Denise

Feeling tired and a little teary, I took the train, and a trans woman joined me. I had heard the voice, grating and nasal but pleasantly variable in pitch. It seemed to be explaining stuff unnecessarily.

-Can I sit here?
-It’s unoccupied.
-What?
-The seat is free.

At this point, I only clocked that the person was a bit weird. She started to explain that she had been at a festival, that her phone battery had run out, and that she needed to charge it up all while leaning down round my legs to the electric socket. Hurriedly I suggested that we swap seats.

However that meant standing up and entering the aisle. At this, a ribald shout went up from three seats behind. “Oho! You’ve got a right one there, love. Good luck!” I mentioned this to her.

She plugged in her phone, and moved in a load of shopping bags, round my legs as well as hers. “You’re trans, right? So am I.” Yes. “Have you had the operation?” I said I thought that even with a trans woman this was too personal a question for such a short acquaintance. She told me that she had not had the operation, but that her name was Denise- she hates Dennis. She showed me her black denim jacket with “Denise” embroidered on the right breast, then her driving licence. “The driver number is what declares your sex,” I said. “Yeah I know.” She held it with her fingers obscuring all but the name and photo. I was uninterested in the name: I tried to see the driver number, but she put it away.

She identifies as gender-queer. She is really a tom-boy, she explains: a butch woman. She has had her facial hair removed with laser and electrolysis: have you had electrolysis? I confirmed I had. She felt the need to expatiate more on being a tom-boy, but did not add anything.

It is only ten minutes to my stop, but I know quite a lot about her. She knows I am trans, and my name. “You said people on the train were nasty to you, earlier?” she asks, just as I am getting off. I think of trying to correct the misunderstanding, but decide against. The misunderstanding intrigues me. I told her that they were rude about her, and she has converted this to rude about me. “Everyone is very accepting”, she declared, definitely. I have rarely seen so clear an instance of someone not hearing what they do not want to hear, though I have one possible example of me filtering out unpleasant information and working it out later.

And this need to explain, to a total stranger. She is not interested in me, particularly; she wants to tell me about herself. Perhaps she needs to reassure herself, or work it out for herself, and each such conversation helps her understand or accept herself better. After all, such explanation is what I am doing, here.

Oh! We suffer, so much!

VR Women reading a letter on a couch

8 thoughts on “Denise

  1. What a captivating exchange. And I do think you are right, she was more interested in telling you her story than truly hearing yours. But you, the writer, sat there listening, hearing the conversation (or perhaps, soliloquy) and now you’ve given all of us something to ponder.

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  2. The fact that she took the name Denise while hating Dennis is a sure giveaway of a weirdly wired and unsure of direction person to me. If it were me my new name would for sure start with a letter from the opposite end of the alphabet.

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      • ah, I see – but still I suppose you didn’t hate the name of John so Johanna would be natural flow whereas if you hated the name John then taking up Johanna would be like inflicting pain on yourself every time you said, read…your name new or old 🙂

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        • I don’t know. For a time I would not have shared the name “John” with anyone. It is not me. It is solely male. I would not want anyone addressing me by it. Johanna is feminine, so acceptable. I decided to change my name completely, which I think is more common, but not everyone does, clearly.

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