Yesterday I had an alumni brunch at my old high school.
I was excited to go, cause I’ve gone to every single one in the last 6 years, but also a little bit scared. I’d studied there years ago, and I actually worked there for 2 years… right until May of this year, when I left so I could start my transition.
I had much of the same nervousness as I did at my University’s alumni meeting a couple of weeks ago. Again, I experienced an intense panic attack and came close to fainting as I walked up to the school gates. It was hard to breathe and all I could feel was intense fear and a weight just pushing me down on the ground.
I had to take a few minutes to try and meditate and breathe deeply. Eventually I managed to get my feelings into control slightly, walked up to the guard, and gave him my name so he could let me in.
In my last blog post I mentioned a dinner I had on Wednesday night. I met with two people I hadn’t seen since before coming out, and the experience was a very typical one. Honestly, it’s become almost a script for me right now.
It all starts off with me being quite clearly misgendered. “Sigh, of course” I think to myself. We make small talk while the food is served, and soon enough, the questions come. These are of course the same questions everyone asks. It’s a little ridiculous how unoriginal people are, I think I’m going to make a FAQ about Trans People on this blog eventually.
I don’t mind too much though, I’d reassured them I didn’t resent the questions, and I really don’t mind people trying to fight ignorance, even if it’s a little repetitive.
One thing that stuck on my mind was when one of the people, after clarifying they didn’t approve of my life choices—because of course people always feel a need to tell me they don’t—said they did admire me for sticking to my convictions and going against the world.
I’d heard something similar before. I don’t remember who it was, but someone told me it took balls to do what I’m doing with my life. I thought it was funny.
It’s true though, it does take some courage because, as much as some people try to claim it’s easy, you’re really going against what most people are okay with. It’s you against the world.
Back to yesterday morning.
I’d given the guard at the gate my name, Liliana [last name] and he was having trouble finding it! I looked over the guest list and sure enough, they’d written down my dead name. I played dumb and he eventually let me through after writing down my details.
This was my first sign that, much as I might have felt similarly going back to my college, this was going to be a completely different experience.
I should mention now that my old high school is very transphobic. Very, very transphobic.
I remember the shame I felt as I once assisted the school nurse in setting up a computer so she could poison the mind of middle schoolers with hatred and misinformation about homosexuality.
I also used to make the school bulletin. One time they asked me to add a notice asking parents to sign a petition to fight a government initiative that would force schools to teach kids that being transgender is okay. I felt sick. I’m not exaggerating, either; I had to go to the bathroom and nearly vomited.
Anyways. Very conservative Christian school. Hope that’s coming across.
I got there and was greeted by a couple of girls I’m friendly with. I said hi and we walked together to the room where the brunch was happening. After an awkward moment of looking around, I spotted a table with the year I graduated in written down, and sat down at that spot.
The brunch itself wasn’t very interesting. I got to talk with a couple of old friends, which is always nice, but what the school staff did is what really caught my attention. While most of the former students I was nearby gave me a quick smile or made small talk, the staff seemed incapable of meeting me eyes.
There was one lady walking around each table taking pictures of the people sitting there. When she got to the one I was sitting in, she gave an uncomfortable hello and left without saying anything else, or even pretending to take a photo. I nearly started laughing then.
It wasn’t an unique experience. There was exactly one man who looked me in the eye and talked to me like a person. He asked me how I was, what I’d been reading, what I was up to… Everyone else treated me as if I was, well, not human.
I talked last week about how humiliating and alienating it is to be stared and gawked at in public, but it’s also a very isolating thing.
Since I’ve come out, I’ve had to let go of many people I cared about. My old best friend hasn’t talked to me in over half a year. I haven’t talked to my brother since around that long either. I’ve had friends distance themselves, and people I used to be friendly with ignore me.
It’s difficult to feel a part of society when you can walk into a restaurant and be given a look of pure disgust that almost makes you want to cry and apologise for being alive. It’s hard as hell to remember you’re worthy of respect and love when you being yourself seems to make people uncomfortable beyond belief.
I left the brunch quickly, and spent a couple of hours walking and trying not to cry. I succeeded at times.
Like the person at the dinner on Wednesday night had said, it really is me against the world.
I realise it’s not literally that. Luckily people are growing and letting go of their hate and ignorance, and I still have good friends that respect me for who I am and make me feel like a real person. Still, in my day-to-day life it can be nearly impossible to escape the feeling of loneliness.
I imagine this is something similar to what high school/college girls feel when they get labelled “slutty” and are promptly shunned by everyone, or what gay people in backwards cities or countries feel.
It’s not a feeling unique to transgender people. I think about that sometimes and wonder if I have the right to complain so much.
Sigh. I am happy. I’m happier than I’ve ever been in my life. I’m finally true to myself and my values, I’m able to be completely honest with everyone about who I am, and I can connect with people without having to hide anything. I just wish being happy didn’t mean having to give up the right to be seen as a human being.
Sorry for what was a pretty depressing post, haha. I really needed to write all of this down in some way. Hope you’re having a better week than I am, and as always if you have any thoughts, or comments about this post or anything else that you’d like to share, please do 🙂