Gender Identity: Surprises and Disappointments

I’ve been told over and over again the past few months how I look/sound/seem really happy. Since doing the public coming out as trans* thing, it’s been easier to explain why – beforehand it was mostly shrugging and mumbling, waiting to be ready.

Yeah. I’m happier in myself than I ever have been. Being able to let loose, talk about it, experiment, work out who this more fully-rounded version of me is…
It’s great and it’s fun, it’s also awkward and difficult.

I’m mostly surrounded by what society would call “normal”. In this case that’s:
Cisgendered (identifying with the gender they are societally recognised as/were biologically born as)
Heterosexual (we all know this one, right?)
Heteronormative (fitting into societally recognised gender binary roles of male/female)

All of which makes them: Privileged – which means they’ve never had to face violence, abuse, discrimination and so on for being who they are.

I am, for most of them, the first person who is not only openly none of those things, but I don’t fit at all into the single-gendered idea that most of them have of what transgendered means.

None of that – allow me to stress this NONE OF THAT – makes anyone better than anyone else. It is simply the setup in which I currently exist.

So when I came out as trans* as publicly as I did, I was aware of, amongst other things, the position I was placing myself in: that of needing to be ready to teach people who didn’t know, and having encountered this in me wanted to understand because they care about me and/or because they realise they don’t know about it and want to learn.

It’s an interesting position to be in, when I’m still working some of it out myself, and I wasn’t ready to come out publicly until I was sure enough in myself to be able to answer the questions that would be asked. I chose each moment to tell each individual or group to be the moment when I felt ready.

There’s another side to that, which is being secure enough in myself and those around me to cope with those who take issue with who I am – and that counts both for strangers and people who know me. I waited until I was ready to accept ridicule and/or rejection from strangers and friends or acquaintances, and made damn sure I had the most solid support I could muster behind me first.

So as happens with such things, there has been good and there has been bad.

I was, as I said, very careful to ensure I had a world of support and understanding behind me from individuals I trusted, before I went to those I was less sure of.

My parents surprised me, especially my Dad. He accepted what I said, and made immediate attempts to refer to me in gender-neutral ways.
My Mum took a while to actually be ready to speak to me, and acted as expected – a little awkward, and avoiding all possible areas of conversation which could refer to what she wasn’t comfortable with.

My bosses and colleagues at 8 Sided Films – being also good friends, I had no worries about them and they were even more amazing than I expected. I came out of every conversation with any of them high as a kite with all the love and support, and more confident in my ability to answer questions after doing so to those I knew well.

Bosses and colleagues at my other job…well I went into each conversation prepared to start seeking another job, based on the reactions I got. I needn’t have bothered – they’ve been great, and supportive, especially as they are amongst those who have had no interaction with a trans* person before. They could have reacted very differently, and some of them were more easily able to accept it than others, but none of them have treated me any differently – except to ask me questions when they’ve had them.

Friends in other places – most have been amazing, again. Some have checked how to refer to me, some have asked questions, but most that I have seen and spoken to have been great.
As always, those that have asked questions have been given answers, and all are encouraged to ask.

Friends in other places – there’s some who can barely look at me now. There’s some who seem to have disappeared completely. And there’s some who do what my Mum does, which is studiously avoid any possible approach to the topic.
To those friends all I can say is I wish they’d talk to me. I know it’s weird, and difficult, but I’m the same person – just better and more whole. But if they don’t consider it worth the effort to even try and speak to me, then I am stronger without them.

Random strangers…well what can you do?
For the strangers on the street I am amused to note that the insults vary with what they have perceived. Sometimes they think I’m male trying to be female, sometime female tying to be male, sometimes just a freak with no recognisable gender – but whatever it is they’re seeing, there will always be those who find my very existence offensive.
Frankly, that should really their fucking problem, not mine, but I’m the one taking the brunt of their sheltered, insecure little brains.
So do I hit back (metaphorically or otherwise)? No. I do not. Why? Because it doesn’t just not help teach them something better, it reinforces whatever twisted faux logic they decided gives them the right to physically or verbally abuse me in the first place.
What I do varies. In response to verbal abuse, a raised eyebrow and perhaps a mild turn-up of the lips to convey that I dismiss their insults and find their ignorance amusing (even when I don’t). There’s rarely chance to engage in discourse with these people, so moving on is the best course of action.
For physical abuse, my instinct is to get the hell out of it asap. Fighting back just gets me hurt, and that’s pointless. I have no shame in running the hell away from 4 guys trying to rile me up.

The thing is, when pissed off I do have a big mouth, and keeping it under control isn’t easy! But it’s better I do that and continue with my life than give someone an excuse to make themselves feel better by beating me down – which helps nobody. Sadly, I learned this the hard way, and it’s not easy for me to do even now…

To the strangers on the internet…well, that depends. If they’re coming at me via one of the professional 8 Sided accounts, then my self-control and ability to reasonably debate with the most bigoted and privileges of assholes surprises even me. If they come at me in my personal space, however, then I am more than happy to – politely – rip them to shreds, and enlist help in doing so.

To those who have proceeded to reject me without actually bothering to look at me or give me an opportunity to speak…honestly…I hope their lives are happy, and they never have to experience it for themselves, or for their friends, or for their children, or for anyone else they care about. I wish upon nobody that pain, that fear, that sadness, those tears that I and so many others continue to go through daily.

Good and Bad
So, good and bad. Some surprises, and some very unsurprising disappointments.
I’m still working through some of the public-facing issues. I suspect it will get easier with time.

On Wednesday I’ll be asking my new GP for a referral to one of the gender identity clinics scattered around the UK. I’m back into unknown territory again but I’ll be going in prepared to offer personal and medical explanations, details of the available clinics…and to see that look.

The Look
I’m going to end on this because it’s a biggie. The Look. It can come from anyone – family, friends, strangers, medical personnel, colleagues…anyone. It’s a look I’ve seen most of my life which seems to say (in the politest phrasing I can give it): “I don’t know what you are, and I don’t know what to do with you, but I wish you’d either just go away or be something I already understand”.