When I was coming to grips with being trans I didn’t have a lot of resources at my disposal. I was young and didn’t know anyone who was transitioning – Nova Scotia wasn’t exactly a queer hotbed in the mid 90s. What’s more, the internet was really still in it’s infancy. There were a few trans resource sites (some of which are still available today) but they were, without exception, pretty terrible. There was some useful practical advice but the aspects geared towards understanding trans identities were heavy poisoned by the predominant therapies of the time.
One particular meme that stuck with me and formed key aspects of how I relate to the world is that of the invasive and aggressive trans woman. The myth was such that trans women were always taking up too much space and being too assertive, demanding, or inquisitive in their interactions with the world. In essence – they were still acting too male.
I became incredibly paranoid of conforming to this stereotype, particularly after placement in some social circles fell apart due to conflict. I would play it cool and distant with folks in an attempt at making sure they were comfortable regardless of what I wanted or needed from them. I would rarely initiate contact, and if I did, I would try to do it in the most guarded and unassuming ways. I would always try to keep an even and passive tone and would never be too inquisitive and engaged in interpersonal situations. I policed every interaction with people through the lens of “will this be read as assertive-read-masculine?”
Of course, the meme itself is utter bullshit. The template of the aggressive trans woman is throughly steeped in transmisogyny and the vast majority of trans women I’ve met have been similar in demeanour to myself. I have to wonder how many of them have internalized this harmful image much as I have…
At any rate, this is said just to reach this statement: I’m a pretty cruddy friend and an exceptionally cruddy partner. I know this. It’s not sufficient for me to point to this meme and my adoption of its counter stance as justification for my behaviour and yet I still filter my behaviour through its tenets. How this interplays with depersonalization… well, that’s a whole other post in itself. That I am able to live alone (and by traditional metrics, lonely) and enjoy it doesn’t in any way forgive how I act.
Specifically: I’m not as inquisitive as I should be. I don’t initiate contact as often as I should. I’m hesitant to deliver hugs. I make people feel that I am disinterested and that they aren’t special to me. If you are my friend I have no doubt made you feel like shit at one point or another.
I hope that some day I can shake this conditioning. If I talk to you at all I promise you this – I DO like you. You are important to me.
If you’re still in my life, I thank you – I know it’s not easy. I hope that some day I can make it up to you.