Man or Woman?

This is the questions strangers ask themselves when they see me. Sometimes I see the struggle in their face as they stare me down. They just don’t know and they can’t be too sure. But they do know they have to pick one. Sometimes they switch once I talk, or once I get closer. Other times they are used to saying gender neutral terms and can hide their confusion by calling me “honey” or avoiding pronouns until they slip.

I stand in their presence and think little about how they gender me. I’m there for another reason, whether it be to talk to them about the home care work they do or to buy groceries. I am living in my own world and I know where I am. They understandably don’t, my voice is still deep and my beard is probably already showing. Maybe it’s my shoulders or my hands, but I can’t say I really care.

Don’t get me wrong I like being ma’am-ed it feels nice and validating. It tells me I’m getting closer to who I am. But I also know that I’ve been on hormones for 3 months and I haven’t had nearly enough voice training or electrolysis appointments.

I’m just trying to view the ma’am-ing and sir-ing differently. To view it as people struggling with being respectful. People are trying with all their might to correctly gender me, they just haven’t figured out that gender and sex are two different things. Not to mention the separation of gender identity and gender presentation. They aren’t being disrespectful, that is exactly what they are trying not to do, misgender me.

So I watch the ensuing chaos that I create. Especially as me and my trans friend/roommate who is going the opposite way, Jamie, and I go for a bike ride. A guy with thick glasses stops us by saying, “hey ladies!”
We turn around.
He then corrects himself by saying, “I mean lady and man.”
Jamie responds, “don’t worry about it,” in a voice that is getting deeper by the second.
He corrects himself again, “No wait I was right the first time.”
We try our best to hold off laughter until we are far enough away.

A lot of trans people seem to want others to acknowledge their identity (possibly even before they acknowledge it themselves – I know because I felt this way just recently). But what is more important is to be sure of yourself and sure of who you are. The same way that cis-people will say, “I’m not offended when someone misgenders me.” While that isn’t the same, it isn’t a blow to them because this isn’t offensive and it doesn’t challenge their identity because they know who they are.

I had to begin to empower myself, there is nothing wrong with being trans there is nothing wrong with being recognized as being trans, because being trans is beautiful.
Laverne Cox on being misgendered

I know who I am in a world that has no idea what to call me, a world that just found out I exist. That’s fine with me, as I said, I know who I am – that is way more important to me than what anyone calls me.

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3 thoughts on “Man or Woman?

  1. Well said! What a lovely post.

    I’m still struggling with the fear around presenting as myself. But I’ve thankfully comfortably entered the acceptance phase of who I am. I am trans, that’s a-okay. My fear stems from the threat of violence and harassment. I don’t need strangers to acknowledge me, I know who I am. But I still have a (potentially unrealistic?) expectation that plenty of people will react badly. I think logically most people just won’t care, but I still hesitate and hold back wearing what I really want to.

    Oh well, I’ll get there!

    • I think when you let go you’ll be amazed and humbled at who will understand and appreciate you. Today I was trying to get a hold of someone in a housing project for work. A lady let me into the place and then me if she could ask me a personal question, to which I said yes, then she asked if I was switching …. and I said yes I was. She told me , “That’s awesome, good for you.”
      Not at all what I expected, I was more prepared for just what you were saying. Honestly you’ll be amazed at the responses you get when you let them happen. I wish people shared what they really think more often because it’s rarely boring or mean.

      • Aw, that’s nice 🙂 It’s honestly helpful to hear the reactions people have in mundane situations. It’s a nice reminder not to listen to the fear. I’m really happy things are going well for you!

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