I attended a memorial service yesterday with my boyfriend. The memorial was for one of my boyfriend’s closest friends. Coincidentally, I also knew the family from my life before my transition. What that meant was that there were a number of people at the service who knew that I’m Trans.
I don’t encounter a lot of circumstances like this anymore, but they occasionally crop up. I honestly don’t worry as much about them as I once did. As a matter of fact, I don’t worry at all. Afterward, I realized that this was something of an achievement. It made me consider how I arrived at this place of confidence. Why don’t I stress about people potentially discussing my gender status behind my back at public gatherings anymore? It certainly didn’t happen overnight. I remember a time when I was absolutely petrified of being in public as a woman.
When I first started going out in femme attire, I used to be filled with anxiety. Almost to the point of paralysis. I was hyper-paranoid, and it seemed like everyone was looking at me and talking about me. I walked with my head down and tried not to look around in case anyone was staring or pointing. The first time I went out to a Trans friendly club, I probably circled the block a dozen times trying to scout out the best possible approach before I parked. Once parked, I waited until there were almost no other people walking on the street between myself and the club’s front entrance. It was almost as if I were jumping out of a trench into enemy fire as I burst from my car and scurried across the street. I think I even lost a shoe along the way and had to stop and pick it up. Once at the entrance I had to wait in a short line to get in. I kept my eyes down and when I got to the doorman, I barely looked up when he checked my ID. He even asked me to lift my head so he could see my face. If anyone was going to think there was something suspicious about me I certainly gave them reason through my behavior.
Going out cross-dressed your first time is understandably scary. I don’t think it’s possible to do it without some level of anxiety. I think it’s harder if it has more meaning than just dressing up for Halloween or a costume party. If presenting yourself as female is tied to your gender identity, it feels more important that you are seen and accepted as female by others you encounter. If you get a negative reaction, it hurts more and feels like a catastrophic rejection of who you are. I experienced those things my first few times out. I heard people whispering, “Is that a man or a woman?” I heard giggles, laughter, and even angry or threatening words. Each time out taught me a lesson. Many had to do with how I held myself and others about how I presented myself.
If you haven’t been raised as a woman and aren’t educated in some of the more obvious details of fashion and grooming, you may make some mistakes as I initially did. I won’t enumerate those here, but there were a lot. However, each time I went out my presentation improved as did my self-esteem. By the time I was ready to transition, I had arrived at a place where I felt comfortable being out in the world during the day dressed as the female person I had always been. My clothing, make-up, and hair had toned down considerably over time. And rather than walking with my head down and my hair covering much of my face, I looked out at the world with my hair back and an open smile. My confidence and friendly demeanor were reflected in those I encountered. If I ever felt my confidence waiver, I would dig down deep and just remember that if anyone has a problem with me it’s their problem, not mine. Generally speaking, people are too busy with their own concerns to worry too much about you anyway. As Eleanor Roosevelt said, “You wouldn’t worry so much about what others think of you if you realized how seldom they do.”
My outings and social engagements have simply grown in scope over the years. With each one, my confidence has grown and grown. In some ways, I had to simply take a leap of faith and hold my confidence in front of me like a shield. Simply refusing to be less or allow any crack to appear in my happy projection. I decided I was in control of how others perceived me. I owned a small tour business when I transitioned and was quickly leading tours only a month after my facial feminization and voice surgery. I could barely speak above a whisper but led two and three-hour tours with strangers until I felt 100% again. By then I felt bulletproof. I’ve taught Elementary school classes to 8 and 10-year-olds who sometimes ask the most awkward questions and had conferences with their parents too. All of these experiences taught me that you just need to boldly be yourself and put fear in the back seat. Let others question or do whatever they have to, but that doesn’t need to be anything that takes away from you. The only person’s behavior any of us can control is our own. People will think and do all sorts of things, but most of it has nothing to do with us.
So attending a memorial service with my boyfriend was a very small blip on my radar. These days when I know there are people in a group who know I’m Trans, I don’t concern myself with any potential negative thoughts they might have. If they know I’m Trans, then let them see how fantastic and unique I am. Let them witness my confidence, kindness, empathy, and sincerity. If they find fault in a person with those positive traits then it is truly their own shortcoming. I don’t have time to waste on petty narrow-minded thought. Every human has a right to be 100% themselves as long as they don’t harm others. Each of us has a unique contribution we bring to this world. It’s important to let the glow of that special flame shine out.