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The Truth is, You Did: Trans Reflections

4 May, 2012

From an e-mail dated 23 April, 2012:

. . . [T]his isn’t easy for me, you being a transgendered [person.] You understand that, right? Well, it’s even harder when you disappear for days or even a week or you post a bunch of transgendered stuff. You pretty much killed the person I knew, which makes you hard to like. . . . How can I get over it if you are not around?

His e-mail continued that train of thought for another four paragraphs, but that passage encapsulates the essence of his complaints, i.e. I have periods where I isolate myself from others. [I refuse to address the idea that I murdered my former.]

My first instinct was to trash the letter. The sender was brash with his statements. I had not heard from him in four months, and that was only after I initiated the conversation. I could have made similar complaints about him and his inability to deal with change. I set the letter aside for several days before working up the nerve to re-read and respond to it. Was there truth in his accusations? I didn’t want to think so, but we never want to confront our shadow-selves. I needed to sift the letter several times to find any truth, but it was there. A trembling, shadowy part of me making herself small and unnoticed in the corner.

From my response dated 27 April, 2012:

I do have a tendency to drop off the radar, but I do not do it to hurt you. When I disappear I’m trying to avoid hurting you. There are things in our shared history that occasionally make it difficult to be around you and sometimes the only way to deal with it is to isolate myself for a time. It’s easier than dredging up things you probably don’t remember.

There are things that were said and done by friends and family during my time pretending to be a normal, cis male that still trouble me, but how can I discuss them without making the other person feel bad or learning things about them I do not want to know? In my guise, people felt free to say and do things around me they would not have said or done had they realised they were in the presence of a transsexual. Sometimes it was in small ways like rude remarks or poking fun at people who appeared trans* or non-binary. Sometimes it was in large ways like a Halloween evening in Duluth when a transsexual woman came into Fitger’s by herself and the three people I was with made fun of her, commented on how ugly she was, and continuously referred to her as him. And sometimes it was in huge ways like when people I knew would talk about “queer bashing” and “smear the queer,” occasionally going so far as to invite me along.

From his e-mail dated 29 April, 2012:

If I did something to hurt you, just tell me.

The majority of these things have been forgotten by the other people, but I remember each of them. They helped build the wall I hid behind and they reinforced my decision to stay closeted. Being out and gaining a modicum of respect for my identity does not erase these memories. There are times I look at people and all I see is their privilege and their ignorant or bigoted past. I remember the things they have said and done and wonder if they still feel that way and are just hiding it the way I hid myself. How do you tell someone something they said to you fifteen years earlier has left you scarred and suspicious?

From my response dated 1 May, 2012:

Several years ago, while we were out eating, you pointed out a person you described as “faggoty” and suggested an “ass whopping” was the cure. You probably wouldn’t have said that had you known who I am, but you revealed something about yourself that bothers me. I felt like you were threatening me as much as you were threatening the other person.

That is the reason I disappear at times. Every time someone I care about said or did something bigoted it was also directed at me. Unintentionally? Certainly they would not have shown that side of themselves if they had really known me, but that does not make it less intentional. They revealed a prejudice and by invalidating one trans* person’s identity they invalidate every trans* person’s identity.

I know people change. Fear and bigotry can be overcome with education and interaction. I try not to let what people have said or done in the past taint who they are now, but there are times it threatens to. So, I hide myself away from people until their old prejudices fade into the background and I can interact with them without forming new prejudices of my own. It is not an ideal way to handle problems but it works.

Usually.

From his e-mail dated 5 May, 2012:

I wouldn’t have beat YOU up.

The truth is, you did.

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