“Don’t piss into the wind.”
I asked for advice from Chuck Munson, demanded advice, and after a good think, that’s what he offered me.
“Don’t piss into the wind.”
It may have been the best advice that have ever gotten. Certainly, it’s up there among the top.
As good as it feels to piss in the face of fools, pissing into the wind just doesn’t really do anybody any good.
TBB was in a training course when the topic of employment rules came up. As the only engineer, the only one in the union, she felt compelled to offer a word of warning when the subject of enforcing administrative rules not covered by contract came up.
“I would check with the liaison before trying to go against collective bargaining agreements,” she said.
The rest of the group found her words distasteful. They insisted on the rightness of their position, insisted that they had the will and the power to trump any agreement.
As an engineer who has to deal with the reality of machines, TBB knows that her will stops when it comes to the mechanics of real life. Hell, she can’t even get the personnel department to not assign people who have proven themselves lacking, as they insist that fairness should override quality.
TBB saw a fight she couldn’t win with this group who really want to believe in their power to demand compliance. Like so many weak managers, they imagine an organization in which people just do what they are told rather than being smart, independent individuals with their own diverse understandings.
If it wasn’t a class on leadership, she would have stayed silent. As a mouthy broad with a smart head on her shoulders, she learned a long time ago what Chuck told me: don’t piss into the wind.
For people like TBB and I, speaking the truth, even when it was not only inconvenient but also ineffective was what we learned to do very early. It got us into plenty of trouble until we got the lesson Chuck wanted me to know: don’t piss into the wind.
Entering a fight with a group of people who are sticking together to defend their own desires, their own insider status, well, that isn’t going to end well for the intruder. Yes, it may soften the ground, may plant some seeds, but the person who does that is still going to end up battered and devalued.
TBB felt that old cold wind when they closed ranks to try and silence her. Now, she is TBB, so she didn’t back down, but she did feel how much the lessons of diversity and respect were ignored to try and marginalize her as a threat to the illusions of absolute control. She felt it and it hurt her, even though her tough shell took the blow.
Raising the subject again later, she tried to explain what happened to the facilitator who offered to let her leave. That wasn’t the point.
We can’t fight and win every battle. We have to pick and choose, deciding when we have a chance to make a win and when we will just be pissing into the wind. You gotta know when to hold ’em and know when to fold ’em and at our age, we fold. TBB even wonders why people look her up on the internet anymore after so many years of trying hard not to piss into the wind.
Choosing battles carefully because after a lifetime of experience we know the price of futile and stupid gestures is reality for transpeople. Newly out transpeople may try to tell people how to think, try to imagine a world where they can order correctness, but after a while, you learn to be more considerate with your piss and vinegar.
TBB has been around long enough to know that she is the one who is going to have to clean up the mess. Even her staff has trouble speaking up when things aren’t right, wanting to just stick to their knitting rather than make waves. This makes her even more aware of the need to pick her battles, to fight less and be more effective.
We know the moment our fight goes all pear shaped, when what we are trying to offer to the group is just getting dismissed and erased. Speaking up is important, but, well, Chuck was right; pissing into the wind doesn’t really serve any good purpose.
Get shut down enough times, though, and if you don’t have the spark TBB brings, you can just learn to not even try to fight for what you think is right. You can learn to keep your head down, let stuff pass and just be satisfied with the mediocre.
As TBB likes to say, failure is not an option. It is, though, a possibility if we don’t value and encourage the fight to be better everyday.
Keep throwing good stuff back in people’s faces, though, dowsing their spirit, and you will never get the best from them.
What do you think is worth fighting for, even if you get a little blow back?
How many times, how many years, how many decades are you willing to fight the same fight?
And when do you just decide the fight is no longer worth the effort?
Continue reading Into The Wind