Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Out in the Open

Recently I was at a church event where our minister led us in a song called "Safe Passage." When he sang the line "Safe passage, sisters" he glanced at the woman on his right and squeezed her hand. When he sang the line "Safe passage, brothers" he glanced at me (on his left) and squeezed my hand. I was pleasantly surprised, especially since he and I had never had a conversation about my gender identity and I wasn't sure how much he knew.

But although I was happy, when I thought of this occurrence on subsequent days, I found myself feeling angry too. I now believe that this anger was a form of fear. I mentioned in my last post that the idea of presenting my "true self" to people is still strange to me. It's also very, very frightening. To be out in the world with no camouflage, nothing to hide behind . . . as I mentioned in my previous post, this is not what I'm used to.

Another expression of fear is that when I started writing this blog post, my brain started telling me that the incident I described above never happened. I was remembering it wrong, I misinterpreted his actions, he couldn't possibly have done that on purpose. These thoughts never crossed my mind until I wrote the incident down. I spent a week remembering it and wondering why I felt angry. (Can you feel angry about something that never happened?)

Update: I actually went and asked the minister if he remembers that incident the same way I do. And he does. He writes:
You do remember accurately, and though you and I never have had that conversation (until now!), several of your friends at church who know and care about you made sure I knew your gender identity. And, yes, I absolutely intended to call you "brother" in that moment. And what else I remember is how you smiled and showed me by the glint in your eye that you felt seen and known in that moment.
Take that, evil brain!

The mind is a very strange place. I spent most of my life in complete denial about my gender identity. And now I realize that my powers of denial have been reversed. It no longer seems strange to me that I'm what people used to call "a man in a woman's body." (We no longer consider that terminology to be politically correct, but I'll use it now for its element of paradox.) In fact, in a surprisingly short amount of time I went from "of course I'm not transsexual" to "of course I'm a man." It seems perfectly natural to me now. I know what I am on the inside.

I believe now that denying my gender identity enabled me to keep it safe, untouched, buried like treasure deep in the earth. And now that it's uncovered, it's amazingly strong.

The thing that frightens me is that I still don't expect other people to understand. I still expect other people to disapprove, to hate and fear and despise me. I find myself in a welcoming community now. And I want to emphasize that the reason this community is welcoming to trans people is because of the work of those who went before me. I wasn't the first trans person they ever met. (I assumed I would be, but I was wrong.)

I rely on my trans brothers and sisters to protect me, even if they never met me. They keep me strong. And in my heart it's perfectly clear. But there's a big huge world out there. And I still don't like being out in the open. That's why I'm posting this.


  1. I've heard that expectations are plans to be disappointed. Expecting people to understand being trans, though, is like expecting them to understand why humans have knees instead of hocks. The difference is that they don't care about the latter, and they can't see the former, so they aren't sure whether or not they're normal.

  2. I don't need people to understand everything about being trans. I believe that people hardly ever understand each other (or themselves) anyway. I'd settle for "use the pronouns a person prefers" - even if you don't UNDERSTAND why - and "don't hate people who break society's rules about gender."