i used to be brave
May 15, 2016
Was suddenly thinking about gender non-conformance, stealth, etc and all that. Was remembering how, once upon a time, I was ~brave~. Thinkinkg about how I was like around fifteen when I started wearing makeup, doing my nails, and otherwise presenting as femme. In a catholic school. In the most conservative province in the entire country. Thinking about strutting my shit in a skirt with hairy legs and visible stubble in broad daylight. And how unremarkable all of this was to me at the time.
In a lot of ways, its funny how long I’ve been inextricably caught up in stuff teh trans community talks about all the time since I was a teen. I just didn’t know it. All I was doing was being me. And I apparently pulled it off so well that ppl who knew me at that time, didn’t really think my behaviour or presentation or whatever had anything to do with my gender. I didn’t think it did either.
Even back then, when I was explaining to ppl how my strick, Brown/asian father had zero problems with my gender presentation/sexuality/gender/whatever bc I was embodying a type of ‘gay’ that made sense to him. As far as he knew, I was no different than the bakla ‘back home’. He knew I was ‘gay’ before I did bc I had all the markers he could recognize.
I talked to an old friend a few years back who I knew during that time, my late teens/early twenties in calgary. I had to tell her my new name and stuff and I how currently looked and presented wasn’t surprising to her at all, she missed my entire butch period when I was living in vancouver. When I pointed this all out, she was like, “huh, I guess. I just thought that was you, trans stuff didn’t really occur to me”.
I’m saying this all so that people understand that my ‘bravery’ was actually ignorance and a kind of… cultural dislocation. I knew gay was dangerous. I’d been bullied for that. Trans stuff never even occurred to me. I often wonder what might’ve happened if I clued in a lot earlier.
So I was brave. I wore what I want wherever I wanted. I went into the men’s room in a skirt and used the urinals. It was also probably the most carefree, confident I’ve ever been.
Well… A combination of things. First was several scattered incidents of sexual harassment and violence – unsurprisingly being a visible transpinay lead to some dangerous situations. Situations I didn’t understand and wasn’t prepared to deal with. Second was moving to a new city… where I didn’t ‘know’ the people and waasn’t as comfortable, overall. Then was really internalizing transmisogyny (and homophobia I’d say) and trying to go butch so I’d have one fewer strike against me in online dating. Couldn’t change the asian, so I went for the femme.
And now… Now I’m sort of kind of maybe back to where I was. Sort of. Kind of. But not really.
Now I know just how… dangerous it is to be (hyper)visible as a transpinay. Now I know that it was probably a combination of luck and sheer cluenessness that prevented a lot of situations from being much, much worse back then. Luck in the sense that I had jobs where my employers didn’t care if I wore a skirt to work. Cluelessness in the sense that my brushes with sex work didn’t pan out because I didn’t understand what was happening (ie, I was too fucking autistic to fall prey to some of the predatory white men I knew at the time).
Years of bad experiences nurtured what was my budding agoraphobia at the time into the lovely, robust creature it currently is. Now it takes medication and a lot of effort to get me to even leave the apartment.
Once upon a time I was brave.
But then life happened.
And now I’m not so brave.
By no means am I stealth, closeted, or anything even remotely close to that. But I have taken steps to try and reduce some of my visibility as a transpinay. This doesn’t make me particularly happy but it does allow me to function somewhat better and have the tinyest sense of safety.
Its always so weird when I see ppl who for whatever reason purposefully present in a way that increases their visibility engage in things like purity politics or the old, white notion of ‘binarism’ (eg, thinking that binary trans ppl are ‘privileged’ over non-binary ones or oppressive, which is even worse). The very same people who’ll talk about how much violence, harassment, and whatever they experience on a daily basis (always on the assumption that this never happens to binary twoc). They talk about this violence and then literally wonder why some of us enby twoc make efforts to blend and ‘conform’.
And how this… coerced conformity isn’t, in actual fact, any kind of privilege.
I used to be brave.
Now I just don’t want to die.