Being Accepted

2021/5/10 Update

Heh. Remember when bathroom bills were all we worried about? In 2021, over 30 states have bills on their legislative agenda that strip rights from trans folks (mostly trans youth). Yikes.

The headwinds of oppression have gotten stronger, but I feel way less afraid of standing up for myself.

Original Entry

Since I'm so early in my transition, I still look very masculine. People still see me as and treat me as a man. I'm not even visibly in-transition. As a result, I don't feel welcome in women's spaces. Unless everyone present knows me, I just look like a man in the wrong place. In order to be accepted, I need to actively justify my existence.

This is really hard for me. I don't have any female friends. The gender ratio in software engineering is absolutely abysmal, so I interact with men almost all day. All my friends from school are men. Living in the Castro district of San Francisco means I'm surrounded by gay men. I need a space where I can make friends with women, but trying to enter that space is like swimming upstream. I'd need to constantly fight the current that is pushing me out.

For example, there is a community bike repair shop that I visited regularly while I was preparing my bike for Burning Man. Instead of you paying for them to fix your bike, they simply provide the tools, materials, and some guidance. You do all the repairs yourself. The workshop had a few hours set aside every week just for women. Even though I identified as a trans woman at the time, I didn't feel like I would be comfortable in that space.

I would imagine walking in and the shop manager politely telling me that its for the next few hours the shop is only open for women. I'm sure I could explain myself to them – their website did say they welcomed trans women after all. Its not just the manager in the shop, though. All the other people working on their bikes would see me and think I was out of place. I'd have to justify myself to all of them or just try to ignore them. I never did end up going to the bike shop during the women-only hours. The idea that I'd need to fight for acceptance was too much for me.

That was one of the things that prevented me from transitioning. If I transitioned, I may need to spend my entire life justifying my presence. I'd never be able to relax and just be passively accepted. I didn't think I was strong enough to live that life. Now that I'm committed to transitioning, I hope that one day I'll be able to "go stealth" and achieve passive acceptance, but it shouldn't need to be that way. Trans people shouldn't feel out of place in spaces they belong in.

You may have heard some commotion about transgender people and bathrooms. For example, under the Obama administration, the Department of Justice issued guidance that said schools should allow students to use the bathroom of the gender they identify with. This was later reversed under the Trump administration. Many states have put forward bills that would prevent trans people from using the bathroom of the gender they identify with. Thankfully, most of these bills ended up getting voted down, but I think that the wave of proposed anti-trans legislation is emblematic of how a large part of the population feels about trans people. To those people, I'll never be a woman. I'll never be welcome in their spaces for women. I'll never be their equal. Sometimes advocates of these bill engage in double-speak and try to argue that they aren't transphobic, but, at the end of the day, why would they try to exclude me if they truly accept me as a woman?

Thankfully, California and San Francisco are much more accepting. I don't expect that I'll ever be asked to present identification when in a bathroom. Still, I feel the pressure. I feel like I'm the "other". Years ago, I remember going outside dressed as a woman. I wasn't passing, but I was trying my best. I remember people looking at me funny and making comments. I was a spectacle. I may have been welcome in the women's bathrooms, but I certainly wasn't accepted as a woman. That experience was one of the reasons I moved to the Castro. I wanted to be in a space where people would accept me as I am – whatever that may be!

In LGBT spaces in general, I feel like I can just be. I don't need to justify myself to anyone. I don't need to fight for anything. Sure, I'm still not naturally lumped in with the women (yet!), but I feel like I can play whatever role fits me without anyone batting an eye. Its refreshing and freeing. I wish I could feel that way everywhere I go, but society isn't ready, yet.

Allowing trans people to use the bathroom is great and all, but it's just the tip of the iceberg. Transphobia runs very deep in our culture. I struggle with it, too. I think it'll be a very long time before trans people are truly accepted by society.