[Note – So you might be better able to follow the flow of this post, it was written at different times in order of when they were written, so every thing in present terms. It made sense to me, so I wouldn’t need to go back and change tenses. I think it gives a better sense of what I went through doing it this way.]
On Friday (10/9/20) I was outed in this journal therapy group I attend each week through a Zoom meeting at the mental health program I have been attending for years and years. After you here how it happen, you might agree that okay what that person did was wrong, but keep it perspective, and you have started the process to confront this person with the program director. I am still wondering. I want to say to myself, “Stephie you are stronger than this.”
So, that me clear away the cloud of vague information in my first paragraph. First this journal group had been a favorite group of mine, partially because I love to write. The case manager who leads the group has always been pleasant if not a little quirky. But, she is the one who outed me.
At this point I need to fill in some background. I begin the process of coming out at the program last Fall (2019). First to my case manager, and then to the program director. After sharing with one other case manager who ran the group I planned to come out in to my peers. The day of that group arrived. My “big” reveal went well. Now, I could attend presenting as a woman. But that occurred in increments. In December I finally put it all together makeup, wig, and skirt. By the end of January I went everywhere presenting as a woman.
While, I gave staff permission to share my transgender status among themselves, I reserved all communication about it to my peers to myself alone. I talk a lot about my transitioning there, and will sometimes preface that with I am a transgender woman if there are new members attending the group. But, I don’t feel obligated to (nor should I have to be) reveal this status. Matter of fact, I will most likely let new clients figure it out for themselves, and this has been a workable plan. This is pretty much how I interact with neighbors that didn’t know me pre-transition or I was not particular friendly with. My policy is to only reveal that I am a transwoman when it pertinent, or I feel the person may be supportive, and could possibly become an ally.^ Other than that I find no reason to share that part of my identity. After all I call myself a woman first. The transgender part is only comparative.
Now, this case manager came to work at the program after I started my transition there, and so should of had no need to even know my birth name as she had never new me under that name. Well, here comes her first no-no. She used my birth name at the beginning of group without a quick correction and an apology and moving on, which is the acknowledge way to respond. She said it so fast that I barely recognized she said it. But, hold on she did it a second time. At this point I was utterly flabbergasted she did it again, and without any conscious thought said, “What!” in shock. It was only at this point that she did the right thing – corrected herself, apologized, and moved on.
Now keep it in mind that I was still upset at this point when the bigger mistake happened. I was sharing with the group that I would be restarting my voice feminization training the following Wednesday (Starting Voice Feminization Training Again). There were two new members, but only one had never heard me talk about my transitioning. I did not stated my trans status during my announcement so there might have been some confusion for the naïve new person in group. But, it should always be my choice to share whatever in this regard. This is actually how it should be with anyone. Give them their own voice. Well, the leader felt it necessary to interject that I was a transgender person for the benefit of the new client.
Okay, that is fair enough, but she should have never said it. I shared what I shared and it was not her place to share more of my back story. One definite rule in interacting with transgender or other gender diverse persons is: Do not ever out anyone, Ever. This is even if the person has openly expressed their gender identity before. My first response was to tell her you do not do that, which she responded to by trying to explain why she said it. I said it doesn’t matter you shouldn’t do it, period. After I spoke out one of the new client that I had met in another group came to my defense saying that I had every right to be upset.
So, it was not so fair enough after all. I have no idea, but suspect, that the leader did not know of this protocol. The problem here was she just didn’t accept my correction with a simple sorry, but only compounded my already bad feelings by trying to excuse it as not really a mistake because she though it was okay. I struggled after this to focus on group. I even went a googling for a good resource with how to interact with transgender and gender diverse individuals.† I even wanted to exit the group, but felt that it would be unfair to desert my peers as they may need my support.‡ I stuck it through though, but than bad became worse. At the end of the group she attempt to provide her reasoning for outing me (that is what it was, even if most knew about me being a transwoman). I immediately interrupted her and told her this was not the time or place for this. She only tried to give it again. I firmly repeated my objection, which I should not have to had done—no means no. Only after this did she desist.
I was so mixed up with emotions. I felt exposed, mystified, anger, sadness, and indignation. I felt I handled these emotions well. Some linger still. And, I haven’t been able to settle my mind yet about it. This even after talking it over with my case manager and multiple discussions with my supportive girlfriend. I do not see my therapist until Wednesday, and I am not sure when my meeting with my psychiatric nurse practitioner will be as I had to move the Monday meeting with her, and it hasn’t been rescheduled yet. I am hoping to have a return call from the program director to discuss what can be done about it. She will probably be opened to mediating a meeting with the group leader.
But, that still leaves now to deal with. Right now I have a strong desire to avoid the group, especially until the situation is resolved. The resolution I am looking for is an apology without reasons. I also want her to understand what it felt like to me when she made these serious mistakes in group. I can’t even imagine at this point wanting to be in any group with her no matter what the resolution. Matter of fact I feel like I am unwelcome at program, particularly any group that she might lead. I know in my mind that this is actually untrue, but the feeling still persists. This will be something that will probably take awhile to get over.
As I sit here writing on Monday morning (10/12) I am waiting for the call from the program director. Quite anxious to get the call at times to tell the truth. It is hard to focus on other activities. The anxiousness is about waiting and wondering when the call will come, and not because I fear the outcome. I am confident, despite feelings to the contrary, like rejection and tender feelings (like the least thing could bring me down), she will be responsive to my needs.
In the afternoon I was able to speak to the director. She was very understanding over the problems that I experienced. She agreed that I shouldn’t have had to go through that. We talk for at least 15 minutes, and I explained some of the feelings I dealt with and was still dealing with, and she thought they were very understandable. She agreed to hold a mediation meeting with the three of us. She also said she would look into hiding my birth name from view to all but her, my own case manager, and billing.* My birth name is very private, and I wish not to have it shared with anyone that didn’t know me pre-transition. And, interesting thing, that was a bit unexpected, was she ask if I could contribute to educating staff on the acceptable behavior toward transgender persons. I told her I was certainly willing to help.
So today is Tuesday, and it was my day to go to the center for group. I was apprehensive about it all morning. It did not stop me from fussing and clucking over my look. I felt I did a very nice job as my girlfriend said I look like miss photogenic without any prompting. But, was having these feelings of being unwelcomed. Not only by the group leader, but at program as a whole. I even was feeling unwelcome at Five Guys and Nordstrom Rack, although I had no cause to think so. As I walked to program I had a mild dread that the group leader would be doing the covid-19 check in at the building entrance. She wasn’t, and when I saw she wasn’t I breathed a sigh of relief.
I was able to process these unwelcomed feelings in group when I was there. I challenged these feelings with evidence of my situation. I realized I had absolutely no reason to think I wasn’t welcomed to program as a whole, or anywhere else I went that morning. Not that those feelings went away completely, but for the most part they have faded away. Whether or not I was welcomed by the group leader who outed me, I decided to leave that until we are able to meet with the director. After group the director told me that she had talked to her and we could do a telephone meeting on Thursday, as the only chance for a face to face would have been two weeks from today. This is not exactly ideal as I will not have any access to her body language unless it can be held via a Zoom connection. Until then, I will wait to resolve these feelings of not being welcomed by her, and how I will be able to move forward with her. How to build trust in her for the future.
This afternoon I had a tele-visit with my psychiatric nurse practitioner, and I was able to further process my feelings. It seems that I can feel good that a number of people have my back. Starting with my girlfriend, who has always been my biggest support over the years, the program director, even today’s group leader, even though I did not explain the specifics of what happened, and my the psychiatric nurse practitioner. And tomorrow I will definitely have my therapist to support me.
Now, on Thursday evening, I have a moment to reflect a bit. Yesterday I had my weekly tele-visit with my therapist, and she was supportive as always. We spent over half the session talking about what happened. I finally began to feel a good deal better. Not sure why. Maybe being able to put everything into a better perspective.
But earlier today, I finally got my chance to speak with the group leader with the mediation of the director over the phone. It went well. I was able to express myself, if not fully, enough to have her understand the feelings and issues I had because of her action. So, I spoke first, and then she apologize without providing excuses, and said she wanted to learn more about me and being a transgender person, and how I expect to be treated. It was good enough to move on, but not yet to develop the trust necessary to be in a group with her yet. I told her I would not be coming to her group this week and will re-evaluate whether or not to attend the following week. We plan on meeting in person in two weeks. I think I will probably wait until then to return to her group.
The director re-iterated that she would like me to offer a presentation on the way people should treat transgender persons. Again, I said I would, and said I would start researching more to give a better presentation. I will still be approaching it from my own perspective. It is the only one I have.
After the part of the call with the group leader, I ask if I could speak to the director, and she agreed. I basically wanted to have some feedback on how I handled it. She said I handle it well. I told her I have learned a lot over the years about how to communicate in an assertive manner (they teach this in a lot of groups there).
So, I am basically feeling good about the call. As I said, I am far from over it, but I think the healing has begun, and that is a very good thing. It is not good for me to move on too quickly because I have also learned over the years, to allow myself to have these negative feelings, and to express them, and resolve them. There is still some work to do, but it seems like it is no longer a nagging issue. I have made good progress, and I am confident I will heal completely.
Now, I finally want to address the title of this post -“Why is This Bothering Me So Much?” First I think it was the first time I faced such a situation. But, still why? While it was a safe place for this affair to have happened, I feel I might have perceived it as a threat. But, a stronger reason may be it invaded my personal space. I believe most people get upset when that place is violated.
It has been enough time to heal, and I am do fine with the the group leader and at program as a whole. So, what have I learned? It pays to speak up when your boundaries get crossed. To ignore it only sets things up to happen again. A bit more dramatically the world does not end when I reach a rough patch. I also learned my inner strength is even stronger, and will hopefully serve me well. Caution should still be a consideration when speaking up because some environments or persons my make it unsafe.
Moving forward, what should I expect. For me to pay attention to my womanly intuitions, but evaluate them, just not acting on impulse. I am amazed at how many times my intuitions are correct. I expect to be stronger emotionally, so to not let it harm me so much? Yes, I am woman, and I am strong—here me roar!
† I was sadly disappointed with what I found. None shared all aspects of doing so, and one even failed to share the never ever out someone, even if they might be out to you and others that know about you. (A good book to read in this regard is – He/She/They: Essential information, vocabulary, and concepts to help you become a better ally to the transgender and gender diverse people in your life by Jessica Soukop)
‡ This is not about claiming I am essential to the functioning of groups, but I am often able to provide this support, and I am appreciated for it.
^ I may write a post about finding allies in the community.
* When I get my legal name change, but before I can change it with Social Security and my insurance that pays for me to attend the program, it should only be available to billing. After I have made those necessary changes, I feel it should not be in my record at all.
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