“You’re looking very good today,” said the beggar. Just in case I did not understand the compliment, he continued, “I think you’re very brave.”
I had stopped when he asked me for 35p. “I’m not on the street or anything,” he said. “I can give you 35p,” I said, and started rooting around for the exact change. I had only looked at him so we would not collide on the street. I was feeling good, striding along in the bright warm sunshine, in a summer dress I love.
When he said that, I sprang backwards and put my purse away. I turned my back on him and was walking away as he protested, hurt: what was the problem, he was trying to be nice, he has a friend going through the same thing, he thought I looked good. At that I turned round, facing from a few yards away, and explained.
“Because it’s my thing, and I don’t want it remarked upon. Because it is a source of pain and misery for me, and a great deal of work.”
He continued to expostulate, but I had stopped listening.
On the platform, three people were Signing. I did not tell them how brave they were, going out on their own, and showing off their difference. Even had I known more Sign than the word for telephone, which has entered widespread use, I would probably not have interrupted.
Or the black woman I sat beside on the train, who reminded me to pick up my book on getting off- I had indeed forgotten it, so that was not impertinent of her. She is checking up for Lambeth council what services are still running, and which will take self-referrrals. I overheard her phone call, and might even have remarked on the closure of public services had we been going further. But not on her blackness and how that must give her special insight and sympathy with the Windrush immigrants so cruelly deported.
Sitting on the train, I wondered if I were taking the wrong approach. I should stand and say “Hello everyone, I am a trans woman.” And they would all feel better for my bravery, and empowered to accept their own idiosyncrasies. After, a little huddle would form of people wanting to praise me, and come out to me about the secret shame they had never shared with anyone before. I would absolve them, they would gain instant self acceptance, and then start writing their one-person shows about what it was like to be a person like that. Then ripples of self-acceptance would disrupt the Space-time continuum, and no-one would vote Tory ever again.
Lucy got it. “It’s privilege,” she said, which is hard to imagine in a beggar. He is arrogating to himself the right to define my existence, and comment on it. He has no right. Or, he is putting me in my place, and patronising me. I am so much more than “a trans woman”. Yet, if we could share our secret shames, how much freer we would all be!
I got the late bus home, leaving Swanston at 11.05pm. After years when the last bus left at around six, and given that the bus service is so quiet, so much of the time, I joked I won’t believe in it until I am sitting on it, and perhaps not even then. The bus from Nupton was ten minutes later than I thought the timetable said, and I don’t think I am that bad at reading timetables, so I feared missing it, and sat in miserable resignation, unable to affect my fate. But I closed a window with a satisfying snap, which motivated two women on the other side of the bus to close theirs, and then go down the bus closing the others. I caught their eye and smiled.