This is going to be a series of posts about what I think are important things for transpeople to think about. These are the lessons I had to learn, the things that let me be who I am now. If you find them useful, please let me know.

From a post about SCC 2007:

One of the more remarkable moments of the trip was a small one. One of the DC Posse wanted to go to the mall across the street, but didn’t’ want to go alone, so of course I generously volunteered to join her. Yes, I’m so selfless…Did some shopping, we tried on hats (she wanted a ball cap, which she kept putting on sideways), got coffee. On the way back out, she asked me how I could stand people staring at me. 

I said, “What people?” I had not noticed anyone staring. I really don’t worry about what other people think when I’m out, unless they are openly hostile. It’s not like I think I won’t be noticed-I’m tall, big, and not exactly a shrinking violet in public. To learn how to be comfortable with yourself and not panic when you are “clocked” are two important social skills any transperson has to develop, quickly. Unless you want to remain in your closet forever…

This is a story I tell often. I use it to illustrate how your attitude matters so much in how accepted you are in public. But there’s a bit more to it than what I wrote…

SCC moved to the Crowne Plaza Ravinia in 2007 from their old Midtown Atlanta location. The hotel we used was being renovated to become a W Hotel, and we ended up in NorthAtlanta, in the Dunwoody/Sandy Springs area. We were getting used to a new venue, which was far from our old grounds. But one nice thing was there was a mall across the road from the hotel. Perimeter Mall is an upscale mall, with the only standalone MAC Cosmetics store in Atlanta. Anchored by Dillard’s, Macy’s, Bloomingdale’s and Nordstrom, it has a wonderful selection of stores.

Unlike Midtown, Bucktown or Little Five Points, you’re in the ‘burbs here. So the attitudes aren’t always as liberal. And it was a Saturday afternoon, so there were a lot of people there. And I can just hear some of you say “I could never go out to a mall on a Saturday afternoon! I might run into someone I know, or I won’t be passable enough, or people will point at me and say bad things or…”

Well, you’re right, you might run into someone you know. But if you’re in a different city, who are you going to run into? Or, if you’re in your own, do you realize that you probably look a lot different en femme than you do en homme*? I know I do, and I’ve had people I know walk past me multiple times and not even recognize me.

Being “passable,” what does that mean? Most would say it means being able to pass as a cisgendered woman in most situations; that nobody would think you were not TG. And that is something that very rarely happens. Most of us have something that is going to be incongruous. Hands that are too big, an Adam’s apple that shows up, shoulders a bit too broad…So no, you’re probably not going to pass. But you probably do look very feminine at a glance, and even beautiful. People give you the respect they give most women, because you present enough clues to trigger that response. It’s something I believe we all have, and it works most of the time.

In a public place, people tend to not want to attract attention to themselves. Plus, society frowns on open displays of hostility or aggression. We may thing negatively about someone due to a prejudice-and we all have them-but we don’t act on them. Have I had people openly stare at me? Yes. Have I heard comments and remarks made behind my back? Yes. I have walked down a street and had young men yell “It’s a dude!” at me. Of course, that was in the French Quarter on a weekend night when the tourists are the most chemically lubricated…The number of times I have been confronted in person by someone I can count on one hand-and those were more the “stupid remark, let’s watch the tranny piss herself” type. When I failed to run off in fear or embarrassment  they would walk off wondering what went wrong. What went wrong was that I didn’t care what they said. Not giving them the power to fuck up my life? That’s what mattered.

And I’ll pick this up later.

* I am being MTF-centric here because I am more familiar with that situation.