By: Lorelei Erisis*/TRT Columnist—
Hello Faithful Reader! Whether you are new to reading this column or have been following since I first started writing it for the fine folks here at The Rainbow Times, you may have noticed that the actual name of the column is “Ask A Trans Woman.” This happens despite the fact that I very rarely answer actual direct questions nowadays.
There are a whole lot of reasons for this. The primary one being that, once I had answered all the basic questions people had, often several times over, I began to worry about repeating myself too often and being boring. I know that’s a radically unlikely state for my Punk-Rock-Trans-Activist-Comic-Adventurer self to achieve. But it worries me, nonetheless.
Also, there’s the simple fact that with my wide-ranging social media presence, I’m incredibly accessible. Many people reach out to me with questions that I feel are too pressing to wait for the time it takes to write and publish a monthly column.
So, mainly I just tell you folks out in reader-land, the answers I come to myself as a result of all the thinking and researching and reading that is inspired by all of these questions that people are always asking me. You get the distilled and carefully thought out answers and opinions I’ve developed from an aggregate of all the things I am asked and all the stories I hear from all the people I meet.
I also try, quite simply, to anticipate the things going on that affect or are important to trans people and our community that I feel you ought to know about. Think of it like me answering the questions you haven’t yet thought to ask!
One of the things I get to do as part of all this, that I really enjoy, is a workshop I call “Ask A Trans Woman: Live!” (Which you can totally book me to come to your school/conference/group/coffeehouse/church basement to do!) I think of it as a “Trans 201.”
A lot of us who do activist-y and educational outreach type things get real tired of doing the “Trans 101” circuit real fast. Plus, I believe that with the current state of trans visibility, audiences often know the basics already. Frankly, it can be nearly impossible to know what the level of trans awareness any given group I’m speaking to is going have beforehand.
Because I want to answer the questions that people really want to know, I’ll usually do a very brief spiel and then I will answer anonymous questions that I have asked folks to write on index cards (or sometimes ripped up notebook pages) beforehand. This pretty effectively short-circuits people’s fear of, “asking the wrong question.” Surprisingly, I actually get some really interesting questions this way. Of course, I get some serious duds too. But even that gives me the opportunity for some object lessons in the things you really shouldn’t ask a trans person. Without, because of the anonymous nature of the cards, having to embarrass or humiliate the asker. And all of these questions usually lead to some great discussion and riffs into the stuff folks really need and want to know. [pullquote]What you need to know though is that not all experiences are the same. I know many other trans folks for whom being Trans is an important part of who they are. They wear the identity with pride and speak it out loud.[/pullquote]
Anyway, before this becomes just an advertorial for Lorelei Erisis, Inc., I thought it would be nice to share a random sampling of some of these very questions with you my wonderful readers!
So in no particular order, and in the space remaining, here we go!!
What is the biggest challenge you have faced?
Short answer? Finding cute shoes that fit and I can actually wear to do all the things I do. From marching in the street to schmoozing at fancy Galas! Oy vey!
Longer answer? Getting over my own fear of transitioning. That fear held me back for years and years and years. Once I got past it, even with all the difficulties of actually being trans in the world, everything else just seemed easier. Because I was me, and I wasn’t bottled up anymore.
Do you feel that your identity as a trans person is a prominent part of your identity?
Yes. For me, it is. I write, speak, teach and think about trans issues all the time. I’m Miss Trans New England (2009). I write this column, “Ask A Trans Woman.” I’ve been the “Trans Liaison” and token trans in so many different orgs. that I’ve lost count.
I sometimes joke that, “I see Trans People!” because I’m so focused on all things Trans that I often think half the people I meet or see are trans! I’ve literally known one cis guy for several years who I only recently learned was not a trans guy. And that was only when I said, “Hmm, I don’t know if we should have ________ as our speaker this year. We’ve already had so many trans speakers already.”
Heck my iOS spell check automatically capitalizes the word “Trans” and I can’t make it stop! So yes, it’s a prominent part of my personal identity.
What you need to know though is that not all experiences are the same. I know many other trans folks for whom being Trans is an important part of who they are. They wear the identity with pride and speak it out loud.
But for all those trans folks, I know just as many, if not more who really only think of themselves as incidentally trans. Small “t” trans if you will. It’s just a small piece of their experience and who they are. If they had their druthers, it would never be a topic to discuss or a thing they care to dwell upon. It just is.
And that’s okay too. Capital “T” or small “t” trans, either is just as valid.
Do you have a non-binary/trans role model?
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it to my last breath, even at the risk of being boring. I owe my existence as a trans person as well as my philosophical foundation as a writer and an activist to Kate Bornstein. She’s amazing. Kate drew the map the showed me how to find the path that would lead me home to myself.
There’s a lot more questions dear, dear readers, but that’s my word count! Maybe I’ll share a few more with you fine folks again soon. Or, as I said, you could actually bring me to where you are and we could meet! I could answer all your lovely and wonderful questions in person!
Until then, keep reading, thinking and being kind to each other. And, if you are so inspired, maybe drop me a question or two right here!
* Lorelei Erisis is an actor, activist, adventurer and pageant queen. Send your questions about trans issues, gender and sexuality to her at: firstname.lastname@example.org.