It is impossible to understand the world of women without understanding the world of girls. Much of adult life is just high school played out in different ways, and for girls, much of high school is a game played for power and status against other girls. Boyfriends are tokens, beauty is charmed and secrets are currency.
For women who weren’t raised as girls, this game is often hard to understand or even just hard to see. We never learned all the tricks and pitfalls, learned all the signs and warnings.
ShamanGal came out to one of the women at work. She did it over dinner after an intense bout of shared shopping, by dropping the hint that she had a secret she found hard to share. Her friend found this tease irresistible, immediately starting to pry and acknowledging that a good shared secret would bind up the relationship.
That was great, and they have been girlfriends since. But when SG started talking about telling another friend, there was some hemming and hawing. “Well, since I have been hanging out with you, people have asked, and so, well, uh, she might already know.”
One of the five other gals at work is trans and she was surprised by that revelation? That was just too juicy a secret to keep to herself. She got power by sharing a secret.
A secret shared is a secret out, and SG felt like she had lost control of her own story. All the standard shit started to come up, starting with the traditional sense of failure we often have when we find that we was not passing as being born female after working so hard at it. That shame of failure, even after we have outed ourselves and let someone inside our passing distance, well it still stings.
SG quickly realized that the control she felt she lost was only illusory anyway. She never had control over what people thought of her, never knew exactly what people knew and what they were thinking.
And SG shared her story consciously and for good reason. TBB notes that authenticity is good, but to her, honesty is vital. We both understand that once you start to lie, even by omission, you have to keep the lies up while they get bigger, more fragile and harder to manage. It’s hard to build intimacy in a relationship built on lies.
TBB understands that it’s one thing to have your genitals cut off and reconstructed, but another to have to cut off your story, to have to live with a reconstructed history. To TBB, not being able to talk about the children she lost and fought so hard to get back, about her parents and her brother, about her ex and her romances just doesn’t seem possible, so honesty is the easy and effective way.
Once people see us as queer, though, things can get strange. They may not stand up for us as much, may feel the pressure from others to separate from us. They may throw us out of the inner circle and into an outer ring of marginalized people who can be sacrificed if the need arises. Watching your gender change in the eyes of others when people realize that you are “really” male is a very upsetting experience, and I tell you that from firsthand experience.
SG had to figure out what to do next. Who knew and what did they think? How could she take back her own story?
Her friend was hesitant to help, hesitant to implicate herself in the disclosure. Yet, if people did start treating SG differently, she wanted to know, wanted to do something.
Should SG get the managers together and demand a time to present her story to the entire workplace? On one hand, that felt good, a chance to stand up and demand. On the other hand, would forcing co-workers into her story open them up or just make them more entrenched? If she made her story a big deal, would that help or hurt her acceptance?
What sign should she put up in her cubicle? She liked my “Telling My Truth Through Glamour” and I suggested the old button that Riki Wilchins had pinned to her purse: “Take A Transsexual To Lunch.” After all, if they wanted to indulge their curiosity and have us open the kimono, we at least deserve a meal out of it.
The sign that she eventually decided on, at least the last I heard, was simpler.
I have a trans history. So what? It’s what she wants her co-workers to say, after all, that SG is trans, but so what?
“So What?” is not any easy thing for transpeople to learn how to say.
We have been told for most of our life that our transgender nature is a big fucking deal, so big and so disgusting that we have to keep it hidden from people if we want them to treat us well.
When we are around other transpeople or therapists, trans is a huge deal. So many other transpeople want to tell us why we (and they) will fail horribly if we are visible and transgender. We have seen people twisted and battered by a trans life, know the scars we hold inside and how even the slightest threat can inflame the fear that stigma pounded into us, and people often demand we play out their fear by staying small and abject.
And there are guaranteed to be people in the world yelling that transgender is a huge deal, that it is against God’s will, that it is sick and deviant, that children should be protected from transgender sin and perversion. The backlash against the bill in California that supports the rights of transkids feels very, very personal to us after a life submerged in stigma.
We know that being out and trans is risky, that it can marginalize us and make us vulnerable to others. We know how being transgender has created out burdens and shaped our stories in a huge and profound way.
But in the end, we have to claim a life. And the best slogan for that claim is simple: ” I’m transgender. So what?”
“So what?” Give up the attempt to control and defend, to pass or stay invisible, to rationalize or justify, to explain or convert and just say “So what?”
I’m trans. So what?
Now, can we get on with our lives and get the work done?