Throughout my life I have spent a lot of time trying to see both sides of arguments. Even in situations where I feel very strongly, it’s always been possible to see why the other argument has been made. In many ways this has been a blessing, in others, a curse. It is hard to be really rabid about something whilst simultaneously appreciating the opposite perspective. Not agreeing with, mind, just appreciating. Perhaps it is this that means that whilst I hold very strong political views, it is rare that I choose to bang my political drum. And all the more upsetting that when I do poke my head above the parapet over an issue, it has been seen by some as ‘unnecessary’. Trust me, if people were aware of the strength of my feelings on a lot of issues, they’d realise how much I choose to hide, out of consideration for ‘the other side of the argument’.

From the perspective of a trans person, it can be helpful to recognise and appreciate that not everyone agrees with or applauds the right of a person to determine their own gender identity. Unfortunately, if I do happen to get into a conversation about the politics of gender, some people can be quick to level the accusation of some sort of ‘gender evangelism’, or to be more crude ‘shoving it down their throats’. To bring up a side-issue, this also happens because I am a vegan. I can be happily chowing down on my chosen meal and a fellow diner will then ask ‘Well, WHY don’t you eat X?; so does that mean you are JUDGING me for eating X?; what about X ludicrous scenario involving a desert island and a tub of Philadelphia?’ Funnily enough, I’m not crazy about discussing food-production techniques at the dinner table, and am happy to say so, but you can bet that if I actually answered the questions, I’d be seen as trying to thrust my views on others. This also seems to be the case regarding my transition – people ask lots of questions (which is fine) but not always in the most appropriate setting, and not always without seeing the answers as an attack on or affront to their own gender identity. No, honestly, I’m not recruiting.

I have come across the idea on more than one occasion that choosing to hide your beliefs, feelings, etc. can be seen as a favourable attribute in a man. ‘Stiff upper lip’, ‘sucking it up’, ‘manning up’ and so on, tend to refer to putting aside what you feel and ‘getting on with it’. There have been plenty of times recently where I have had to swallow my pride and refrain from saying what I actually think or believe, because I don’t want to be seen as someone who constantly flies the flag for the Kingdom of Transgender.

As I have mentioned previously, I am very honest, and find it hard to lie. I was at a birthday ‘do’ recently – very few of the people there actually knew me, and those that did were, let’s face it, not sending out an addendum to the invitation reading “Attention, there will be a transgender man at the party. He is short, wears glasses and looks kinda masculine, but not quite. Please do not refer to him as a lesbian” Because it wasn’t all about me, nor did I want to stick out.  We were sat with some really nice people, and chatted on and off throughout the evening. At no point did I make any reference to myself, my business, my gender ‘stuff’ or anything like that. Later on, one lady asked ‘so, how long have you and your wife been together?’ I replied we’d been together 7 years, and married 18 months. At which point she looked me in the eye and said ‘Ah, is that because it’s only recently been made legal for couples like you to marry?’ Did I put on my poker face and ask ‘what sort of couple do you mean?’ Did I give her a brief but thorough run down of my transition, and how it has affected the status of my civil partnership? Did I hell. I smiled sweetly and said ‘that’s right’. On reflection, I’m pretty sure that the majority of people there saw us as a lesbian couple (but MY wasn’t the short one with glasses BUTCH?!) and it would not have done me any favours at all to pitch my Kingdom of Transgender flag in the middle of the birthday cake.

So maybe I am ‘man enough’ to take this kind of situation on the chin, but what are the immediate psychological consequences? Hard, actually. However much I realise that these things are just going to happen, that people don’t mean it, and will have gone home completely oblivious to any identity crises on my part, it hurts. Of course it hurts to be misgendered (and yes, I KNOW how easily that happens/that it’s early days yet/etc. Please see first paragraph re: The Other Side Of The Argument) but it hurts more to have to hide how much that hurts, for fear of being seen as a freak, or even worse, an attention-seeking freak.

 

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