“i don’t see you as trans”

…and i know what you meant by that
but, but
i don’t understand why you’d think it
it’s supposed to be a compliment
you see, Erica…
it reminds me why i’m different

so really
do you have any idea what trans looks like?
i think i just fail to meet the set of stereotypes you have in your head
and besides
the fact that i fit your expectations of a cis person
but you…
means that you need to change and question
your voice
your perceptions of what it means to be trans
your face
because we come in more kinds and shapes
i mean, your mannerisms…
than they told you about in that true selves book
i just can’t see you as a boy
or in your therapist’s office
i just don’t see you as trans
because when you do you’re telling me how you see me defines me.

…our paths are different, yes. i don’t see a boy in the mirror looking back at me and i don’t really have to worry about street harassment for anything other than being a slightly fly fat girl. i don’t have to wonder if anyone’s going to ask me what my “real name” is in a job interview, though i do get dogged with questions which are obviously designed to weed women who plan to be mothers. i didn’t pay some of the dues that most trans women had to pay, though i paid them fourfold in other ways; i accept that probably does make me different. i’m not fucked up about my height…hell, i’d like to be taller. i don’t care that my shoulders are big, they make me look curvy and sturdy and hourglassy. i don’t care that my face isn’t perfect, because i’ve had years to accept it and i know that when i don’t look just right, i’m probably the only person that sees it and i need to get over it. i know that i can dress up like a boy and nobody is going to believe it no matter how hard i try.  my specific path has come with very little dysphoria in daily life, because, well, i’m a girl/woman/whatever, and for me that’s never really been an issue post-transition; hell, increasingly i’m starting to get that pre-transition it may have been less of an issue than i thought.

but you know what? i’m still trans. i still have the same constraining factors as you and work within the same systems of oppression. i have no reason to be lying about it, because why would i willingly subject myself to the hell that most of us live through if i weren’t? besides, it’s not that you don’t believe that i’m trans, it’s just that you don’t see me as trans. what does that accomplish, really? because what it does for me is it makes me feel like i inhabit this weird twilight world between cis and trans, which i really don’t care to do. it establishes that i fall into this weird category of someone who can shift what she is at will, when really i can’t do that at all. it also comes with the suggestion that my allegiances can shift at will, and i really honestly don’t think that if you’ve listened to much that i said here that i’m going to magically swap my allegiances back to Team Cis and walk away from it all; the fact that i could doesn’t mean that i will. when i get done writing this blog, i’m going to take the tram to meet a friend for breakfast. i could very well not pay my fare; in the four years the thing’s existed, i’ve never seen fare inspectors, after all, but i’m going to because that’s the responsibility i possess to the nice people who take me from Point A to Point B.  given that i’ve pretty much been treated worse by the trans community than i have been by cis peeps, i think maybe you should take a step back and understand that as much as it doesn’t absolve any of the bad things that have fallen on my shoulders, it is all a symptom of transphobia and transexterminationism practiced by a ciscentric society.

plus, what really happens when you say stuff like this is that it boosts the perception that you’d know a trans person by sight. and i know that scrunchy-faced confused look people, especially other trans people, get on their face when i say it; i know that there’s a reason i can move through this world without paying the same dues, i get it…but what you don’t see is that your scrunchy-faced confused look suggests that there’s a specific set of features and realities associated with being trans. i mean, seriously, the fact that i’m not what you expect trans to look like is actually kind of one of the roadblocks those of us who are different face…it’s no compliment at all, even though i know that’s what you meant.

if you want to compliment me, tell me how awesome my shirt is (i’m wearing my awesome busty girl comics tee today) or that you like my hair. tell me how lovely my eyes are, because they really kinda are. but don’t tell me you don’t see me as trans, because as much as you mean well, it just makes me feel more like an outcast and an other. i already fear that i am a trans person without a trans community, and when i’ve shared a deep and closely guarded piece of who i am with you, please don’t throw it back at me, understand that i trusted you enough to share it and i hope you trust me enough to let me be a legitimate person and not an asterisk or a stateless individual.


8 Responses to ““i don’t see you as trans””

  1. Ugh. The people who congratulate you and want to reward you for passing as a means to invalidate your experience just makes me want to punch things.

    • well, the reality is that at my current phase in my life, my only choice to stay a going concern is to pass; same as it has been since i was, well, forever. so i’ve opened myself up in coming out to someone and, well, their intent is good, and i’m sure to them it’s a compliment, and to them it would be a compliment.

      to me, it just reminds me i’m floating out here in the ocean. plus, i like compliments about my hair a lot more.

  2. One of the most interesting statements I’ve heard is “I can’t picture you as a man, I thought you were one of the nurses” when I had gone for my SRS a few years ago. How would you react to that kind of statement? It was from a cis woman who was there for a non trans-related procedure.

    • Lauren — how about “I can’t picture you as a man, either”?

      • Sometimes I get the urge to use people’s own broken belief systems against them. In this case, it would be, “Oh really? I can picture *you* as one.” Not because I take stock in that hierarchy, but because they do. I usually hold it in, though, because I don’t want to make a habit of it and get sucked in.

      • I just hate the hierarchy, whether the person saying it is trans or cis. If they’re cis, i know i’m going to have to come out to them eight more times; if they’re trans, it just reminds me a little more how hopelessly unlike the other children i am and i feel a bit more lonely, which is bad because like seriously i’m letting someone into this well-shielded part of my life and it gets slapped away because their reality of “what is trans” does not overlap with Erica. It’s something i do to try to connect better and it just ends up reminding me i’m other.


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