Insight at the TEDxMileHigh After-Party

Insight at the TEDxMileHigh  After-Party

Speaking last Saturday at the TEDxMileHigh Wonder event was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. I was overwhelmed by the response I received from the wonderfully warm and supportive audience.  I want to thank Jeremy, Helena, Nicole, Briar and all of the TEDxMileHigh staff for giving me such an amazing opportunity.

I spoke about the unique experience of having lived in both genders, and about the privilege I had, but did not fully appreciate, as a male. While the event was live streamed, the video will not be available for another month or so. I will let you know when it comes out.

On Saturday evening I attended the after-party and had the privilege of talking with a couple hundred people who heard my speech. I cannot count the number of women who came to me and said, “Thank you for validating my experience.” Many had tears in their eyes.  I felt such gratitude.

I spoke with mechanical engineers, educators, psychotherapists and software architects. I talked with full-time homemakers, mothers with young children, and retirees. I conversed with African-Americans, Asians, Hispanics and Whites. Whenever I had the chance, I asked the women to talk about their own experiences. While some shared lighthearted experiences that reflected the early part of my talk, the majority shared stories of a lifetime of treatment as second-class citizens.  Some told stories of abuse. Over a score talked of growing up in fundamentalist homes. The connection between religion, misogyny and abuse is clear, and appalling.

When I left the after-party I was overcome with emotion. Thankfully, my Lyft driver was silent as I cried on the ride back to my hotel. Women know too much pain, and have known too much pain since the dawn of time.

After several years as a female, I thought I was beginning to grasp the breadth and depth of the problem.  As I listened to these women, I realized how much I still have to learn.  I had too many years as a privileged alpha male to be able to fully understand what these women have been through.  It is humbling.

The last few weeks have been difficult, as I have watched most of the women I know share some kind of “Me Too” experience. I am most haunted by my friends who cannot bring themselves to speak or write the words, “Me Too,” because their wounds are still open. For some, these wounds have been open for decades.

I retired to my hotel room and thought about all of my years in the patriarchal world of the church.  By trying to bring about change from the inside, I thought I was doing my part.  It was not enough.  The abuse, misogyny and lack of equity demanded a much stronger response than what I offered.  I could have done more.

Five thousand people came to their feet on Saturday to show gratitude for my talk.   I am grateful I had a chance to shine a little bit of light on a very real problem, but the ones who deserve the ovation are the women who have endured a lifetime of mistreatment and are now rising up and powerfully crying out, “No more!” I was inspired by these women and the stories they told.  I will continue to do whatever is in my power to bring about change.

As a male, I didn’t know what I didn’t know. I know now, more than ever, just how unjustly this world treats women, and I will not be silent!

 

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Long Showers and the Like

Long Showers and the Like

When you transition from one gender to another, your entire life is turned upside down. Initially you are just trying to survive. A little later comes the post-traumatic stress. I barely remember the six months after I was let go by the various ministries I served. It was a good two years before I became confident about my ability to survive.

For all of those reasons, it’s only been recently that I have begun to reflect on the more subtle aspects of transitioning. I started making a list. I am not suggesting all of these shifts are directly related to transitioning, but I suspect most are. In no particular order, here are a few of my observations.

First, let’s talk about the temperature in the office building – any office building. I don’t remember offices being cold, but now I would never go to the office without a sweater. Why? Because it’s 58 degrees in there! You can tell who controls the thermostat – the guys with their jackets off and shirtsleeves rolled up.  Who put them in charge?

This is also true of the front of an airplane. (I did not lose my free upgrades and the accompanying perks. Thank God, the airline industry does not care if you are transgender.) There are blankets in every first class seat, and the women always have them draped over their bodies. The men never open theirs. The people in the cockpit control the cabin temperature. Yep, most are men.

When I was in college, my dorm had the world’s smallest hot water tank, but it didn’t matter because fast showers were the order of the day.  All I had to do was lather up, rinse off, and I was done. Now, I can stay in the shower for days. After mountain biking this afternoon I took a 35-minute shower. It’s a good thing we have two giant hot water tanks. My body wants the feel of all those droplets.

Since I have extremely curly hair, the amount of time devoted to my hair has grown exponentially. It is the main reason I kept it short through most of my adult life. Until I found the book, The Curly Girl, I went back and forth between frizzy and frighteningly frizzy. I am finally making peace with my hair, but I am still concerned about its borderline tendencies. It turns from friend to enemy on a dime.

Women do need a lot more clothes than men – a lot more. Which is frustrating because clothes are more expensive and of lesser quality. Men’s shirts are made of cotton that could be used to make mainsails. They are sturdy. Women’s cotton shirts are about as thick as two-ply toilet paper. And don’t dare take them to the dry cleaner, because you’ll pay twice as much to have them laundered.

I wonder, who was the first dry cleaner to figure out you could fleece women with impunity? He probably thought, “Hey, we can pay them less but charge them more. How cool is that!” There’ll be a special place in purgatory for that guy. He’ll have to spend millennia ironing linen pants.

My skin is thinner now, which is probably why I’m always cold. It’s also why I bruise twice as much as I used to. And of course that is obvious to everyone, because women’s clothes show a lot more skin than men’s clothes. Thinner skin is also why women get cellulite while men don’t. I also find it ironic that while women have thinner skin, in my experience men are more thin-skinned. You know what I mean.

The biggest differences come from the loss of testosterone and the arrival of estrogen. Testosterone is a powerful drug. The number one reason transgender men are in psychotherapy is because they are struggling to deal with the arrival of testosterone. Aggression is one result. (When was the last time you saw a woman starting a brawl at a football game?) And of course, the biggest impact of testosterone is how one experiences sexuality.

As a male, sex was a problem. I never crossed a line of any kind, but I’m telling you, it wasn’t easy. You constantly had to be on guard. I mean, think about it. There are no brothels for women, and according to a Pew Research study, 80 percent of people watching porn are male. Male sexuality is about perpetuating the species, so the male is pretty much always thinking, “I’ll have that, and that, and that.” Have you ever watched bull elk during the mating season? Yeah.

I now experience sexuality far more holistically. I’m not even sure what I mean when I say that, but I know it to be true. It’s more of a being experience and less of a body experience.

I could go on. In fact, it seems I always need more words to express what I’m thinking and feeling nowadays, but I’ll have to save that observation for another day.

And so it goes.