i dream of being possible

gender and presenting as professional

So, another day and another privileged cis white d00d blaming victims of institutionalized oppression for our failures:

If only they were actually about professionalism and not merely screeds about dress codes (or worse) childish temper tantrums over the desire post anything online under the guise of “personal space” without professional consequences. Newsflash: how you look and act around the community you serve matters. How you dress is up to you, but if you step outside of the people’s expectations as to how [insert your kind of librarian] should look it’s going to take work to show them that you are a competent professional. It’s not up to them to expand their definitions, it’s up to you to do the work that will prove those definitions are wrong.

Of course, perhaps he isn’t blaming victims of institutionalized oppression, but rather complaining about the often tedious discussions about this sort of thing. Hard to tell. Because clearly a guy with a stable job and recently named an LJ ‘mover and shaker’ really doesn’t need to give a shit about the very real ways his (not uncommon) opinion entrenches and enforces institutional oppression. I normally wouldn’t talk too much about the appearance stuff, since Cicily Walker already masterfully addressed this:

Regardless of what I wear or how I act around some members of the community I serve, my race will always place me outside of the norm. When we place the burden of of being the exception on those who fall outside of the norm, we are furthering an agenda that supports the idea that whiteness is the highest standard, indeed, the only standard that should be used to measure suitability.

But she did ask if any trans librarians had a response and I like her, so. My $0.02.

Questions of performing the kind of stereotypical femininity implied by pantyhose, wearing makeup, not showing arms, and so on are…well, a minefield for #girlslikeus. Given that if happen to be femme, we are often accused of becoming caricatures of ~real women~1. That we are accused of being ‘hyperfeminine.’ Mock-worthy parodies of ~real women~.

This… despite the fact that, for many years and still very true today, that if we want to access trans-related medical care any signs of ‘masculinity’ can often mean that you will be denied necessary care.

Or, worse, that any deviation or playfulness with your gender can actually result in violence. Or death.2

But the point is… is that there literally is no winning. You, for whatever reason, either perform a type of traditional femininity that not even cis women are required to and are damned. Or you do not. And are likewise damned.

The employment situation for trans people in Ontario is pretty dismal. The 2011 TransPULSE survey notes that about 35% of trans people are either unemployed or underemployed. Also, that a full 50% either were turned down for a job because they were trans or unsure that this was the case.

In the USA, one recent and most complete survey yet done, Injustice at Every Turn found that 47% had an ‘adverse job outcome’ (being fired, not hired, denied a promotion, etc.) and 90% reporting workplace harassment.

A few weeks ago, when I made my name change official in social spheres (still waiting on my legal paperwork…) and took my first step, and was having lunch with another Asian trans woman, this is what she said: “welcome to never getting another job.” It wasn’t a joke. A portion of my current pessimism about my career prospects is based in this.

I do suppose it is good that I have a lifetime’s worth of experience of smiling through racist comments, to get me through the misogyny and sexism.

This actually all ties into the other part of what Andy mentioned, but Cecily didn’t talk about:

childish temper tantrums over the desire post anything online under the guise of “personal space” without professional consequences…Also, if you post online, it reflects on you. Period. End of discussion.

So. To what extent will the clearly privileged crap this is actually reflect on him. Well. He is a mover and a shaker, so probably not at all. He is a white man so, well, after a lifetime of being able to say anything with little or no consequence, he has no reason to ‘whine’ about the inability to have an opinion not reflect on his competence as a librarian.

I once mentioned that it would actually be a nice change of pace to have employment stuff because of something I said, instead of who I was. This is still true. But the thing is, is that we have a professional environment where many people feel very comfortable saying some really heinous things but those whose lives are negatively impacted by those words must always smile and remain silent. Because calling out oppression is almost always punished more heavily than being oppressive (look at ‘donglegate’).

Indeed, one of the reasons why I’ve broken my own silence about social issues like this and am doing this experiment in professionalism is because I’m pretty sure at this point that my career is already dead. I was sure it was dead before I started this blog and I’m even more sure now. I’m speaking (mostly) freely at this point because I have very little left to lose.3

But, hey, I’m being childish here, so I’m very sincerely sorry, Andy. I don’t mean to whine. And if I end up doing sex work, as many TWoC do, at least I know, with the recent laws, I’ll be slightly safer and that, at that point, no one really will care what I say or do online.

  1. Note, Susan’s place is kind of a terrible place and this link is not an endorsement. 

  2. Also, I should mention that I’m speaking as a member of the subset of trans women most vulnerable: trans women of colour. Of course, at most risk for this sort of thing are Black and/or Latina trans women. Intersectionality. 

  3. And believe me when I say that I’m still being very careful about what I saw and how I express it.