You know how in cheesy chick flicks there’s a moment where the female lead gets a makeover, and goes from geeky and cute to gorgeous, and then she walks into a room and *gasp*, everyone goes silent as they stare at her?
I’m not saying I’m pretty much the female lead in a chick flick, so gorgeous she silences everyone in any room she walks into, but I’m totally the female lead in a chick flick, so gorgeous she silences everyone in any room she walks into.
I started thinking about this earlier today when I headed to the bathroom and heard the two cleaning ladies inside stop talking the second they saw me. I was in the stall when I heard soft whispering and then one tell the other “just… this bathroom is for LADIES.”
What would you do in that situation?
Anyone who’s met me knows I’m not at all loud and outgoing. For nearly all my life, I’ve been that quiet person no one notices, who might go your party and leave without you even noticing they were there at all. (That’s literally a thing that’s happened.)
So, you know, I’m a standard-model quiet introvert. I grew up being used to not being seen, to walking by people without them blinking, to feeling completely invisible.
Then I came out.
From one day to the other, I went from being hard to notice, to being stared at EVERYWHERE, by EVERYONE. It’s so unnerving, especially when you’re used to the opposite. I literally couldn’t go to the corner shop without every person I walked by turning to gawk at me, mouth agape. I walked in the store, and was immediately seen by everyone. I saw people whispering, and there wasn’t a shadow of a doubt who they were talking about.
In the beginning, it was likely due to how obviously transgender I looked. I live in a fairly conservative country, and despite the fact my city is the most progressive part of it, there are like 6 or 7 million people living in it, so there is still going to be a huge number of people who are, uh, ‘not quite progressive.’ Even people who would be supportive of any friend of theirs who came out as transgender would still stare; the idea of a transgender person is different from one sitting next to you on a bus.
It was tough.
I used to love going out alone. It brought me peace, and gave me a chance to think about problems in my life, or just enjoy my own company. Coming out took that away from me. Suddenly, I couldn’t ever be alone. People did nothing but look at me, no matter what. I lost the joy I found in being by myself, as I couldn’t but think of them staring, judging me.
It only got worse with time. I lost a ton of confidence, which ironically had the effect of making me ‘pass’ even less, which led to more staring. After a year of that misery, the hormones I was taking had enough of an effect that I started to pass more often than not. I still got staring, mind you, but it was slightly less common than before. Not just that, but the looks I got weren’t as hostile.
Eventually, I stopped getting “ugh, transgender!” stares except very, very rarely, and instead I got regular “oh a girl!” staring from men, as well as “holy shit how tall is she??” stares.
The former was odd to get used to. I still remember the first time I was catcalled; I felt so humiliated and ashamed of myself, like it was my fault somehow. Preferable to angry looks, sure, but not by much. Suddenly, I wasn’t afraid of people judging me, but of men objectifying me, and shouting random nonsense to me on the street.
I didn’t immediately recover my confidence in going outside, naturally. My resignation over people’s judgement gave way to fear and near-constant humiliation.
However, that also got better with time. It didn’t go away, as every day my hair grew longer and hormones made my features softer and gave me (small) curves, I continued to get more guys checking me out and idiots yelling things at me when they drove by. However, I started to get used to it. I still got annoyed, of course, but instead of letting the men be in a position of power, I realised it was up to me to decide how to feel about it. So I stopped letting them humiliate me and be afraid to go outside, and whenever I experienced street harassment, I just rolled my eyes and laughed at them internally. On some days I even pretended it wasn’t sexual, and was just their way of telling me my boots looked cute, or my makeup came out great that day. Changing how I interpreted their words really made it easier to be exposed to their idiocy.
I had a similar process with the ‘holy fuck she’s so tall’ stares. I initially felt self-conscious (and still do sometimes), but I’ve learned to not let it get to me. Sure, people will look at me and maybe even whisper about how tall I am, or how wide my shoulders are, or whatever, but I like to counteract that by assuming they’re admiring how great I look, or are just jealous and wished their legs looked as good in tights and a skirt as mine do.
Sure, it might not be true some, or even most of the time, but it’s still comforting.
I went to the bakery last week, and as I walked by a couple of men leaning on the side of the building, I could tell they were looking at me. I wasn’t sure if they could tell I was trans, and were feeling horrified and disgusted, or whether they were thinking creepy, pervy thoughts and just about stopping themselves from hitting on me, or perhaps if they were in utter shock at seeing a woman so tall she probably made them feel like little boys.
I really didn’t care. Another day, any of those possibilities would’ve had me hunch my shoulders and try to hide. Instead, I made sure my back was straight, my head was lifted high, and I had a huge smile on my face. Who gives a fuck what they thought? I am me, and I am happy. That’s all that matters.
If you’re curious, the conclusion to the bathroom thing today was basically the same as the bakery incident. I rolled my eyes inside the stall at the two cleaning ladies tried to decide how to tell me I was in the ‘wrong’ bathroom. I finished my business, put my jeans back on, then opened the door and, slowly and deliberately, walked right in front of them I made sure they saw my super girly shirt with all the hearts on it, and I walked with my back straight (and boobs out 😛 ) and fixed myself up a bit in front of the mirror, before I slowly headed out the door. It was all done with so much confidence I didn’t even give them a chance to doubt I am a woman.
Then once I was in the hallway outside, I just started giggling at how embarrassed and uncomfortable they must have felt. It took a year and a half, but I’ve finally gotten used (mostly) to being the centre of attention everywhere I go; and in doing that I’ve also become able to enjoy my own company again, as I’ve found I can still enjoy moments alone with myself, even while all eyes are on me.