I could see through the window that they had hired a DJ. That should tell you everything you need to know about the house party I was two hours late for. The doorbell I was ringing was fighting a losing battle against whatever the hell the guy was spinning, and I seriously considered going home (or at least asking the DJ if he had any weed for sale, because of course he did), but before I could do any of that, a (straight) couple stood behind me, blocking my escape. I gave a weak smile, and doubled my efforts on the doorbell. I prayed to Laverne that, even though I had directly acknowledged them, they would ignore me, all I wanted right at that moment (and most moments since I came out) was to be ignored. I wasn’t so lucky: cis people don’t ignore trans people.
“Hey” the guy ventured.
“Hi” I replied, trying to modulate my pitch so they wouldn’t ask the things they always fucking ask.
“Oh! You know, I really thought you were a woman!” the woman said.
“I told you it was fancy dress!” the guy said, turning to his girlfriend.
“IT LOOKED LIKE THE ONLY THING THAT HAD CHANGED WAS ME.”
At that moment, the front door opened, revealing Marie; the host of the party. Thank Christ. “Michelle! Ben! Sally! Oh my God! I haven’t seen any of you in ages!” she screamed before hugging me. She hurried us in, and I excused myself to the kitchen to dump my drinks, not looking back at the couple who were probably about to be told by Marie that it wasn’t fancy dress and they just put all their feet in their stupid mouth’s. In the kitchen, there was the usual mixture of strangers I would run into at one of Marie’s parties. They were young, professional, had fantastic hair, lived interesting lives, had Netflix recommendations at the ready, this was a world I hadn’t been around for over a year. It looked like the only thing that had changed was me. Nobody acknowledged me at first, which I liked because – since coming out – all I had been was acknowledged. It did not last long.
“Hey, have we met before?” a guy asked me as he reached into the fridge for his bottle of whatever. We had met before; I remember he was a video games critic that I had talked to the last time Marie threw a party. He had fantastic hair, an interesting life, and incredibly loud glasses.
“Yeah, but I was quite different back then” I said. I saw it click in his mind.
“Oh…were you…Nathan?” his mouth stuttered out, panic in his eyes.
“I don’t go by that name anymore” I replied, panic probably also in my eyes, “my name is Michelle now.” He looked at the floor, and then walked away. It was probably for the best.
Eventually, I ran into my friends who had colonized the garden and were currently discussing THAT show (you know the one, it won all the awards and not a single person in the conversation had paid to watch it). It was really good to see them again until I was asked if I had done anything lately, and I decided to tell them about my recent trip to a trans pride on the south coast.
“On the last day, we all had a picnic on the beach,” I told them (God, the memory still feels good), “and there I met this couple who had brought their kids. I assumed the dad was trans at first but then he told me it was his daughter who was the reason they were there.” I looked again at my friends, some were smiling; others looked confused. I continued.
“THINGS ARE CHANGING FOR THE BETTER..”
“I looked over at his kids who were just playing on the beach, and I saw this six-year old little girl, and I couldn’t believe it. She was trans. I mean, Jesus fucking Christ, there was this kid just being herself. In that moment, I felt…I don’t know what…like, people like me don’t have to wait till their twenties to come out anymore. Things are changing for the better, my twenty years in the closet doesn’t have to be part of the trans narrative anymore.”
My friends looked at me, nodding, some got what I was saying. One did not.
“You mean they put their kid on hormones?” asked Barry (he works in marketing events and, true story, the school he went to had its own zoo).
“I don’t know, I doubt it, why?” I replied, knowing full well what was coming.
“How does a kid know what they are? That is absurd, and slinging hormones at them is bordering on child abuse!” he told me bluntly.
“Now hang on, I knew I was a girl when I was six” my friend Caz chipped in.
“Now, I never thought I would say this but I think Barry might have a point” contributed Andy.
“I don’t see a problem with it, but the parents using their kids like that just to show how progressive they are, that is…”
At this point, I turned around and walked away. My presence would only get in the way of a thoroughly good thought exercise by those who valued intellectual masturbation over people. I decided to go inside and drink forever.
“..I WAS DRUNK AND POWERLESS AGAINST HER ONSLAUGHT.”
I am not sure how it happened, but about an hour after leaving my friends I had accidentally fallen ass-backwards into a conversation about Iranian cinema. My total lack of knowledge on the subject did not stop the woman talking at me from performing the conversation all by herself. She initially came up to me saying, “Just so you know, I am totally down with the transgendered (sic)! When Bruce Jenner came out…I wept” but by this point I was drunk and powerless against her onslaught. She was damned good at what she does, and she wasn’t going to leave until she got what she wanted. What did she want? To say things that made her feel like she was interesting and totally tolerant of the queers because she is a ‘good person’.
“Have you seen Persepolis?” she asked, offhandedly. I had, and not only that, I knew something about it. It was finally time for me to talk in a grown up conversation about ‘art & shit’.
“Yeah, I loved the graphic novel, but the movie was so well done! I couldn’t get over how totally over powering the regime was, mind and body and the things it takes from you and the art style was totally…”
“You’re a real woman you know,” the woman forced into the air. She looked at me expectantly, like she was waiting for something. Those two seconds felt like two days. I didn’t want to say it…I really didn’t want to fucking say it.
“…Thanks,” I told her. She smiled to herself, excused herself and went off towards the toilet queue that had begun snaking down the stairs.
“AT 2 A.M. I WOULD NOT HAVE BEEN ABLE TO TELL YOU WHAT HAPPENED AT 1 A.M.”
At 2 a.m. I would not have been able to tell you what happened at 1 a.m. I was drunk and throwing myself around the front room as the DJ made music I would never understand. Everything was fine until Barry crashed into the dance area, topless, and begun grinding against me. I excused myself from his funny joke/assault and went to the kitchen to find something else to drink. As I was digging around inside the fridge, moving pots of guacamole, and bags of vegetables hoping that someone had hidden some booze, I heard a voice behind me. “I saw this girl; thought I would try and crack on with her, and it turned out to be a fucking bloke” the voice said, to the amusement of its audience. I turned around to see the video game critic. He had found a use for our awkward meeting. He was using it to make his friends laugh and to make himself appear to be funny.
At least one of us got something out of it.
At some point later (don’t even ask when, I told you, I was going to drink forever) I was still in the kitchen, and I could hear shouting behind me. I turned around just in time to see the Iranian cinema woman point at me and shout, “you don’t call women like me or Michelle bird!” at some guy. I was standing at least ten feet away, with at least six women between her and me that she could have pointed at. But she wanted a double whammy; she wanted the self-righteous indignation of being called something sexist (British sexism is hard to explain) with the added bonus of looking as trans friendly as possible. Suddenly, everyone in the room was looking at me as if I was somehow involved in the situation. I had no idea what the right move was, so I chose the one that I had seen in films. I ran into the garden and immediately took up smoking.
“When was the last time you smoked?” Barry asked me, as I lit one of his cigarettes. “2000, behind the fish and chip shop in my home town,” I replied, trying my best not to throw up. “You are so shit at smoking,” he said. If there was one thing you could always count on with Barry, it was that he would say what is on his mind and take an unreasonable amount of pride in this.
“I have been meaning to talk to you actually; we are all worried about you,” he said.
“Why?” I asked.
“Because we don’t see you anymore. We miss you, and when we do see you, all you do is go on about trans stuff.”
I dropped my cigarette and stamped on it, not because I was finished but because it seemed like the thing you do when you are about to hear something horrible.
“I miss you from before, you used to be fun and now…like tonight we were talking about the usual stupid shit, but then you came along and we were talking about trans shit again,” he stopped and looked away, avoiding my glare.
“But…I just told you what I had been up to…after being asked!” I tried to explain, but Barry cut me off.
“I know it is a big change, but we don’t want to hear about it anymore, OK?” he put out his cigarette and walked inside. I decided it was time to go.
“THE COST OF BEING THE ONLY PERSON LIKE ME IN MOST ROOMS WAS HIGH, FAR HIGHER THAN I EVER IMAGINED.”
I don’t remember the journey home except for the million different voices inside my head, all wanting attention. The noise carried on until I woke up the next day. The cost of being the only person like me in most rooms was high, far higher than I ever imagined. Did I point out my trans stuff too much? Should I stop talking about it? How do I stop talking about it when it keeps coming up? How do I keep quiet when people use me as a political talking point? How am I ever going to be anything else? Will I ever…how do I…are people going to leave? Are MORE people going to leave? What do I…I can’t…I just…please… I had been spiraling for several hours before my phone beeped, cutting through the noise. I reached over to the nightstand to see what the world wanted from me. It was Marie, asking if I fancied going for breakfast at a café down the road.
I texted back “can’t, got to work.” I rolled back over and spent the next four days in bed, trying to hear the quiet.