After such a wonderful and insightful weekend at The Esprit Conference, I felt very inspired to write about a terribly hurtful word that I’m sure many people that read this post can relate to: discrimination.
Which is defined as: “Making a distinction in favor of, or against, a person based on the group, class, or category to which that person or thing belongs, rather than on individual merit.”
It is a negative attitude, negative language, or stereotyped beliefs that people have about those who are ”different” in their eyes. It is ignorance, a lack of information and a lack of understanding of people who are not the same as yourself.
Personally, I have suffered from discrimination many times in my life. I can remember back to the first time it happened when I was 16 years old (in the early 1990’s when inter-racial relationships were very rare) I was living in a small town, and fell in love for the first time…with an Asian boy. Being a tall, blonde German girl in a small town, cultural and societal stereotypes were everywhere around us. Not only in our home town, but also as the two of us ventured out into downtown Vancouver (Chinatown was the worst!)
I was the tall, blonde girl, with the Asian boyfriend, who received nothing but dirty looks and comments and was constantly berated by so many people in and outside of my own race. As was my boyfriend. It was a difficult and challenging time in my life.
But also a great time in my life to learn at a very young age about the inner strength I had within myself, that I required in order for me to gain the confidence that I have today.
And then, as I came into my 20’s, I realized that the hobbies I was very passionate about were very male-dominated. And once again, I was immediately thrown into a society filled with discriminatory individuals. Whether it be that I’m a girl who happens to be a former model, or being a female DJ at a time when there were very few, or that I am a female who rode and raced pink motorcycles, I heard all the snide, rude remarks and was consistently harassed because of my choices to do what made ME happy.
When I was younger, I frequently took those nasty, offensive and discriminatory remarks from people personally, and as a result, I would get very upset or angry.
I was so confused by discrimination, and could not understand people’s negativity. I would wonder why some people would go out of their way to be so blatantly rude and inconsiderate to me. I was not raised to be behave that way (Thank you Mom & Dad!!! 🙂 )
But as I got older, I learned a lot. And one of the most valuable things I’ve learned is that:
hurt people hurt people.
…HURT people are the ones that hurt other people.
Every time I say that in any of my workshops or presentations, l LOVE the reaction that statement gets…because it is SOOOOO true!!!
A happy, confident person would never go out of their way to hurt someone else.
So, while I was teaching at this wonderful conference last week, which was filled with people that were born as men, and happened to enjoy wearing feminine clothing, or happened to identify more with the female gender, I was immediately overwhelmed with feelings of love and compassion. They were all so kind and grateful to me for being so helpful and accepting. I was actually saddened by this reality.
Shouldn’t we all be accepted for just doing whatever it is that makes us happy? YES, we should -I say!!! But the reality is that our society does not agree.
While at the Esprit Conference, I really wanted to learn more about the challenges that the members of the community face, so I sat in on one of the workshops.
The attendees were all kind enough to allow me to sit in and listen to their very personal and emotional challenges and stories. And in case you needed some clarity…
1) Cross-dressers are typically heterosexual males who enjoy dressing up like women.
2) Drag queens are also cross-dressers, but usually identify themselves as gays or lesbians.
3) Transgenders are those who do not identify with the gender identity assigned to them at birth.
As I sat in on that workshop, I really had to fight back my tears. Some of the attendees spoke of that past week being the “best week of their entire lives”. Claiming that: “for the very first time they could actually be themselves, without feeling bad or being judged.”
I was surrounded by such beautiful energy and wonderful people, that very clearly were just wanting to be themselves and be accepted by others, and do whatever it was that made them feel happy.
It was in that moment that I was overcome with feelings of gratitude, because all of the negativity and discrimination I had gone through in my life was really was very minuscule in comparison. Many transgendered persons experience some form of victimization as a direct result of their transgender identity or presentation. This victimization ranges from subtle forms of harassment and discrimination to blatant verbal, physical, and sexual assault, including beatings, rape and even homicide.
Here are some stats I’d like to share with you based on The National Center for Transgender Equality and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force which launched a 6 month data collection process, interviewing 6,450 transgender people from all 50 states, Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
- Transgendered people are targets of discrimination in many areas of their lives; this marginalization exposes them to tremendous social and economic insecurity.
- People that are discriminated against are at high risk for depression, drug and alcohol abuse and suicide
- 97% have experienced mistreatment, harassment, or discrimination on the job including: invasion of privacy, verbal abuse, and physical or sexual assault.
- 47% of survey respondents experienced an adverse job action because they are transgendered—they did not get a job, were denied a promotion or were fired—that directly impacted their employment status.
- 26% lost their jobs due to their gender identity/expression
- Transgendered individuals experience poverty at a much higher rate than the general population, with more than 27% reporting incomes of $20,000 or lower
- More than 15% have an annual income of $10,000 or lower
- The majority of assaults against transgendered persons are never reported the police for fear of being ostracized.
Discovering who we truly are, our “authentic selves” is not always easy. It can be hard work and take some time to discover. It requires the courage to ask yourself the hard questions and be completely honest with yourself about what is truly important to you in life and then expressing it in the world.
It is discovering that very first component of confidence: Self-Awareness.
It is extremely important and meaningful to live your life on purpose by honoring your authentic self.
So, the moral if this story is to PLEASE be grateful for all you have. And recognize that some of the hard ships that you may be experiencing in your life are most likely easier than some of which other people are facing right now.
Always remember to show others the love you want to receive.
From my heart to yours,
Here’s a pic of part of the fabulous groups that attended one of my seminars…