Many moons ago I worked with some lovely people in a residential care situation. I appreciated their playful, joyful, humorous and relaxed attitude to life. I loved the people we were caring for. What I didn’t appreciate was one person’s relentless desire to tell me who and what I should be.
When I say, ‘person,’ I mean ‘man’. While I appreciated other aspects of his personality, I couldn’t cope with his incessant mansplaining and personal comments. Which explains why I didn’t stay long in that job, as much as I loved the work and was appreciated by others. Other men, asked to step in and mediate, considered it a personality clash. They couldn’t see his gendered expectations of my appearance, behaviour and attitudes. They couldn’t see this man’s sexism, let alone the basic inappropriateness of most things he said.
G*d help me if I ever become someone like him.
He commented on my abundant leg hair. “No hairier than yours,” I said, astonished by the personal comment. He insinuated that I needed more sex in my life, to relax me. I didn’t bother responding. When I produced tools to mend household objects, he expressed surprise and disapproval.
We all had lodgings at different parts of the building. We all disappeared for short periods – to use the bathroom, make a quick phone call, etc. But one day he walked right into my place, when he needed something that only I could help with. It wasn’t urgent, but in his mind only he had the right to privacy. I don’t think he’d ever encountered boundaries before. Or heard of them.
One day our clash was particularly heated and he exclaimed that he didn’t understand me at all. “That’s ok,” I said. “You don’t HAVE to understand me, just RESPECT me.”
I think of this occasionally when people say that trans people are just too hard to understand. You don’t have to understand, sweetie, just show some basic respect. It’s not rocket science.