real conflict of gender sits at the feet of toxic, male insecurity. When men are uncomfortable with emotions, our whole culture pays the price. I name this source of this fear, because memos such as the anti-transgender memo can lead to a lot of shame. People can start questioning themselves as if something is wrong with them. There is nothing wrong with you. There is a lot wrong with how we deal with gender, and the hierarchy our culture has built to protect fragile masculinity.
  2. You aren’t responsible for fixing the problem of toxic masculinity. People have to make their own decisions about how and when they should change. You can’t make them see anything differently. It’s good to be a change agent where you can, but know that it’s not your responsibility to make someone see the benefits of giving up bullying, discriminating, and shaming.
  3. Rank the helpers and supporters on top. Our culture can make it seem like there are certain groups of people who hold all of the value in our society. Unfortunately, people will often strive for their approval. Be cautious so that you don’t over-emphasize the importance of people who won’t support you. I’m not saying that no members of any one group of people won’t ever support you. I just know that we can over-emphasize the importance of getting approval from the ones who are dishing out the discrimination and shame.

Here is what I want you to do to take care of yourself:

  1. Enhance self-esteem. Almost all of the first drafts that we write about ourselves leave out important strengths about us. Identify some of the negative labels you’ve lived by, or labels that come from discrimination. Then re-write the draft to add your strengths and break down the BS.
  2. Grieve. When you’ve been mistreated, it’s OK to experience anger, sadness, fear, etc. Let yourself have these emotions. Pay attention to them and see if they lower on their own. If they don’t, reach out to others for support.
  3. Be a change agent as much as possible. There is no judgment if you can’t be a widespread advocate of cultural change. Keep in mind, being yourself is being a change agent. Acknowledging who you to yourself is being a change agent. However, if you think you can be a powerful advocate for other non-cis people, go for it!
  4. Don’t isolate. When we’re experiencing shame or hurt, it can be tempting to isolate yourself. I know that many non-cis people are already isolated. If you’re in a metropolitan area, there is likely a few social and support groups out there. If you’re in a more rural area, consider an online forum. Obviously, in person connection is the end-goal, but a forum can help to establish some connections in your life.
  5. Find stories that resonate with your experience. Sometimes, all that we need is to know that someone understands the feeling that we’re having. Look for videos where someone shares their story. Identify what parts correlate with how you feel. Find a song lyric that can represent how you feel. Or find other types of art that are representations of how you feel as well.
  6. Manage basic needs. This should maybe be #1 on this list. Are you eating, sleeping, exercising, etc? It’s difficult to build on other things without this list being fairly solid.

This is just a small list. I hope it helps. I know that these situations can lead to hopelessness. If you’re feeling hopeless and have any thoughts of harming yourself, please get help immediately! Go to your local emergency room. Or call a suicide hotline.