I’m sure most of you have already heard but I just thought I’d put up this post regardless. Today, the 23rd of May, marks the start of a bright new future for Ireland. The majority of voters said “Yes” to same sex marriage and it feels absolutely wonderful. I woke up this morning and was still unequal but by four o’ clock all of that changed.
People of all ages came out in full force to support this referendum. It was my first time voting and I feel so proud to have made history alongside my fellow voters. My civil partner and I went out canvassing for marriage equality and were met with such mixed reactions that I really didn’t know what result to expect today. Doors were slammed in our faces and we were told by some people that they would be voting “No” to our equality.
The strangest reaction we received was from one gentleman who confidently told us that gay and lesbian people do not exist. Apparently, according to this guy, lesbians are ugly women who can’t get a man and gay men are just guys who don’t have the courage to speak to women. Obviously.
Over the past few days I’ve felt such a mixture of emotions. Seeing the pictures of people returning home from other countries, making the journey home from college and work and going out to vote both alone and with their families has really moved me. Such support is overwhelming and I will never forget how I felt when the results were announced. My partner and I had our civil partnership almost four years ago and have always felt, in a way, like we were married but now this is different. This is not in our minds or in our hearts. This is our love given the validation it deserves. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
I’m posting this for two reasons. 1. To show my support for the trans* community. 2. To share my recent and one of my first experiences of ignorance towards what it means to be trans.
I was having a group conversation with some people recently when someone from our area who is transitioning was brought up. This individual is undergoing hormone treatment and is transitioning from male to female. This individual has also had surgery to get the breasts she’s always dreamed of having. Anyway, the people I was talking to said this woman was a man pretending to be a woman and that he was dressing as a woman for attention and kept emphasising that because this woman still has a penis she is definitely a man. The worst thing was I don’t even think that these people fully realised how ignorant, damaging and almost cruel their statements were. I told this group that gender is in your mind and doesn’t require the individual to have genitalia that perfectly match their preferred gender. I tried to explain that not every trans person will have bottom surgery and that’s okay because they are still their true gender and should be referred to as such. The fact that someone can transition from being male to female, still have a penis and be referred to as a woman completely baffled these people and I think they still walked away thinking that it couldn’t be true and that if you have a penis you must be a man regardless of how you present yourself.
The conversation then extended to either trans people should tell people what genitalia they have before dating them. This, again, divided opinions. I think this is completely up to each trans person and how comfortable they feel disclosing that information.
I tried to appeal to these people by asking them to imagine what it would feel like to be born into the wrong body. I also asked them to imagine how devastating it would be to be presenting as the woman you always knew you are while taking hormones and after undergoing surgery just to still be called a man. This still didn’t really work.
This conversation gave me a very small taste of what it’s really like to be trans and it opened my eyes to how judgemental people really can be. I know it may not sound like it but this group of people are generally quite open minded yet when their idea of what it means to be male or female was challenged they completely closed the doors of their minds and almost refused to even consider any new information. I truly empathise with the trans community and am furious that people who think this way are out there. Maybe it’s simply a lack of education or maybe it’s blatant transphobia. I walked away from that conversation still angry that people could put down another human being so easily. Just know that you all have an ally in me.
Recently I have found myself in a number of different work places through education, training and volunteering. The one thing these places all have in common is the fact that they all come with a certain amount of small talk. This small talk revolves around family life, nights out and general interests. You know, the usual stuff. My problem is that I’m struggling to decide either I should come out in these work environments to be honest. It’s not necessary for them to know but even a simple question like “What did you do at the weekend?” has the potential to make you squirm when there’s something you don’t want to reveal.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m totally out usually and would never lie about my sexuality. I’ve even appeared in a local newspaper in relation to my sexuality! Being out and proud is not the question here – being accepted is. I’m afraid that if I come out in these work places that I may not be granted the same opportunities as others. Is that silly or justified? In Ireland religion still rules a lot of work places attitudes however with the marriage equality referendum in full swing it’s becoming apparent that a lot of people are completely for the equal treatment of same sex couples. It’s easy to come out in a work place which has policies in place that protect LGBT people against discrimination and prejudice. These work places automatically promote equality for all of their staff.
When the people in these workplaces are casually mentioning their families and husbands or wives I’m unsure either I should too. If I met the same people outside of these environments I would absolutely come out to them without hesitation but it feels like I’ve more to lose here. I think that I’m worried partially about being treated unfairly but also about being stuck volunteering in close proximity with someone who may develop ill feelings towards me because of my sexuality. I guess that’s their problem, not mine, but I just want to avoid any hassle.
I would love to tell them all about my wonderful relationship and about the happiness it brings to my life. My other half means the world to me and it upsets me that it isn’t easy for me to share every part of my life with everyone. If the marriage referendum passes with a yes vote then I would love to shout my joy from the rooftops and tell everyone how happy I am to now be able to marry the person I love and have the same rights as a heterosexual couple. I know that a workplace is a professional environment and revelations sbout my personal life shouldn’t be a concern at all but others can freely do it. Can I? What are your experiences with coming out at work?