Archive for the ‘gender’ Tag

Finally, a fit

My custom suits came in and I went for the first finish fitting today. I’m so incredibly excited for these! And they fit really well – only a few adjustments required. Who knew my left arm was half an inch shorter than my right? With a dart at center back to make the jackets sit better on my shoulders and taking in the waist and hemming the trousers, they will fit my body exactly right.

But more important is that even in this not-yet-finished state, these suits fit me, my self and identity, even better than they fit my body.

I surprised myself with a spontaneous admission to a friend on another platform to that effect. I said that this is what I have looked like in my most vivid imagination of my truest self since I was 10 years old. That’s precisely true. I’ve envisioned this identity for longer than I’ve had words to describe it and money to manifest it.

This outward presentation of the inner self is more critically important than I ever imagined. It’s silly to feel so emotional about clothes. But, really, it’s more than the clothes. It’s the freedom and agency to display this elemental aspect of myself. It’s the courage to be exactly myself and occupy this space and identity in exactly the way that makes me feel most genuine. It’s the feeling of completion and rightness. It’s the way my head comes up and shoulders square and my eyes meet everyone else’s. It’s the confidence that I’m exactly myself and everyone is seeing me exactly how I want them to see me.

Crazy how a change of clothes can make such a difference.

For those who have been privileged to occupy that authentic feeling in everything they’ve ever put on, this gushing excitement will seem insane. But for my fellow butches, tomboys, enbys, and others who have ever fought for the ability to wear the outward markers of their inner truth, it rings true.

Those fellow gender warriors will understand what I mean when I say that slipping into that suit, feeling it settle well on shoulders and hips, brought an immediate, blissful rest in my deepest self. With that on, I had no more work to do to make myself, the me that has been forever shrouded in the not-quite-right trappings of everyone else’s expectations, apparent to the world at large.

I can hardly wait to get the finished product and wear it out into the world!

A Fitting Experience

While I’m taking a few days off work this week, I’m taking the opportunity to take care of some personal errands. As you do. It’s not a glamorous use of vacation time, but it’s necessary. But today was a majorly cool experience.

My big gift for Christmas this year was a gift certificate for a custom made suit. My brother and sister-in-law gave me this gift for a couple of reasons. First they know that I don’t like shopping and don’t often spend a lot of money on myself, but would do both if given a nudge like this. Second, it’s something I’ve been talking about doing in preparation for the Alaska cruise our family is taking this summer. So my SIL went with me to be measured and have an initial fitting today.

I’m a bit of a nervous nelly when it comes to clothes shopping. The task has been fraught with stress and anxiety for me for my entire life. As a child, it was almost a war between me and my mother over what was “appropriate” for me to wear. I rebelled against anything “girlie”, which she felt was the only look fitting for my gender. As I got older, the experience became even more excruciating when size stigma was piled on top of gender discomfort, as well as being constrained by cost.

But since I attained a level of comfort (financial as well as gender identity), choosing masculine clothing exclusively, I’ve felt better about myself and the shopping experience. Yet even with that relative ease, shopping for clothes has still been a tense experience. So I anticipated that today’s activity would be as well.

I’ve never been happier to be proven wrong. Today’s experience was the most comfortable, gender-affirming, fun shopping experience I’ve ever had. My sister-in-law had prepared the way by talking to the stylist ahead of time, warning him that I am easily embarrassed and don’t like to shop.

It worked, because he greeted me by name and with a smile and firm handshake. He treated me with dignity and attention to detail, careful to discuss with me how he needed to touch me, asking my consent first. And he was carefully discreet with my measurements, which was so important to me. He even joked with me when I said I needed to be sure they wouldn’t add girl darts to the jacket that would give me cone boobs. 😜

It was so positive that I ended up ordering two suits and will likely add at least one custom dress shirt, as well. I’m surprised at how excited I am to have clothes made specifically for my non-standard body. Makes me feel pretty good, I have to admit. And that I’m going to have them in time for my 50th birthday is also really cool. I can’t wait to sport some custom fashion!

No Context

Sometimes you just have to vent, even when you’re still committed to positivity. Sometimes it’s just too hard, takes too much energy and effort to excavate the silver lining from the cruddy day. Sometimes the thing that relieves the pressure, lets off the steam, and brings even a small measure of pain relief is a good ol’ fashioned gripe…or cry.

But even then, sometimes indulging that impulse to let it all out can be alarming, even hurtful, to those around you. That’s especially true when you spend so much time being deliberately, intentionally, carefully positive, avoiding this very type of stormy, emotional release of frustration. When you are known for calm, measured, controlled, authoritative responses, blowing off steam can be doubly jarring to witnesses unaccustomed to seeing you in an unguarded state.

Sometimes that extra burden, on top of the drive to remain positive, is too much to bear. A thing I do when this happens is to vent without revealing context or rationale for the thoughts or feelings expressed. That way I can get it out of my head and heart with the best chance of sparing others’ feelings and without having to do a lot of educating others to put it all into an easy frame of reference.

This week has had its highs and lows, but I’m feeling more of the lows than highs and have a need to shake off the darkness. Even wearing my Jedi socks and a daring bow tie/shirt combination didn’t take the edge off today. So here’s my vent, without context and in no particular order. (Don’t take it personally – this post is really just about me.)

  • Gender policing, particularly around use of public bathrooms, is exhausting B.S. Yes, I know how to read. Yes, I know it’s the “ladies room”. No, I’m not in the wrong place. No, it doesn’t hurt you for me to pee in my own stall in the same bathroom as you and your precious little girl. And no, I’m not a predator for needing to pee in peace. Get over yourself!
  • My level of tolerance for just about everything decreases in proportion to your level of ignorance and entitlement. Don’t expect me to indulge your stupidity at the expense of my personal integrity or mental and emotional security.
  • Pain sucks. It drains all my energy and makes me an emotional wreck and intellectually deficient. I’m so over it!
  • Feeling pathetic and without value, especially when I can’t identify what’s causing that irrational emotion to surge and persist, is debilitatingly irritating. Sometimes I wish I had an emotion chip like Commander Data that I could turn off and never turn back on.
  • Despite the evidence of a rough week, I am not broken and I don’t need to be pitied. Just because I am injured and moving more slowly and gingerly doesn’t give you license to touch my body without my consent. Stop with all the hands on my already aching back and limbs. Thanks, but I can walk and stand without you yanking on me! And, yes, if that sounds gruff and ungracious, then I’ll own that. But you need to own the irrationality and privilege of being offended at someone defending their agency and body sovereignty.

Okay, that’s enough venting for a good long while. Thanks for the indulgence, friends. I hope you’re having a pain- and frustration-free week and look forward to a weekend of positivity and relaxation.

Long Weekend Spectacular

Oh, my! I just had the best holiday weekend I’ve had in recent memory. And though I’m facing a particularly stressful few weeks at work, beginning tomorrow, I’m happy, replete with relaxation and fun memories.

Here are some highlights, all of which count high on the “good thing” index:

1. Hours of meaningful conversation with a good friend. We’ve known each other for several years and share similar identities and some life experiences and I never cease to be amazed by her positivity and friendly kindness. This weekend allowed us to catch up on some big life events happening for her and share some moments of real connection that I’ve desperately needed of late.

2. New acquaintances. New friends include a delightful family and the most adorable couple, all friends of my friend. We had lovely meals and incredible conversations with each of them, covering a spectrum of topics that included faith, acceptance, identity, gender, and everything in between. Laughing with these new friends was pure joy and I’m so glad I had that opportunity.

3. Food adventures galore! My friend has a lot of experience living outside of the US, so has an appreciation for a broad array of cuisines. Mediterranean and Persian top the list and I’ve enjoyed trying shawarma, falafel, kubideh, knafeh (a creamy confection topped with something like crispy shredded wheat), and something I believe is called shouiebieh (a sweet, filled pancake-like pastry). We also had amazing, authentic Italian food, and a superb charcuterie board at an amazing art museum. But perhaps the most out-there food experience and the one I enjoyed the most for the fun, relaxed atmosphere, was at the most amazing coffee shop I’ve ever visited. Not only did I get a huge caffeine buzz from something called pembertino, a drink consisting of a Mexican Coke mixed with cold espresso and vanilla – sublime – but I also had gourmet toast with amazing hand-crafted cream cheese with a Hungarian red pepper spread, and another with pimento cheese spread unlike anything I’ve ever tasted. All of that amazing goodness was served with the warmest smiles from some of the friendliest baristas I’ve ever encountered.

4. Life-affirming and identity-validating attention from a community of people that welcomed me immediately and treated me so well it was hard to leave. The experience was beyond my vocabulary to describe, but warm, caring, fun, frivolous, deep, meaningful, compassionate, and flattering to the point of embarrassment at times, feature prominently among the words I’d use if I tried to recreate what I felt. And despite my deep and immediate embarrassment, I cannot deny that the singular and most flattering experience of being called a silver fox by a beautiful femme who was, innocently, trying (successfully) to make me blush, was an instant ego-boost.

5. A reconnection with faith. Although I was skeptical, I agreed to be open-minded and went with my friend to church on Sunday. It was a non-sectarian denomination I’d never heard of before, but was assured was bible-based and inclusive. Their message and mission, as stated on their website, was encouraging and I’ve been wanting to get back to faith for a long time. The sermon, together with the warm welcome and the obvious love that the preacher and congregation had for God and for each other, went a long way toward helping me find the courage to explore that part of my heart again. I’m not going to put any pressure or expectations on myself about this. But I’m going to think about what I heard this Sunday and keep an open mind about doing more work in this area.

6. Bonus: Table top games & Chewbacca and the Droids I Was Looking For! I love games so much and we played a couple that I’d never tried before. And, wonder of wonders, I actually won a couple!! Woot! And, also, plus! We went to this amazing exhibit of Star Wars costumes at the Detroit Institute of the Arts. Incredible experience! Costumes from most of the movies and many of the most interesting characters, including R2D2, C3PO, BB-8 and Chewbacca, my faves!

It’s back to work tomorrow and I’ll no-doubt be under the gun almost immediately. But this last few days was a bucket-load of blessing that has recharged my spirit so much that I’m confident I can float through the rest of the week on the emotional energy…and caffeine…that this holiday weekend provided.

This Post Instead

I have, completely unintentionally, been ‘teasing’ a gender identity-based post for a couple of weeks. Starting with some righteous (maybe self-righteous, I don’t know) indignation over some comments in a friend’s blog, I’ve been thinking about identity a lot lately. There’s a lot of emotion and complication wrapped up in that concept. Gender, in particular, is fraught for me because I’ve been outside the accepted framework of what gender is for all of my life. But as I’ve spent time inside my head stirring the concepts and thoughts around and around, something occurred to me: I am more than the individual parts of my identity and it does everyone a disservice by focusing on one aspect to the exclusion of the others.

Now, don’t misunderstand: looking closely at one topic is an important investigative technique and allows a writer to explore detail that would otherwise get lost when examined among other topics of equal weight. And I do intend to write that other piece. But this is the one that’s fighting to get out of my head, so I’m writing this post instead.

What is it? What am I writing about if not a piece focused on gender? I’m having a hard time articulating that. As I said, gender is but one of many facets that comprise the whole of a person’s identity. But “who am I” is an existential conundrum that can’t be captured in a blog post. And it doesn’t lend itself to a tidy, memorable essay subject line.

I think that what I want to convey is really a simple, timeless concept that every person has to come to terms with in their lifetime: we each define ourselves.

The cacophony of “it’s not a choice!” being screamed at me through the internet is deafening. Hold on. That’s not what I said and that’s not my message.

I am fully aware that certain aspects of our identities are innate and not the subject of personal choice. There are some things that are in-born. Sometimes those innate characteristics have to be discovered, much as a sculpture within the marble needs to be discovered by the artist. Socialization is a powerful tool to enforce specific mores and values, some of which are at odds with certain specific identity characteristics. So, those of us born with those characteristics that are targeted by those mores often have a hard time discovering our full or true identities, When we do discover them, living them is no more ‘choosing’ an identity than being born is a choice to exist.

However, the ultimate identity comprised of those various individual characteristics (whether they are innate, or the product of life experience or direct choice), is our own definition. We get to define ourselves. Those pieces of who we are that we’re born with are the baseline. They don’t have to define who we become. Just because there are innate factors that were chosen for us by nature or genetics or environment does not mean that that’s all we are, or that we can’t rise above or add to them to become who we wish to be.

That’s a long way around to say that we can choose the best version of ourselves.

I touched on that thought or one near it in a prior post about some things I’d newly learned or learned in a new way. Essentially, I said we have agency to choose how we react, whether to momentary stimuli or to ingrained socialization. Guess I’m reminding myself of that lesson.

Although there are a number of ways I describe myself to others, even to myself, those shorthand labels don’t define me. I’m more than a list of characteristics. I’m more than the labels that I wear. That’s obvious. But the fact remains that labels and descriptions are useful tools to identify ourselves, to guide personal development and enhance discourse. It’s helpful to know that a person identifies in a certain way. It makes conversation easier, makes interacting with others easier, makes it easier to be respectful and makes it easier to avoid offending and being offended.

Bottom line, I guess, is that the parts are not the whole, but knowing what the pieces are helps you to know when the puzzle is finally together.

For now, I think it’s enough for me to know that all of the pieces of me that I know and recognize today, all the pieces I’ve discovered, those I always knew, and those I’m still working on, are a present and valid picture of me. They are as much “me” as the me I’ll be when I’ve added new pieces, whether through intentional work or life experience. And, that I can contemplate the possibility of a “me” different from the one I know today is win enough for now.

Thar’s a lot of philosophy and introspection for a Sunday evening. Thanks for bearing with me. I hope you have a great week, full of certainty and free from existential uncertainty. Be well, my friends.

Thanks to the lady in pink…

Quick bonus post today, because it’s both ridiculous and a tiny bit sad, but also a positive…for me, at least. Here goes…

To the lady in the salmon-pink tee shirt ahead of me in the TSA security line, thank you. I watched from four places back as some rather disengaged TSA employees talked to you tersely and subjected you to repeated pat-downs and questions. I watched as you patiently turned first this way, then that way, then lifted each knee and extended each arm, never once complaining. I watched as you obeyed every curt direction and endured each small indignity. 

I want to thank you for all that you endured, not only because you did it with such aplomb and patience, but because your ordeal saved me from enduring an equally or more egregious indignity. Because their robotic, tone-deaf, leaden-footed examination of you caused such a back-up in the line, TSA took several of us through the standard metal detector instead of the body scan, which allowed me to avoid the automatic extra pat-down and search that happens for me every time I fly. 

I feel a bit conflicted that I benefited from your discomfort and inconvenience. I don’t like to think that a total stranger suffered in my place. (Something a bit biblical in that sentiment that I’ll have to examine later.) At the same time, however, I’m exceptionally grateful not to have had to stand even longer, permitting strangers to touch me under the scrutiny of a crowd of onlookers who I imagine are critical and casting silent aspersions my way for the delay caused by this process. 

You see, my size and gender expression hit two of the top three leading indicators for the profiling of passengers that goes on, unacknowledged and even denied, in American airports. On top of that, the additional friction in the system arising from the general lethargy and disengagement of security workers (in my experience, at least) make my flying experience almost always dismally bad. 

But because you endured that in my place, my flight tonight, after a very tiring and mentally taxing two days of business meetings, has been a much better experience (so far) than I’ve had in a long time. 

So, thanks to the lady in pink, from a grateful Big Butch. 

Faith Vindicated 

I started writing a post this morning after reading a particularly troubling exchange on a chat group I’m a part of. I was heavy-hearted and disappointed, believing I was going to have to quit the group. I titled it “Naivity Disappointed”. My premise focused on what I called my naive optimism and how it had been proven false by the misbehavior of a few members, and the indifference of the moderators. I covered how I had let myself believe that the warm welcome and support I initially experienced when joining this group was universal among its members and would be lasting. Then I described how that naive belief was disappointed in the space of a few insensitive member posts and a single, crushingly dismissive response by the moderator. 

That draft post was a lament, a cry to the universe at the injustice I felt I was suffering. I wanted to express how painful it is to realize that all the hard work I’ve done to maintain a soft heart and a true faith in the basic goodness of my fellow humans through a lifetime of difficult experiences is worthless. 

Then I went to work and spent the day focusing on doing hard, important, substantive work. It felt good, especially because I’ve been down with the plague (bad cold), and took my mind off the bitter disappointment. So I didn’t see the follow-up exchange that happened in the chat group this afternoon until I got home. 

I try always to acknowledge when I’ve made a mistake, so that’s what I’m doing. I was mistaken about the moderator’s motives and indifference. I misjudged him and have personally apologized to him for it, even though he had no way of knowing what was still only in my head. 

Here’s what happened: 

A few days ago, a member of the chat group used “gay” as a slur in a group chat. It was more than the run of the mill, yet still wrong, use of the term as a substitute for stupid or less-than. It was an epithet, a weaponized, white-hot, buzz word flung with malice and intent to wound. I called foul by very politely and professionally asking the person to stop using that word to erase and invalidate the identity of an entire population of people for the sake of a weak punchline. I also suggested that a thesaurus might come in handy, if they couldn’t think of another way to express disfavor. The person flaired up defensively, justifying his remarks as joking sarcasm that should be transparent to everyone in the group. The mod then made some comments that seemed, at first, to support my request, but ended in an apathetic shrug of a comment that included the phrase “if you don’t like it, leave”. I misinterpreted that last bit as directed at both me and the other poster. 

I have been stewing a little over that comment ever since. This group is otherwise pretty neat. It’s a chat group focused on a new hobby I wrote about last year: begleri. (It’s a skill toy, two beads and a string, used to keep the hands busy.) Because this is still a relatively unknown skill toy, the community of “slingers” is pretty sparse. When I stumbled on this group, I was ecstatic that there were so many involved. Most of the discussion has been extremely interesting and helpful for those with lesser experience, like me. There are a lot of really talented players and they’ve all been really free with their tips and tricks. So, when I felt that the moderator was dismissive of a serious display of bigotry and insensitivity, I thought I’d have to give up the group. That made me both angry and sad. 

Then this morning’s exchange among a few of the members rehashed the earlier discussion and made some very unkind, derogatory comments about me and trashed the whole subject as some kind of “liberal bulls***”, suggesting that anyone offended by the gay slur should f-off and…you get the gist. I’ll admit to being hurt by it all, not least because not a single moderator jumped in to attempt any kind of discipline. 

So I started my draft post and then went to work. But when I got home, intending to finish my rant and then post it in anger, I decided to check back on the conversation. 

I’m so glad I did. My faith in the basic decency of people has been vindicated. I shouldn’t have given in to despair. 

The very moderator whom I had judged dismissive had walked into the conversation during the day. He started with a mild reminder of the community rules and a request to stop the abusive language. When that was ignored, he blazed! Jumped in with both feet and delivered a civics lesson in text form that my Sociology professor would have been proud of. Ending with a commitment to ban anyone who continued to use abusive slurs, he reminded everyone that the gay and trans members of the chat community have as much right to participate (without fear of abuse) as any others. I was never so happy to be wrong about someone as I was today. 

Mr. Moderator, as I’ve told you separately, I was wrong and I misjudged you. Thank you for supporting true inclusion and restoring my faith in humanity, even those who are just online strangers. 

Troubling Thought

Here’s the first of my #NaNoWriMo posts…

Last month, I attended a CLE seminar on diversity in the legal profession. During a panel discussion with five representatives of various marginalized demographics, a question asked the panelists to tell of a time when they experienced trouble in their job because of their minority’s identity. Several of the women of color described being assumed to be secretaries, prostitutes, or mothers of their clients by judges and court personnel. The discussion turned to their coping strategies and what things they did to avoid those assumptions. All of the women on the panel, including the gay white woman, talked about making great efforts to present a professional appearance, especially having a good hairstyle and always wearing a suit jacket to court and meetings. These were acknowledged by the panel as the most direct measures to avoid negative assumptions by people who “naturally” rely on prevailing stereotypes about women’s roles. 
Then a self-acknowledged straight white man who spent 20+ years in the US armed forces, commented that his experience in uniform taught him that “dressing the part” was often the best way to achieve a goal and earn the respect of those involved. 

I was stunned by the level of agreement this remark drew from the audience. 

Perhaps I look at the thing with undue prejudice, given that presentation, gender identity, authenticity, and validation are all closely, inextricably linked in my head. But even so, I cannot help but think that telling people who are marginalized in large part by their appearance that the only way for them to succeed or advance is to assimilate the appearance of those who marginalize them, is dangerous and damaging. 

“Fake it ’til you make it “, “dress the part”, “grin and bear it”, “pay your dues”, and lots of other pithy, glib, over-simplified adages all tell the same story: you’re not (yet) enough and you’ll only ever be enough if you become (or appear to be) something else. 

In a room full of lawyers voluntarily learning about the vital role diversity plays in making our profession, our justice system, our society, and our world better for us and future generations, I judge that man’s comment, and the sentiment and connotations it carries, to be wholly unworthy, erasing whole swaths of identities, and undoing any positive messages that the seminar did impart to the non-marginalized attendees. 

But what other advice could he have given that would be more helpful? 

If looking mainstream provides the relief necessary to get you to a position that allows a more authentic presentation, how is that a bad thing? Conforming for safety, personal and professional security, or as a step among a progression…isn’t this the definition of maturity, of growth? Is it possible to balance authenticity and conformity?

Lots of questions and few answers. 

What do you think?

Exclusivity vs. Advancement 

Today my company’s Women’s Initiative program hosted a panel discussion with company executives that was supposed to highlight Women In Tech, specifically in our tech company. (It didn’t, but more on that later.) Before it started I was chatting with a woman I’ve only occasionally worked with. And in striving to keep the conversation going, I commented how encouraged I was to see how many men turned out for a Women’s Initiative event. Her response was that it was nice, especially since the program “feels” a bit exclusive. 

My immediate reaction was that in any effort to promote marginalized groups there is some kernel of exclusivity endemic to that uplifting of the target population. But, I also said that the slight imbalance created by that shift in focus is typically off-set by the privilege that the non-target group enjoys. Then the obligatory flippant, hopefully easy-going, comment was “so they should just get over it”. 
Now, what I meant by that snark is that the passing discomfort of the privileged from momentarily not being the center of attention is trivial in comparison to the significant benefits to the marginalized from being in the spotlight for a time. 
So, two things:
First, shouldn’t that be obvious? Shouldn’t reasonably intelligent adults be able to recognize that creating a group or event or environment that brings light and opportunity for advancement to repressed/oppressed/marginalized populations is, of itself, a noble purpose, and the reduction of oppressive privilege as a result, is a benefit to everyone? I feel like this should be obvious. Granted, the question isn’t always as clean as who holds more privilege between (ostensibly) only two groups. Sometimes variables within each population enjoy different levels of privilege and suffer different levels of oppression, so that you are really having to juggle the interests of multiple groups. For example, all men vs. all women can break down into racial, economic, national, political and sexual orientation demographics among each, in which some women are privileged over other women, some men over other men, and depending on how granular your filters, even some women might be privileged over some men. These variables can be tricky to account for and sometimes complicate the analysis of exclusivity vs. advancement. But, at a high level and in most instances, I think this cost/benefit analysis should be obvious. 
Second, even if the win-win of creating equality isn’t obvious in every micro-instance, shouldn’t the mere fact of a population among us suffering oppression and inequality merit scrutiny, even if that scrutiny is uncomfortable for some? Doesn’t that mean that, instead of defaulting to criticism of a possible negative attribute that might exist with the program to instill equality, the instinctive response should be rather to support and further the cause? I’m all for spotting problems, avoiding risks and preventing the cure from becoming worse than the disease. But that’s not what this type of thinking does. This is, whether accidental or intentional, obstructionist thinking. This type of reaction deflects attention from the core concern to a tertiary side-effect, obscuring the primary purpose with trivialities. It can stop a program or movement in its tracks, if it’s allowed to fester unaddressed before the program gets its legs. That’s what makes lazy thinking so dangerous. 
And here’s a bonus thought:  All intelligent discourse is beneficial. Today’s Women’s Initiative event didn’t address a women-centered topic as initially billed. Instead, it was an executive panel discussion about organizational change and change management, only sponsored by the Women’s Initiative organization. However, it’s lack of a women’s focus did not prevent it from being the platform for critical thinking about deep social issues. I had a much more satisfying chat with a different co-worker afterward that played on the same theme, only from a positive, uplifting angle. And even though I found my colleague’s comment irksome, it put my mind to work, helping me to articulate some thoughts (if no answers) about why activism, even in its mildest, most micro-level form, is critical for the growth and prosperity of all communities. 

Integrity

So, the last Writing 101 assignment for the 20-day writing challenge is to write about a prized possession, breathing life into it with my prose and, for a twist, do it in long-form. 

I know the point of this exercise is to discuss objects, how they make me feel, the context & history. But, as this is the last post for the challenge, I think I’ll try my own twist on the prompt. I’m going to try to write about something that means everything to me. But it isn’t a physical object. 
For me, the most important thing I have is my personal integrity. It is the core of my being. It lets me live as stress-free as possible, knowing that I’ve done everything in my power to maintain honesty, peace and good will with the world around me. I can sleep, look at myself in the mirror, be still and at peace at the end of each day when I know I’ve remained true to my values and done nothing to compromise or cheapen my integrity. It’s the value, the worth, the treasure that I save at all costs and don’t trade for short-sighted, ephemeral gain. 
My personal integrity is my most prized possession and I feel it deeply when my integrity is jeopardized. 
I’ve been thinking about this for a while. There’s something that’s bothering me and, in my head, it is an integrity issue. But it’s not as straight forward as a matter of telling the truth or doing the right thing in a hard situation. It involves examination of motive, which can be tricky and complex. 
Here’s the situation and then I’ll get to how it’s an integrity thing. 
I have received my first negative comment on one of my posts, https://suddenawareness.wordpress.com/2015/03/31/what-is-butch-anyway/
The post is about my personal take on my own identity. And I took great pains in that post to address the fact that validity of any identity can only be determined by the person so identified, not by an outsider’s opinion. 
So this commenter takes the time to lament my delusion of being butch and masculine. He took the effort to give me a free (and unasked for) lesson on how my natural psychology as female (which he seems to think is the same as feminine) will always betray me, I’ll never achieve what I describe, and guys will never fully accept me, but they’ll kindly patronize my delusion of masculinity. 
Never mind that I am not trying to be a “guy” or that I do not wish to attract men. Somehow, he felt the need to instruct me on the error in my identity and the waste I had made of my time in writing such a long post about something I can never be. 
And by throwing in a token “Peace” at the end as an afterthought, I get the feeling that he would think me unsporting if I were to take exception to his male-privileged-skewed opinion on my identity. 
Infuriating. 
As you can tell,  I’m still peeved about his condescending, deliberately disrespectful by-passing of the point of my post in order to impose his views on my description of my own identity. 
But…and this where integrity comes into question…I have not approved the comment for publication to the blog. 
I’ve been letting it sit, cooling my own reaction, in hopes of looking at it objectively. If I’m calm, maybe it won’t seem like such a trollish, bullying intrusion into my space. Lulu, on the other hand, has advised that I approve it. She knows how I feel and why. But, she feels that since it’s his opinion, his view of his truth, I should not suppress it, but let others judge for themselves. 
I’m not so sure. 
Do I compromise my integrity by not giving all commenters their voice, even if I disagree with their message? If I only approve comments that praise and agree with me, is the integrity of my blog and my philosophy undermined? Am I unreasonably suppressing the free exchange of ideas by not publishing a comment that, I admit, hurts and enrages me? Do I have a duty to let all who read my blog have the ability to voice their opinions about my posts? Is it a copout to point out that this blog is my safe place for saying what I am unable to express out loud in the real world and, therefore, I should be free to admit or exclude whomever’s opinions I choose? Is that churlish and wrong?
The thing about integrity, like identity, is that only the person who wears it can justly answer those questions. 
That blows. 
I don’t have the answers. But I think the fact that I have the questions should tell me something. What that something is, I don’t yet know. It may be that my questioning is merely the healthy mental process of facing an uncomfortable aspect of maturity that will ultimately lead to a balanced resolution. On the other hand, it may be indicative of a flaw in the character of my integrity, showing that I m not as transparent and authentic as I believe myself to be. 
And, yes, it is probably unfair of me to talk about the comment without letting you read it. Maybe that’s the real integrity question.  For now, though, I am going to hang onto it, unpublished, and think more about why I don’t want those words, smacking as they do of arrogant derision, published on my blog. Is it just because they’re hurtful to me and maybe others? Or is it because I don’t want anyone who disagrees with me to have a voice in this space?
I don’t believe it’s the latter, but I don’t know for sure. 
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