Early last year I was at Target, looking at jewelry racks. I was barely 1 year into my transition, and I was starting to feel confident with my physical presentation, but not quite fully connected with my courage yet. My confidence levels fluctuated as often as the sun has risen and set in the last century. It was a tumultuous yet exciting time.
As I browsed the paraphernalia, an attractive 40-ish year old Caucasian guy walked by my aisle. Then he walked by again, but this time in the opposite direction. I rolled my eyes and thought to myself: “This train is never late….here we go.”
Sure enough he finally mustered up enough courage to enter the aisle where I was standing, and inched closer towards me, all the while playing it cool, as if he were merely browsing for a jewelry rack as well.
I was frantically trying to stay focused on getting ready to come up with excuses to turn him down, but was distracted by imagining and empathizing with how he must have felt….for I had been on that side of the fence for over 20 years, trying to do exactly what he was trying to do: pick up on a woman while bracing for the possibility of facing rejection.
Fortunately for him, I was so new at this whole concept of presenting as a woman that my rejections weren’t quite ready. I wasn’t sure how to turn him down in a polite manner. I was just as nervous as he was.
He took a chance and jumped out of the plane first.
“So what are you looking at?”
I picked up a jewelry box in front of me. “I think these are jewelry boxes,” I said sarcastically.
“You’re right,” he said with a smile, immediately tasking himself with the duties of a spin doctor to keep the conversation going.
“What’s your name?”
“That’s a pretty name. How was your day today, Natalie?” He was obviously nervous, the poor thing.
“It was good, thanks for asking.”
“Would you be interested in grabbing some coffee sometime?”
I didn’t want to drag this out, so I said: “You seem like a gentleman but I had a long day, and just need some time to myself. I hope you don’t mind.”
“No, not at all,” he said. “Sorry I bothered you, have a nice evening.” He walked off.
I felt bad for turning him down, but little did he know he had just talked to and tried to pick up on the equivalent of a 12 year old woman.
Ever wonder why my blog is called “menopause before puberty”? Because we literally go through menopause, hot flashes, taking hormones, etc, before we are far enough along in our transition to truly understand the depth and ramifications of exploring the depth of our stifled adolescent psyche.
In those mental caverns of transsexuals that haven’t been explored (usually for decades) lies an enormous amount of second round puberty work laid out for us to do. And at 30 or 40 (or even 60 for some of us), a second go-around at our puberty is quite the challenge, not to mention awkward more often than not.
We are relearning our bodies, emotions, and recalibrating everything we once used to know and take for granted, but we are physically past our first puberty from long ago. We have habits in the wrong gender presentation that have solidified and are hard to bend towards the other direction. Predispositions are not predeterminations, but they certainly feel that way when our behavior is so deeply rooted in our psyche, feeling as if we have no choice over what seems to be default based rudimentary building blocks of our identity.
But, people in society see us as the adult age we present as….and why shouldn’t they? It’s an absolutely fair assumption, although an incorrect one.
And therein lies the problem.
In my scenario, I had an attractive man approach me, with him probably thinking to himself that he just visually spotted a nice 30 something year old Asian gal (I know I’m in my 30s, but hey perhaps he thought I was 20….I am Asian after all, and sometimes I can pass for 20 better than I can pass as a woman).
He saw an adult, but little did he know he was approaching and hitting on what was the equivalent to an individual with the experience of a 12 year old girl who only had the exterior of an adult woman body.
There were so many aspects of womanhood that were unfamiliar to me at that point in my transition. Everything I had accumulated in my knowledge base about woman came from observation only, not personal experience. My database had information extracted from observing my mom and from dating other women. I had a gap in my woman history. Hell, I didn’t even know what it was like to be in the high school girl’s restroom with the other gals, and what it was like to gossip with them and deal with drama and to take sides.
I wouldn’t have known where to start with this man, so I had to turn him down.
Transgender people truly present some unique scenarios that aren’t covered by the traditional domains of society. Of the many cultures out there in the current world, western United States culture tends to pride itself on covering its bases. We have so many laws and everywhere we go and in every arena of life, ranging from basic freedoms, liberties, and workers rights, to having the option to sue when rights are seemingly not upheld or protected.
We are a thorough culture, but we seemed to have missed transgender people by a long shot. Gays and lesbians still have hundreds of rights that aren’t available to them that straight people have in heterosexual marriages. Transgender people are even more oppressed than gays and lesbians, in part also due to the fact that we blur the gender binary, and make lines in social constructs quite irrelevant and questionable. Take for instance Proposition 8 in California. Prior to my legal gender change in court in 2012, I was only allowed to marry a woman (cisgender or transgender), even though I was already living and presenting as myself, a woman as well. The minute I stepped out of the social security office with my court order and changed my gender legally from man to woman, I was only allowed to marry a man, not a woman.
Again, we as transgender people, force society to question the many outdated rules that are still in place.
Sometimes being a small minority group truly ensures being forgotten. We have fallen through the cracks. Our community isn’t even well understood by the gay, lesbian, and bisexual community. It’s as if the “T” in GLBT was tacked on for convenience. “Here are some groups of people we don’t understand or really care to understand, so let’s just lump them together.”
And unfortunately, until people are better educated on how to talk to us, treat us, and refer to us appropriately, there will continue to be scenarios where we have stories such as this one, with no language available for me to use to inform someone of my unique situation.
Imagine if I could have said to the gentleman in Target: “I’m a 12 year old woman because I’m a newly transitioned transsexual,” with this gentleman fully understanding my description being parallel to a car with new paint that can’t be washed yet prior to the paint drying. I’ve written about how our old shell is gone, and how vulnerable we are as newly transitioned folks, as we wait for our new shell, our new persona to take shape and form.
Just imagine that for a second.
That would be a huge game changer. It would make communicating with others so much easier. It would be like someone asking me out for an afternoon of tennis, and I politely turn them down due to recently having cancer removing surgery, and needing time to recover. And they would empathize with me.
The gentleman wouldn’t have felt as rejected as he did and he would have an adequate enough response to keep his self-esteem intact.
Yet here we are, in the year 2013, and this is still a very much a foreign topic for many. When I open up my kimono and divulge that I’m transsexual to people, the most commonly asked question is: “So did you have surgery down there?”
I used to reply with: “How often do you fuck your wife (or husband)?” (Nowadays, I respond in a very flirtatious manner with: “Why, are you interested in going to bed with me?”…..and if I’m really in a sarcastic mood, I say in a southern accent: “My momma told me the only one to know about my genitals is the man I’m in love with…”).
The response was almost always “Excuse me!?!?”
And I used to say, “You’re excused.”
A light bulb would turn on and they would move on to other, more appropriate questions.
Not only does someone’s genitalia not define their gender, asking if a transsexual individual has had surgery or not is a very personal question. Most people wouldn’t just ask someone how often they fuck their wife or how often they masturbate. The same respect should be applied towards transgender people.
And just as much as we put emphasize culturally to protect people’s physical privacy and nurture their physical safety, we should also place social emphasis on respecting the emotional needs of transgender people during a very vulnerable time by educating cisgender people out there that they share a world out there with transgender folks, who, like it or not, don’t function with the same rules that mainstream society utilizes and views as non-negotiable.
Until we address these issues socially, we will still continue to see gentlemen hitting on the equivalent of a 12 year old woman.