During season two of the original Star Trek series, the crew of the Enterprise has its second encounter with the sleazy criminal, Harry Mudd. This time, Mudd is the ruler of a planet of androids who serve him. One of those androids hijacks the Enterprise and brings it to the android planet.
Eventually, Mudd discovers that what he thought was a paradise is actually a gilded prison. Neither he nor the crew of the Enterprise can leave the planet.
A plan is hatched to overcome the central computer in control. The idea is that if they can overload the central computer’s circuits, it will disable the entire network. Then they can reprogram and the Enterprise can leave.
To accomplish the overload, they engage in a series of illogical stunts and statements. Even Mr. Spock plays against type and tells a pair of identical female androids, “I love you, but I hate you.” The one who Spock hated replies, “But, we’re absolutely identical!” Spock responds, “Yes, that’s why I hate you.”
Of course, the plan eventually works.
One of the realities for every transsexual who embarks on transition is the coming out phase. For younger children and teenagers, this generally means coming out in school, their neighborhood, perhaps a place of worship and to family. For an adult, life has increased the number of circles of connection: college or trade school and the workplace would be the most common. But other friendships have also developed over time in some of the following: social clubs, military, neighborhood groups, volunteer organizations, religious institutions, professional organizations, your clients, your service providers, friends of one’s spouse and even people you meet simply going through life.
In a separate post, I will discuss coming out to family in greater detail (also with a Star Trek reference, ironically). For now, I want to focus on the simple idea of acceptance and rejection when we come out to our immediate world.
One of the things I was told by my gender counselor and others in the TG community is that you cannot accurately predict who will accept and who will reject. Like Mr. Spock and the identical androids, it is difficult to apply logic to the situation. Perhaps, it is simply that we do not know enough about the other person. For one thing, most of us were not comfortable to casually broach the subject to test the future waters.
Furthermore, the initial reaction is not always etched in stone. People who swear they will always be there for you are suddenly MIA. And people who initially reject may come back to you, contrite, apologetic or even tearful.
In my case, I was fairly accurate in my assessments, perhaps with help from the Holy Spirit. But I can’t claim to have had 100% accuracy. What I found in retrospect was that those who rejected tended to have a strong emotional attachment to me or some other way they elevated my position in their life: father figure, hoped to marry me, best guy friend, mentor or strong male Christian leader.
As a member of both a conservative evangelical church and a conservative evangelical ministry, I knew I had some difficult ground ahead. I voluntarily resigned from the ministry simply because I was admitting I did not meet one of the primary qualifications: it is a men’s ministry. About a month later, I told a select group of leaders the real reason for my resignation. I did so for two reasons. First of all, these were the people I felt closest to in the ministry. Second, I had a client who was a fellow member of the ministry. I knew the people he was likely to go to when he found out. I wanted them to find out from me first.
Except for the client, I was not looking to stay in any of their lives. But I did get two messages of support. In one case, we have stayed in touch. From almost all the rest, there was silence.
Sometimes there are unexpected victories. There is an elderly couple that I met through the ministry and have known for over 20 years. He was like a spiritual father to me. Based on age and my knowledge of his beliefs, I calculated that it was highly likely they would not understand or accept my transition. I specifically asked those that I told in the ministry to not tell them, lest it hurt them deeply.
Out of hardness of heart, one of them went out of his way to tell them. To my delight (and probably his great surprise), they did not reject me. I am pleased to say that I am in regular fellowship with them, perhaps even closer than before. They even have my new picture on their wall next to other family pictures and cards.
I had no clients within the small church I attended. But when I came out to my pastor and his wife, and they were the first people I came out to at the start of my transition journey, I told them that I would not be the cause of a church split. When I started living full-time as Lois 13 months ago, I voluntarily left that church. Had I caused an uproar, odds are that I would have eventually left anyway, but the pastor would have been the one to pay the price in more ways than one. We are still friends and I would never knowingly bring harm to him. And the Lord led me to a new church (with the help of another Christian I came out to) where I am very happy.
The elderly couple was not the only time that I was calculating odds of acceptance. In fact, that was the situation with each client I told. My livelihood depended upon the frequency of my being accepted. Many of you have one employer and one workplace in your life. In terms of your livelihood, your coming out begins and ends there. It’s all or nothing for you.
On the other hand, I am self-employed. I prepare close to 100 income tax returns for about 80 clients. Mentally, I began to put each client into acceptance categories: probably, possibly, 50-50 and probably not. With some of my key clients, I was able to meet with them in person or through a website that allowed them to join a conference call and see whatever was visible on my computer. These are people for whom I prepare multiple returns and who sometimes refer other business to me. And I came out to a client with whom I am close and who is also a mental health professional. I had a 100% success rate with this group.
But with that many clients (about 15% who live outside of a reasonable driving distance), there was no way I could tell everyone personally. To those I could not contact personally, I sent a two page letter emphasizing: the trials that brought me to this place in my life; that this would not diminish the quality of my work; that during the previous tax season, I had already basically given myself over to being Lois in my mind and I had the most efficient and organized tax season ever.
In addition, I included a photo card using three images from my photo shoot with Amanda Richards (True Colors Makeup Artistry, Bethlehem, PA – I highly recommend her for makeup skills, photography technique and her ability to put at ease a newbie in front of a camera). Selecting those three photos took longer than I expected. But it was worth it. I feel that it helped some of my clients who had never met a transsexual before. They could see that I was still a real person, not a caricature or some preconceived image they might have picked up from the media.
An interesting and serendipitous result from my sending the pictures was that a large percentage of my clients did not recognize me. (My new name is quite different from my old name.) Some only realized who it was when they read the letter. Originally, most thought I had sold the business and this was the person I was recommending. One person thought I had gotten married and my wife was becoming part of the business. Another thought I might be her husband’s cousin of the same first name.
I can only assume that for four of my clients (because they have no recollection of receiving the information and they originally contacted me by my old name), they opened it, saw the picture and assumed I was someone looking to build a tax practice. Thinking to themselves that they already had a tax preparer, they threw everything away without reading the letter. Three of the four stayed with me.
Finally, for my Christian clients only, I included an additional write up on what I was discovering regarding what the Bible had to say about being transsexual. They are some of the forerunners for my blog posts on the same topic. You are getting an expanded and improved version of that initial discourse. The Lord continues to reveal things to me over time.
I also sent out a modified version of the photo card and basic letter as my Christmas message to non-client friends who lived too far away to tell in person. They were sent out very close to Christmas because of everything else that was going on in my life. But I received one Christmas card of support from a procrastinator in the sending of cards (as I usually am). I received some other phone calls or e-mails of support and one e-mail rejection. I have heard nothing at all from four others. I guess I will find out if I get a Christmas card from them this year.
Getting back to the clients, I received an immediate outpouring of support from about 20% of the clients (the 80-20 rule strikes again). Then on New Year’s Eve, I received a negative letter (but that client eventually stayed with me). Then there was a cluster of negatives (from three Christians who know each other well). Finally, there was an agonizingly slow dribbling in of clients who contacted me at their usual time (and a few who were later than usual because of a lot going on in their lives). In the final tally, I lost some business but I also gained some new clients from referrals. One dear Christian client made an extra effort to find new business for me when she heard that other clients were dropping me. A higher percentage of clients came back to me than I expected, and my business didn’t suffer as much as I feared.
I now have a display ad in our local LGBT friendly business guide. I am hopeful that it will help build back more of the business I lost.
He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. – Isaiah 53:3-5