We all get to the point where we are tired of walking (or strutting) around our living rooms. We love the sound of our heels on our floors but long to hear them click on the sidewalk and in the mall. We want to see our reflection in one of those big mirrors that department stores have. We want to be called “ma’am”. We love our online friends but, like Ariel, we want to be where the people are.
Living in Minneapolis provides a wonderful opportunity to shop, visit museums, go out to dinner in a city where people are, for the most part, accepting. However, I think it has more to do with the fact that most Minnesotans mind their own business and keep their thoughts to themselves. There’s a saying here of ‘Minnesota Nice’ and it’s more or less true.
The city is also large enough that I rarely worry about running into people that don’t know about Hannah. I can avoid certain areas of Minneapolis and still have a fun afternoon. I was afraid to go out for years but I realized that people aren’t watching you as much as you think they are. Try it for yourself. Go to the mall and walk around in male mode and watch how many people pay attention to you. People are generally too busy shopping or looking at their phones to care.
However, it is different in male mode. When I go out to the store as a guy I am pretty forgettable. Just someone buying coffee or whatever. Hannah tends to stand out a little (a lot) more as she is dressed to the nines in heels, full makeup and a cute dress.
But still, people are generally too preoccupied with their own thoughts and lives to care. Everyone has heard of and has seen a transperson so seeing us is not like seeing a unicorn or a celebrity. Yes, people will probably turn their head as you walk by, they might take a second to stare and process what they are seeing, but that’s not necessarily a malicious act. You can’t stop someone from looking at you. You also can’t let them stop you from going out.
I get emails from t-girls who are ready to go out but are scared for a lot of various reasons. One of the top reasons is that they are afraid someone will look at them. I get it. But when you walk out of your house or step out of your car, you are in the real world. Where the people are. People are going to look at you.
But what will they think?
I don’t know. I am not going to ask them. I also don’t care. I am not at the mall for them, I am at the mall for me. I didn’t spend $65 on a makeover for someone else’s approval.
There’s a difference between someone looking at you and someone seeing you, though. When we go out, no matter how many times I strut out of the house, I do worry about someone seeing me that I would prefer not to. I am always hyper aware of my surroundings to stay safe. Whether it is balancing in stilettos as I walk on an icy sidewalk or hurrying past a couple drunk frat boys I am always extra cautious. If someone is staring at me and I feel uncomfortable, I simply walk away.
Being aware of our surroundings will not only keep us safe(r), but it’s also essential for avoiding those who don’t know about you. Some of us don’t care, but some of us have bosses and in-laws. Living in a big city reduces this risk, but some of us are small town t-girls and that makes things more complicated. Ask anyone who lives in a small town and they’ll tell you that you can’t go to Wal-Mart (why would you go to Wal-Mart, anyway?) without running into a million people you know. It’s easy to understand why a t-girl is apprehensive about going out.
So, what’s a t-girl to do? The way I see it, there are three options
The easiest option is the one of least resistance: Do Nothing. After all, doing nothing is the best way to avoid any sort of criticism. This is the stay at home option. Of course, if you are thinking whether you should go out or not, you’ve already made the decision to go out. You may to decide to push that thought away for now, but it comes roaring back again tomorrow.
The second option is, let’s face it, the scariest option. Leaving the house for the first time is terrifying. You stand at the door when your trembling hand on the handle and you go back and forth in your mind a million times until you do the bravest thing ever: you turn the knob. But opening the door to the rest of the world when the world you are entering into has a population of a thousand people, three bars and a church you realize you are walking into a world where everyone knows you. They recognize your car. No matter where you go, you’ll see someone you know. As brave as I am, I don’t think I could do it if the heels were on my foot. This takes a level of courage and bulletproof confidence I am not sure I could ever have.
The third option is the most expensive, has the least risk and is probably the most fun. Go somewhere. Take a vacation. Take that midnight train going anywhere. Pack as many cute dresses and heels that you can, head to Las Vegas, Minneapolis, a different small town or wherever you want and have an amazing time. Be a tourist. Sit in the hotel lobby. Shop. Go out to dinner. Go to a transgender support conference. Go to Target. Do whatever you want.
Depending on your confidence or how much money is in your purse, these options may or may not be possible. I get it. I wish there was another option that would work for you if these don’t. It’s not easy to be who we are in the world we live in. It’s hard to be a t-girl in a small town. It’s hard to be a t-girl in a big world. But the world will not be easier anytime soon. It will never be okay.