Thursday, March 14, 2013

Understanding Transgender, Part II

(happy pi day everyone!)

I wasn't late, but the room was pretty full.  As I scanned the room, looking for familiar (ha!*) faces, I saw someone in front standing and waving.  I didn't think he was shouting for me until I heard "Meg!"

When I walked to the front I saw an open seat, a couple I did remember from the soirees (Donna and Diane), and the person who waved to me.  He said "you don't recognise me, do you?" and he pulled out his phone to show me a picture I had seen before.  It was one of the women I met at the soiree, but she was dressed as a male today.  She sang in a choir earlier that day and had no time to get her girl on.

As with everything about us, I know women who span the spectrum, from ones who are comfortable being in a group as either their male or female persona, to ones who will NEVER let you meet their male image if you've met their female one.  I've met all of the permutations I can think of: friends know Sam and Sally, but t-friends only know Sally.  Only Sam leaves the house, and she becomes Sally far from the eyes of prying neighbors.  Sam won't acknowledge the existence of Sally; Sally won't acknowledge Sam.

"Steve," as she called herself, was forthright about who she really was and we had a nice chat.  Diane, the t-partner, changed seats with Donna so she could get in on the conversation... that was nice of her.  It made me feel almost interesting. :)  I was fortunate enough to chat with Donna after the discussion.

"Steve" and I got some coffee before the panel started, and while the discussion was underway, I had to avail myself of the little girl's room (which was fortunately empty).  I saw Christine sitting near the back and looked forward to chatting a bit afterwards.  Alas, she had other appointments and couldn't stay.  It was nice to at least see her ~ she looked lovely as always.

I suppose the panel was supposed to be enlightening, but they fell short.  I was going to ask that they define terms at the start, but didn't want to risk starting a general shout-out.  The first speaker, who does some gender information/outreach to churches, showed slides of various men and women and wanted the audience to decide if each was assigned male or female at birth.  I really wanted to say "who cares?  It's completely irrelevant" but I generally have my rude setting turned way down and I said nothing, either in front of the group or in private.  She did define some terms, but not once I would consider important ~ such as "transgender."  She defined things like "gender presentation" which, to me, are secondary.  I'm still not sure the audience knew what the overall topic was, or if the panel members agreed on what it was.

The second speaker was a doctor and she gave a more clinical look at What Gender Means but it was so general as to be sort of useless.  In fact, after the speakers were done, one of the first questions reflected audience confusion as to what they were talking about ~ and it sounded like he thought it all applied to People With Gender Reassignment Surgery.

One speaker was a transgendered youth ~ a fourteen year old boy, identified as a girl at birth.  I'm far from expert, but he sounded like he had no doubt that the physical characteristics were wrong and should be corrected.  The teen was an articulate speaker, and more informative and persuasive than the other, IMO.

There was also a mother of a transgendered son, although not the other speaker's mother.  His mother was in the audience and she made a comment during the Q&A which followed the panel.

During the Q&A it became clear that there were several transgendered audience members and they were not afraid to speak out about who they are and who they were and who they hope to be.  I was kind of surprised, and definitely pleased.  We do need to be more honest, if we're going to gain the respect we deserve.  I wonder if some of the speakers are church members who might be coming out to their home congregation.

I did want to speak to the adult members of the panel after they responded to one particular question: someone said they work with a transgendered individual and wanted to know "how sensitive" she should be to their situation.  The adults replied with the obvious chorus of "very sensitive," but I think many of us would prefer a dialogue than silence.  I know I'd prefer questions to ignoring the elephant in the room (I have GOT to lose some weight!).  Especially if there's something that makes the other person uncomfortable... I want that addressed and quashed as soon as possible!

* I'll explain this tomorrow.


  1. It took me a while to understand your greeting, until I remembered that as an American you write the date down the wrong way round. It sounds as though this was both an interesting and frustrating evening, rember thuogh, it is quite something for a Church to even put on an event like this. (by the way love the dress ~ geometric patterns are very "in" you trendy young thing you!)

  2. Paula -

    Europeans write dates the wrong way too.... I prefer to go on them mysekf. :-)


  3. Meg -

    So which type of T-Gal are you?
    A. The type who keeps people who know meg, and the people who know "xxxx" separate?
    B. The type who lets certain people know both personas, but leans towards keeping both separate.
    C. The type who lets people know both personas, excpeting for conditions where it can cause you problems (like family and office)

    (There's also a type "D" - completely out, and neither of us are there ....yet)

    With that being asked, it's hard for "civilians" to know how to deal with us. The better we present ourselves as female, the less people think we are transgendered. So the quality of our presentations gets in the way of outreach. When people don't present well, social propriety gets in the way, as it often feels impolite to ask questions. (Unless you got to know a person using a wheelchair for a while, would you ask how that person got to use a wheelchair? That's the same kind of issue "Civilians" face when meeting us.) And yet, I'd love to have an adult stranger ask a question or two under the right circumstances - it'd be a great exchange of information in both directions.

    Now, my answer to the question I posed above leans towards "B" with an almost equal amount of "C". But I have yet to start joining social groups alone using my Marian persona. I'm looking for the right group, probably a weekend meetup with "Civilians" in NYC where I can both feel safe enough in stretching my comfort zone.....

    But that leads back to outreach....

    Would you want to put yourself in front of that audience and speak about your experiences? I am not ready enough to be that open. But it would be nice someday to be able to do that....



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