Not Human

A couple of weeks ago, I had lunch with a friend. She’s a tall(ish) lady with light brown hair and very, very European facial features. In a crowd of Colombians, she sticks out like a sore thumb. It was a nice lunch; I hadn’t seen her in months, and it was nice catching up.

We left the mall and as we were walking to the bus station, she looked at me and said “Wow, people are staring at you a lot.”

I can’t remember whether I laughed or not, but I was pretty amused at that. I’m used to having people stare at my American/European friends, and it was funny to see the shoe on the other foot.


 

She had a point, though. I’d stopped consciously thinking about it because it happens so often, but in the last 5-6 months I’ve had people staring at me all the time. All the time.

I step onto a bus and immediately see a couple of people twisting their head around to gawk at me, maybe say something to the person sitting next to them. I walk into the women’s bathroom, and can see from my peripheral vision a lady or two eyeing me, maybe even smirking. I’ll be stood in a waiting room, and raise my eyes from my phone to see a man staring at me (and not in that way.)

It’s horrible. It makes me feel incredibly self-conscious and uncomfortable everywhere I go. I’ll sometimes go into the bathroom and run as quickly as I can to a stall, or if the bathroom has a huge line (which it often does #girlproblems) I’ll just hold it in and spend 15 minutes looking for an empty bathroom where I can go in shame.

You might think this is just down to being tall. After all, I’m 5’11” (I think) in a country where most men aren’t taller than 5’7″, MAYBE 5’9″, which means I dwarf men and look an absolute giant standing next to most other women.

That’s what I tell myself sometimes to keep from breaking into tears when walking down the street feeling like a freak, but there are a few experiences I’ve had that come to mind that show it really goes beyond that.


Imagine a young woman. She is going shopping for the very first time. She is very, very insecure about her appearance and how others see her. She has lived her whole life as a man, and is terrified of being rejected or judged now that she is finally showing who she is, and making herself incredibly vulnerable in the process.
Now picture her taking a couple of blouses to a changing room, only for the woman at the entrance to sneer at her. Imagine how much shame the young woman feels. No, more than that. Little more. There we go.

People have been judging me since the very first day I presented female, and while it’s gotten a little bit better as hormones, longer hair, and better makeup and fashion skills do their thing, it happens often enough to remind me of how the world sees me. Not as a person worthy of respect, but as an object to analyse.


 

A few months ago I went to a beauty parlour and asked to get a mani-pedi. The lady there did a clear manicure, so we moved on to the pedicure. After taking my socks off and putting them into the bucket of water provided, I told the lady I wanted a french on my toes, and she walked away after giving me a look. It was a busy day, so I thought nothing of it. I’m a very patient person, so I just browsed on my phone for a while. 5 minutes passed, then 20… 40 minutes. I was being deliberately ignored. I decided to wait it out and see how long it would take the woman to serve a paying customer.

After an hour, she started gathering her things and getting ready to go. My feet were freezing, and I felt the most humiliated I’ve ever felt in my life. I put my shoes and socks back on, and left the place without paying for anything. I felt so furious I couldn’t trust myself to even complain to anyone, or confront that woman.

I walked to a park and cried for a good 15-20 minutes.

It’s not an unique experience, either. I’ve walked into stores and asked to try on women’s jeans or a pair of heels, gotten a weird look, and then been treated with contempt. I can see how uncomfortable I make people, and it really hurts.


On Wednesday something magical happened. I went a whole day without being misgendered, and without anyone giving me those sideways looks, stares, and smirks. I caught a couple of guys staring at me, but it was not in a “oh god look at that thing” way, more of a ‘checking me out’ sort of thing. It was uh, interesting? Definitely better than being looked down on and judged, that’s for sure.

The same thing happened on Thursday. I felt completely invisible, and it was incredible. I hadn’t felt like that since early May, when I started presenting male. It was such a weight off my shoulders… I couldn’t believe I’d gotten used to such a heavy burden.


Today I got the stares again. I don’t know what changed.

I’m writing this post to express the frustration I’m feeling right now at this whole situation. Why do I have to feel terrified of going shoe shopping? Why rush into a bathroom I have every right in the world to be in? Why is it that I feel judged everywhere I go?

Being stared at, assessed, classified all the time weighs on you. There are times when I don’t feel human. I feel like I’m a freakshow.

COME SEE THE AMAZING TRANSGENDER! CAN YOU BELIEVE IT ACTUALLY THINKS ANYONE WILL SEE IT AS A WOMAN? HA!

Sigh. It also extends to online discourse. I see people talking about ‘the transgenders’ or ‘trannies’ and speaking for me. Telling me who I am, who I’m not, what I should be, what I feel, what I think. Oh, right, of course I’m confused. Why would I know how I feel better than you do? I’m only a transgender, it’s not like I’m a person with thoughts and feelings.

Quick aside: my personal preference is to be referred to as a transgender woman, or a transgender person. Familiar terms like ‘trans lady’ are fine as well. What bothers me is being reduced to a label “trans/transgender” without anything else to mark me as a person.

I’ve started to experience objectification as a woman, had people speak for me, see me as a pretty old thing, worthy of the same respect as a shower curtain, but this is different. I’m not saying it’s worse… just different.

I think everyone has a right to feel comfortable in their own skin, and that’s why this is so difficult. I only ever feel safe when I’m with certain friends who have chosen to respect me, once in a blue moon when I ‘pass’ particularly well, or when I’m completely alone. It feels like a basic violation of my rights to be seen and treated like something everyone has a right to weigh on, look at, and judge silently.

I’m a person. I’m a woman. I have feelings, I have a mind, and I can see you putting me into a little box. Now stop that.


Sorry if today’s post is all over the place, it’s a very sensitive subject, and I got a little emotional writing it.

I’d love to hear your thoughts, and whether you’ve felt something like this if you’re also trans, or in another context (as an immigrant, member of certain religion, etc).

Happy Friday, and hope you have a great weekend 🙂

P.S.- I got my cast taken off on Thursday! Yay!!! 😀

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19 thoughts on “Not Human

  1. Helen Smith says:

    I’m sorry you go through this! 😦
    The closest I can think of is being stared at for speaking english in a small german town – it’s not comparable at all but let’s me imagine what it might be like.
    (Also I am 6 foot tall! It’s not as unusual here but still commented on. But we have advantages like seeing over a crowd and reaching high shelves. 😛 )

    Liked by 1 person

    • Liliana says:

      I’ve felt that too when I speak English here 🙂

      It’s similar in the way it’s so obvious people are looking at you, only it’s a bit more… Judgy (I know that’s not a word)

      Like

  2. Gillian says:

    I think a lot of us in the LGBTQ arena can empathize with you – being reduced to a stereotype, told what you do and don’t like, told that your existence is a “phase” or “being greedy”. Especially when you add in being a woman to the mix. I’m a bisexual femme woman, and I get told by so many people to just “choose a side”, and I’m definitely classed as “slutty” because I have had sexual and romantic relationships with both men and women. Clearly, I don’t get the level of bullshit from people that you do, but I know how you feel and can totally understand how dehumanizing it is to be stared at, lectured to, judged. I am *lucky* because of my femme cisgendered-ness, I typically can pass in public (unless I’m out with my genderqueer girlfriend…) so I don’t get as much shit from the outside world, but I know you know the shitty feeling you get when friends and people you want to be friends with slap a label and diagnosis in their minds. Anyways, long ramble just to say, I feel you, girl. And these blog posts are wonderful and you write them fantastically.

    Like

    • Liliana says:

      Definitely. The whole arrogance of people thinking they now your identity or sexuality better than you do is something any LGBTQ person can likely relate to.

      Ugh, that’s so fucking horrible. I have a very supportive family member who I recently overheard telling a friend of hers “yeah it’s like, are you straight or not? It’s one or the other” and I was getting so angry.

      Thanks! I’m glad you’re liking the posts, they take a lot of work! haha

      Like

  3. elleclayton says:

    Thanks for taking the time to write about your experiences, Lily. Your voice is strong, and very reasonable. Since I’m still in the process of figuring out when/how I will present as female, your perspective, and that of all trans ladies who choose to share their stories, is invaluable to me. I also think it’s stories like this that the rest of the world needs to hear. I get that we’re generally an “oddity” in society, so I almost empathize with a little bit of staring, but it’s what happens after people realize what/who they’re looking at that’s important. I don’t expect people to start understanding what we experience anytime soon, and probably wouldn’t appreciate someone starting a polite conversation about my gender, or saying “you’re so brave, sweetie” kinds of things; but a knowing smile and nod instead of the contemptuous stare would be welcome because even when people quickly avert their eyes makes me self-conscious. Less judgement when shopping for shoes and clothes would also be great. All I’m saying is that I don’t expect people to do a 180 and start appreciating our experiences any time soon, but simple acceptance would be nice. So, the fact that you share your experiences, and hopefully that some people from outside the LGBTQ community might read them and learn something, is super important. Keep it up!

    Like

    • Liliana says:

      To be fair though, I just focused one the negatives here, when there are positives as well. Whenever I’ve gone to Forever 21,even at the beginning, they were always super kind and friendly and made me feel completely normal. I should make a post about that as well.

      Liked by 1 person

      • elleclayton says:

        That’s a great idea! People also need to hear about what it’s like when we experience acceptance. Some people just don’t know how to do it, or what it’s like. It can be such a simple yet powerful and heartwarming thing.

        Like

  4. Ivy Willow says:

    Hello sunshine! I am also a trans woman. I’m 6’1″ and live in the US, and have felt that not human feeling far too many times. I’m taller than all but a handful of women I’ve met, and taller than a good portion of men. I don’t get “read” so to speak, very often anymore, but I still constantly get this “Holy shit you’re tall!” thing. All I can think is gee, I totally didn’t realize that, thanks for letting me know. -.-‘
    I’m still antsy when it comes to bathrooms, and before I changed my ID over to female, I got fired from jobs that hired me before I started my first day because, well… I had to out myself by pulling out my ID. It really sucks. I’m sorry you have to deal with this.

    Like

    • Liliana says:

      Hi!

      hahaha, it’s weird how often people say the most obvious things 😛

      That’s so terrible, I’m sorry to hear that 😦
      I’ve gotten better at going to the bathroom lately, specially since I’ve been making the kind of friends who are totally fine going with me. I’m also lucky in having been able to change my ID to show the right name and gender within like 2 months of starting full-time 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Susan Storm says:

    I am so sorry you are dealing with this and have to get used to it every day. I can’t imagine how difficult and overwhelming that would be. I’d like to share your post with a friend of mine who is just starting the process, and I think it will be an encouragement to her. Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Michelle Fedun says:

    Hi!
    I found your blog through nerdfighteria, and I remember the first time I saw one of your posts in the group and thinking, wow, that girl looks so cool and amazing and like someone with whom I’d really like to be friends (and beautiful, which I know shouldn’t be a significant characteristic when it comes to describing people, but it’s what I thought and I figure it doesn’t hurt to tell you, considering the nature of your blog post). I just wanted to say, keep your head up! I know it’s not much, but for as many people who have been awful and inconsiderate, there are those who support you and really truly care, even if sympathy is all they can offer. I’m sorry for this unedited vomit of words, but I read this right before studying for an exam I have tomorrow morning and my mind kept going back to it and I felt I had to say something despite my general state of hyperventilation. I’ve really been enjoying your posts and I’m so glad I came across this blog. I hope to write something more thought out once my exams are over!
    DFTBA

    Liked by 1 person

    • Liliana says:

      Hi! 🙂

      Oh my gosh, thank you so much! It means a lot to me that you would take time from your crazy exam schedule to leave this comment. You’re great. I’ll be here when you have more time, and I’m always open to making new friends.

      Best of luck with your exams.
      DFTBA ❤

      Like

  7. Mara says:

    I’m so sorry that you’ve had those sorts of reactions. People can really be jerks.
    I’m a 6’1″ trans girl myself, and used to get those reactions all the time, so I can feel your pain.
    I just wanted to tell you to keep being awesome. People like you are paving the way so that people aren’t stared at one day, and people transitioning have someone’s story to read.
    Speaking of which, I’m going to take a minute to to catch up on your writing right now.

    Stay awesome,

    Mara

    Liked by 1 person

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