Choosing when to come out is important to educating others
by Mac McGregor -
Special to the SGN
Nin o ja (Japanese), from nin- (persevere, conceal, move stealthily) + -ja (person)
My life has always been interesting and out of the norm, so to say, but in the last couple of years it has become even more fascinating. Since legally changing my name and gender on my identification documents, I have had fun with some everyday tasks in life. I recently had to have a remote reprogrammed by the geeks who drive Love Bugs (you know the ones I'm talking about). All of my old programming and purchases from the home theater geeks was in the old name and gender marker. After half an hour on the phone to get an appointment set for the geeks to come out to do the job and then trying to look up my history with the geek team, the man on the phone says, 'We found stuff at your address under the woman's name Sherry.' Now how should I handle this after already being on the phone for 30 minutes with my girlfriend in the room? I just said to the guy, 'Could you please take her name off of my account? That is my ex-wife.' My girlfriend laughed out loud. I looked at her smiled and shrugged.
The man said 'Sure, sorry about that, sir.'
'No problem,' I said. Sometimes it is much easier to be a Ninja in this crazy world as a Transgender person than to try to explain it all to everyone.
Not long after starting medical transition and before my name and gender marker were changed on my insurance card, I had to go to the pharmacy to pick up a prescription. When it was ready the pharmacist called the name on the prescription. I walked up, and he looked right at me and said, 'Are you picking this up for your wife?' I paused, took a breath, and said yes. He told me what to tell my wife about the drug, and I walked away chuckling about my zany life.
This brings us to the conversation of how many judgments we make about people by outward appearance. While campaigning for marriage equality, I found this especially perplexing. Being under treatment for gender reassignment and having my doctor's official letter to explain that I was able to legally change my gender marker on my ID, this meant that I could now legally marry a woman, even though I still do not have a permanently attached penis, which too many people in our society think is what makes a man. There were times speaking at a rally or events for marriage equality, I wanted to drop my pants on the stage and say, 'I can legally marry a woman!' just to blow people's minds and get them to see that this is not about what is or is not in one's pants. Because I easily 'pass' in our binary gendered society unless I choose to divulge that I am Transgendered, in most of daily life and existence no one would know.
Some people think passing gives me privilege, and maybe at times it does, but it also shows me just how absurd are the ways we make judgments. When we talk about privilege, we have to ask what that means. Does it mean I need to lose my true or full identity to fit in so that others can feel more comfortable?
I am mostly open and out all the time, but when I go to dinner I don't walk in and announce that I am Transgendered. I have learned now that there are times to educate - when it is best to come totally out - and times when it is best to be the Trans Ninja. I sometimes take a step back and evaluate how will people best receive and be willing and open to listen to me? In my humble opinion we can make more positive change by being warm, friendly, and respectful even to those who don't get us right now.
A TEACHABLE MOMENT
This brings me to a funny story. I walked into a well-known leather shop one night. There were two guys working there, and they were chatting. After greeting me and asking if I needed help, they went back to their conversation, which was about someone transitioning. These two guys looking at me had no idea that I was Trans, so they felt comfortable talking openly about this. As I was looking through the racks of leather clothing and listening to this conversation, I was debating whether to get involved in it or not. It had been a long day and I was tired, but then one of the men made a comment that I could not ignore. He said, 'I can't understand why anyone would want to take testosterone. They are never going to be able to grow an actual penis, so what's the point?'
I laughed out loud - it just came out of me. The two men stopped talking and looked at me. The man who said this then walked over closer to me and said, 'I have a friend who is a girl and is considering transitioning, which is why I am researching this, because I am concerned about her.' I told him I educate people on sexuality and gender and asked what he was concerned about.
At this point I realized that these two cisgendered men would take what I had to say better if they saw me as a guy. So I chose that to be the best approach to educate, and educate I did. For 20 minutes I stayed and talked to these men about being Transgendered - the treatments, the effects, and what Trans people have to deal with. I explained that it is important how one feels inside, not just about the exterior. I went on to describe how hormones usually make a Transgendered person feel better inside their body, and that the body and mind are a better fit. I asked them to imagine that they never felt their body matched the person they felt they were inside. I also gave them a scenario to think about that addressed their belief that it was all about having a real penis or not. 'What if tomorrow one of you was in a bad accident and your penis was mangled or dismembered? Would you still be a man, or no longer a man?'
'Wow, I never thought of it like that,' one of them said as the other scratched his head. If the penis makes the man, what about men who don't have a normally functioning one? Are they still fully men?
EDUCATE, DON'T HUMILIATE
I could have chastised them for their ignorance and come out in a way that would have humiliated them, but I daresay if I took that angle, their minds would not have been opened, as I believe they were by my talking to them with respect and taking an approach that they could better relate to, even though they said some ignorant things that I could have chosen to take offense to. At the end of the conversation I gave them my card, and if they choose to look me up from that information, they will discover that I'm a Transgender LGBTQ activist. I hope they do, and I would love to see the look on their faces at that moment of realization.
Be on the lookout for when and where the Trans Ninja will strike to educate again.
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