The Facade – Excerpt From An Unremarkable Girl

This comes from Chapter 2 – “When I Knew”. It is the story of how the real me began to disappear into the male facade that I would wear for more than a decade until I was finally ready to come out. 

When I was in third grade I told a friend at recess about my wish, about wanting to be a girl. She was always a sweet friend, but she looked at me with a side-eyed glance when I revealed my innermost desire.

“That’s weird,” she said, the word “weird” delivered like a shoe stamping on a bug.

There was to be no further discussion of that point. That day I learned that as much as I desired to be a girl, it wasn’t “normal”. It wasn’t “okay”. It was “Weird” with a capital “W.” So I started to push it down. I still admired my female role models, the witches of my early childhood, the Queens of England, the Empresses of Austria and Russia, but I would no longer pretend to be them. I still loved television or films with strong female characters (or even better yet female protagonists), but I was more cautious about emulating them. Being a “boy” and wanting to be a girl was weird.

I began to build a male facade. Though many messages in children’s media and elementary school would tell me “be yourself!”, I knew that to be a polite fiction. “Be yourself” has a big stinking asterisk next to it. “Be yourself; if yourself is a gender-conforming individual who will have the right interests and perform according to societal expectations. Otherwise, be the self we want you to be.”

I worked hard to build the male facade. I tried to follow my father’s encouragement and participate in sports- because that’s what boys were supposed to do. Unfortunately, I am intrinsically ill-suited to physical activity that requires a great degree of hand-eye coordination and concentration. Playing softball I always took the outfield, and never caught a single ball- I’d be staring off into space while it would land with a thud next to me, snapping out of my daze only when a team-mate called out “Get the ball, stupid!”

As I built this performative male facade, the real me grew more and more disconnected. She shone through in her passion for history, in her love of unusual foods (for an American child) such as mussels and escargot, but she went into hiding whenever the expectations of society demanded the performance of masculinity. The older I got, the more performance was demanded of me. This produced a disconnect between the real me, the girl at the centre, and the performative facade, and the disconnect produced dissociation. I have far fewer memories of my elementary school days than most of my peers, simply because I was putting on the facade so much of the time. When I was performing as male, I wasn’t myself, and since I wasn’t myself I wasn’t forming memories, or at least not the fond memories of childish bliss many people form in their elementary days. I remember most clearly moments of pain or great shame, for they lanced through the facade and pierced the girl within, leaving scars that still twinge when I recall them today.

….

Thank you so much, dear readers, for your time. Please leave comments and share if you liked the piece or if you have any questions for me about it, and always feel free to sign up for email alerts by use of the button right below this post.

The Question of Bathrooms

The porch of the bar is clouded in smoke, as any good dive bar’s porch should be. The man standing before me, slightly swaying with a Rainier in his hand, asks his question with a genuine air of befuddlement.

“Which bathroom do you use?”

“The women’s, of course,” I reply somewhat tersely.

“But you have-”

“Ah ah,” I interrupt, “do you want to have sex with me?”

“What?”

“That’s the only reason you should be asking about what’s in my pants, and frankly if that’s your very first question I don’t want to have sex with you.” (Since this was more than two years into my transition, I no longer bowed meekly to strangers alluding to my genitalia.)

Tired of conversing with a drunkard who was in no condition to earnestly listen to the finer points of the bathroom debate, and coincidentally needing to pee, I go to the bathroom.

The women’s bathroom. Because I am a woman. Transgender people will typically use the restroom of the gender they identify with, unless fear or unjust laws prohibit them from doing so. More importantly, we are in there for the same reason you are- to urinate, defecate, do our makeup, wash our hands, or blow our noses.

Much has been made in the so-called “bathroom debate” of the potential risk to young girls if “men” are allowed to use women’s restrooms and locker facilities, with right-wing pundits arguing either that paedophiles will pose as transwomen to attack little girls or that anyone can just stroll into any bathroom or locker-room and… commit what is already a serious felony?

Therein lies the logic gap (or perhaps chasm); the acts which right-wing lawmakers are so concerned about are already criminal. Rape is a crime. Child abuse is a crime. Exposing yourself in a sexual manner to a child is a crime. Furthermore, there is not a single documented instance of a transwoman attacking anyone in a public restroom. Transwomen are far more likely to be the victims of sexual violence than perpetrators of it.

So given that we pose no increased risks and that there already exist legal punishments for sexual assault, why do right-wing legislators keep proposing bathroom bills? Well there’s the conservative impulse to try and prevent any change, but really it boils down to fear that is based on an extremely toxic misperception- that transwomen are men. In many conservative circles, we’re not just viewed as men, but as mentally ill men. It’s not just simple hate that spawns these bills, but a pervasive fear on the part of many conservative men about being unable to protect “their” women.

However toxic that mindset may be, even within its absurd parameters it is logically inconsistent, for the simple reason that transwomen are no better or worse than any other woman in the bathroom with your child. Denying us our civil rights is not a solution to a “problem” that doesn’t exist.

Bonus Bullshit

Okay! *whew* Now that we’re past the serious stuff, here are some of the more absurd or just plain funny questions I’ve been asked about or while in the bathroom.

Do you pee standing up?

Never in public and very rarely in private, as I find it more comfortable to sit. Though I can’t imagine the relevance of the position of my urination to your understanding of me as a person.

Do you have a tampon?

First of all, thank you for massively affirming my gender. The first time I was asked this it was “no”, but now I try to carry one or two in case a friend or just a kindly drunken stranger needs one.

Are you sure you’re in the right place?

Why yes, scowling elderly lady, I am quite sure, since my bladder is completely full and this is a woman’s restroom. I would have thought the breasts, dress, stockings, cute flats, long well-groomed hair, and lipstick would have communicated that I identify as female and thus would prefer to use the women’s lavatory.

So you must have a vagina if you use the women’s, right?

What? You know that men and women typically use the same toilet in private homes, right? As long as you have a functioning urethra and the establishment has running water, a standard toilet will work regardless of your genitalia.

.;..

As always, thank you so much for reading! Please feel free to ask further questions in the comments, and I will do my best to answer them. Also, if you like this blog, sign up for email updates by clicking the little button just below this post. If you really like this blog and don’t mind helping me reach a wider audience, click one of those “share” buttons below! Thank you again!

(Photo by Paul Green on Unsplash)

The Question of Genitalia

How many times a day do strangers ask about your genitals? How many times a week, a month, a year?

“So,” he breathes, scanning my body, clad in a dress and stockings, “what do you have… down there?”

The bus rattles over a pothole, shaking me back and forth.

“That’s um really not uh a polite question to ask,” I stammer.

My face turns crimson red, I can feel it, the heat of shame and exposure flooding up to my forehead. Why do strangers feel that they own the information of my body? Why do they perceive that as their right?

“Yeah, but…” he said. But you’re a deviation from the norm. But transwomen are supposed to be a matter of public record. But, are you okay for me to screw, to fuck, to fantasise about, to masturbate over?

“I’ve not had an operation,” I answer.

“Those are real?” he asks with a wave of indictment at my breasts.

I am violated by the words, exposed by them. I meekly nod, my blush burning hotter, deeper.

“Nice,” he says. The compliment of reduction. The praise of the attribute rather than the whole. The word ‘nice’, innocent enough, a pleasant thing, used as a whip of control, of subjugation. I did not exist to him as another human in all the complex multifarious meaning of humanity, but as a set of sexual and social status objects, a fetish or a taboo.

I will later say to others “that’s impolite to ask,” and drop it there. Or ask pointedly if they want to have sex with me, to reflect the awkwardness of the question back to them, to make them confront the invasiveness of what they’re demanding of a stranger.

But now, on the bus, I just blush and squirm, and lay myself bare, because I don’t know a better thing to do. I am at the mercy of strangers, hoping that they will just accept the presentation and move on. Hoping that the cues alone will say that I am a woman. And hoping, fiercely hoping, for a day that I might be left alone. That no one on a bus would ask me what’s between my legs. That I could ride over the bumps and through the sluggish traffic to therapy, unmolested by the insistent curiosity of strangers- left in peace from their avarice to know the secrets of my body.

Since this website is not a public bus, and I’m putting myself out there to educate the general public (to what degree I can) about transgender issues, please feel free to leave a comment with a question you would like answered either about the transgender community or my own personal experience as a transwoman. Thanks for reading!

An Unremarkable Girl

When I was born, my birth certificate came with two glaring errors. The first was the name, a name which though well-intended, proved to be cruelly ironic- “Truman”. The second was the gender, “Male”. I don’t blame my parents for giving me that name, nor do I blame the hospital for assuming that the squalling kid with a penis was a boy. But as soon as I started to form consciousness, I knew something was wrong, that if boys and girls were different and mutually exclusive categories I had been sorted into the wrong one. Throughout my childhood I wished desperately that I’d simply wake up one morning as a girl, the mistake corrected. I didn’t desire to be a great beauty, an inspiration, or a heroine- I just wanted to be an unremarkable girl.

As I grew older and realised that I was not alone in my feelings, that others in “male bodies” felt whole-heartedly that they were girls. At thirteen I  learned the word “transgender”, and realised that the label was accurate in the extreme- though assigned male at birth, I felt at the core of my being that I was a girl. This discovery did not spur a radical self-acceptance, however. I didn’t want to be trans, because all the examples of trans individuals I’d seen in media were either punchlines or punching bags, deliberately mocked, made into masculine parodies of femininity. I didn’t want to be like that- I still just wished to be an unremarkable girl, hopefully cute, but not one who’d stand out in a crowd.

The years that followed were years of depression, self-denial, suicidal thoughts and occasional attempts, until finally in 2014 I resolved to go forward, to be who I was. In March of 2015, I began HRT (Hormone Replacement Therapy), and came out to the world at large as Miss Beatrice Washburn. In September of 2017, I finally corrected the twenty-two year old mistake on my birth certificate, legally becoming the girl I’ve been since my earliest days. Between those two momentous events, my mother and I began to write a book, which we have titled An Unremarkable Girl. It is the story of becoming myself, the story of my mother’s frankly heroic struggle to support me and see me through the darkest moments to the other side. We are still crafting this story, still living it, and in these electronic pages I hope to show what it’s like to write a book and to be a transgender woman in Salt Lake City Utah in the time of Trump.

The final irony is that I will never be an unremarkable girl. I am six feet and two inches tall, transgender, a socialist, a monarchist (yes you can be both, but it’s not easy), and I am an unabashed geek when it comes to my passions. The journey to becoming myself meant becoming remarkable, for good or for ill.