I’m going to cut to the chase on this one: I stepped out into public Saturday night.
The time had come. Honestly, I couldn’t come up with a good reason not to: I had shaved the beard, I had acquired the hair, I had the clothes, I had the desire, I had a Saturday night free, and I had a little Pinot grigio in me. Standing against all that was a fear of failure and ridicule, which was not enough to stop me this time.
Once decided, I challenged myself to a simple task: go to the local box store and buy a carton of milk.
It was a calculated challenge. The store I chose is a regional chain, Meijer, that’s open 24 hours; this made it ideal from a “avoid as many people as you can” perspective — just go at midnight. And Meijer also has self-checkout lanes, so I wouldn’t have to talk to anyone (I’ve had no practice on my voice). And Meijer is a store I know well, so I wouldn’t get lost or have to search for anything.
It took me nearly two hours to get to a point where I felt I was ready to do it. This included a lot of changed minds about what I wanted to wear and about whether I wanted to do it at all. I have been very mindful of the common stereotype (and based on actual stories, common experience) of the “teenage girl” phase that many transgender women go through, and I have deliberately tried assembling a wardrobe that avoids that pitfall. [Plus, no one wants to see me in those clothes. Especially me.] So for this first out-the-door public outing I thought about what I might actually be wearing on a casual Saturday night.
I ended up wearing a brown top that’s sort of peasant style, with a faux lace-up front and bell sleeves (I think? Fashion terminology is still new to me). I paired it with some jeans I’d found at Salvation Army just the day before: women’s flare-cut. Together, the whole thing looked a little retro hippie, which was not intentional but which I liked once I had it on. Sandals would have been perfect with it, but I don’t own sandals in my size so I went with nude flats.
Much like my first time out the door, the walk to my car was nervewracking. Luckily, there’s no one out and about in the complex this time of night. Once I got to the store I sat in the car for a good ten minutes psyching myself up before finally stepping out.
And for the next five minutes or so I just walked. Literally — through the entrance doors, past the carts, into the grocery section, down an aisle or two. I don’t think I paused until I made my way to the dairy cooler in the back of the store. It’s harder to hit a moving target! The whole time I tried desperately to NOT pay attention to the people around me. Jaw clenched, eyes forward, feet moving, not making eye contact, not trying to draw undue attention. And thankfully, I did not become aware of any overt reactions to my looks or presence. If people did double-takes, they did it behind my back.
Once I’d acquired my milk, I un-tensed a little bit. After all, this is something I’ve wanted to do for a very long time! I happened to catch a glance at myself in the reflection off a glass case in the freezer section, and I had to admit that I didn’t look bad. Did I probably read as male? Probably, if someone looked right at me. But was it possible that I could be overlooked by someone not really paying attention? Possibly.
Instead of making a beeline to the cash registers, I chose to walk a lazy circuit around the store. I was still nervous and still avoiding people (I did duck down aisles once or twice to avoid passing close to other shoppers), but again: isn’t this what I want my life to be? So I let myself just feel good for a few minutes. Then I used the self-serve checkout, and got in my car, and went home.
So that’s my first time in a public place as myself (or some version closer to what I feel my true self to be). It’s a small, boring story, but it’s the story I have to tell.
And you know what? I’ve been out in pubic, and I will be again, and so I think it’s time I stopped hiding so much in this blog. I think the chances of someone I know who doesn’t know about my transgender status stumbling across this blog is probably slim at this point. So here: I took a picture of me in the store, to prove I’d been there, and I’m going to share it with you uneditied … and by unedited, I mean you can totally see the circles under my eyes (it was midnight, so sue me).