If I’d know how today was going to go, I never would have gotten out of bed.
Actually, the morning started off just fine. I got up, had some breakfast, watched some SUPERNATURAL on Netflix (I’m almost to the end of the fifth season, excited to see what happens), got a Sunday paper, began clipping coupons. It was a lazy, quiet morning.
And then the phone rang, and the day started turning to shit.
i. The Phone Call
My mom knows about my trans status in broad strokes, but we rarely talk about it. It’s something of an elephant in the room when we talk. Part of the problem is that she is convinced that “being trans” means “going to therapy for several years to work out issues that may be causing trans feelings before you even think about beginning to do something drastic like live as a woman or take hormones or anything.” I have not yet had the courage to correct her, because believing that seems to make it easier for her to accept it.
We talk on the phone almost every Sunday, so this call was nothing unusual. We talked about our weeks, about the weather, about family developments. Then the conversation turned towards my therapy sessions, in the sense of “so are you still going to therapy for the ‘other thing’?” [She won’t speak it out loud.] I told her I was, and then she said, “I’m glad you’re taking it slow. With the kids having to go through the divorce and all, it’s good they still have their dad.”
Mind you, I was presenting as Ali while I talked to her. She sort of knows this; one time I mentioned to her that I spend time in my apartment dressed in women’s clothes and got a hasty “too much information!” before a quick changing of the subject.
Moreover, she knows that I have issues about my kids, and being trans, and worries about taking away my kids’ dad, being replaced by my ex’s boyfriend, etc. So in some twisted way I think she was trying to be comforting. But all she really did was remind me that she really doesn’t get what’s going on and stir up my anxiety about the kids.
On the heels of her moment of tactlessness, she dropped the bombshell that she’s coming to town in three weeks, and staying for two weeks. This person who thinks I’m taking it slow, who doesn’t know that I actually leave the house as Ali, will be here, in my apartment, for two weeks.
I have no idea what I’m going to do when she gets here. I mean, do I cancel my electrolysis appointments? Because my face is noticeably red, and that means she’ll ask questions, and that means jarring her into the reality of the pace this is progressing. Do I lock my closet? Throw everything into bins? My gut reaction is to just pack it all away, hide myself in the closet, be the son for two weeks. But that’s going to be hard, psychologically.
Eventually, I got off the phone. I was feeling depressed, but I was determined to carry on with my day.
ii. The Flash
I do my weekly grocery shopping presenting female, and I have for a couple of months. I don’t dress up to shop. I just dress. Jeans, a button-up shirt, some jewelry, a wig, minimal makeup — there’s no reason to go overboard. I don’t want to present myself. I want to blend in.
I’m well aware of how I look when I dress, how much I don’t pass as female. And while I am pretty sure that I have encountered the odd stare now and again, I keep myself to myself in the store and no one’s actually said or done anything rude to me while I’ve been out.
At least, they hadn’t before today.
I was standing in front of the salad greens, bagging some kale, when on the other side of the case (it’s a freestanding display, not against a wall), there was a flash of light. I looked up, only to see two teenage girls walking swiftly past, their heads fixed forward in that “Don’t make eye contact, act nonchalant, pretend like nothing happened” way. One of the girls is holding her cellphone at about stomach level, pointed such that, a moment previous, it was almost certainly pointed at me. Either she’d forgotten to turn off the flash, or she didn’t care that I’d notice. Either way, they disappeared around a corner, never looking back.
I’m not an idiot. I know about websites like People of Walmart, not to mention the sorts of things that get passed around Twitter and Facebook. If these girls had snapped a pic — and I was almost certain they had — I knew what the purpose was. The Internet thrives on making fun of odd people.
My immediate reaction was to pretend nothing had happened. After all, making a scene would just call more attention to myself. But that didn’t stop a panicked fight-or-flight response from kicking in. I finished bagging the kale with shaky hands, and decided that I just wanted to get the Hell out of the store right now.
iii. The Crisis
I went straight to the checkout — I forgot several things on my list, but damned if I was leaving without what I’d already gotten — and kept my shit together long enough to pay. Then I went to my car and just … shook. I didn’t cry, I didn’t scream. But my hands were shaking, so bad that for several minutes I didn’t feel safe driving.
All of my anxieties, already stirred up by my mother’s phone call, kicked in big time. Somewhere out there, a picture was probably already on Facebook. “Look at the tranny we saw in the grocery store! Ha ha! What a freak!” And that freak was me. What was I thinking? Going out of the house like this? Wasn’t I just asking for it? I was an idiot. I was abnormal. I was fooling myself.
I had no desire to continue my day or to stop anywhere else. I just wanted to slink back home to my apartment and hide myself. And so I did.
I spent a miserable afternoon moping around the apartment, not wanting to do anything, not wanting to go anywhere, not wanting to talk to anyone.The best adjective to describe the next several hours is probably “dysphoric.” I did not want to look in a mirror; I did not want to see myself.
It wasn’t until around dinnertime that I managed to shake it off, to try and get some perspective. Was it my fault these girls were horrible human beings? I don’t know them and they don’t know me. Why do I care what they do on their Facebook page? They were haters. Fuck them!
The thoughts were fierce, but they felt hollow. I did care. I don’t want to be the freak. I want to pass. And I’d been handed a clear sign that I do not pass. Not yet. Maybe never.
And then, as if to top it all off, I burned the kale chips I was making for dinner.
Sigh. I want to move to Australia … though they probably have bad days there, too.