I knew I was looking pretty extra that afternoon. My makeup was bold and dramatic, my dress was flirty and cute, my heels were as glittery as a five year old’s birthday party.
I was the exact opposite of trying to blend in…. which is as freeing as can be. I don’t try to blend in very often. I am going to stand out no matter where I go or what I wear. Not that I think I am SO PRETTY and I that look SO AMAZING that everyone will stare at me and be CAPTIVATED BY MY BEAUTY. No. I don’t feel that way at all. I am a transgirl who is over six feet tall…without heels. Tall or trans, being one of those two adjectives is, by default, going to make one stand out. Two of them? You may as well shine a spotlight on someone and have someone announcing your presence as you strut into any room or boutique.
Aaaand for some of us this is TERRIFYING. And I one hundred percent get it. We just want to live our best lives and run errands and do things en femme and present as the gender (or at least one of the genders) that we identify as. For a myriad of reasons we may not WANT to stand out. We don’t want to be read or recognized. We don’t want to be stared at or laughed at or pointed at. We just want to get a coffee and run errands.
And for the most part this is exactly what I experience when I am out en femme. Hardly anyone acknowledges me weirdly or reacts in a negative way. I really can’t remember the last time I felt someone was giving off bad vibes towards me. If anything, it’s simply the expected reaction of “dang, that girl is tall” or “hey, a transgirl” and then everyone continues with what they were doing.
Of course, not bothering to blend in is not the same as TRYING to stand out. I am
probably overdressed for everything that I do, but I rarely feel my outfit is COMPLETELY out of place. I love my floor length gown but I am not wearing it to the mall (but wouldn’t that be fun? God, maybe I should). I like to show a little leg but there are some dresses that are actually tooooo short to shop in.
My point is (and it took me long enough to get here) is that I wasn’t surprised when the girls at the counter said something about my outfit.
Again, I am not saying “OMG I LOOK SO PRETTY EVERYONE IS GOING TO TELL ME I AM PRETTY BECAUSE I AM ACTUALLY VERY PRETTY”. I have enough self-awareness to know that a six foot tall girl wearing a bright red dress and sparkly heels is not going to be lost in the crowd. After all, how many others are dressed like this as they spend a Saturday afternoon shopping?
They loved my dress, they loved my heels. We made small talk and I felt welcomed and validated and happy. They made my day. Their words were kind but my feeling of gratitude went beyond what they were saying about my stilettos. What I mean is that I don’t pass (which isn’t real anyway) and I am obviously transgender… AND they were kind to me. I would rather have someone be kind to me that knows I am trans instead of someone being kind to me because they think I am cis.
I feel that how people interact with me is primarily based on how they feel about trans people in general. If the cashier is friendly and chatty my assumption is that they are more than likely an ally. If they are kind of rude and short and they give me that look, well, they probably aren’t a fan of people outside of the gender binary.
Of course, this thinking might be overthinking a little (as I am wont to do). After all, friendly customer service is something that people in the service industry HAVE to do. No, the waitress ISN’T flirting with you, they HAVE to be friendly. It’s also equally possible that the barista is totally cool with t-girls but perhaps they are just having a bad day.
BUT! it’s easy to tell when someone is doing the bare minimum to qualify as politeness as opposed when it FEELS sincere and genuine. Or at least I THINK it’s easy. I used to work retail and fast food in high school and I could be feigning politeness (so I wouldn’t get fired) but all the while wanting to slap someone.
As I strutted out of the store, my head held a little higher than when I first strutted in, I felt very grateful for how the staff made a t-girl feel welcome.
Girls like us, especially when we first start going out en femme, want to find crossdresser/transgender friendly businesses. I absolutely get that. I want to find businesses like that, too. I like feeling welcomed AND I want to financially support businesses that accept and embrace queer people.
There are many businesses, both small or giant corporations, where their policy is “all are welcome here”. Which is, well, it’s fine. I mean, no businesses is going to have a mission statement that specifically discriminates against anyone. I suppose there are some businesses that have a policy that states that customers can only use the dressing room that matches the gender marked on their driver’s license. This, in my opinion, is an anti-trans policy that doesn’t specifically say that they discriminate against trans people. A policy doesn’t have to say “anti-trans” for it to BE anti-trans.
It’s rather easy to tell what the company’s values are based on their financial decisions. I doubt any of the CEOs at Chick-fil-A will ever put out a press release that says WE HATE THE GAYS but, well, they don’t need to. Their financial donations already tell us that.
Fortunately, there are many corporations that absolutely back up their “all are welcome here” belief with their money.
ANYTHING a business does runs the risk of causing a reaction from the public. It could be changing the font of their corporate logo or casting a black actress as a mermaid. These actions can either create a new customer base or trigger a boycott. There are many places that I won’t frequent because of the organizations that they donate to. I recognize that a corporation can do whatever the hell they wish to with their money but I also have the same right. I can choose which restaurants I buy a chicken sandwich from. Chick-fil-A’s values (in fiduciary practice) has helped me make the decision to never give them my money considering what they do with their profits.
One person not going to a particular business is not going to bankrupt them, but if enough people make the same decision, it will eventually affect them. Not only financially, but also impacting their reputation and effectively rebranding them. It wasn’t that long ago when MyPillow was just a little company that made pillows but in the last few years the company has transformed itself into something completely different in the eyes of the consumer.
It’s kind of bizarre.
I do think people and corporations should be called out for what they do. I’m glad a lot of this information is out there. I don’t want to support a business if they don’t align with my values.
But of course a lot of this is outside of my control.
The energy company that I use is, as far as I am aware, the only energy provider in my state. I HAVE to use them… even if they were the most racist and discriminatory organization in the world.
But again, I can choose where I buy my lunch.
The opposite of knowing this information is also true. If I have a choice of where I get coffee, I will one hundred percent of the time frequent a cafe that I know financially supports our community (whether it’s through donations or the benefits they provide to their staff).
And as long as we are waaay off track from the intended entry for today, but more or less on a related topic, let’s talk about being “canceled”.
Regardless of an specific, individual instance of a celebrity/politician/company being dragged financially or on social media, I think we have to accept that actions and words have consequences. The United States Constitution gives us the freedom of speech, but not the freedom of accountability. Sure, you CAN say “I hate queer people” but at the same time you can’t bitch if people react negatively to your actions. If you really believe something then you have to stand by what your actions, even if it’s a horrible thing to say.
There are countless people that have endless opinions that we don’t agree with… and when we realize that we also must accept that there are countless others who don’t agree with everything we ourselves say and do.
If I really believe in something then I have to be prepared to be, well, potentially persecuted for those beliefs. There have been things I’ve blogged about that (whether it’s about legislation or girl panties vs boy panties) have been incredibly unpopular and I knew it would inspire angry emails. But these are, and were, things I believe(d) in. I know some of ya’ll aren’t going to agree with everything I say AND I am not going to complain if someone stops visiting my website because we don’t agree on something. I say what I think and what I feel and I will either learn from the responses or I will continue to stand up for my beliefs.
Or both. I can do both. Sometimes I realize my perspective is wrong based on other people’s experiences and perspectives or, over time, I come to feel differently.
So yes, I support the act of canceling, even if I don’t agree with a specific instance… just like I believe in free speech, even if I don’t like what is being said.
(The irony of this is that I know that the topic of being canceled is going to lead to a lot of… passionate comments and emails, lol.)
I want to support and draw attention to businesses that do support us… beyond just a hollow mission statement. This is especially true for small businesses. When I left the store that I mentioned earlier I wanted everyone to know how trans-friendly they were.
Buuuut then I had second thoughts. I tend to overthink and it’s not uncommon for me to consider an action and then speculate on what MIGHT happen. Sometimes these imaginary scenarios lead to all of my dreams coming true but just as often they lead to the worst outcome ever.
My hesitation is that if I were to tweet about a specific business about how wonderful and welcoming they were to a transperson that it might attract the wrong demographic. My intention would be to shine a light on a business that not only has a “All Are Welcome Here” sign in their window but also backs it up by being super friendly with a girl like me (and a girl like you). As I mentioned, I like to support businesses that are inclusive and I bet there are many others that want to do this as well.
PLUS! We all want to find “crossdresser friendly businesses” so hey, everyone wins.
But God, can you imagine someone who hates the non-binary community catching wind of this and then blasting them on social media? All of a sudden this small business run by very sweet and kind people being the target of those who hate our community? This store could be dragged into a fight, a conversation, that they probably don’t want to have. They could be met with protests, boycotts, and worse.
I mean, sure, people need to walk the walk if they talk the talk. If you believe in SOMETHING, whether it’s equality for everyone or that the Earth is flat, then you better be prepared to stand up for what you believe.
I feel that we as transpeople have been politicized and even weaponized. Healthcare for has been turned into a topic during political debates. Schools and libraries are being targeted if some lunatic on Twitter thinks they are “woke”.
I do work for a college and I can assure you that I have conversations almost on the daily from parents asking if we are “woke” or if we teach CRT.
It’s funny how many people who ask these questions can’t explain what CRT actually is, but I digress…
I had one parent ask if we have any “transgenders” working at my college and it was like “oh honey, if you only knew”. Okay, I digress again.
Being who are are is a lot easier and a lot more terrifying than it was five years ago. I used to be scared of being laughed at when I went out en femme. These days girls like me are a lot more visible and it’s not as uncommon as it used to be to see someone like you and I out in the real world. It can still be scary but the consequences are higher than being pointed at.
We are not islands. Who we are impacts more than ourselves. If I were to come out to someone not only will it change the dynamic between myself and them, it will also change that person’s relationship with my wife. They will see me in a new way, they will see her in a new way. I run the risk of ruining a relationship, but I also put that risk on my wife’s relationship with them as well.
That’s just how it is.
We as transpeople are not unlike tossing a pebble into a pond. We cause ripples. We are like a butterfly wing… a small flutter can build to a hurricane. A simple shout out on Twitter could ignite a firestorm. I want to be a force (even if it’s a tiny force) of good in this world. I don’t want who I am, the words I say, to negatively impact someone who is truly good, whether it’s a small dress shop in Saint Paul or my wife.
4 thoughts on “The Wings of Butterflies”
Hannah thank you for posting this, it’s so very heartfelt and meaningful.
You truly are a beacon of hope and inspiration to me and many other trans girls like us. I can say that I honestly wish I had your confidence and looks so I would feel comfortable going out into the world like you do.
Thanks for everything you do and post. I sincerely appreciate it all.
It’s tough,,, not easy I to believe in freedom of speech &,,, yes! That includes all & everything that is said,,, no matter what the topic might be. (Everyone) has there say,, so,, like that saying goes: it is what it is🇺🇸 👠 Kara
I hope that my daily interactions with people in my small, rural community will have some tiny impact on at least the attitudes of a few. Other people can work on the societal issues at the macro level.
Gorgeous stunning beautiful dress and ooo love those heels ps where did you find them