Surprise! Today I’m back to my adventures in gender. Who knew?
It’s hard to know what will trigger a person and therefore derail a perfectly good opportunity to come out to someone. Well, sometimes I have a clue and yet decide to use the correct terminology anyway, as a shorthand.
Buzz! Incorrect! Don’t try that again!
It was time to tell someone close to me that I was male and not the female they knew me as. Seemingly out of the blue, they threw in a phrase that told me they had been thinking about it already, or had been primed by a mutual friend. Gathering my courage, I said I hadn’t known the right time to tell them I was transgender. I started to add that they’ve possibly noticed changes in me…
Immediately they were off on an ill-tempered rant about letters of the alphabet and how everyone is human and about the person who had introduced themself at a bus stop as bipolar, and the scourge of political correctness and that it’s ok to make mistakes… and they only stopped when they knocked something to the floor with an expansive gesture. Then we were talking about the item they’d knocked over, and I felt relieved.
It’s true, I’m a person who can claim an alphabet letter. A person who has never participated in a Pride march and whose idea of hell is to be the focus of a roomful of people. I like to blend, because of past assaults. Ideally I’d like to be invisible. So coming out to people I like is done after careful consideration and a fair splash of courage. Not the liquid sort, as it messes with my meds.
I made my excuses and left, shaken, not knowing what to say next.
This person just returned to my door to give me something they found during a decluttering session, as they knew I’d appreciate it. They’re a generous, kind, funny and all round lovely person, which is why I’d decided to let them further into my psyche/life. I guess I just didn’t approach it the way they needed it to go. Now we know that the word, ‘transgender’ sets them off.
I’ve found that a lot of people react to jargon. I do too. Acronyms, business-speak, bureaucratic double talk and spin doctor poppycock, it’s all bunkum to me. Even seemingly innocuous words are catalysts. The other night I recalled a craft workshop where I refused to make hexagonal boxes because I had a bee in my beret about metaphorical boxes and labels for people. I was so painfully aware of not fitting into the boxes others had made for me, and so wary of claiming labels that might box me further in, I kind of went off on a rant on the poor teacher. No doubt she backed away warily, just as I did earlier today with the person I tried to come out to and broach the topic of pronouns with.
(Speaking of pronouns, this person doesn’t use ‘they/them’ pronouns in everyday life. I’m using ‘they/them’ pronouns in this story to preserve their identity, in case they or anyone close to them stumbles across this post. Stranger things have happened.)
It was no skin off that craft teacher’s nose if I didn’t make a box. But I am very careful about going places with anyone who might make my agoraphobic experiences even more uncomfortable. That includes those who might refer to me as “she” as I approach a male-gendered public inconvenience.
No doubt I’ll try broaching the pronoun thing again. No doubt next time I’ll avoid all mention of labels and instead keep the subject light and jokey, so that they can hear me. I feel a bit like a Park Ranger doing landscape interpretation for visitors. This is how we don’t destroy the rock art. This is how we preserve biodiversity. This is how we help trans people feel welcome and included (and keep us alive and well). There’s a lot of invisible work behind our survival. And when we speak, it’s not about showing off or being a pain in the buttocks. If I got nothing else accomplished today, I hope I’ve made that point clear here.