The public trans woman

I stood and spoke to a thousand people. I had seen you, entering late and walking deliberately round the back of the opposite balcony: you always catch my eye. I shared the ardour of my heart, for my ardour is strong and beautiful, and (wonderful as these people are) my words could add to their life and health. I am here. I have things to say. Listen to me. I delight in what I said, and how I said it, and at the same time I want the good of the whole group. I want to serve. Perhaps I cannot judge: I can only be myself, show myself, and that will have the effect it will. What I said was loving and generous, for I am loving and generous.

I am very pleased by this paragraph, too. There is the tincture of self-doubt and criticism in it, but I feel it is appreciative and truthful not a self-aggrandising over-reaction.

I sat, and was strongly moved by the experience. The woman next to me offered her hand, which I held as I recovered, then returned to her with thanks.

In the afternoon, I was sitting outside the Arts Centre with new friends when a woman came up to me. A relative of hers had transitioned, and she wanted to know how to treat her, and how to think about her. She asked if I was willing to talk, and I was, because I want to help her and her relative. And there are problems with this. I am not at all the representative trans woman who will tell you how all trans women think: the understanding of trans you get from me will get in the way unless you are willing to discard immediately any part of it which conflicts with how her unique individuality interacts with her unique experience of transgender. Possibly it is better to hear from a stranger than your relative the basics of pronoun use and dead-naming, it is wearing to have to keep explaining that, but even there her relative and I may disagree.

Even here, in the blessed space of Yearly Meeting Gathering, among Friends, where deep connection is possible in a moment’s meeting, there is something slightly off in her approaching me like this. She asked. I consented. I want to help. But it is my Life, burden, perplexity, truth, not a public property for others to learn of a social phenomenon, even though I chose to stand and talk about it in front of a thousand people.

In the evening was the Ceilidh, and I sat near a doctor. She told me how she had gone with a trans man to educate a group of doctors about transition, how ignorant they had been, and how amazed: they thought the man was a male actor, they had not known a trans man could pass so well. It is a way of starting a conversation. I had sat at her table. It is her interest, she is an ally, she had something valuable to share; and it is my life. I told her I do not think transition is the final answer, and certainly not the operations which sometimes go with it- they are part of the doctors’ desire to create a Solution, clear definite and apparently Scientific, and laypeople’s demand of that from doctors. That ended our conversation. Because it is her professional interest, and my life, and it does not respect me for you to bring up my most sensitive part, even when I have talked about it publicly, however strong your goodwill towards me. She may not have noticed her presumption, only my curtness.

This is the North-East chapel of Coventry Cathedral. The inscription on the plinth says, “I am among you as one that serves”. I love the light in here, the crown of thorns which could tear flesh, and the way the congregation is a circle round the altar, one body of equals.

7 thoughts on “The public trans woman

  1. Or, you get the person who comes up to you to proudly say, “I have a good friend who is just like you.How long have you been taking hormones? Are you completely transgendered now?” That happened to me not too long ago. I did not answer her questions, but I did explain, briefly, that not all transgender people are the same, nor do all of them even TRANSITION (physically and/or socially) . I never admitted to her I was a trans woman, as I didn’t feel she deserved such dignification. If I feel one is sincere with their questions, I may actually take the time to answer them, but this woman was only trying to impress me. Truly, though, there is no way to explain how one should relate with someone I don’t know. The best answer, I suppose, is to just be supportive and to follow their lead.

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    • I don’t know. Even the polite and reasonable person claims a right to ask. It’s not as bad as “have you had the operation yet?” but it is identifying me as a lower status individual just as the loser who abuses me does; and I feel uncomfortable, but do not generally object.

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      • When the woman asked if I had “completely transgendered”, I took that to mean that she wanted to know if I’d had the operation. As we were in a very public and social situation, I wasn’t about to chastise her for what I felt to be inappropriate inquiries. I’ve been asked about “the operation” straight away a few times, and the best answer I’ve come up with is: Transitioning is quite an operation in itself, and never fully completed. My motto is: If you can’t leave ’em laughing, at least leave ’em guessing.

        Many years ago, when I was first testing the waters, a man outside of a club looked at my chest and asked, “Are those real?” My comeback (Isn’t it great when we can readily think of a good one?) was: I’m as real as fantasy will allow – and it’s YOUR fantasy; not mine!

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        • A friend said “I’m more of a man than you’ll ever be, and more of a woman than you’ll ever have” to the question “Are you a man or a woman?”

          I tend to ask people what’s between their legs. Are they happy with it? Does it work as they would wish? Depending on how pissed off they have made me.

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          • That friend could have been me, except that I have said: I’ve been twice the man you could ever be, and I’m twice the woman you could handle.

            Another of my early-day incidents happened when I was standing at a bar, waiting for my beer to be poured. There were two men at a table behind me, and just as my beer was set down in front of me, I heard, “Yeah, man, but she has a penis!” I turned around, glanced at them coyly, and, as I walked away, said, “Not for you, I don’t.”

            Of course, there are always those men who will try to actually grope for a feel of what you have; at least it’s happened to me a few times. I’ve always been too shocked and embarrassed to say much of anything when that happens.

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            • That’s not precisely the reason for which I tuck. Nobody has the right to touch me like that in the first place. I keep telling myself, should it ever happen again, that I will give them a slap in the face in return. Maybe a knee to their privates would be more appropriate, however. I’ve not hit anyone since the 6th grade, though, and I probably still won’t resort to violence.

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