I may be passing better. I had not seen Serra for nine weeks, and she thought I looked different. You can’t tell you are passing better because of pleasant conversation with strangers, because people are capable of courtesy, even to an obvious tranny. Imagining that if I am read people will avoid me or be horrible is internalised transphobia; and yet I feel more relaxed, more comfortable in my own skin, and people may be seeing me as a woman. When someone is actually horrible, that is a better guide: would he take the opportunity to insult my gender, if he read me? You can’t be certain.
I got chatting to Faye on the train. She had been to York for a day’s tattooing. She has had three days, now, and expects five more to cover her back with a complex floral design, at £350 a day. It was this, or a car. If the colours fade, she will have them redone. “I have had electrolysis,” I said. I wanted to show I shared the experience of painful needle insertion. When she asked where, I said, “Upper lip,” which is misleading as I had it all over the face and did not want to say so. We shared experiences of trying to relax. It was lovely. We connected, talking of feelings.
On the other side of the table, Dave was trying to make friends, telling a man of Bangladeshi origin of his trip to India, not put off by the other’s lack of interest. He told how there was nothing like Mumbai, of how Delhi was nothing like Mumbai- “In what way?” asked the man. Delhi is an old city, full of parks and old buildings, Mumbai is just crazy. “What do you mean, crazy?” So fast, such a buzz! Would you like a beer? Dave is on his second Newcastle Brown Ale, and we all decline.
Dave announces that he missed his train by fifty seconds, and now will have to “lie through my teeth” to the ticket inspector. He got the train from Tongue, he could say. I tell him the nearest station is Thurso. Or he could say he just got on at Leicester. Kye is looking up the timetable on his phone so Dave can make a plausible fib.
He wants us to introduce ourselves again. “I have heard your name twice, but still am unsure of it,” I said to the man.
-What is it then?
-Don’t be horrible, says Steve, rebuking him, protecting me, and my skin crawls just a bit more. I don’t need his protection. The name is Rakesh: not a name I am familiar with, so it takes longer to go in. I got it the third time.
Rakesh reverts to silence, and Steve tells me of walking and climbing in the Pennines, then for the third time of his plan to lie- “Don’t tell us, we might shop you,” I said. He did not reply. His father met his mother in an orphanage in Woking, and aged 11 told her he would marry her. He died of a cerebral haemorrhage aged 44, having become a middle to senior manager in BT just before there was that great reduction in the BT management.
-How long was he unemployed?
He got himself a better job immediately. Steve’s parents hated each other. His father had a string of affairs.
I don’t know whether to believe any of this, or how Steve has always lived in London except when he lived in Winchester, which is horrible because it is not at all diverse, just self-satisfied unquestioning middle-class.
When we approach my station he wants a hug goodbye, and we have an A-frame hug. Then he wants to take my hands. “Oh, she’s taking off her gloves!” he exclaims. Well, yes. That seems to me merely courteous. I don’t find it threatening only because he is so bizarre. He might have tried to make a connection by telling of “Trans people I have known”, had he noticed.