Becoming friends with cis-people who don’t come from the queer scene is hard. I’ve struggled with trusting them and the way they deal with me being trans has made me uncomfortable. Until recently we did exactly what we shouldn’t have done – not talked about it. I can explain my feelings on the subject but it makes me feel anxious and vulnerable and I just never felt a time to naturally plug it into conversation. This has become untenable and I recently exploded my frustration onto Spaced. Since then good conversation has happened and I hope to tell this story to try to explain a small piece of what it feels like living day to day for me as a transwoman.
The first story is about walking down a street in my neighborhood at night with my friend Spaced and Hair. I hadn’t known them for long at this point. Someone called me a faggot and continued to harass me from their porch. I didn’t notice it at first and then I realized they were talking about me. I immediately went into action and actively pretended that they weren’t there and tried to get me and my friends out of there.
We got out of there and I quietly sung the lyrics, “You just want them to see you like they see every other girl, They just see a faggot, hold there breathe not to catch the sick.” Against Me!’s song Transgender Dysphoria Blues. This is the same song I sung when my dad told me my “shoulders were too broad for a girl” and will be the same song I’ll sing when I’m told I “have no cunt in my strut”. (these are all things sung about in this song)
The most interesting part of this interaction wasn’t being called a faggot it was how my friends didn’t know how to respond. Hair said nothing and was clearly distraught realizing that this is something I deal with on a daily basis, Spaced said we should go fight them. I told a story to calm them down and distract them for my harasser. The story reminded everyone that people are ignorant but it gets better with conversation. It hurt. I needed to tell that story to forget what just happened and to help my friends forget. I didn’t need support from them but I also realized I wasn’t going to get it but almost the opposite.
The next story I am alone after a run. It again is night in my neighborhood and I’m walking home with headphones on. A guy gets out of his car and goes to knock on a door. I walk past him as he is at the door and it isn’t until a few steps later I realize he is talking to me and has been talking to me. All I hear in between the music is, “at least tell me your name.” I become terrified because I know that talking will out me immediately. I also instantly feel powerless. I cannot even use my voice to say anything because I feel like this will put me in more danger. I feel threatened, powerless and on top of it voiceless.
This story happens quite often and is a story that turns my smile into a forced smile. In conversation, ones that I am feeling correctly gendered there often comes a point when the question will come. It almost always comes in the same exact way. There is a lull in the conversation and the question on everyone’s mind is asked, “Can I ask you something personal?” I wish I could have a snarky response, I never do, instead I say “yeah,” with my smile fading as I wish I didn’t know the follow up question. “Are you transgender(ed)?” I feel like I’ve lost my individuality at this point, I am just a transperson. I’m a token, maybe they’ll ask me to explain more about being trans. I don’t want to be your transperson, I was to be me. Do you ask blind people if they are blind? Do you ask people in wheelchairs if they can’t walk? But what can I do but shrug and sigh.
This story isn’t one that happens occasionally it happens everyday. It happens when I wear pants, when I wear a dress, when I have mascara and lipstick on, it happens no matter what. This is when I am walking in a space, any space. I try not to look at others but sometimes I see their stares and notice they are trying to figure out who I am. I’m just trying to buy something, pee, go home. I look away, hey and avoid talking, I know that will out me. If I’m in a bathroom then I will not and cannot say anything unless I’m with a friend. In these spaces I run from everyone. After I make it though the maze I have to talk to someone and I wait to see how they will gender me, they have to use pronouns eventually. I try out the voice I’m most comfortable with, the highest one I can perform – it’s not good enough. I wait in purgatory for their judgment. Sometimes I leave with a bounce in my step, but more often than not I leave staring at the ground.
This is how I feel everyday, yet I haven’t worn pants in 6 weeks, only skirts and dresses. Yet I continue to pee and shop alone. Some days are harder than others, sometimes I leave in a state of anxiety without any clothes, other days I leave having been gendered both male and female excited to continue fucking with people’s concept of gender, most days I leave feeling stressed out and filled with anxiety.
I also want to leave this post on a uplifting note, because I talked to my friend and I feel better, I feel supported. I told her some of these stories because she shared a transman’s story with me. She heard a podcast by a transman who was outed by a musician hero of his. He was binding and when the singer realized he had the best response that I wish so dearly for every interaction I get.