Field Notes In/On Transition
Let Go Or Be Dragged
The title of this particular blog entry is a zen proverb that has been making the rounds of Facebook, and other social media, I imagine, and it doesn’t just relate to all those people weirdly afraid of Timeline, that monster that is somehow going to ruin your facebook experience. It’s not, it didn’t. It’s just a fancy ass “wall”. Let go or be dragged, says the Buddha,
This also is a great little quote to recall in real life as well. I’ve just recently had my first (that I’ve been aware of) bucket of Transphobia (just had to add transphobia to my dictionary, sigh.) and irrational hatred tossed on me. It was on the internet so it’s not like it’s “real”, but.... My store got a bizarrely hateful and completely Yelp review recently where I was called out as a “transvestite” working there, who supposedly... swears in front of customers, children, and so on.
Apparently the person didn’t care about me “cross dressing” but was thoughtful enough to make an issue of it anyway, “I have lots of gay friends, but...” kind of reasoning that so many folks think makes them immune to being a bigot. This person made strangely personal attacks of many employees (most of whom don’t work there anymore, interestingly) Apparently every time this person came into the store some horrible cussing, and or drunken or super rude behaviour was going on. Says they are not coming back to the store, which sounds pretty helpful for them and us.
We are not perfect, and yes there definitely has been the odd time where I or one of my staff may have been rude, or short with someone. It happens. It’s the service industry, people get frayed. Not every customer comes in with a shiny attitude either, but that’s life.
Let go or be dragged, ne? (“ne?” is Japanese for the Canuck “eh?”)
I’ve never had a bad dealing with a customer, that I still don’t feel horrible about, occasionally, these things really stick with you, and hopefully you learn from them. I know I have. I try to let these things teach me to be more like the proverbial duck, letting the water roll off his back. Even from this recent hateful attack, I’m trying to be more careful to make sure that I don’t use any language that can be hurtful, or inappropriate.
You can take these things and turn them into a lesson, if you really want to.
I’ve long known that I tend to talk to people like they talk to me. As a closeted for most of my life Trans/Queer person, I’ve tried hard to blend in with whoever I’m around. If there’s a bunch of back slapping dude talk going on, I’m doing that, if it’s thoughtful chat about relationships, I’m using that language.
In fact I’m often scared of going somewhere, where the people have a strong regional patois, as I worry over how fast I adopt others' mannerisms, and speech patterns. I have always been a bit of a Zelig. (The Woody Allen movie where Woody hangs with a certain “type” of person, and he quickly becomes one of them, from Hasidic Jews, to Movie Stars) If I went to the deep south in the States, or England, I would be so on guard not to be too quick to use local slang, etc... for fear of someone thinking I was mocking them, with my terrible copying of their "accent."
It’s simply that as a closet Trans person, you are always scared someone will “find out.” We want so badly to “blend” and always assume we aren’t even when we are, fully and completely, blended. So I am aware that it’s possible (though unlikely given the specifics of her charges, as no one I know uses that kind of language in the store, customers, or staff) I used some language that this person took offense to. I also know that if they had called me on it at the time, I would have been remorseful, and very contrite. Apologizing is healthy, even if you don’t understand why you are apologizing at the time. Fences and mending go together like wine and cheese.
Anyway the real upshot of all this for me has been that my transition definitely makes me an easy target for such slander, or general bad talking points. Let go or be dragged, really has become my mantra. I’m the manager of one of the last surviving video stores in the city, I am really visible, I live and work en femme, and yet have been slow to adopt all the makeup, and other camouflage, other than nice outfits that help people assimilate into their new gender. I haven’t really felt the need to until recently.
Baby steps really is my other mantra. I personally feel comfortable in the way I present myself in the world these days. I feel more comfortable than I did presenting as a man, when I spent so much of my time worried people would see through my disguise.
I’ve really only had this one really negative experience thus far, and in fact it was simple internet trolling, but it has prepared me a little more for whatever larger prejudice may/will come my way. Living in the greatest neighbourhood in the country keeps me mostly in an awesome bubble of acceptance, or at the bare minimum, tolerance. I do feel more at risk when I venture to other neighbourhoods, and I have yet to travel anywhere outside the city, where there are less OUT Trans folk, or at least they are stealthier than me.
This week has had, though not just these learn from the negative experiences. I’ve also experienced a lot of really positive input on my transition, especially my new hair colour, and bits of jewelry I picked up last weekend.
I’m almost finished with the Kate bornstein memoir, which is a breezy, interesting and thoughtful book that proves to me (again) that no matter the circumstance, you can find who you really are through transition. Kate is a real staunch, non-binary Trans person, as am I. this is not the case with all Trans. Some do want to go from one gender to the other. Not rocking any boats by staying in the middle.
I grok that. I have only ever wanted to be that other, to feel acceptance as that other gender. But I learned ages ago, through my various studies of historical gender variations, and all the readings of Trans Biographies I’ve done, the people I know in my life, that at least in my personal experience, gender is fluid. People are unique, all of us are individual, and have our own life time of gender experience that makes us who we are.
What does this mean, well it means that being a man or a woman, or male and female, is not some stereotypical GI Joe Vs Barbie trope. Most folks though don’t have to spend their whole lives questioning or being fearful of these things. Some of us do.
I may not ever have “the operation,” for a myriad of reasons, from health, to just simply being afraid of such a big invasive procedure that I can’t afford. Hmm, isn’t that: “covered,” you ask? Well, the operation itself is, but it’s weirdly unavailable as a surgery in a province/city that is a hub of Trans folk. My airfare to Montreal, or wherever, and all the time lost from work recovering: not covered, not at all.
So even in Canada with our so called universal medicare it’s still an expensive proposition to transition.
What I’m trying to get to is, that I’m pretty okay with where I am in the gender ocean at the moment. I have plans to get rid of the facial, body hair a bit more aggressively in the near future, and learn to blend a bit more, superficially, but beyond that it’s all up in the air.
Which brings me to the happier stories that when I sat down to write this blog entry, were what I wanted to get to.
I wrote last time of seeing Kate Bornstein read, and of the great time I had hanging out with two friends, before, during, and after the show. I had a surprise visit from the gal from that night, a tall lovely European lady who I’ve known for over a decade but never really talked with at length. Before and after the show, I really felt like we connected, that I’d made a gal pal, while being a gal. Awesome! This is what it’s about for me, really, acceptance for me being me/aka/ Josie.
Yesterday, this gal showed up at the store just before we opened, bringing me a gift of a bag of unused makeup, she was clearing out, before heading back to Vienna on Saturday. We again had a lovely chat, and she confirmed that she felt that yes, we did click as friends, and we are going to try to make time to have a glass of wine and more chat next time she’s in town. This lifted me up so much and is yet another affirmation for me, that I’m currently on a good path, if not the “right path.”
but there’s a neat small world aspect to this story: later in the day, one of my best lady friends (who has also been generous to me with gifts of things to help me transition, earrings, and pretty shoes, and so on, and has been there for me, for lots of my fears, joys, as I have tried to be for her) came into the store, for a hello, and chat. I related the story of my new friend to her, and upon mentioning that this new friend lives in Vienna, she says “That’s interesting, I just sold some paintings to a tall blonde woman (with the same name) from Vienna.”
After visiting me, with the makeup, the Lady from Vienna went down to the coffee shop where my other friend’s paintings are hanging and fell in love with, them, called my friend, and promptly bought some artwork. I also have one of my friend’s paintings on my wall.
It’s a small world, full of wonderful talented lovely people. It makes it so much easier to Let go or be dragged!
It really does. Also wine, helps too.