Since I was thirteen I had the urge to look feminine. I wasn’t able to come to grips with those feelings until I was seventeen, in senior year of high school. I was quite fortunate to face an astounding amount of support for my choice to come out publicly. However, some of the reactions, while not openly hostile, become overused very quickly. This is the list of the ten most common reactions, in no particular order.
1. You’re not gay/trans? I don’t believe it, you are gay/trans even if you don’t know it.
That happens surprisingly often: other people assume they know what I feel better than I do because they’re more familiar with the more extreme sides of the gender spectrum. First of all, appearance does not change sexual orientation. Wearing lipstick doesn’t make me gay, in the same way that a women wearing a dress doesn’t mean she’s straight.
2. Can I fondle your boobs?
The only reaction more unpleasantly than that is when somebody “forgets” to ask and goes for it. The thought process is understandable, however uncomfortable it makes me: if I’m not really a women, they’re not even really my parts, right? But it’s a massive invasion of privacy, and sets off a thousand alarms in my head. In the same way that you can’t grope your friend without permission, making inappropriate physical contact with me is still sexual harassment no matter what I have between my legs.
3. I don’t believe you.
This is similar to 1. People assume that since my lifestyle is different than what they expect, it must be a lie. I’ve been accused of doing it for attention more times than I can count. When I first came out, my favorite teacher sat down with me and told me that she was completely supportive of the lifestyle, but she didn’t want me taking attention away from people who “really feel that way.” I remember feeling hurt that when these “other kids” did it it was real, but when I did it it was a plea for attention. I’m sure there are people who’ve faked it, just like people fake everything. But assuming I’m faking something that big just because it doesn’t mesh with preconceptions about me is an unfair assumption.
4. You’re coming out wrong.
This comment seems friendly at first: it usually comes up when somebody tries to suggest how to transition more easily. The problem is that “easily” is often synonymous with “at somebody else’s pace.” I was comfortable with myself immediately. Some people won’t be. A stranger shouldn’t tell you what the “correct” way of coming out is, particularly a cisgendered, well-adjusted, straight white adult.
5. Only you!
I get that this is meant to be nice, but it comes across as saying that I’m dressing up as a women for fun. It’s an easy way to downplay the transition and brush it off. It’s not my identity: it’s a gimmick! Right?
6. I don’t care, and you can do what you want, but you can’t deny it’s weird.
I can deny it. When somebody says this, I offer them one response: if you can find one way that my gender identity personally affects you, I’ll stop altogether to make you comfortable. That’s usually met with some half-hearted mumbling.
7. If my boyfriend dressed up, I’d [insert unpleasant reaction.]
Your boyfriend isn’t. I am. The scary thing is how often this comes up. “If my boyfriend wore a dress, I’d slap him!” That’s not okay. That’s why people like me get to worry about being hurt so much more than other demographics. It’s why I can’t wear what I want the first time I meet new people and I can’t be myself at a place of employment. And if you think there’s any time that it’s alright to slap your significant other, you’re the bad guy here.
8. You do [this specific thing that makes you look like a girl]? That’s crazy!
Disclaimer: I stuff my bra. I wear mascara and eye shadow. I use women’s deodorant. If I feel fancy I’ll wear eyeliner and a corset. Maybe for some people it doesn’t quite hit home: when I dress as a girl, I want to look like a girl. I don’t want to look kind of like a girl, or like a guy trying to be a girl. For all intents and purposes, in my mind I am a girl 85% of my time. If stuffing my bra gives me a more feminine appearance, you can bet your ass I’m going to stuff it! And for some reason, those same people believe that it’s less “weird” if you get surgery to look the way you want. Those people have clearly never looked at the cost of surgery, or considered how permanent it is. If I want to look like a man 15% of the time, then being completely women is just as much of a problem as NOT being a women.
9. Why would you do that?!
I don’t mind honest questions. I’ll answer any reasonable ones, and I even appreciate that people take the time to ask me instead of making assumptions. This isn’t mean as a question though: it’s an exclamation, often followed by the exclaimer leaving the vicinity without waiting for an answer. I half expect them to get on their knees and scream at God, “why? WHY?!”
10. God doesn’t make mistakes!
And that’s the thing — I’m NOT a mistake. Personal feelings on God or not, if you’re telling me that God doesn’t make mistakes, than this is how God made me. If he has a problem with it, he can bring it up with me. I’ll just politely inform him that he’s wrong and go back to applying my lipstick.