Last night as I was reflecting on the blog about embracing the past self that another really good point struck me that is rarely talked about in transition. It's has to do with how we interact with the people that know us from before we start. To start this off I'm going to use a real life example.
The company that I work for is pretty progressive on human rights. While they do not discriminate against transgender people, the insurance still doesn't cover any part of transition. (To a point) Overall, if you come out as a transsexual planning on transitioning, your job here is protected. They want the best of the best and they understand that being diverse creates more opportunity to tap some incredibly intelligent people.
In another division is an older transsexual that for privacy issues I will call Betty. Betty started her transition early in my years working here and did it completely on the job. Back in the early 90's we as a society still had a long way to go toward acceptance and education over this issue and yet, this company embraced her change. It wasn't as easy for the employees.
Back in those day I was working in our main machine shop and working with a bunch of shop guys took a huge emotional toll on me because of the things they would say about this person. I would later learn that this person had no friends left after her transition and generally had people view her very negatively here. A lot of these things played an important part in my fear of transitioning because I simply did not want to be treated the same way. The only thing I had to go on in those days was the experience from watching and listening.
Over time I noticed different issues that have since changed my opinion of Betty and made me realize that even with all the negative trans stuff, she simply wasn't a nice person to begin with. In turn she does every other transsexual behind her an injustice as we all end up stereotyped with the Springer mentality. My understanding was that back early on if you even said something to her that could be construed as discrimination you would end up in HR under the microscope. While I understand that there are people that will never accept us, there are a bigger number who simply; don't care! The problem arises when someone mistakenly uses the wrong pronoun or gives the wrong impression without intending any malice toward the trans person and the trans person is so defensive that it becomes an issue.
In another instance at a lunch time company appreciation picnic Betty showed up wearing Daisy Duke shorts. Somehow the thought of a 68 year old woman at a company function, during work hours just does not seem right, trans or not! It is issues like these that have labeled her and stereotyped the rest of us making it harder to be taken seriously.
One of the big things in the people I have always associated with is that they must of all things have a good sense of humor and personally I'm not any different. This aspect of my personality so far has been the one thing that I have been able to embrace and use to my advantage when dealing with people who know. I find the more I allow this to be fun without being insensitive the easier it is for them to feel comfortable with it. More times I've been told or heard, "I was going too but I didn't want to offend you" from people who know me or are even close to me. Unless you are saying things with the intent of being nasty then it's not possible for me to be offended.
If I were to take my transition and myself so seriously that people felt they had to walk on eggshells then how could I possibly live a fun and happy life? So far in my experience the looser you are with humor with this subject, the easier it is for your peers to feel comfortable with you. They simply become less afraid that they are going to say the wrong thing.
Humor is certainly a medication that more of our lives need, not just trans people!