I was out running errands yesterday (in boy mode) and I was reminded how different I experience the world when I am en femme. Of course, it’s a lot more fun to to accomplish things when I am hearing the click of heels on the sidewalk and pausing to check my makeup in (every single) mirror at a store, but I digress.
When I am out en femme, I scan every store I walk into. I am not only checking to make sure I am not going to see anyone that I know, but I am also sizing up the people that I will be shopping with. Being obviously trans, I know the world isn’t as safe or as friendly as we would like it to be, and being aware of your surroundings is an absolute must.
But in boy mode? I don’t give these things another thought. People talk about male privilege and this is exactly what they mean. I am not concerned about being harassed or ridiculed or attacked for presenting as male. But as a woman, specifically as a t-girl, I am hyper aware of what could go wrong.
For the most part, my adventures have been either incredibly affirming or remarkably boring. Of course, there has been the occasional negative experience, but those have been (thankfully) few and far between. People do stare, people do look over their shoulders, people do double-takes. And really, that’s okay. I stand out, not only as a t-girl, but also because I am over six feet tall, wearing high heels and a super cute dress. I am waaaay overdressed for Target.
I don’t think the people who stare at me are necessarily bad people who hate me. For some, I am probably one of the first transpeople they have ever seen. One of the reasons I like going out so much is because I like to think I am normalizing our community in the real world. Sure, everyone has heard of transpeople, they probably have seen one on television, but they probably have never seen one of us at Starbucks.
I am aware of who’s looking at me. My self-awareness is turned way, way up when I am out in the real world. Is the security guard watching me a little more closely? If so, I avoid using the ladies room. Is that fratboy nudging to his bro because he sees one of them transgenders? In those situations I walk to a different part of the store.
I may not know exactly what everyone is thinking, perhaps they are looking at my cute outfit. I mean, why wouldn’t you?? But people usually communicate their thoughts through their actions in subtle ways. Sure, that security guard might be wondering where he could get a dress like that, but there is also the chance he is waiting for me to use the ladies room so he can, I don’t know, arrest me for using the “wrong” bathroom.
I write a lot about encouraging us all to go out in the real world and experience what we want to en femme. I know we all wonder what others will think, but if there is anything I want to impress upon you is that you don’t know what people will think because you probably won’t ask them and they probably won’t tell you.
But you should still be aware of who you are around. I have gotten very good at noticing what others are doing near me. Most people ignore me, but that’s typical. When most of us are running errands, regardless of the gender we are presenting as, we are usually absorbed with what we are doing or staring at our phones to really pay attention to others. When en femme, though, I am looking out of the corner of my heavily eyelinered eye to see what others around me are doing. It’s a survival skill.
It’s also exhausting.
Once I have assessed the store or restaurant is “safe”, I go about my errand. Although am a big girl and can take care of myself and I really, really don’t care what others think of me, I do get a little hurt when I see someone smirking at me. It’d be easier to pay zero attention to everyone around me, but again, being aware of your surroundings is a survival skill. Your safety depends on it.
But how much attention are people really paying attention to me, or any other t-girl? Are more people looking at me than I realize? Are more people laughing or pointing than I am acknowledging? Am I more naive than I thought? Am I oblivious?
Yesterday’s errands brought a new perspective to all this. As I wandered around the store, I noticed a t-girl doing her shopping as well. She was tall (aren’t we all), had amazing eye makeup, and a cute outfit. I noticed her because of her outfit and makeup, but also, to be honest, she is trans.
I noticed her in the same way you might notice someone who is wearing a t-shirt of your favorite band on it. We had something in common, but she had no idea that we did.
As I got my shopping done, I saw her a couple more times in passing, and eventually we were checking out at the same time. I looked around the front of the store as I waited to be rung up and I observed the other shoppers as they noticed her. How did they react? Were they staring at her? Were they laughing at her? Were they coyly taking out their phones to take a picture of her?
I watched others for two reasons. The first being if someone was going to harass her, I could intervene. Sisters watch out for sisters. Even if the sister is a boy at the moment. But I wanted to see how others reacted to a t-girl. I thought it might give me insight as to how others might pay attention to me that I may not realize.
Nobody cared. She was not disrupting anything. No one was pointing. No one was trying to get their friend to look over at her. It was as unremarkable as you could want.
This made me happy. For one, our sister was (hopefully) having a happy time out running errands as herself. Hopefully her day en femme was as unremarkable as my days was in boy mode. But I was also happy that no one cared.
Well, you know what I mean.
It made me think that perhaps people don’t care as much as I think they might. If people weren’t paying attention to her, maybe I don’t concern them either.
Visibility is important. We need to show the world we exist. But in a way, if we have gotten to the point where we are so visible that seeing a t-girl in the wild isn’t that as an uncommon experience as it used to be, then perhaps we can chalk up a small victory.
Finally, it should go without saying that no matter how much progress we are making, it is still a very dangerous world out there. We are among the most misunderstood communities out there. I am not so naive to think that everyone loves us and no one wants to hurt us. Being fabulous and being safe should always go hand in hand.