Archive for February, 2010


Make new friends and keep the old…

February 22, 2010
Brownie by Steve Spitzer

Photo by Steve Spitzer*

I’ve come to a point in my transition where some of my new acquaintances are transitioning to be friends (see what I did there?), and I’m experiencing the interesting dilemma of How And When To Come Out. I honestly don’t know if there is a good way to just sort of drop it into the conversation. It becomes even more complicated when I’m not entirely sure they don’t already know: from talking to mutual friends, from picking up on something in my appearance or demeanor, from hints I’ve forgotten dropping. I find myself chatting with these New Friends and keeping my ears open for any sort of opening that will allow me to say “I used to be a girl” or “Hey, I’m transgender” or “I don’t even HAVE testicles!” The result of which, of course, is that sometimes I’m not actually paying much attention to the content of the conversation.

On Saturday I was hanging out with one of these New Friends because of our audition for the Fight Cast at the Bristol Renaissance Faire. I was feeling during much of the day that the Time Had Come, that I have gotten to know this guy well enough that I would feel weird if he didn’t know this very important bit of my History and that I already did feel weird not knowing whether he’d guessed or been told. There was this moment in the conversation when we (and his friend) were swapping anecdotes about strip clubs, and he asked me if I’d ever been to one. Ha ha, I thought. This sounds like an opening! “Yes,” I replied. “Back when I was a girl.” I elaborated that I and some of my other (girl)friends had on this occasion been kicked out of said strip club for kissing each other (management frowned upon this practice because it was drawing attention from the dancers, or something.)

Of course, even with that I didn’t know if the message got across very clearly; he could have taken the whole thing as a joke, or thought that I meant I’d been in drag at the time, or some other convoluted interpretation I haven’t thought of. Or maybe he already knew and this whole thing was silly. It’s… kind of new for me to be thinking this much about how other people perceive me, and these uncharted waters are both exciting and a little terrifying.

Fortunately, I am now connected to this New Friend on Facebook. My Facebook profile, of course, has a somewhat detailed explanation of my gender identity, my Coming Out (er… in the other direction) Note, and a link to this blog, so there’s every chance (if he’s taken the time to peruse my account at all) that New Friend is reading this right now. (*waves*) These social networking avenues give me a little bit of a cushion, so that I don’t feel I have to go into a long explanation over and over again; the basic facts are there in written form and I can point to them. *points*

So, to my trans readers — how have you dealt with this stage? How do you work it into the conversation? Do you? What point in the relationship with a new friend do you feel the need/desire to share your history?**

ETA: That wasn’t meant to be exclusive, actually — I’d also love to hear reactions/thoughts to this phenomenon from allies and others who may have experienced this kind of Coming Out from the other side, or who just have thoughts about it. 🙂

To briefly go back to that Stranger Danger thing I talked about a few weeks ago, I had a specific instance of Being The Scary Stranger just a few minutes ago, coming back from the coffee shop. Now, I walk quickly, even in ice and snow. So I was walking down the alley towards my house, and I started closing the distance between myself and a woman in front of me. She did a quick over-the-shoulder glance when she heard my boots crunching; then she did a double-take and stared at me for a second. Then she paused, moved to the side of the alley, and let me pass. It was kind of unsettling. It probably was for her as well. Weird.

In less personal news, I’ve been meaning to post about the Proposed Revisions to the Gender Identity Disorder diagnostic criteria for the DSM V that went public a few weeks ago. I don’t have a lot to say about this, having never really gone through the Psychiatric Industry to assist in my gender transition, but a couple of the changes look promising to me:

4. a strong desire to be of the other gender (or some alternative gender different from one’s assigned gender)
5. a strong desire to be treated as the other gender (or some alternative gender different from one’s assigned gender)

It may still seem strange to some, but including some alternative gender is really cool to me, and it reflects the real experience of a lot of people for whom “Gender (pick one):M/F” creates a surge of anxiety and panic. Including the way I thought of myself before last year, and at times still think of myself. The overlapping worlds of psychology and sociology and their respective relationships to gender identity are muddy, and complicated, and still not quite in sync. But that’s why we talk about these things; that’s why I use my words when I can.

* Photo is relevant because it’s me as Brownie at Bristol Faire and thus… a representation of part of my past that my new friends will find out about when I choose to share anecdotes, or when they poke through my Facebook profile? Also it’s just a cool picture.

** I realize that my experience with this is not shared by all trans people, and I apologize if I’m being insensitive here: I’m a guy, so I’m not subject to the same level of fear-of-violence that a trans woman often is, and I’m lucky enough to have pretty solid passing privilege.