Today I got called “Something”

Today I got called “Something.”  I’m quite certain the person didn’t mean anything by it.  She seemed polite and friendly and was just flustered when she first started to call me “sir” and then second-guessed herself and that’s just the word that came out.  I don’t feel angry at her at all or blame her for the slip.  But I have to say, it still doesn’t feel good.

In many ways, I’m very fortunate as a transgender person to be in the situation I am, surrounded by a generally supportive and understanding culture and group of peers.  While academia certainly still has its flaws, it’s a relative oasis of safety for someone like me.  I honestly have little right to complain.

But even so, just existing brings with it a certain level of isolation and othering that I never seem to be able to escape.  It is present with me in times and places when I don’t expect it or welcome it and I’m constantly mentally bracing myself or adjusting my behavior to compensate.

I try to pitch my voice down whenever I meet someone new in hopes that they will pick up the correct pronouns without my having to correct them.  If they use the wrong ones, I have to decide where to insert “by the way, I’m a guy” into the conversation.  I have those awkward moments when I introduce myself as Evan and I get “Eva?” with a confused look.  At every doctor’s office visit I practice the “hi, I’m transgender” talk.  Every time I reconnect with an old friend or colleague and I have to come out again.  Sometimes when that friend or colleague responds offensively or just doesn’t reply and I’m left wondering.  I feel the hair on the back of my neck stand up when I walk into a public restroom and someone gives me a double-take glance.  I consider lying about my age to people who don’t know my trans status because a 27-year-old who looks like a 16-year-old is a dead giveaway and I don’t know how they’ll respond.  I want to be open and unashamed of being who I am, but I don’t want to just be The Transgender Person.  I feel pressure to be a stellar role-model because, for many people, I’m the only transgender person they have ever met and I feel like I am their representative of all trans people.  This leaves me terrified when my productivity suffers due to trans-related family or health situations that I’m reflecting badly on the whole community and I’m harming the chances of future trans people getting into academia.  And sometimes I remember that my very existence is cause for discomfort and confusion even in innocuous situations, like when I walk into an office and get called “something” and I suddenly feel more like a novelty or an aberration than a human being.

I’m not trying to throw a pity-party and I’m not angry at the world.  I adapt quite well to most of these challenges and I generally consider others blameless in the awkward or exhausting situations that I sometimes deal with.  But it does wear me out.  Sometimes one little word reminds me of how overwhelming this can all be.  I’m not unhappy, really, and I’m definitely not angry.  I’m just a little tired of it right now and I want someone to understand why.

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10 responses

  1. we only get stronger by these encounters… we learn to read people’s intentions..

  2. I can’t understand how you feel, but I’m one who supports you. Hopefully, as time marches on, there will be more support & understanding out there.

  3. Not wanting to be The Transgender Person is probably the number one reason I don’t usually come out to casual acquaintances.

    1. Yeah, it gets old to feel like that’s your one defining feature… like you’re perpetually a novelty rather than an equal member of the group.

  4. This was really honest. I don’t know a lot about trans struggles, but I’m trying to look at all the corners of LBGT community; not just mine. And I totally feel you when you say that sometimes people say something or do something that make you feel like anything but a human being. Talking about that, I totally loved the name of your blog. That’s actually the reason I ended here. I’m a christian (or my own way to be a christian, to say it better) and I feel like that all the time. When I put out there my thoughts and vision of the world, and the people that know me from church just look at me like, “What the hell is wrong with this guy?” I guess it’s a feeling that we’ll have to learn to deal with, because there always gonna be someone that will make us feel like “something” instead of a normal human being. So keep it going and make it work. Don’t let anybody bring you down.

    1. Thank you very much for your kind reply! I’m glad that you took the time to stop and read. I personally am no longer a Christian, but I consider myself an ally with any who have distanced themselves from the toxic forms of evangelicalism. I spent enough time being dogmatic and attempting to convert people while I was there; I ain’t got time or energy to bother with that anymore! 😀 Thanks again for taking the time to comment. I hope to see you again!

  5. Ugh, I know what you mean. I’ve only been socially “living as me” for about 6 months, but in so many of my old circles in college I’ve become “that one trans person”. It’s frustrating.
    Glad to see I’m not alone in that though.
    Side note, love the name of your blog, and excited to read more.

    1. Thanks for stopping by! Yeah, it’s tough trying to find the balance between being open about yourself and also not wanting to be the token transfriend. Best of luck to you!

  6. Hi Evan,

    It’s been a while! Thanks for this posting – although a few months ago! I hope your year is going well!

    I can understand the woundedness you felt by the ‘something’ designation. I wonder if this person could have had a ‘do-over’ with you what she might say now instead.

    One thing I am continually choosing (and learning!) is to be grace-giving. When others wound me – and they do – I could become vulnerable to self-preoccupation and self-protective tendencies. When I do that, I am unable to love others because I am focused on me. I am hiding and protecting my wounded heart. The deal is though that ultimately I don’t want to self-protect or hide my woundedness. I need to deal with it and forgive and move-on. One of the greatest opportunities I have is to give others in my sphere of influence – hope and love.

    You handled that situation gracefully and I bet you continue to do so. As you shared, it’s not a once-off situation. As you continue through life, you will encounter all types of people who will react in different ways to you. You are not responsible for their discomfort, their uncertainty, their disrespect, or whatever. I pray that you will continue to respond with grace and yes, compassion. People often do not understand the impact of their words and behavior.

    Peace,
    heather

    1. Hi! Good to see you again, and I hope you’re settled into your life overseas again. Yes, I think that if she could have a do-over she probably would have used different wording. I don’t blame her, I just have to admit that it feels exhausting sometimes. Life would be so much easier if I were “normal” but it’s not my fault or responsibility that others struggle to understand and respect me. I do my best to take pride in myself and my ability to respond to these challenges with strength and positivity in spite of it all. My hope is that, with time, positive exposure to people like me will break down the barriers between other trans people and cis people and make the world an easier place for those who live after me.

      Thank you for your encouragement!

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