We all remember the first time we went out. We also all remember the most recent time we went out. As I get ready to go out, I think about where I’m going, what I am going to do, and what might happen. I think about everything, like if I am overdressed for what I am going to do (I am), I think about where I will park and if it’s safe or too far to walk in the heels I am going to wear…and I think about whether or not I will encounter any…well, jerks.
I know that we have decades before a transperson will be able to go out in public (or online) without the likelihood of a snide comment, or worse. I am always concerned about my safety and so far I haven’t had any situations where I felt physically unsafe. Thank goodness.
Going out as a representative of the transcommunity (because we all are) gives me a chance to see how the public views and reacts to someone like me. Sometimes my experiences are amazingly positive and I am embolden by what people say to me and what that means for the acceptance of the transcommunity. Of course, it’s not always rainbows and glitter, either.
I am okay with stares. When someone stares at me it could be for a number of reasons, such as the realization that they are seeing a transperson for the first time and they are trying to process it. It could be because they love my dress (this is my default thought because, well, why not?) but a stare isn’t a bad thing. A sneer, a smirk, a stifled laugh is, but a stare is fine.
People going out of their way to be rude is the worst.
I used to think that the bravest thing I ever did was leaving my home during the day, dressed in a beautiful dress and full makeup as I walked a block to an appointment with a seamstress to have a dress altered. But no, for me it’s more nerve-wracking to be in public in heels and a dress without makeup as I head to a makeover appointment. My face still slightly red from shaving, my…maleness in full volume. It’s a relief to sit in that chair as the artist starts their work.
A few weeks ago I went in for a makeover and as I stood at the counter waiting to check in, one of the clerks referred to me as “him” and….it killed me. I was already feeling fragile and ugly and nervous and male and this was like a stab to my heart. Any remaining strength I had to hold my head high despite a lack of makeover was just gone. She apologized and corrected herself immediately after she realized what she said and I believe it was sincere but it didn’t undo the pronoun slip.
As I sat there getting my makeup done I kept thinking about how transpeople encounter this each and every single day…whether the comment is a slip or a truly malicious verbal slap. I thought about those who are “full-time”, or those who have transitioned or in the process of doing so. They are facing the world each day presenting as the gender they identify as. They deal with this much more often that I ever will. This little moment was a wake-up moment and it helped me put my experience into perspective. It’s one thing to have something like this potentially happen every few weeks compared to something like this happen potentially several times a day.
As my appointment wound down, I felt calmer and the time I spent thinking about the pronoun slip and what other transpeople experience more often than I do put things into perspective. I felt stronger and more confident after my appointment. Stopping feeling sorry for yourself and a good makeover will do that to you.
I went on to have a fabulous day of shopping and dinner.
On my way home I stopped at a gas station and the clerk went completely out of his way to call me “buddy” and “sir”. Six hours ago a pronoun slip devastated me but this just made me roll my eyes. Others have experienced worse. Nothing makes it okay that he said that, but it didn’t affect me.
So, in summary, here are some ways to deal with some of the most common comments you hear when you go out:
“I love your dress!” Thank you!
“You are very tall!” It’s the heels.
“Hey buddy.” Go to hell.
It’s tempting and natural to want to confront someone saying hateful and hurtful things, but I don’t think it’s possible or likely you can change someone’s mind if they are such a jerk that the would go out of their way to say something like that. I am wary of interacting with haters as you never know what they might do especially since almost every state allows what is commonly referred to as ‘The Gay Panic Defense’.
Be careful and be gorgeous.