They don’t hear it because they’ve never had to face it before. They’ve gone about their lives open and happy as a typical person that never questioned themself nor had their identity questioned by others. But that falter – it’s there to an ear such as mine that has lived a life of questioning – of being questioned. It’s so subtle that few others, if any, would detect it – but we do. We always hear it. Sometimes the person, themself, doesn’t even realize they’ve done it. I get that when someone knows you “before” that it creates an extra layer of difficulty to work through but for those who are meeting us as our true genders we are often times acknowledged as such. For me, in most instances when I’m out and about I am recognized as male and those interactions are often brief and we all go about our days. Except I leave the interaction with a big smile knowing I was responded to as a male. Even something as simple as someone saying: “Thank you, sir” when I hold the door for them. People make a split second assessment, without even being conscious of doing it, about the person including gender. This is how we know to say, sir or ma’am. We don’t think about it, but our brains make that gender connection subconsciously.
“I’M TYPICALLY PRETTY OPEN ABOUT BEING TRANS BUT AT THE SAME TIME, I’M CAREFULLY SELECTIVE ABOUT TO WHOM AND WHEN I’M OPEN ABOUT IT.”
I’m typically pretty open about being trans but at the same time, I’m carefully selective about to whom and when I’m open about it. It’s my choice to be open or closed about it and that shouldn’t be taken from me, from any of us. We should NEVER, EVER be introduced to someone and then have it filled in “he used to be a girl but he’s transitioning” or any variation thereof. It’s happened to me, and I’m sure it’s happened to many others and this ties in with my previous article about being prefaced.
The person who did it saw no harm in outing me because the people who were told were “cool” or “open minded” despite the fact that they were complete strangers to me. The person genuinely thought they were okay with doing it because my transition is no big deal to them so why assume it would be a big deal to anyone else? If you’ve never faced bigotry or ever feared for yourself one doesn’t tend to think in terms of being careful of who knows what. Ultimately it’s my life, my body, and my decision. If someone is confused they can ask me and if they aren’t coming off as obnoxious about it then I’m typically pretty open to genuine questions. What I’m not open to is being outed.
“IN MY HEART, I AM A MALE. THAT SHOULD BE THE ONLY INTRODUCTION.”
I live as a male. I try very hard to present as a male. In my heart, I am a male. That should be the only introduction. “This is Jude.” End of story. But now that these people know, and thankfully it worked out that they were, in fact, open-minded, but now it is forever in their mind that I was once a female. That’s when the subtle falter occurs. They were told I was a guy. Their mind processed that. I present as a male, and their minds processed that as well. But the first time it comes to using a pronoun their mind trips over that new tidbit of information “Jude was once a woman” and now they grasp wildly for the right pronoun. If you would never introduce a cis-person with “This is Paul, he’s a male. He was born a male too,” then I should never be introduced as “This is Jude. He’s transitioning to be male.”
For any of us who have been outed or who have had society question your gender, you can see that falter. You can see that flicker behind their eyes as they, consciously, try to determine how to refer to you. It’s a nanosecond; it’s something they don’t even realize they’re doing, but that infinitesimal hesitation – we see it and it can ruin a day or even a life. If someone is outing you, even with the best of intentions, it’s very important to nip it in the bud. Whether they understand why or not they need to know simply that they must stop. Not only is it simply not appropriate regardless of their best intentions; it’s extremely dangerous. It’s a danger they will never fully understand, but now it’s even more dangerous before. Despite our increased visibility and general acceptance, we are prime targets that someone who has enjoyed societal privileges will never truly understand. It doesn’t matter if it’s your longest friend or your closest family member, it IS OKAY to tell them to stop. It’s okay to be your own voice and to speak for yourself.