Passing Like Bull

“Oh,” she said, with a mixture of disgust and antipathy.

“So you’re Callie,” spitting out my name like curdled cream, apparently familiar with it from my postings on the local e-mail list

“Let me tell you one thing. Passing comes from in here,” she said, thumping her chest.

“I pass all the time, every time. And I pass because I pass in here,” thumping again. “I am full time and I never have a problem.”

“It’s all from here. That simple.”

Her lesson taught, she and her friend headed out and away for a smoke, leaving me with the other transperson in the place and the gal who makes drinks for the club every third Saturday.

I had been talking with them about the voice program, and issues around the goal of passing. I told the story of TBB last night, how she was read out by an admirer, how we have.

Well, this gal didn’t want to hear my crap. She has no problem, and to her, that must mean she passes. That simple. If TBB had a challenge, well, not enough pounding.

The woman born female I was talking to looked up at me. She knew this transperson didn’t pass as born female, didn’t read as a woman. But we both also knew she needs her defenses, and that means she needs the myopia of believing that passing can come just through pure, bull-headed, hard-driven belief.

I looked around and knew this place was unsafe for me, that she and her friend were going to be a problem when they got back. She didn’t like my crap, didn’t want to take it, and I felt threatened and unsafe.

I believed she didn’t have a problem. I believe that few have the balls to challenge her, and the nuanced challenges of women go right past her. And I suspect that attraction passes her by.

I was in a flowy outfit with peep-toe pumps, lashes and decollete, open and engaged.

And I was reminded of the fun of transwomen born male, passing because they believe they pass, entitled to womanhood, and defended as an armadillo.

Not safe.

Not pretty.

Stepped Up

TBB went to a new bar with her woman biker friends, and at least one of their husbands.

As she sat down, she saw a barfly clock her. To be clocked is to have someone get your difference, though to be read is to have them read you out, tell everyone.

This drunk woman came to TBB’s table, and started gushing at how beautiful TBB was. She flirted, with hands and body, until she whispered “You’re a man. . . ”

The gang at TBB’s table fell silent. They know her history, but it’s not a big subject of discussion. How would she handle this breach?

TBB made her decision in an instant. Rather than being upset or resistant, she turned the tables.

“Why yes,” she said to the drunk woman. “How did you ever know? Usually nobody can tell. How could you tell?”

The drunk felt special, and TBB’s friends at the table got the irony right away. Regina Barreca, in They Used To Call Me Snow White… But I Drifted: Women’s Strategic Use Of Humor talks about how women use irony to keep connected in the face of challenge, though I assure you TBB hasn’t read that book. She just gets it.

Later, a woman at the bar was sad, and TBB felt called to her. She had recently been widowed, and had just dreamed about her husband, though she couldn’t see his eyes. TBB knew she was supposed to be there, even if drunk woman was getting jealous at attention paid to the widow.

So often when we transwomen feel challenged it is because someone is attracted to us, attracted to some part of us we don’t feel safe exposing. After all, people who don’t feel that attraction have no incentive to pay attention to us, to talk to us or about us in ways we might feel invasive.

But when TBB had that happen to her, instead of shrinking down, instead of feeling captive, she stood up and felt empowered. Her friends understood, and TBB was open enough to go to the woman with the tear at the end of the bar who needed a moment with a shaman.

TBB, in other words, played it big rather than playing it small.

And it felt much better for her to be big, better than the bad mornings she cries at home wondering if she will ever again be small enough to be accepted as normative.

The Big Bitch went big, accepted her own powerful attractiveness, even though the attraction came very sloppy, and ended up being there to do her work.

And then she called me to tell the story.

A treat, indeed.