OK, so the picture shows an Ass in a hole, but you get the idea, I’m trying to keep it clean for you, the reader. Why? Because this is a difficult subject to tackle.
I’m writing this today for a number of reasons. The first relates to the awareness of mental health issues, second is that it’s almost a year since I tried to take my own life and the third is to raise awareness of the ‘Asshole Syndrome’ in order to seek a cure.
I’ll start with a brief introduction for those reading this that don’t know me. I was born intersex, with elements of male and female. I didn’t know until I was 21 when an emergency operation in a ‘delicate area’ brought it to the attention of the medical profession. I found out after surgery where a decision was made that I was in fact a male. That I was in military combats, war paint on my face, I still had a weapon on me as I was rushed off a military exercise may have influenced that decision. I get why they chose what they did. However, I struggled to accept my condition, I tried to pretend it wasn’t real, that despite knowing that I was not male, that I could cope.
Over the years my condition cost me my first two marriages, I struggled with life and sat on the edge of ending it many times. The most recent was March last year. I decided three years ago that enough was enough and that it was time to be the real me, that it was about time I accepted who I was. I’ve been married for 10 years now, to an amazing woman who understands that sometimes medicine can be a bit of an arse and it goes wrong in the womb. She accepts me for who I am.
I coped and built a great career along the way, but it wasn’t without its struggles. I found it difficult to be open to form meaningful, long-term relationships as I simply couldn’t be the real me. I was afraid that I would be rejected as a freak. The easy route was to work as a contractor and become a career nomad. That way I didn’t have to worry about the long-term picture. Besides, I believed that I wouldn’t live long enough to have to care about it.
As I hit my 40’s the struggle intensified, and the asshole syndrome kicked in. Keeping my identity, my secret became harder, I didn’t want others to get close and so I became an asshole. Yep, a 100% certifiable asshole. I was blunt, too direct but it helped me to keep the barriers up, it kept me safe. But, as others have confirmed, operating like this is tough. It’s out of character, we have to put on a costume and be people we are not in order to survive. I hated it and it became a burden, one that became too much and attempted suicides became a real option. Luckily, I failed every time.
Eventually I hit the point where it was the real me or nothing and because of my love for my wife and daughter, there was only one choice, the real me. So, I started the process of adjusting and correcting the earlier medical work. It was going OK but in March I tried again to take my life but couldn’t do it. External issues and personal rejection became too much for me to cope with. It became a full-on asshole syndrome attack.
Now I’m 100% me, all the surgeries are done, I love being true to myself as I believe that in being true to me, I have nothing to hide and that I can be open and honest to others. I had a great career, I was successful, and I truly believe that if I could achieve what I did carrying the asshole syndrome and shame of my intersex identity, the rest of my career would be amazing. But, six months after looking for a new job, I am struggling with the asshole syndrome. Before coming out I never had to look for work, it always found me. My results, my experience counted for something. The syndrome changed all that overnight.
This is where the transfer of the asshole syndrome from an internal to external influence kicked in. I struggle with it now because in part I carry the legacy of my earlier struggles and not everyone can accept the changes and the earlier fight and secondly because now I am on the receiving end.
You see, now people know that I’m intersex, the earlier life where people valued my experience, results, and qualifications became irrelevant. I was now faced with normally nice people who have, out of fear and misunderstanding, become assholes.
If a recruiter looks at my profile when I apply for a job, I can predict that there will be an immediate ‘no thanks’ response. That is always amplified when they talk to me. As soon as the call ends, they check out my profile and the conversation stops, and I never hear back. I remember one occasion when after a call the entire recruitment company seemed to log into LinkedIn and check out my profile. I’m assuming for a bit of a giggle at the strange person. I’ve sat in interviews where educated people stare at me, look me up and down and if they’re male, they start the inevitable peacocking that men do to each other. Only, I’m not a male, I never was. I’m legally female yet that gets forgotten.
From a professional perspective the asshole syndrome is very real, some of those that struggled to come out to others have lived through the same pains and face it daily. There’s little to no acceptance of the battles that many have faced in the fight simply to be who they are. They carry the pain and the baggage of their old identities from before they came out. They now face the discrimination of others who think it is ok to be assholes simply because the other person isn’t like them.
Why, you are no doubt thinking, have I chosen to share this with you? Because other people matter and its important that we learn to realise that the challenges faced by the LGBTIQ+ community can be too pervasive in their lives as they struggle with the reactions they get in the workplace and the impacts that it causes upon them. If I share my story it might help you to relate to others and their struggles and desire for a cure to the asshole syndrome.
Ultimately, it’s about respect for others. Too many face unnecessary battles to be accepted at work, the place where we spend the most of our waking lives and we all have a part to play in helping each other. There is a cure for the asshole syndrome, it’s got a name, its you and me.