TBB had a lovely time at the skeet shooting range. She had a lovely chat with a woman warrior, a soldier who, when she heard TBB’s son is going for Naval Aviator training, knew TBB was a proud mom. And the women who accompanied their men, a mom and her soon to be daughter in law, had a laugh with TBB too.
But when TBB went into a biker bar after, just because she wanted a nice cold schooner of Budweiser draft, the two haggard barfly women at the end of the bar started whispering.
They could tell that TBB was “really a guy,” and that meant they got to mock her. They didn’t care that she was a proud parent of a service member, or that she has done great and small things in her life, they only cared that “he” provided a laugh to the dried up biker chicks sitting at the end of the bar on this Saturday afternoon.
They put themselves up by putting TBB down, and TBB felt those darts in her skin. She knew she could win over the bar if she put in the effort — she’s done that so many times before — but it wasn’t worth it.
But why should she have to feel that demand just because she wanted a cold beer on a hot afternoon? Why did she have to feel the darts just to get what others take for granted?
It’s rarely the big, dramatic swoop that breaks transpeople. We don’t usually get taken down by one nasty slice, one traumatic injury.
Instead, it’s the darts we feel in our skin everyday that just sap our energy, just break our stride, that leave us feeling unsafe and profoundly lonely. One gotcha at a time, with almost no support system that can understand the cumulative effects of a life lived as target for anyone who want to feel sanctimonious enough to put down a queer freak who dares to enter their vision.
TBB was looking at pictures today and found an image of a New Years Eve event she held. There were college friends and high school friends, but as she scanned the faces she tried to find one who was still around for her after her emergence as a woman. There were none.
Her brother still has childhood friends in his circle, but TBB doesn’t. Just another few darts in the skin, another few tiny scars that add up over the years to a real impairment.
People who have never felt the lash of stigma may not understand this. Studies show that people of colour are much more likely to feel a less than gracious gesture, like a waitress plopping a plate down in front of them rather than placing it gracefully, as a sign, as a message to them, while people who didn’t experience racism will ignore the gesture.
We become sensitized to others after suffering the whip and being left with scars, usually from people who are more than happy to tell us that their treatment of us was “for our own good.”
They think we need to know that what we are doing is wrong, sick, weird and unacceptable, so helping us see the error of our ways is a kindness. After all, we are just asking for their scorn and disapproval by our own actions, at least in their eyes. We “had it coming” and “should have known better.”
All those darts thrown at us, even the ones we feel when they weren’t aimed at us but hit our scar tissue anyway, they are the cost of a trans life. And because we all feel this way, when we try to find help in healing, we often only end up getting a dose of another person’s fear and pain, get blame rather than healing.
Maybe we could raise the consciousness of those around us, but too often they don’t want to have to engage our own pain, don’t want to leave their comfort zone, so they leave us instead. To enter the experience of a trans life isn’t something most people are willing to do.
It’s great when people are nice to us. But it’s too easy to think about how the nice people would react if things got a bit challenging; would they still stand by us?
Or would we still have to feel the darts alone, still have to be treated like a phobogenic object, still be saddled with the obligation to win over people who don’t feel any requirement to stand up for us? Would other people’s fears still be labelled as our fault?
Negotiating other people’s fears has always been the most difficult part of trans expression for me. They want to believe their fears are about me, not about them.
That leaves me stuck with darts, thrown in my direction.
It’s those darts, however small, that can take people like me down.