The Day I Became Human
I’ve always thought of myself as a freak, as unworthy, as less than a person, and certainly not normal. I’ve even spent many years in the christian church, as devout a christian as you will have met, trying desperately to become worthy or at least be saved and made worthy. During that time I actually thought of myself as evil, tainted, and weak for being unable to change my innermost being. Now I reflect back on those years and think of that time as my own personal dark ages.
My thoughts towards myself and people like me have since evolved. Now I’ve come to agree with my little sister that “normal” is just a setting on the washing machine, and that I am just a person. I just happen to be a person who is transgender and I’m trying to make my way through life as best I can while looking out for and providing for my family. As far as God is concerned, if He doesn’t love me because I’m transgender, then perhaps He should have paid more attention to the wiring when he assembled me.
So how did I evolve, you ask? The short answer is, I left the safety of my burrow hole. I put on a brave face, helped by a glass of wine, and then I put on a face full of makeup for the first time ever. Getting fully dressed, including hair, makeup, and clothes and then going out in a public place presenting as a female was my “Aha” moment. I did what I originally told my therapist I would never do. And then I did it again…and again. I’m up to six outings now. My worst fears never came true. In fact, I don’t think I’ve even received a dirty look from anyone while in public yet. I’m sure given enough time and exposure I’ll run into problems here and there, but so far I don’t think anyone has even noticed me yet. I think I’ve received a couple of curious looks, but honestly that is probably in my head. Going out of the house and having other people see me as a woman, or at the very least ignore me and go about their day self-absorbed as I walked past without pointing and laughing was very illuminating.
Don’t get me wrong, I still get very nervous leaving the house en femme. I’m not out to my work (they would not be down with that) or my community yet, so fear of discovery by someone I know is very real. My last time out was not a pleasant experience due to a panic attack that I had about being seen by someone I know.
However, there was a very specific thing that happened that I can identify as my psychological pivot point, and it was during my first time ever out of the house presenting as female. So I drive into town, park the car in the parking garage, and my mission is just to get from my car out of the garage, across the street, then across the block to my support group meeting without being recognized or pointed at. It was night and the lights in the stairwell of the parking garage are SO BRIGHT! When you’re desperately trying not to be noticed, you remember these things very vividly. I’m walking down the stairs, I don’t have a purse and I don’t have pockets, so my solution was to leave my wallet in the car, just take a $20 bill, my phone and my keys with me in my hands.
Well, that’s a lot to hold onto when your hands are shaking. So as I’m walking down the stairs I drop the twenty, and a man walking up the stairs as I’m walking down stops me. I’m freaking OUT! All he says is, excuse me, but I think you dropped this, and hands me my $20. I hadn’t counted on having to talk, and I have not practiced a feminine voice at all, so I squeak/whisper a thank you. By the time I make it to the meeting, I’m sweating profusely and shaking all over. It took a full hour, at least 1/2 the meeting for me to calm down enough to stop shaking and sweating and be able to talk. Oh, and I was fighting like hell not to puke. Ugh.
But, as unpleasant and nerve-racking as that experience was, having that man stop me and hand me the $20 that I dropped and treat me like a normal human being was my moment of revelation. He didn’t pick up the money and keep it (all the while thinking “It serves that freak right”), which he could have done and I wouldn’t have noticed until I got to the meeting. I was just a person to him and I was treated as such.
That was what it took for me to overcome my internal transphobia. I had to acknowledge that trans people are not freaks, that they are people, and that I am one of them. Getting to know other trans people in support groups and just spending time with them has been a huge part of that as well, but that wasn’t the moment of truth, that just helped me get more comfortable and in a place where I could fully absorb the truth.