Awesome Con DC is not a safe space for trans women.
i had been looking forward to going to the convention for several weeks. i was excited, but also nervous. The geek/nerd community is not always the safest place for those of us considered outliers. i debated whether i should wear a cosplay and who i should go as, but the more i thought about it the more i wondered if i would be more likely to be misgendered, to be mistaken for a guy in a dress, if i was in costume than if i just went as myself. So this morning, i decided to put on a light weight skirt and an Alice in Wonderland t-shirt. i wore my hair loose, letting it hang past my shoulders and with a side swoop to soften my face. i wore a little make up, some nice nail polish, and a cute necklace from my Mum. i was sending out a very clear signal. Include in this, my not having been publicly misgendered in about a year. This was totally feasible.
Standing in line, waiting to get in, a woman approached me and said, ‘Nice costume.’ Then wandered off before i could tell her i was not in costume. my girlfriend and i talked about it and decided she must have liked my shirt and said costume by mistake because of all the people in costume. Inside, we went to artists alley. While i was standing near a booth i overheard a conversation between a man and his wife about a ‘man’ they saw and the wife said ‘that he is a she!’ i told myself, they could have been talking about anyone. Maybe a girl doing a cross-play? Though there were not many around . . . and fewer still were in costume . . . and they were looking toward me.
i started feeling overwhelmed and did not know what to do. My girlfriend took us over to Carla Speed McNeil’s table (the authoress and artist on Finder and creator of Lynn, my favourite trans character–confirmed by her). She remembered me from the last time i saw her (at SPX) and we had a nice talk about her work, what was new, and what her plans with Lynn were. i was feeling better; i thought i could take it on again. So we went to the panel “Representation is Important.” i sat down in the back row and my girlfriend set her stuff down by the wall behind me (she had her Hela cosplay with, in case she decided to change) then rubbed my neck and shoulders. The room filled up fast and soon the seat beside me, that i was saving for her, was the only one left. One of the staff members asked if this other person could sit there. My girlfriend said that was okay and i said it would be all right, too. He asked my girlfriend, “Are you sure you don’t mind?” and she said it was fine. Then he indicated me and the neck rub i was getting; he said, “Clearly he doesn’t mind.” [emphasis added] My girlfriend said, “She. She is a woman.” The staff member said, “Oh. Sorry,” and walked away.
This was too much for me and i shut down. i shut out everything. i did not hear much of the panel. i did not feel the less-than-comfortable convention seating. i did not feel my body or my presence in the room. After the panel, i told my girlfriend i wanted to go home, but i would be sad if she missed the convention just because i went home. It took a little talking, but i did convince her to stay and have fun.
All the way home i could feel people, especially men, staring at me. Whether it was on the sidewalks or on the metro they gave me that double look. The one that first says ‘oh, a woman,’ and then says ‘ew, a he-she.’ The glances that turn to glares and the people who catch their breath as you walk by. i got one smile; a sad, reassuring smile from a young lady who recognised and offered a moment of sympathy. That smile got me home.
i’m sad. i’m sad because there were panels and Q&A’s i wanted to go to. There were events i wanted to participate in. There were booths i wanted to visit and comics i wanted to pick-up. i really wanted to get a yuri manga because i just got introduced to them and i was excited to buy a couple, to see my girlfriend and i represented in a story. i didn’t get to do any of those things because i was made to feel so out-of-place. The environment and my interactions indicated to me that girls-like-me, that i, did not belong there.