The Beautiful People
We won’t change the world with our silence.
When I first realized that I needed to transition, I knew that I needed to find my community. While I’d supported the LGBTQ+ community through my writings prior to transition, I can honestly say I didn’t have a single one of those people within my social sphere. I’m not sure exactly why that is, but if you’re in a closet, you usually don’t try to bring that kind of attention to yourself. So I suppose there was a good deal of shame surrounding my own identity that kept me in the shadows and far away from my people.
As much as it pains me to say this, despite the fact that I knew I was Transgender and female to my core, I went into my first groups with Cisgender goggles. By this, I mean that meeting Trans people for the first time was difficult for me because my innate bias was to view them as their natal gender. I struggled with this for a while, but in a very short period of time I quickly sloughed off this rumination and began seeing these individuals as the beautiful people they were becoming.
I feel ashamed to say that I ever looked at my Trans brothers and sisters with these Cis-goggles; but having never formally (or knowingly) met a Transgender person, I’d never had an opportunity to see these individuals as they were meant to be. This is not a reflection of hate, but merely ignorance; even though I was Trans, I didn’t “get” Trans — if that makes any sense.
Naturally, if this revelation makes anyone think less of me, I respectfully beg your forgiveness. Honestly, it’s only after two years of being openly Trans, have I come to realize that I even did this. Add that to a number of thoughts that I didn’t realize I used to entertain — these last few years have been eye-opening! At some point within my transition my perception changed; I stopped seeing my tribe as who they were, but as who they are. This shift in my own perceptions has actually given me some insight into how we exist in the world.
Just as I (ironically) had no clue what a Transgender person looked like, I came into the community carrying stereotypes. This is where our biggest problem with acceptance exists. When a Transgender person such as myself starts a transition with a “men in dresses” mindset, what does it say about those in society who would never intentionally place themselves within our space? For me personally it says that we need to bring this party to the people. We need to show the people that stereotypes are total bullshit.
Now before you all start sharpening your axes, please hear me out.
The general society doesn’t know us beyond stereotypes because as a community we set our sights on assimilating with those corresponding with our gender identity. My own first instincts were to set my sights on “passing” as a cisgender woman as soon as I could and never make a mention of who I was after I’d achieved this milestone. But what a disservice I would be doing to my community, and to myself by flipping the switch and going stealth. Oddly enough, the person who convinced me to be public about my transition was still keeping their own a secret from everyone at that time. She gave me the courage to realize that what I thought was best for me, was actually the worst thing I could be doing. She’s definitely been a blessing in my life, and I do not throw that word around often.
Now, this is the part where I have to wedge in all necessary caveats. When I talk about being publicly Trans, I am NOT suggesting that you place yourself in danger. I am well aware that any level of “out” in any place of perceived safety can still put you in a place of danger. If you cannot function as openly trans, even under the lowest threat-level, than definitely stay your course, stay safe.
Back to our regularly scheduled program…
Passing feels great, and I get that. Actually, I get that a lot. For as big as I am (6'1" and 260 lbs), even when I make almost no effort to doll myself up, I don’t get shit. Frankly it weirds me out; I want to know exactly how I’m being read, but asking only shines a spotlight on my Transness. How I operate during the work week is usually fairly minimalist so I almost expect to have someone clock me, but on the weekend, I wanna feel girly, and in that Mode of Dress, I never seem to draw anyone’s ire.
This places me in a odd position. Regardless of my Mode of Dress or Mode of Operation, it appears as though I pass. Going into the world waving a flag is guaranteed to have consequences. Just as much as I want to flip off anyone flying a confederate flag, there would absolutely be people responding in kind if I were operating in a manner that equally highlighted my being Trans. Being blatant has consequences, being subtle has rewards.
From this, I’ve come to conclude that our community’s best advancement comes from a willingness to educate instead of retreat if we are challenged. Even if I am not called out as Transgender, I would rather be seen operating in society as a productive member and then have confused observers later come to realize I am Transgender. The logic here is that if they see you on a regular basis enough, they begin removing stereotype from their mind and replace it with an impression of a person whose life has merit. Give them a chance to see you as a person, and then, if you feel comfortable… Maybe consider letting them know what they might have suspected but were too afraid to ask.
Now you probably think that’s stupid - no one in their right mind would do this. But I already have, and it would have appeared to have had the desired effect.
Once a week, I stay one night at the same hotel. After about 5 months of staying there, I opened up with the counter staff about being Transgender. They were very nice during the whole interaction, and I felt it was a great educational exchange for some people who may have never (knowingly) met a Trans person. I even left my card so that (if they were so inclined) they could visit this blog.
When I returned the next week, the people at the counter were all smiles and super respectful. And while it’s not usually considered good form to “out” a Trans person, I assumed the whole staff would come to realize it after I opened up; not surprisingly, that’s what happened. Well, to be honest, I can’t prove that, but when staff members who have never spoken to you are suddenly interested in banal conversation, it’s obvious that something changed. When I wrote about this situation on Facebook, I likened it to being Norm from ‘Cheers.’ Seemingly everyone acknowledges me when they see me; that never happened before I outed myself.
What I’ve later come to realize is that these people have gone through the same evolution that I have. Where I once struggled to see my community as they wanted to be seen; those prejudices fell away and all I see are these beautiful people becoming better people. The hotel staff have clearly stopped looking at me with Cisgender glasses; they see beyond what they thought they knew about the Trans community, and have opened their hearts and minds to the beauty we possess. They’ve humanized me, and that’s the best any of us could hope for.
While I think we can make great strides for our rights within the political arena, doing so has hasty stigmatizing consequences. Just as I warn against waving flags - as this brings swift and sudden reaction - it might be best to look for gains that don’t have such retributive consequences. As I have illustrated, by simply having enough safe interactions with people, we can share our truth in a manner that ripples softer than an aggressive political posture.
The Transgender community is so full of love because we are so raw and exposed. It’s a beauty that most Cisgender people can’t see because they’re also living behind their own masks. That may not be a mask of gender or sexual orientation, but they’re often playing a roll for someone, and that creates a barrier which prevents them from seeing the beauty in others.
I’ve got to believe that by living a cautiously open life we have the unique ability to positively impact not only our community, but also the lives of those whose stereotypes have lead them to consider us undesirable or less-than. I have become forever changed by watching all of my brothers and sisters living their truth. They inspire me in so many ways, and it’s my hope that we will continue to inspire others; Trans or Cis.
Our love, and our beauty can change this world.
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