On Saturday, I completed a 2-day SpeakOUT training workshop. SpeakOUT is a program offered by The Gay Alliance of the Genesee Valley. Its purpose is to improve the skills of graduates so they may effectively educate about gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people and their allies.
The need to “speak out” in outreach programs
The reason I chose to take this workshop is because I feel a calling to get out and educate people about the realities of being transgender. There are many complex issues to cover, but perhaps the most significant point is a very simple one – the fact that trans people are far more similar to cisgender (non-trans) people, than we are different.
The SpeakOUT workshop was just the first step in many training workshops and activities I will need to take part in before a final graduation of sorts. If/when I pass the requirements necessary, I may be deployed to various organizations, companies, medical training centers, schools, etc. to tell my personal story, educate about trans realities, and answer questions.
It’s hard to explain, but I almost have a need to get out there and educate about trans realities and issues. This has been brewing within me for quite some time – especially after certain personal realities were realized.
The desire to go full time
My life is very busy and often rather hectic. There are never enough hours in the day to manage everything I need to do, let alone things I want to do. Many interesting things have been playing out in my life that haven’t been shared here due to lack of time. One of which is the realization that I’m more of a trans-woman-in-progress, than a crossdresser. These days, I only feel like I’m “crossdressing” when I’m at work (or wherever) putting on my “man act” to appease a world that expects me to be “a man”. I posted a very brief update this past July, to one of my more rushed writing jobs, that offers a little insight: Crossdressing Myth #2. There’s much I could write about this, and why it took so long to figure out. If time allows, I will elaborate in future updates.
Living life full-time as a trans-woman is scary
Today only part of my time is spent living in female form. For the most part, I’m a weekend warrior. As my need to live full time as “female” grows stronger, many complex realities and hurdles continue to surface. One of the more difficult things to ponder is loosing my ability to blend in with the rest of society as just another forgettable person in the crowd. For now, I can easily move about in society as a “man”, without anyone giving me a hard time just for being who I am. I call it “stealth mode” – my ability to travel about, shop, take care of business, interact with and observe society while presenting as “a man”. If/when the day comes that I can live full-time as myself (Gabrielle), “stealth mode” will no longer be an option, and I won’t exactly be just another forgettable person in the crowd. At least not for a long time, assuming my appearance may one day closer resemble that of a genetic female. Contrary to what my published photos may suggest, I don’t pass as female in person. Most people who look directly at me within 15 or so meters, can tell I’m genetically male presenting as female; a trans-woman. Little things that everyone else takes for granted, such as going shopping and not being given a hard time just for being who they are, will no longer be so easy. It’s seriously terrifying. I had quite a break down last weekend (Nov. 16), in part, because of this realization and uncertainty that my marriage will survive my move from part-time to full-time trans-woman. My wife has been very supportive of me as a “crossdresser”, but conversations about my desire to live full time as a trans-woman have resulted in resistance and friction – another important topic for exploration if time allows.
Small but important baby-steps
As I slowly work toward my goal of living full-time in female form, I’ve been trying to push myself to step outside my comfort zone and get used to living in public as a trans-woman. There are some local trans-friendly establishments I’ve become very comfortable traveling to and spending time, but I can’t just constrain my movement to known, safe trans-friendly places. I need to get used to living out “in the wild”.
Following my SpeakOUT workshop yesterday, I decided to dip my feet in the pool again. I dropped by a local liquor store to buy a couple beverages. This is the same establishment I wrote about in this post from a few weeks ago. Different people were on duty. I didn’t see the cashier or manager on duty from before and I was nervous. Young men attended the check out counters and I wasn’t sure how they would react to me. Young men are typically the type who give people like me a hard time. They were totally cool to me, though – professional, friendly and perfect gentlemen. Wow! A kind, older gentleman who cashed out just before me, even opened and held the door for me on the way out. Whew! That wasn’t so bad. It was very good, in fact.
So far, so good – one more stop
Before heading back home, I stopped at a nearby grocery store – one of those huge warehouse-size places. While there, I purchased some colorful roses for my lovely wife and a few other odds and ends. As I walked the shopping floor, I got “the look” from a handful of shoppers, but most people either didn’t notice me as “different” or simply paid no mind. While cashing out, the young female cashier let me know I had lipstick on my teeth. I jokingly told her it was “just my new look” and laughed while trying to wipe it off. She clearly read me (as trans) and seemed a little more quiet and subdued than with her previous customer, but I can understand. I may have been her first trans-woman. What I found uplifting was that she was friendly, professional, and helpful.
A little grocery shopping – big deal, right?
Beverages at the liquor store and a few odds and ends at the grocery store are really no big deal to most people. Most people take for granted their ability to move about and live life without anyone giving them a hard time for being “different”. For me though, it’s like a life-long crippled person finally learning to walk and take her first steps out into the world – one errand at a time.
It was far from perfect, but I had a good weekend and I’m grateful for that. The previous weekend I was crying my mascara-laced eyes out (and looking like a trans-raccoon as a result). This time, the mascara and eyeliner remained in place until it was time to wash up for the night. No tears. No fears. Ok, plenty of fears, but each one of those fears is another opportunity for me to grow and evolve a little more.
No more laughing
One thing I’m very happy to report is that I no longer get laughed at while out in public, or at least I’m unaware of it, if it’s taken place. Trans-women and crossdressers, with far more out-in-public experience than myself, have frequently told me that passing (as female) in public is more about attitude than how one looks. I think it’s definitely a mix of both, with attitude playing a very significant role. When I have an “I don’t care what anyone thinks” attitude, and simply go about my business, my time in public seems to go a lot smoother.
At the age of 43, it feels like I’m just starting to live my life. It’s like my journey is just beginning. For those of you who have crossed the threshold and live full time as a trans-woman (or however you prefer to address your gender status), I would appreciate any advice, insight, you may have to offer, or just taking the time to share an experience or two.
General comments, thoughts, and feelings are welcome and encouraged, too. Thank you. :)