I have been dreaming a lot recently. As I shift from one chapter of my life to a new one, there has been much reflection. A good deal emerges in your sleep. There are dreams and then there are nightmares. There are semi lucid nightmares too where you flip back and forth between control to helplessness.
You know that dream where you a running down a long corridor searching for the way out? You see it and make for the exit, your enemies in hot pursuit. You know you can make it. You can see the outside world. Then suddenly you are back in the corridor again. Panic sets in. The very walls begin to surround and trap you.
If I'm lucky it ends quickly. I wake and realise that it's just a bad dream. I turn over, rest my head on my husband's shoulder and he cuddles and protects me.
This Friday I am quitting my job in education in order to start my own business. The decision has been a long time coming. I realise that I pass well and go under the radar so much of the time. It has its advantages and disadvantages. You get to feel like everyone else, most of the time. Some people however never forget.
Those childhood experiences of being forced to be someone you are not, revisit you again. In the grown up world of work there are still those who wish to send you back where you came from; deny your right to use a bathroom or even worse your right to be. In education you are often seen as less than worthy; someone who is likely to cause harm; unduly influence others by 'promoting a lifestyle choice' or not adhering to professional standards. These standards are likely to get adjusted to deliberately exclude you if they do not already do so. You find that although a thin tolerance is practiced, there is never genuine acceptance.
So many of us try very hard to combat this. These days we've got quite good at dealing with the easy stuff. Overt transphobia is relatively straightforward to cope with. You have right on your side and quite often it appears to go away. But it returns. From then on it works subtly and quietly in blocks, fault finding, rumour spreading and worse. This is much harder to deal with.
Fighting covert transphobia is like fighting an invisible, shape changing enemy. One that switches to a different mode of attack the second it is exposed. If you are really unfortunate, it works its way like a disease, even higher in the organisation where you work. The behaviour becomes institutionalised and enters the walls and fabric all around you. Before long it is everywhere as those who don't have an opinion take on that of the bigots. Even when you sleep you have nightmares about it.
Sadly, this is not paranoia. I wish it was. You can treat that. Instead, this is the reality that so many of us deal with year in year out. I used to think ignoring it and walking away was the answer but if you leave it unchecked it just seems to get worse. Sometimes you just have to make a stand. That may mean outing yourself or being outed. I suspect that the more of us who do this, the less we will live in fear.
Well now I'm replacing my nightmares with my waking dreams. This Friday At 4pm I walk away to become my own boss. In time, as my business grows, I hope to employ others. If and when I do, I promise to make it a workplace where no one need fear because they are different.