Hello Catty Kittens*, and of course everyone else!
I find myself lately wanting to share more positive messages since so much around us feels like it's slipping into more transphobic and oppressive times. But my day to day experience with friends and acquaintances is just the opposite!
Now first, please don't tune me out and say how reductionist my approach is. I am at heart a positive person. I will do my best in all circumstances to return your joy and love with love and joy in return. I will return your rage and anger with all of the understanding and compassion I can muster. I will sidestep your attacks and retreat if necessary, but, if you are important in my life, I won't go far. I am here for a hug and reassurance.
I know, not everyone has the same approach, but I do want to share with you that just the slightest opportunity for love and understanding is met today by others like a dying person in the desert finding a drop of dew in the shade. It doesn't take much to turn our connections positive.
A few weeks ago, I met a friend traveling out of town for dinner. We met at a restaurant that I had never eaten at before, but it was highly rated in Yelp. I messed up the reservation somehow, and we were there the wrong night. Somehow we got seated anyway, outside on a cool slightly rainy evening, but there was an umbrella sheltering us. It may have been my imagination, but the waiter seemed more than a little hesitant at first serving two transgender people when taking our order, and she also took a long time to bring out some of the basics like a basket of bread and some water (this was an Italian restaurant). After all, we were in an affluent conservative area west of Columbus, Ohio. Transgender people who are not stealth are not often seen in those parts. Still, my friend and I met each interaction with sweetness and politeness. Our behavior, surprise, was not dissimilar to that of the couples and families of cisgender individuals surrounding us. On the third visit to bring our food, any sense of awkwardness was gone. We were just two friends at a table sharing a bite to eat and chatting.
By the end of the meal, she was even so kind as to take some pictures of us on my phone as a memento. I am not posting them because I don't have my friend's permission nor do I care for how I look in the photo. So just imagine too really hot young girls, and that wasn't us, or at least me!
*all due apologies to Ami for abusing her podcast greeting.
I travel a lot on business, sometimes 2-3 trips per month. I travel by air and by car as makes the most sense. There are some things I do to keep safe on these journeys, but in general, I don't worry too much. I will stop at Starbucks on the road if at all possible because of the accepting atmosphere and the typically clean unisex single bathrooms. But I frequent McDonalds (clean bathrooms) and sit down restaurants regularly and don't hesitate to use the correct bathroom (as matches, gasp, my gender identity). I am tall. I don't fully pass. Some women are startled at first, but in general I have not had any issues. Nor have I had any worried whispers or unfortunate encounters after exiting. Funny thing, you enter a stall, do your business, and wash your hands on the way out, and as soon as I actually wash my hands, there is a collective sigh of relief. That is usually the tipping point that outs me as a fellow woman, or at least not a threat. [My apologies to genteel cisgender and transgender men, I know some of you were raised right!]
On the plane? The plane is the easiest. I wear a mask. It does several things for me:
- It hides half my face, leaving the most feminine features revealed. If I don't speak, then no one misgenders me.
- Those around me that are on the transphobic bandwagon are already so triggered by my progressive politics in wearing a mask that they don't get around to being upset by my gender or a gender mismatch!
- A mask also has the primary benefit of protecting me from many of the contagions in recycled airplane air. I don't care how effective the filtration system is, one more layer cannot hurt!
In the airport is also not a problem! Everyone is in so much of a hurry, they don't have time to examine me with any detail. Nor do they have any interest in doing so. The only exception is waiting to board the plane at the gate. But even then, the vast majority of people just don't care. Just like they didn't care before I transitioned.
Do I ever misstep? Of course I do! I out myself all the time. Maybe it's my size, or maybe it's just my disarming manner that keeps me out of trouble. Personally, I think it is that most people really aren't that worked up about a transgender woman in public, unless they have been listening to Sean Hannity too much (which means listening to him at all).
I hope you have enjoyed my short transgender public service announcement. If you would like to hear more of these, please buy yourself a cup of coffee (I make my own).