| Sep 22, 2008
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Hypothetical situation: You’re out to eat in a mixed group of people. Some of them know you’re trans, and some of them don’t. Some of them you’re closer to than others, and one is a complete stranger. In the course of conversation, the stranger tells a disparaging story about a transwoman, including using “it” instead of “her” or “she” whenever a pronoun is called for. He has no clue that you’re trans. What do you do?

Someone I know had this happen to her recently. And her response was to sit there quietly and not speak up. This someone is a person I respect greatly. Through her online activism, she does a great deal to help many trans-people. I can’t begin to judge whether what she did was right or wrong. But this whole monstrous situation evoked a really powerful emotional reaction in me…one I didn’t completely understand for several days.

On my way to understanding myself and finally starting transition, I had to come to terms with a few things. Probably the most daunting was the issue of “passing”. Even before the internet came along, I had an understanding that “passing” was important. I had seen pictures in magazines and heard interviews on television. It was clear to me that transition was for a lucky few…the genetically gifted, as I like to call them. I was not one of these people. I am, after all, 6’6” in my bare feet.

Somewhere along the line, though, I came to believe I had it all wrong. It wasn’t about passing. It was about doing what you want, setting your own rules, and making people accept you on your own terms. God only knows how I came to that conclusion, but I did, and that’s what got me started on the path of transition.

Good thing for that moment of delusion; it got me to where I needed to be. But imagine my sadness when I realized I was right the first time. There’s no pride in being trans. It makes sense I guess; it defines us by reminding us what we are not, so why would you cop to it if you didn’t have to? Most people probably wouldn’t. I never really had the option, but maybe I wouldn’t either.

So I can’t negatively judge my friend for not speaking up. But I can say how it made me feel. In the moment after hearing what transpired, this is what went through my head:

I’m exposed to roughly a thousand people a day at work. Undoubtedly some of them talk disparagingly about the “it” that Meijer has working for them. If another transwoman was to overhear that conversation, wouldn’t they come to my defense? I mean, wouldn’t they?

I guess not.

And with that realization, I suddenly felt very, very alone.

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  1. besweet besweet says:

    Some of this piece was scrambled so I hope I still got the essence of the incident you describe. If I were to have been the trans-person in that setting, I might have assessed whether the stranger is either: 1. a complete ass and incapable of being open to a dose of education or 2. simply uninformed and open to my tactfully helping him to re-examine his terminology – an opportunity to help him/her discover our little world. I am not suggesting a barroom brawl over this event. No one wins in an all out shouting match, name calling, hissy fit. In case number 1. sit quietly and let the conversation become a fading memory. In case number 2. further discussions might prove informative for not only the stranger but the rest of the group. Tact is the most effective tool in this case. I’ve actually done this on two instances that I can remember. Thanks, LYNDA WARREN