I can’t remember the first time that I cried, but I can remember the first time that I cried as a woman. I had just undergone facial feminization surgery and it was in that moment that I saw a woman’s face in the mirror for the first time. I had gendered myself female and finally felt that my mind, body, and soul were truly aligned. Needless to say, the tears began pouring out, as if the universe was crying through me. Each drop, a small shard of relief, made it one of the most beautiful and profound moments of my life. Because of the absence of testosterone and presence of estrogen in my body at the time (a kindness from the medical community), I was able to cry and experience the depth of that moment as a woman.
To me, crying is a gift – in a sense, the truest expression of who I am. I have learned, however, that my views are not universally shared, especially when it comes to the workplace. A coworker shared a study that revealed 41 percent of women had cried at work in the last year, in comparison to only 9 percent of men. I, too, have cried at work in the past year – a first for me – and I can vividly recall the heat of embarrassment that emanated from my face as I noticed how my male coworkers were unmoved by the same situation. As a man, my body simply did not react in the same way as it does now. In my experience, it really is the hormones. As a man, I never “lost my composure” under the duress of a stressful situation at work. But now, the magnitude of my experiences and the corresponding physical responses are much more intense. Quite literally, it feels different.
To me, crying as a woman feels natural, even inevitable. It is a defining characteristic of womanhood and a privilege that men will likely never know. I gladly accept this, and I believe that fighting who you are is a disservice to everyone, because it is the diversity of our genders, our races, our creeds, and experiences that not only makes our common humanity remarkable but also a worthwhile endeavor. To all the women out there: cry. Cry because it is an essential part of who we are. And to the men: showing emotion in the workplace is an important indicator of the vitality of a company and its culture. Indeed, displaying vulnerability is a show of strength that should be admired, commended, and most certainly not shamed.
Follow Autumn’s journey here.