authenticity

Inauthenticity costs you this.

A lot of people are talking about being authentic. Less people are talking about what it costs you to hide.

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Oh my goodness. The call-to-action of "being yourself" is anywhere and everywhere. It's all over Instagram and Facebook. It's on marketing blogs and videos and Twitter. 

Every day, we are bombarded with memes of text overlay on pictures of landscapes and people jumping over things. BE YOURSELF.

And it doesn't seem to be penetrating. People are still hiding out. People are still acting like they are the only ones who are imperfect. People still think their shit's a mess and no one can know because, #failure.

And buying into this mass dichotomy and being inauthentic about your current state of life is costing you, big time. It's costing you time, energy and money. You're spending countless dollars and minutes seeking the new and latest version of "what" will help you feel better about who you are. You're suffering in silence because your humanness showed up today and something happened. You're eating all the things because that restless discomfort of brokenness feels like a gnawing in your belly that resembles hunger, but nothing you eat makes it go away. You're working out all the time because a perfect body will certainly bring you hours of endless relief and it will stay that way, permanently. You're consuming television shows and movies hoping the escapism will last long enough to keep away the loneliness.

You're getting high because suspended reality beats the harshness of this moment. You're clicking online for clothes or bags and shoes you don't need or really even want but the idea of looking "just right" is seductive, and you pretend that just right is a real thing, even though everyone has such different opinions.

You're staying up late busying yourself with distractions, thinking if you can do, eat, watch, make, read, write one more thing, life will feel less uncomfortable.

And the avoidance of the discomfort coupled with the illusion that you're the only one feeling like this is costing you the time you have here on the planet. It's costing you real connection with people who feel just like you. It's costing you money you're spending on frivolous things that don't make you feel better. It's costing you sleep. It's costing you energy that you're putting into building your persona instead of your real self. It's costing you the sublime surrender of being an imperfect human being who shares imperfection in common with every other person walking around. It's costing you freedom of expression. It's costing you the possible impact you could have on another person's life. It's costing you credibility because people aren't stupid. They might be respectful but you aren't fooling anyone, really.

Inauthenticity may cost you some of none of these things. Most likely, it is costing you freedom, ease, connection and joy--the very things you're seeking each time you avoid or don't share what's really going on. Inauthenticity is costing you comfort and assurance that you're not the only one.

Authenticity may cost you some temporary losses, sure. When I expressed my honest feelings about how things were going down at a job I once had, it cost me that job. When I was honest with my family and some friends about my transgender identity, it cost me their presence and support. When I'm authentic about my needs in intimate relationships, romantic and platonic, it costs me numerous acquaintanceships but sorts out the keepers. Authenticity sometimes comes at a cost compared the relative safety of being invisible, silent or status quo. But inauthenticity is costing much, much more over the long term. 

So, you can ask yourself, which is the cost I'm most willing to accept?


You'll win some. You'll lose some.

That's part of being your authentic self in work and in life.

I was reminded of this, yet again, the other day. I walked out of my workshop for perinatal health providers at a conference where I'd been invited back three years in a row. Three years in a row! That's pretty impressive considering the first year I ended up there practically by accident.

One of the committee members, who hadn't met me or seen my presentation before yesterday said to me, "Dillan, that was wonderful. You are changing the world 25 people at a time."

She was referring to my workshop titled, Safe Spaces: Five Ways to Provide Welcoming Care for LGBTQ Individuals. It's a workshop I created largely from my own experiences navigating the health sector as a transgender/queer person. I also include stories I hear from my friends in the LGBTQIA communities and the little research that exists about health disparities.

My workshop was the only one of its kind on the roster at this event celebrating its 26th year. It gave me great pleasure to have been invited back for the third year in a row and to be told by the committee organizers that my workshop is a crowd favorite.

It was particularly meaningful because, as I sat down to rest after my presentation, I received an email rejecting my application to be a teacher this summer. Despite my fear of rejection based on my identity as a trans* person, I had applied anyway. My experience as a certified teacher and youth programs director made me well-qualified for the position; it matched all my skills and areas of expertise. I was excited to get back into teaching and working with youth again, having done it for 15 years of my life. And, to be true to myself and walk my own talk, I openly shared my identity as a transgender person as a possible asset to the community. As I sat down and read the email saying I wasn't offered the position, I was struck the irony of the moment. I had just walked out of an incredibly successful professional moment being fully out and proud about who I am, and here I was experiencing the other end of the spectrum.

Do I know for a fact it was due to my trans* identity? No, I don't. But my gut told me it might happen long before I received the email. I had considered who or what I would lose when I decided to transition, including professional opportunities, so it really came as no surprise. I know some people aren't ready to accept and embrace a transgender person and all it entails. I know some people don't like me or value me, both personally or professionally.  

 

But life is like that, right? You win some, you lose some.

 

The sting of the email lasted mere hours due, in part, to the Buddhist retreat I attended this past weekend in the wilds of Vermont. Coming off that experience, I just wasn't able to hold onto the suffering of that rejection for very long because I know it is there to teach me a lesson about attachment. When we attach to how things "should" be or how we "want" them to be, we suffer. When we surrender to the reality of what "is", we experience freedom in our hearts, minds and spirits.

I have two choices in life. We all do. We can hold tight to our version of things, in this case the injustice inherent in being rejected based on my identity, or we can accept the NOW. The "now" of this experience revealed that some people are ready, willing and able to embrace learning about LGBTQ people from a member of those communities. Some people are not. Some things will be available to us when we share who we really are, and some will not. 

 In that moment, I became so clear about how much time I've spent suffering over people or opportunities or experiences never meant for me. I've spent precious moments agonizing over why I wasn't good enough or smart enough or (fill in the blank) enough. I've spent minutes and hours and days and weeks being a victim and complaining about things over which I have no control. We do this when we fix our focus on outcomes or results based on our short-sighted view of right and wrong, good or bad, fair or unfair. We do this when we get really attached to something or, as Pema Chodron said this past weekend, "when we get attached to a different "NOW".

 

The truth is, we will win some and lose some. We can't make everyone like us or want us or need us or value us. We can't control every outcome. When we focus on the wrong ones, the ones who don't choose us, we waste precious time. When we focus on the right ones, the ones who easily see our value and worth, we free up energy for where it is most needed and appreciated.

 

The email I received came at exactly the precise moment I was celebrating another success for myself as an out transgender professional. I thought of it later, as I sat doing the coaching work I LOVE for a company and with other people I greatly admire and respect. I've worked very long and very hard to seek out opportunities where I can be my most authentic self to do work I am exceptionally good at, because I truly love it. My life is so fulfilling, that I don't have time to spend worked up over people or opportunities that pass me up. I believe I will experience more success like this, in my career and in my personal life, as long as I remember that I will win some and I will lose some. It's all part of life.

We will lose or miss out on things. People will fear what we represent or who we are. People will reject us for too many reasons to count. We will not be able to reach everyone.

But you don't need them all. You just need the right ones. 

Myself as my hero: A transman in the making

On May 7th, 2012, I began my physical transition. My social transition began many years earlier, but this step to change my physical form forever was a defining moment for me.

I began my gender transition in my mid-30s, after a lifetime lived as a whole other person.

It took a lot of courage and as I reflect on my three-year "manniversary", I realized my biggest inspiration is MYSELF.