True Colors

“When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.”

-Maya Angelou

I am aware of the impact I may have on someone.

And goodness that sounds like the most egotistical thing EVER but let me explain. It’s not nearly as arrogant as it sounds.

When I venture out into the real world, I pass by countless others. These moments are quick and inconsequential. They aren’t paying attention to me and they are lost in their own thoughts and preoccupied with something else. I’m the same way. This isn’t significant or surprising. This is true regardless of what gender I am presenting as.

Throughout the day Hannah will interact with many others… this could be the receptionist who is checking me in for my makeup appointment, the cashier who is taking my coffee order, or the salesclerk ringing up my new dress.

(Look, I get a lot of makeovers, go shopping a ton, and drink a lot of coffee.)

Everyone I encounter is going to have some sort of reaction to me. And again, this is not a reaction to HANNAH MCKNIGHT, but rather a reaction to a trans person.

And this is normal. When I worked at Starbucks after college or in a bookstore when I was in my twenties I helped many, many people. You can’t help but form a thought when you speak to someone. This manifests in different ways.

“This person is tall.”

“This person speaks waaaay too quickly.”

“This person is annoying.”

“This person is wearing a t-shirt for a band that I like.”

And so on.

Knowing this, I accept that the cashier, the barista, the receptionist is having similar thoughts.

“This person is tall.”

“This person is wearing a pretty short dress considering how cold it is.”

“This person is wearing a LOT of eyeliner.”

“This person has lipstick on their teeth.”

And of course, “This person is transgender.”

Noticing and acknowledging I am trans isn’t inherently wrong. I AM trans. I have absolutely no issue if someone knows or thinks that. I expect them to. This isn’t much different to someone acknowledging that I am right-handed or have black hair.

When someone has information about someone, then we see their character. They will be making a choice about how they will interact with that person based on that information.

This can sometimes be a positive experience. When I worked at a bookstore and someone was purchasing a novel I liked, I would sometimes give them a small discount for their good taste, lol.

Most of the experiences Hannah has are mundane. And I’m thankful for those. The person clearly don’t care I am trans. It doesn’t faze them. OR if it does, they are doing a good job at disguising it.

Sometimes the interaction isn’t very pleasant. I’ve had cashiers go out of their way to call me “buddy” or make it very clear (in a nonverbal way) that they didn’t “approve” of me.

Sorry buddy, but I don’t need your “approval”.

I don’t have the expectation or even the hope that someone thinks I am cis. I don’t think I pass and I am not trying to either. In fact, I would rather have someone interact with me kindly knowing that I am trans as opposed to treating me a certain way because they think I am cis.

When someone sees you for who you are, they will make a choice about how they will treat you. They are showing you their true colors.

And I want to see that. I want to know WHO someone is. I’ve worked with others at various jobs over the years who at one point have made a comment about “trannies”. Obviously those comments are inappropriate (to say the least) but on one hand it’s helpful(?) to know that they have revealed who they are. Not an ally, got it. I’ll avoid you, thank you.

And yes, I COULD confront them, and this is going to sound kind of defeatist, but there’s *really* no point. People rarely change their mind and to me, it’s not worth the effort to try to discuss why what they said was hurtful. Of course, my relationship with them is a factor. Some dude in accounting who hates the LGBTQIA+ community is one thing, a sibling who feels the same way is another.

I have had, and do have chats with human resources when I hear comments like this, though. I grudgingly accept that people will always hate on us, but comments like that are absolutely not appropriate for the workplace (or anywhere else).

In boy mode, I can’t STAND small talk. A coworker talking about the weather? I’d rather DIE.

But Hannah likes it. Not because of the subject matter, but they fact that someone WANTS to chat about something with her.

If I go to a coffee shop and order a drink, then yes, I HAVE to talk with the cashier and barista. They HAVE to take more order. BUT if they say something like “oh, good choice, that’s my favorite drink, too” or “that dress is really cute”, well, it makes my day.

Not because the conversation is possibly flattering, but because they saw me, registered mentally that “this person is trans” and made the choice to be kind. Small talk, if sincere, is kind. They are choosing to compliment me (if it is a compliment). They are choosing to engage with someone beyond what the interaction requires. A server takes my order because, well, they HAVE to. It’s their job. They HAVE to be polite.

But job descriptions don’t say “go out of your way to be complimentary to trans people.” I mean, yes, they have to make a guest or customer feel welcome, but you can be polite to my face but have hate in your heart.

I know this because I’ve done this countless times. At various part time jobs I’ve had customers that annoyed or offended me. This could be a rude customer or someone with a swastika tattooed on their neck. I would do the bare minimum when it comes to being polite, I would help them because, well, I HAD to.

Our interactions with the real world go beyond those who are serving us at the coffee shop or working at the dress boutique.

Last week I left the salon at the same time as another girl. We were doing that thing where we were walking side by side in the same direction and it looked like we were going to the same place together. I mean, we were both heading to the parking lot, I suppose.

After a few steps she turned to me and asked how could I walk in *those* heels on the icy sidewalk.

Practice.

I loved this. Not because it was flattering, at least that’s how I took it. Stilettos and slippery surfaces IS a talent, after all.

No, I liked this because she looked at me, she knew (I mean, she HAD to know) I was trans and she still CHOSE to engage me in small talk. It’s moments like that where I feel truly accepted. It feels so much better than “passing” ever could.

She showed her true colors that day. She saw me as a t-girl and chatted with me out of kindness (or curiosity). At the very least, she saw that I was trans and it didn’t stop her from interacting with me.

I often wonder what others think of me. This is not the same as CARING what others think of me, and any potential reaction someone MIGHT have certainly never stops me from doing something. When I am at my most optimistic, I like to think that people accept, or least tolerate trans people, unless they show me otherwise. In a world so determined to drive us back into our closets (which isn’t fair, I have no more room in there), it’s incredibly crucial for us to be told that we are seen, we are accepted.

Love, Hannah

3 thoughts on “True Colors

  1. I definitely agree with all this. I think every single time we interact with someone, in a positive way, it reminds people that we exist, that we are normal, and that we are not a threat to society.
    For a very long time I was reluctant to admit to anyone that I am a doctor. I was fearful of the response it might generate. But now I’m much braver–not completely brave, but braver–and for myself it’s part of showing people that doctors can be trans too.

    Like

  2. I agree with you about not being able to change a person’s opinion so it’s better not to engage them, nut you know where they stand. And things said at work that are inappropriate should be reported. I do the same thing where I work. No one should be made to feel uncomfortable while they do there job.

    Like

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