By: Lorelei Erisis*/TRT Columnist–
Sometimes it’s important to remember that it’s not all about being trans. I have to keep reminding myself of this lesson. I think about being trans a lot. I write a column about it, I speak about it, I teach people about it. I’ve got two sashes that say “Miss Trans New England” and one that says “Miss Trans Northampton” (my original title). Plus, I am, of course, trans myself.
Some days it feels like I eat, sleep and breathe trans! I am essentially, “Professionally Trans.” I think about what it means to be trans all the time, and I talk to people about it often. Even sometimes when I’d rather be talking about anything else, like my love of the smoky goodness of Lapsang Souchong Tea, or the finer points of improv.
It can be awfully easy to start seeing trans everywhere, and associating transness with every interaction I have encountered.
Even for transgender and transsexual folks I know who aren’t “Professionally Trans,” this can be a real issue. When you’ve spent so much of your life thinking about it and then you’re out in the world actually trying to be you, whether you’re actively “trying” to be trans or not, it can tend to dominate your perceptions.
And yes, it’s true, often people are treating you different because you’re trans, or looking at you because you’re trans — wanting to ask questions, hit you, hurt you or have sex with you because you’re trans. Especially in the earliest, most awkward stages of transition, when we sometimes feel like we have a sign on us that says in blinking neon letters, “Trans Person!”
But then, a lot of the time, no one really cares. They are maybe accepting or unaware or particularly enlightened or perhaps they simply don’t care. It’s huge for you, but it’s a non-issue for everyone else. It happens, and it’s just as important to remember as any of the other advice I’ve given here.
For instance, just recently, my dad and my stepmom, who have been together since I was 10, finally decided to get married. It was a small ceremony, performed at their house by the City Clerk. The only guests were myself, my uncle, his wife, the photographer and her husband, and my stepmom’s two brothers and 90-year-old mother.
I was pretty excited and more than a little nervous myself. My close family is well-adjusted to my transition, but I haven’t seen my stepmom’s family since I was a gangly teenager! I used to go to Passover with her family in Syracuse, NY, where I often felt conspicuously tall, blond and blue-eyed. They were always very sweet though and I still love that particular holiday and everything about it, except maybe gefilte fish.
So I was unusually nervous about seeing my stepmom’s family, especially her mother. I knew they all know about my transition and my stepmom has been very accepting, but there are few things more intimidating in my experience than a Jewish mother. Especially one who has lived almost a century and is the matriarch of a large family, which I was about to become officially a part of.
I geared myself up, prepared to forgive more than a few misgenderings and answer a host of potentially awkward questions, and to be very sweet and patient about it.
Then something happened. Or rather, nothing happened. When my stepmom’s mother arrived, she was amazingly full of energy and very talkative and … absolutely perfect with my pronouns, with not even a single question about my gender status! I kept waiting for a slip, but no, it did not come. As far as she was concerned, I was just another woman. It was oddly disconcerting.
Also, recently I took a pretty epic journey, flying down to Florida via Detroit, with a cat in a cage. I’m pretty used to flying while trans, but again, it’s something I always try to be prepared for. There will be awkwardness and explanations and hopefully nothing too terribly humiliating or insulting.
This time though, the cat in a cage trumped all of that. People couldn’t have cared less about my gender status and general transness! Though everyone was staring at me, they only had eyes for my pussy (cat). Pretty much the only thing I said to anyone over the course of a trip that took 11 hours door to door was, “It’s a cat and her name is MaryAnne.” I even had a little girl basically stalk me the entire trip because she was so fascinated by my feline traveling companion, and little kids like that are almost always very reliable for a good, blunt, “Are you a boy or a girl?”
But nothing. I was just a very tall woman who happened to be traveling with a cat.
Even in the mundane every day, I find I often have to remind myself that maybe that person isn’t staring at me because I’m trans. Quite possibly it’s just because I’m considerably taller than most people, men or women, or because I have pink hair, or maybe it’s just because they think I’m pretty!
It can be all too easy to become consumed with the experience of being trans; to let it color our every interaction.
And though I do believe it’s good to be proud and out as trans, and to be aware of our passage through the world and the reactions of others to our gender variations, it’s just as vital to remember ourselves, that we are also simply people living our lives, and to remember that oftentimes we are not being judged for our transness, we are simply being judged as people.
And isn’t that kind of the point?
*Lorelei Erisis is Miss Trans New England 2009. Send your questions about trans issues to her at: firstname.lastname@example.org.