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Public Acceptance: We’re Getting There

| Feb 7, 2011
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Has there been a revolutionary change in the attitudes of the general public towards transgendered people?

I think the term ‘in the closet’ was invented for us. For many of us the common denominator is a male identity that dominates our day life and a secret female identity through which we express our desire.   Rarely the twain do meet. Most often the reason for the separation of identities has been the general public reaction to the crossdressed male. It has varied from derision and open hostility at the worst to indifference at best. Add the fact that few wives or girlfriends have been accepting of the crossdresser’s ‘hobby’ and we can find plenty of reason to stay in the closet.

What about those of us who disclose their feminine affiliation to others? They want to be known for the complete person they are. Often we hear that this self-disclosure does not go well. Often it causes the loss of contact with friends and family to say nothing of a sometimes hostile public.  But I’m happy to say that is not always the case. For example I recently came across a number of what were termed ‘feel good stories’ recounted by members of Gender Mosaic, a TG support group in Ottawa, Canada. Spontaneously and almost simultaneously members experienced and reported special acceptance not only by friends and family but, as they recounted, also in the big wide straight world.  They shared their experiences of positive support via their association’s yahoo group. Something is happening out there girls. Posting of these feel good stories was started by one of the members, Amanda, a number of years ago in an effort to counter some of the more depressing discussions that were taking place at the time.

So naturally first up was Amanda, a crossdresser who has been out to her family and friends for several years. Neighbours around her rural home are as used to seeing Amanda as they are her alter ego ‘Paul’ but that doesn’t stop her from wondering how she is going to be accepted by strangers in the city.

Sophia and Amanda

For some weeks Amanda who lives about two hours away from Ottawa had been waiting for a call from the Children’s Hospital to schedule an MRI for her knee. CHEO is picking up some of the overload from other MRI units around Ottawa. In Canada with its free access to medical services the demand for tests like MRI’s can be overwhelming so when you get the call you take the appointment.

I got that call on Saturday afternoon. They asked if I could be there at 8 a.m. Sunday morning. I agreed even though it was the morning after the (Gender Mosaic Christmas) party and even though I hadn’t brought any male clothing to Ottawa with me.

My alarm went off at 5:45 a.m. Dressed as Amanda I arrived at the hospital with lots of time to spare and handed the receptionist my Health Card and said she had an appointment for me. She couldn’t find my name and then asked if I was supposed to be at CHEO. Turned out I was at Ottawa General. (The two hospitals share the same campus) Oops. The girl came out into the hall and gave me directions to CHEO. She was very nice. So I did the whole thing over again when I reached CHEO. After I handed the girl my card with my male name and photo ID I noticed that her name was Amanda so I said Amanda was my femme name. We chatted for a bit and then she said she would note my femme name on the file. Though Amanda had noted my femme name I was called as Paul and the poor girl who called me was quite confused when I stood up. But she treated me very politely. The MRI Technician was equally friendly and helpful.

As I left I went back to tell Amanda how pleased I was with her helpfulness and that we have members of this group who would be very fearful of doing what I just did. She said I should tell the other girls which was exactly what I intended to do. Even though I fully expect to be treated respectfully in situations like this I am always pleased when it actually happens.

Then came Stephanie’s report. Stephanie is new to the transgender scene. After years of uncertainty she joined Gender Mosaic and began her hormone replacement therapy both less than a year ago. She is still getting used to others’ reactions as she reported:

I now spend 99% of my time as Stephanie.? ?I went to Hakim Optical to buy a new pair of glasses on Wednesday evening. When I walked into the store, the sales rep was busy helping someone in the back of the store, so I began to look at frames. The store was pretty much empty except for another woman who was waiting for her friend that was being assisted out back.

Stephanie

As I was looking at frames the woman who was waiting said to me “Excuse me m’am, is there something I can help you with?” I replied and asked her if she worked here. She said she was a friend of the rep and that it wouldn’t be long and she would be out shortly. As I continued shopping the rep came out for a minute and came to see me and said “Excuse me m’am, I still have a couple of things to take care of and I will be with you shortly. In the meantime you have this section that you can chose from and the other section is for men so I don’t think you need to go in there at all. Chose something you like and I will help you chose a pair that you are comfortable with.”

I picked some frames to choose from and sat down in front of a mirror and started to try out some glasses. She came to sit with me and we worked on choosing something that looked good. We spent a good half hour together and I was able to pick a pair of glasses and a pair of sunglasses. Both very feminine.? ?We went to the register and I handed her my prescription. With the prescription clearly in hand, she called me by Stephanie and not by the name stated on the prescription. She even asked me if a mistake had been made on the prescription with my name and the MR. I was truthful with her and said that it was correct but I do go by the name Stephanie. She said that was not a problem. We finished the sale and I was on my way.

Stephanie’s story continued: I got a call from the optician’s today and a man was at the other end and asked for Stephanie and that one of my pair of glasses were ready and that I could pick them up. I went back to the store to pick up the pair that was ready. He was busy but told me that he would be with me in just a moment.? ?After 5 minutes of waiting he came to see me and asked what he could do for me. I told him that I was there to pick up my glasses. He asked for my last name and right away knew what I was there for. As he handed me the new glasses he looked at the work order and said there was a mistake on the work order and the name on the receipt was wrong. I told him it was okay and there was no mistake, the name and the Mr. was right and it would not be like that for too long. He apologized and said it should be Mrs. Stephanie Proulx anyways.

Stephanie concluded with a very good point: For a long time I thought that I would not fit in when expressing my gender, but when I do interact with people that I don’t know, it seems that it always becomes a non-event. We always put restriction on ourselves and always think the worst, but how will we know what will happen if we do not forge ahead and live our lives as we should.? ?It feels very good to finally become me!

Then came the effervescent Sophia, a crossdresser and a good friend of Amanda’s:

Lisa (my friend from Montreal) came to visit us for the Gender Mosaic Christmas party last week. Since she arrived Friday we decided to go out and have dinner at the nice Baton Rouge Restaurant. It was full but they had seats left for us at the bar so we could wait for our buzzer to ring and light up.
As we were sitting at the bar, all the staff were being really nice. Being on the Quebec side, the French Canadian culture was really coming out. Nothing impolite but quite different, we were getting a lot of looks and a lot of smiles, people would turn their heads not just once discreetly but twice and more, always with smiles of approving but curious.

Four guys were around 12 feet from us and I could see they were fixing up a bet of some kind, a challenge. So finally, one guy left his group and headed towards us, there were around 4 empty seats between them and us and 3 napkin containers but he decided that ours was the one he was going to take a napkin from and it was right in front of Lisa. We did find this funny and played the game as he was really kind of leaning over Lisa to take it. We never got to know if he knew we were femme or not because the Barman did not like it at all. While taking in his hand the container and moving it 3 feet from us he told the guy

“What do you want?”

The guy said, “some napkins!”

Barman: “Here take them from here!!”  He gave them a very serious look and a smile back to us. We were so happy to see this gentleman coming in to offer protection (that we did not need) but still very polite to show this kind of care for us.

As we sat at the table, our first waiter was really young and nervous, looking everywhere while telling us the evening’s specials. Later the owner came to greet us and ask us if everything was ok and I told him about the funny young nervous waiter in a very polite way. He then told us (and again we would never get this kind of comment anywhere than in Quebec), “I have to admit ladies that you are the talk of the town in my kitchen.”

We all laughed and it was great evening.

Finally we heard from Kay:

As some of you know, I have been having laser treatments to remove facial hair for most of last year.  Today was treatment #6.  The consult and first couple of treatments were done as full male, just tired of shaving every day.  Several treatments in, it came out that I was TG and probably heading for transition which was the real reason for being there.   At one of the earlier visits Sharon had said that if I wanted to come in as Kay she could deal with that, and she’d like to see her. Today Kay went.

Kay

I went into the office and said Good Afternoon to Sharon at the reception desk.  She looked up and said “Hello, can I . . . ”  and paused and did the cliché double-take, and then said “Hi Kay, good to see you.  You look very nice, I barely recognized you.”  I thanked her and fireworks were going off in my head.

A few minutes later, she looked at me again as I was sitting in the waiting room and said “You’re beautiful!”  Thanked her again — more disorientation and bigger fireworks.

And then the icing on the cake — we’re in the room getting ready to start the treatment and she looks at me and says “you know, you look better as a woman than a man.”  OK — my mind has just been blown off the grid!

And that was basically it, except for some comments on how smooth and young my skin was, and how she expected to have to take foundation off before the treatments as it looked like I was wearing makeup — but I hadn’t put any on because it knew it would interfere.

In response to these ‘feel good’ postings a number of the Gender Mosaic members posted comments of support and congratulations. However it was Amanda who best summed up the feelings, “So many of our fearful experiences turn out to be non-events.”

Footnote: Amanda and Sophia are the co-organizers of the annual Spring Fling TG weekend http://www.galsspringfling.com/. They regularly participate in events, such as Gay Pride and TDOR, to raise the public profile and acceptance of transgendered persons. They travel to other events, including those in the States where they find travelling en femme back to Canada with their male passports is not an issue.


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Category: Transgender Body & Soul, Transgender Fun & Entertainment

Linda Jensen

About the Author ()

Canadian writer Linda Jensen is a long time contributor to TGForum. Before the days of the Internet Linda started her writing with the Transvestian newspaper. Her writing ranges from factual accounts of her adventures to fiction although frankly sometimes her real life adventures are stranger than the fiction. Linda is married to a loving partner who upon learning about Linda said, "she was part of you before I met you. Although I didn't know it she was part of the package I fell in love with. I don't want to mess up that package." "Does it get any better than that?" asks Linda.

Comments (1)

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  1. ronnierho ronnierho says:

    The times, they are a-changin’.

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