Wednesday, June 27, 2012
Ironies in coming out
Trigger Warning: This is not a light post. It deals with in depth discussions on living life as a trans person including multiple mentions of rape and murder. Please be aware of this, and make sure you are in a good head space before continuing.
I came out as trans* in order to save my own life. It was a choice in some ways, but saying transition is a choice is a bit like saying it is the choice of a drowning person to climb aboard a raft or to cling to a life preserver. It was come out and transition or drown in a sea of dysphoria and unhappiness about my life. When I came out I wasn’t really considering the consequences. I did not think about the discrimination, about having to come out to more people than just my mother. I wasn’t thinking about the fear or that I would eventually miss certain things about identifying as female. I wasn’t thinking about bathrooms, locker rooms, binding, or bigoted people who might have it in for me. I knew only that there was this big problem I had that made it impossible to live with myself and that there was a solution.
One of the first things I had to deal with when I came out was bathrooms. I remember one day while I was participating in an educational group about trans* issues, I had pointed out that lesbians and gay men face much of the same problem with the locker rooms and bathrooms. I would not believe the leader when he said it was so much worse for trans* people until I was staring down the bathroom door, debating whether or not I could stomach going into the woman’s bathroom. It is especially difficult around families and children. The first time I used the men’s restroom without my friend death glaring at me and saying that I couldn’t come in to the woman’s room was in a movie theater, because there were a bunch of children playing outside the bathrooms. I didn’t want security called if I went into the woman’s bathroom and figured that if I didn’t pass, I could always just say I was getting toilet paper or something and be done with it.
Coming out came with a lot of fear, especially once I started passing better. I thought it would be the other way around, that the more I passed the less I would be afraid, but the fear of discovery is somehow worse than the fear of not passing. The fear of rape that I have now is even worse than the fear I had when I identified as female, even though I never thought that possible. I am terrified when strange men strike up conversations with me in the elevator, wondering if they will find out. I was scared when someone saw my transgender pride t-shirt and looked for a little too long. I could not tell if they were angry or if they were just confused about what the shirt meant. I am afraid when my classmate yells about me tabling for the trans* organization on campus at the top of his lungs, even though my campus is really liberal and friendly. And I experience this fear as a tall white man with enormous amounts of passing privilege. I cannot imagine the fear for the trans women of color in my community. Too many of the names on the list of our dead are women of color, and that has to change.
And I appreciate the Transgender Day of Remembrance, but I hate so much that it has to exist. I hate that the one event set aside for trans* people is a day that commemorates those that paid the ultimate price for their transition. I hate it so much that there are people out there who despise trans* people so much that they will murder them. They will snuff out the life of a no doubt beautiful person who is trying to get by because these bigoted people cannot expand their view of the world to hold something that is different from what they understand. There are people who want to show respect and honor to my community and they do it through honoring the dead. I am glad that these people are going to be remembered. I am glad that someone will honor their sacrifice and potentially use it in order to make sure that fewer people will die in order to transition, but it makes my blood boil that there are trans* people, and particularly trans* women of color, dying.
It is a gross irony that the process I undertook to save my own life is something that might kill me after all. There are people who would seek me out in order to add me to the list of names to be remembered. There are people who would make me pay for trying to transition, for being as true to myself as I need to be. In the end though, I would rather deal with the fear than try to live life as the gender I was designated at birth. I have to live with myself every waking hour of every day, and transitioning was the only way to be able to do that. The fear is more tangible, a force that comes from the outside. It is something I can fight far better than my own body and mind.