Fear & Selfie Loathing in East Van
Field Notes In/On Transition
Yesterday was a slow ass day. Time, this week has been moving like molasses uphill in February, In Winnipeg. I had this one great little moment when this dad and little girl combo came in to the store.
Nice folks, I chat a lot with the dad, and I don’t recall him ever misgendering me, or even gendering me at all. But he says to his daughter:
“Can you take the movie up to the man at the desk?”
The girl looked at him all serious like... “That’s a Lady! Not a man.” He says, “well then, give them to her.”
So she brought them up. Nice moment for me, maybe this guy will if he does gender me, do it correctly. Thank you cute as a button 5 year old girl.
The rest of the day though dragged on, no matter how busy it seemed, only a minute or two would go by it seemed. Eventually my shift was over and I wandered home feeling tired for noreal reason, and stopped at the market to buy bread, coffee and toilet paper, of course forgetting, actually the TP. D’oh. But as I was leaving, putting my wallet back into my purse, I heard something drop to the ground, I scanned down and couldn’t see what it was, so I shrugged and kept walking, maybe I’d lost a quarter or something.
I got maybe a few feet and I was hearing in the distance someone saying, “Excuse me, sir!?” and repeating it. Now I haven’t really got upset about that particular thing that much recently, and wasn’t about to now. I told myself this voice behind me was aimed towards someone else. And, I told myself I wasn’t going to turn around and respond to “sir”, validating someone’s ignorance.
I was wearing my prettiest dress, wearing too much mascara, pink lipstick: I’m not a sir, of any kind, Not at all. Never have been, even when I was begrudgingly, self hating-ly identifying as “male”. Sir is supposedly a term of respect. I had none for myself. Now that I have a smidgen of self love, people seem to use that term even more than they did when I was a bearded ball of fat.
But the voice kept getting louder, and eventually this young british dude tapped me on the shoulder (bare hairless soft feminine shoulder) and handed me a pin that had fallen off my bag. That sound I’d heard was one of my favourite pins clattering underneath the apples I never buy at the market. I never made eye contact, just shrugged and mumbled thank you as softly as I could.
I walked home almost in tears over someone going out of their way to be nice to a stranger. I still felt wounded that all this young guy saw was a man. Maybe he saw a man in a dress, maybe he never even saw the dress. Just some greying old dude who looked a bit glam? I have no idea.
What kept me dwelling on it, was that he was being really nice but I was unable to accept it. Part of me wants to destroy the pin. I really am at a loss as to how this keeps happening. But it does and will until the day I die. I could spend a billion dollars (it would take that much, a least) on plastic surgery and look like Angelina Jolie, and I imagine I’d still get “Excuse me, Sir”, all the fricking time.
It's so much easier to dwell on the negative. It’s not like I have ever in my life been brimming with confidence. I flash they occasional bravado, and am reflexively very aggressive when put on the defensive. Why can’t the joy of the little girl correcting her dad overwhelm the (not even very) negative moments?
I’ve spent my entire life being afraid of what i’m doing now: Being Myself. I always assumed no one would accept me, that I’d be a pariah. It turns out however that most people have been enormously cool about the whole thing. I just have to somehow wrap my head around the FACT that most (men especially) people will never see me as anything other than who I used to be, even if they never met or saw that person. They will gender me male, while they are staring at my breasts (this happens a lot!) Even if I eventually have bottom surgery, I’m sure people won’t care and gender me how they see fit. This is why at least so far, the surgery itself is not important to me.
I also know that the majority of this mis-gendering is not malicious. You can sense the malicious ones by their demeanour and tone of voice. They are (so far for me) few and far between. Most people just unconsciously use the pronoun that slips out of their mouth.
I hear from non trans friends (Cisgender is a bad overly sibilant term.) that they get misgendered sometimes, or that they hate being called Ma’am. Well, I get called Sir all day every day. I’m about at the point that I want to start being confrontational about it again. A lot of people tell me I need to be forgiving because it’s a thoughtless thing, and mostly I think they are right. But I also think my feelings are just as valid as this imaginary thoughtless person. I’m really not interested in coddling thoughtless people. It’s not like when I correct people, that I am necessarily coming from anger, it’s far more an act of desperation.
Feeling invisible is not new to me (or likely anyone who had to wait til late in life to transition) at all. I’ve spent an inordinate amount of time trying to make myself seen and heard. It’s why I started writing in my late teens. Before that I thought I was an artist, but that really was folly. Writing makes me work, while drawing is just there, for me. I will work on a poem for weeks, months, years. Other artistic ventures I tend to do as quickly as the urge and my limited skill lets me. I don’t need discipline to write, I just write.
So, of course, once again, just writing this blog has helped me get a handle on the things that are bugging me, under my skin. I’ve learned to be graceful, I think most of the time when dealing with people to whom the real me, despite being on rather florid display most of the time, is invisible. People see what they want to, and act accordingly. Tomorrow might be a better day, maybe even today.
You can’t count on other people to be aware of their surroundings, or your surroundings. Most of us are living through some kind of trauma or another. What I think you have to do is find a way to let the little joys outweigh the little sorrows. It’s not as easy as it sounds. But I’m really trying to find some way to let either the good, or the bad things affect how I live. Rather, I want to not rely on the kindness of strangers, quite so much. I’m trying to find some self-kindness.