stigma

Go Your Own Way

Are you a Fleetwood Mac fan? My mom is. I’m not. But I do appreciate their music.

You might know they have this great song “Go Your Own Way”. I think it’s about not committing to a relationship.

If I could
Maybe I'd give you my world
How can I
When you won't take it from me

You can go your own way
Go your own way
You can call it
Another lonely day
You can go your own way
Go your own way

Tell me why
Everything turned around
Packing up
Shacking up is all you want to do

Want to know what I hear? A love song to society. It’s pretty much how I feel about human beings sometimes. Well, most times.

It seems to me sometimes that people would rather keep picking habits that don’t serve them over ones that do. It seems they want the most for the least amount of work and effort involved.

They want it cheap, fast and easy.

But a life well-lived is none of those things. In fact, it takes incredible amounts of work and tenacity. It’s so much easier to swim with the stream and stay alongside the status quo. So that’s what most people do. That’s what we see all over social media. And most people seem to be ok with a life like that. But I HATE IT. And I think my people (you) do, too. We crave being different and unique and breaking out of molds and boxes.

It takes a lot of work to do that.

But YOU CAN do it. I know. I do it all the time and have been doing it my whole life, really.

When Dave Matthews was the band to follow back in the day, I intentionally didn’t buy a CD. Just one example of many.

And there have been many days, especially in the past six years or so, when I doubted why I lived my life like that and when or if it would ever pay off. I began to get really worried that living outside the lines was catching up to me and I was getting left behind. I was losing the game. I wouldn’t ever be successful. It seemed like the way to be successful and happy, no matter fake and weird it seemed, was to do what everyone else was doing. To just be “normal”.

But I trusted myself. I kept going my own way and doing things differently, in ways that felt right for me. The more I did this, the harder my life got. And if you’ve been following along with me this whole time, you’ve seen the process unfold because I’ve shared it.

And maybe now you’re seeing that…is has totally been the right path all along. Because my life is going the way I want it to, even if it’s nothing like what mainstream society does. And that’s my whole message to you: go your own way. Even if it’s hard. Even when it’s scary. Even when you totally doubt yourself (like I often do).

Because being yourself CAN and DOES pay off. Maybe not the way it does for people who follow the silly societal rules and trends, but do you even really want that for yourself? Maybe you do. In which case, you should probably stop reading.

But if you’re trying to be yourself and have always felt like that was weird or wrong, I’m here to tell you that it’s perfect the way it is. You just have to really believe in yourself and keep sticking to it, especially in the darkest deepest moments when you feel alone and hopeless. Because then you get to have the big breakthroughs that make it all worthwhile.

Like me and what I got invited to do next week, for example. On Wednesday, I’ll be in NYC interviewing author and entrepreneur, Randi Zuckerberg, who wrote “Pick Three: You can have it all (just not every day)”. Pretty cool opportunity, right?!

Totally. And I was invited to do this in my role as a Global Mentor for WeWork Labs. Also another very cool opportunity! And I got that opportunity from other cool things that have happened to me for the past ten years of being a coach and speaker and writer.

And you know what’s the coolest thing about all these experiences? I got chosen for the work I do as a coach. And I emerged from the profound societal stigma of my identity as a trans* person and have persevered to be successful in a career of my own choosing. I also overcame my own personal limitations and mindset to persevere no matter what. Because is it possible I’m being given opportunities simply because I’m trans*? Like being tokenized to make a person or organization look better because they’ve included me? Sure. It’s totally possible and maybe even likely.

But I’m over it. As long as I’m being given opportunities to be visible and inspire (Dillanspire) people, then I’ll take as many as possible for whatever reasons.

If you haven’t experienced stigmatization like this, maybe you don’t get the gravity of what I mean. But I bet you can relate to being or feeling limited by someone or something in your life and told what you should do or be. You may have even been rejected by people you love, like I have, for being yourself. Or you feel that rejection on a daily basis.

And I bet you can relate to how horrible it feels.

And how tempting it is to give up in moments like that.

But if you’ve felt that, then you know how awesome it feels to not give up and how it’s feels SO GOOD when you’ve stuck to your values and principles when you were tested.

And how great the victory feels when you’ve gone your own way and have proven to yourself that it can and does work. Having that experience is TRUE success, in my opinion.

I know Randi feels similarly because I’ve read her book. And while we’ll be talking about work/life balance, we’ll also discuss how hard she worked to achieve her own personal version of success on her own terms.

Which is something we share in common, despite how different our lives are. We’ve both gone our own way and we’re better, stronger people because of it.

I hope this inspired you today,

Dillan

Signing up to be stigmatized: why it's so hard to come out and why we celebrate when someone does

I woke up this morning and heard the news that Ellen Page came out as gay, which was great because it left me wondering, “hmm, not a lesbian? ok. cool” and there was that question in my mind about her choice of label. Maybe it was intentional, maybe not. I also noticed the way her right hand shook and moved about, keeping time and meter with her speech, as if its motion provided her comfort that as long as it moved, she could keep talking. I’ve felt that same feeling, rather like facing a firing squad. It is exhilarating and horrible, in equal amounts.

ellen
ellen

And then all the People of the Land rejoiced that yet another person stood up on a stage and shared something extremely intimate and personal to “help others”. All the People of the Land celebrated another person facing and overcoming the decision to face a lifetime of being stigmatized based on one identity of many that made that person a whole person. And they applauded her courage and bravery and welcomed her into The Club--the association of people who lead the pack of being open, honest and vulnerable while others live their lives off the radar of dissection, opinion and criticism.

Ellen Page came out. Michael Sam came out. We see these headlines and then we see the backlash and the flag-waving supporters and it’s a media frenzy. I sit and wonder why we are still dealing with this issue of stigma. What are we being taught? What have we not yet learned about stigma and difference?

"Overcome the notion that you must be regular. It robs you of the chance to be extraordinary."  

-Uta Hagen

Something that occurred to me while reading the post on Autostraddle about Ellen and the video of her coming out at the HRC event was the bittersweet quality of coming out. It prompted me to write this piece about what it means to sign up for a lifetime of being stigmatized, why it’s hard to take it on and why we celebrate when someone does.

First, I gotta say this. LGBTQ people aren’t the only ones living outside the lines and they aren’t the only ones being brave and outspoken. The big elephant in the room here is that there are no lines. We celebrate people coming out of the closet, specifically about sexual identity, because we think it signifies someone defying norms and not being afraid to be different. It’s a hoax, folks. There actually is no such thing as normal. There is nothing but difference all around us. We fool ourselves into thinking this isn’t the case and the truth is staring us in the face. Coming out moments are mere reminders that we aren’t honoring the reality, the pure, naked, obvious reality that this country (and world) is still a place that sees differences as differences instead of the truth about us humans. Uniqueness is the only true norm we share in common.

Coming out represents what it means to be stigmatized, to be separated from “the pack” based on something that makes you different in some way. It’s hard to do that, to expose this thing (or things) that make you different because often that becomes the only thing that people see. They miss the kaleidoscope of your complex identity because “the thing” blinds them.

It’s also hard when others get to play it safe and not be so brave because their identities make it easier to cheer from the sidelines. People, like Ellen Page who are "lying by omission", get to choose the level to which they open the closet and expose their skeletons, or whatever the heck else is hanging out in there.

It’s hard to come out when you know the things people hide, things that aren’t socially acceptable, and yet everyone does a great job of faking it. They hide it. They play the part so well that everyone else is convinced they are the broken, weird one and then no one feels comfortable to be authentic. And because no one feels comfortable, many people hurt the ones who DO step outside the lines (those lines that aren’t real, remember) to make an example out of those who dare to live out their difference. Sometimes, the brave ones get tired of being brave and take out their pain, called internalized oppression, on each other. The “community” can sometimes become anything but a safe place to be different.

That’s why we celebrate so much when someone does come out--about something, anything that is stigmatized. Divorce, abortion, rape, religion, weight, height, adoption, stay-at-home dads, mompreneurs, learning disabilities, to name just a few. When someone speaks up or comes forward we celebrate, individually and collectively, because it shifts the culture one notch closer to the reality we all seek and crave: a culture that accepts human uniqueness and complexity as a given and the only true norm. It reminds us of something we understand but is deeply nestled in our brains: stigma only exists because we’ve failed to make it obselete.

I look forward to the day that coming out becomes boring and commonplace and people don’t feel like they are facing a firing squad of their peers, who, ironically, would probably be facing a squad of a different sort.

But for now, every time someone comes out, we will celebrate. We will celebrate the surmounting of silence over the persistence of stigma. We will celebrate the liberation of a hidden truth and we will feel inspired to be a bit more authentic, ourselves.

In other news, how did I NOT KNOW about this HRC "Time to Thrive" conference? #signmeupfornextyear