It is something only a transgender person can truly appreciate. The awkward moments that can happen when you are caught off guard, even if it is for a split second. You think you are in a situation where being transgender or gender non-conforming won’t be relevant, but then all of a sudden it pops up. On the rare occasion when the fact that I am transgender is the furthest thing on my mind is usually the moment when it happens.
My electric bill was overdue as usual this month as it always seems to be the one I forget to pay. I needed to get the payment in quickly so I decided to call and make my payment over the phone. As the representative answered the phone I looked down and realized the bill was still under my dead name as I was introducing myself as Mila. Changing my name on a couple of utility bills is just something I haven’t made a priority to get around to. Up until now it never really mattered anyway. The representative took the payment information and before she could finish processing it, she asked me what my relation was to the account holder.
“FOR A SECOND THERE BEING TRANSGENDER WASN’T ON MY MIND, BUT NOW HERE IT WAS CENTER STAGE.”
I instantly froze in my tracks. For a second there being transgender wasn’t on my mind, but now here it was center stage. To be honest the thought crossed my mind to just simply say I was “his” wife, but that would preclude my actual wife from ever being able to deal with the electric company. There was also the fact that it would have been a lie. After a few awkward “um’s” and “uh’s” I just blurted it out. “Well actually it is me, you see I am transgender,” I said. The representative handled it really well and simply said, “no problem.” She asked me if my name was legally changed and offered to update my records. I ended up giving her a full 5 star rating on her survey and luckily for me I walked away with a chuckle and a smile on my face.
Part of transitioning is learning to deal with these awkward moments. It happens to all of us. I have sat at a bar where the bartender was an old friend from high school. She didn’t recognize me so I just went with it, simply because I was just not in the mood to out myself that day. I could be going somewhere and at the last minute I realize I am about to see someone who does not yet know that I am transgender. It can be a room full of people who know about me and there is just that awkward feeling as if I was some alien that just landed in the room. The awkwardness in the air is so thick it feels like wading in a stick of butter. I end up wondering is it everyone else who feels awkward or is it my own perception? It can be a coworker who accidentally uses the wrong pronoun. It is usually followed by a moment of uncomfortable silence as they feel bad and you don’t know what to say. These moments will happen. It is just part of the transgender existence.
“FOR MOST, THE ONLY THING THEY KNOW ABOUT TRANSGENDER IS CAITLYN JENNER AND A BUNCH OF CONFLICTING NEWS STORIES ABOUT BATHROOMS.”
Why is being around a transgender person so awkward for everyone else? Well the answer is that many people have never been around one before. For them it literally is like an alien landing in the room. For most, the only thing they know about transgender is Caitlyn Jenner and a bunch of conflicting news stories about bathrooms. The good news is that this perception is starting to change as more people are being exposed to the fact that transgender people exist. The more we are seen in people’s daily lives, the less “alien” we will seem. There is also the realization that some of us, including myself, may actually be contributing to this “awkwardness.”
I am beginning to realize that there will probably never be a day where being transgender won’t be a part of almost every moment I experience. There will always be awkward times where I may just have to out myself to get through it. There will always be an uncomfortable feeling in the air when I have to put myself in certain situations. What I am learning though is that there is opportunity in these awkward moments. Perhaps when I am in a room where people may feel uncomfortable I actually have an opportunity to show people that I don’t bite. If I say something when someone accidentally misgenders me, perhaps I can create an opportunity for discussion and understanding. I am beginning to realize that each time I am in an awkward situation I actually have an ability to change the perceptions about transgender people like myself. It can be a moment as simple as paying your electric bill where the person you spoke with leaves a simple conversation with perhaps a different impression. Instead of contributing to the awkwardness I can actually break through it. I will embrace these moments and seize the opportunities within it. I will do so being proud of the person I am.