Something interested has happened in my gender transition: I’ve suddenly realised that I’m no longer so obsessed about it any more.
OK, I am still very much interested in finishing my transition as quickly as possible, in priority to other aspects of my life. But it’s just not dominating my thoughts in the same way it used to.
I am pretty sure of the reason for this: passing. Now that most people don’t realise I am trans, I no longer experience this acute discomfort when I’m in public or around people who don’t really “get” transgenderism. In turn, this means that I have a chance to relax a little and think about other things. Where I am in my transition right now is more or less comfortable, so I’m no longer in a panic to get away from here.
These days I often don’t tell people I’m trans, simply because I have no reason to. I don’t really hide it; but I can’t be bothered to be a walking billboard for the transgender cause either. If people want to know if I’m trans, they can ask.
This just means that it is so much more relaxing to be in a social hangout with people I don’t know. I can think about whatever we’re doing or talking about, and not about being misgendered or about educating people on how to respect me.
Recently I walked past a group of teenagers who were hanging out in a park. Teenagers, especially boys, used to make me rather nervous. They’re big enough to feel threatening but young enough to be immature and overtly cruel. (Most adults have the decency to be subtle about it).
As I passed, they laughed loudly about something. I had a little flashback then to how I used to react to such things: acutely paranoid that they were laughing about me. (As they often were).
But that flashback was just that, a flashback. I was still quite sure that they weren’t laughing about me. It just made me think of how I used to live, always on edge when out in public. Now, everything is so much more comfortable.
I was in a small Esperanto event (KEKSO) this last weekend. I shared a room with a woman. Not particularly interested in spending too much energy on hiding the fact that I was trans, I shaved my beard openly in front of her. I looked at her out of the corner of the eye, wanting to catch her reaction. She gave none.
I later asked her if she knew why I was shaving, since I’m still curious to learn how others perceive me. She said she had thought I might be trans, but that she was still too unsure to ask for fear of offending me if I were cis. (Her other thought was that I might be a cis woman with beard issues – which is not such a crazy idea actually).
I got a little uncomfortable in our ensuing conversations. In particular, she used the word “real woman” in contrast to me – as in, “I thought you might be a real woman”. I protested her wording* and she hastily, and rather dismissively, accepted the correction. And yet, she went on to make the exact same mistake again later. She also asked me if I had thought she was a “man”, since someone had mistakenly read her as a trans woman before. The implication being that she thought I was a man.
*In case anyone doesn’t get it, this wording is offensive because I am a real woman – being trans doesn’t make my womanhood any less real.
And another thing that never ceases to make my head spin whenever I hear its like: she said something like, “Most transsexuals annoy me, because they look like men and have male voices and you can really tell. But you have kind of succeeded in becoming a woman, so you don’t annoy me.”
The suggestion here being that she was trying to give me a compliment. But for me, if you insult the trans community, you insult me. I don’t want any compliment that hinges on dismissing my trans brothers and sisters.
I really think I failed to communicate how incredibly offensive this all was. It’s not optional to use respectful language when talking with trans people. It’s not just an annoying little detail. It’s the difference between respecting me, and dismissing my womanhood, and hence, pretty much my entire personhood.
You can’t dismiss such and important part of me and not dismiss all of me. I don’t separate into pieces. If you dismiss my womanhood you dismiss pretty much everything I am.
I’ve put up with stuff like this before, though. What was interesting about this time is that I came out to her as trans voluntarily, in a time when I am no longer out as trans by default. I’ve gotten used to not being constantly dehumanised. So her assault on my personhood stood out a little, this time.
And it made me think. It made me think about how “out” I want to be. I don’t want to spend a huge amount of energy on being “undercover”, but perhaps I don’t feel like telling people that much either. I don’t feel like exposing myself to dehumanisation.
I am planning on doing a talk on transgenderism in JES (a large Esperanto event I’m going to around New Year). I think it’s important work to do, and I want to do it. Yet, I’m no longer so driven to do such work as I was when the public reaction to my transgenderism kept me constantly on edge. The motivation to help people understand is no longer so acute, so immediate.
And I now have a motivation to not do it: the fact that I feel so very much more comfortable around most people when they don’t know I am trans.
I think my solution this time will be to have the talk towards the end of the event. That will give me a few days where I can interact with people without them knowing unless I tell them.
I mean, I’ve already agreed to do that talk. But perhaps in future I won’t be so quick to out myself in a social event I’m involved in. As I said, I don’t particularly want to hide my transgenderism, but I guess I’d like to keep a more or less low profile.
If you think this is a pity – it is. It’s a pity that it is SO frikkin hard to be a trans person in today’s society. It’s a pity I had to suffer through more than a year of acute social ostracism. And it’s a pity that there are trans people who are not as lucky as I, and aren’t ABLE to keep a low profile.
Don’t tell me I should stay as “out” and visible as possible. Tell *society* to change. Do your part to change society. Trans people are 1 in 1000; we have no chance to change anything unless other people get involved too.
At the very least, work on changing *yourself*. Challenge your subconscious transphobia. Make trans friends. Listen to our narratives. Learn to empathise with us. Learn to see us as the gender we affirm ourselves as. It’s not that hard; or if it’s hard, it’s not because we are inherently difficult to understand, it’s because society has taught you to resist understanding. Find out how we can be very, very simple to understand.