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a brief story of transphobia in action for your friday afternoon: i have this customer who comes in to the food service job that i work. let’s call him eddie.
the first time i met eddie, he’d been diagnosed with diabetes just hours before. he came up to me, distressed, and dumped out all his panic on me: the diagnosis, his fears about it, his concerns about what the hell he was supposed to eat.
i spent about an hour with him that first day. i walked him around, showing him our options, listening to his feelings, reassuring him that things would be okay. over the next several months, i spent a lot of time with him, going well above and far beyond my job description.
he‘s a chatty dude, and my coworkers hated him — said he was loud and annoying, said he wouldn’t shut up. i suspected a lot of people felt this way about eddie; you have to be... pretty lonely to dump a health scare on a customer service employee.
but i liked him. he was, absolutely, loud and annoying and wouldn’t shut up; i liked him anyway. he had character, and made my day more interesting. i didn’t mind that he was a little obnoxious; i’m a little obnoxious myself. i enjoyed getting to help him.
and it worked, the plan he made with his doctors — he came in one day crowing about how much lower his blood sugar was, how much better he felt. he thanked me for helping him, and i offered congratulations. i was happy for him; i still am, despite everything. he worked hard.
when i first met eddie, i’d been on testosterone for six months. i’m a short guy, and my voice had only dropped a little then; my face hadn’t changed much yet; i hadn’t started growing facial hair. i rarely passed, and wasn’t (still am not) trying to.
he misgendered me a few times and i didn’t correct him. he’s an older guy, a customer, and obviously he was going through a lot; it didn’t seem worth it to try to have that complicated, loaded conversation at my job, where i have to work every day.
the last time i spoke to him, he clocked me as trans in the middle of a conversation. i saw it happen — saw him stare at the hair that’s growing exclusively out of my neck, saw his eyes widen as my voice hit a low note. he walked away before i could serve him his sandwich.
he doesn’t speak to me now. he comes in; he speaks to my coworkers; he doesn’t acknowledge me. before he wore mostly band t-shirts. now i never see him in anything but tr*mp memorabilia he didn’t wear before, whether it’s a shirt or one of the iconic hats.
he’s made his position clear. & weirdly, i don’t even begrudge him that position — he’s wrong, of course, and bigoted, and that’s sad, but it’s mostly sad for him. it blinds him, like it blinds all bigots, to the connections he could be making with people who’d show him kindness.
but i think about him — whether he’s doing okay. whether he even realizes what he’s doing, or if it’s fear and hatred so deep-seated that he’s acting it out unaware. whether that moment of surprise with me is what drove him into the arms of the movement he’s caught in now.
and i think about him when the (well meaning) cis people in my life ask what transphobia‘s like. i think people usually think it’s all like the worst of it, you know? which is fair: the worst of it is hideous verbal & physical violence, murder, assault. it sticks in the brain.
i am not, to be clear, trying to minimize the horror of those things. they are horrible, disgusting and much worse than what i’m talking about, than this quieter, more subdued transphobia. but i also think the bigger kind is easier to see from the outside; this gets missed.
and, at least in my experience of transphobia so far, much of it IS this. the fear of violence, the implied threat, is always there, & it underscores every interaction of this kind, too — am i safe? is this the time? is this what pushes this person who hates me into acting on it?
but usually it isn’t. usually it’s just an old friend from college quietly unfollowing you on all your social media, or a family friend using air quotes when they talk about your gender. usually it’s a dirty look. usually it’s eddie.
for the cis people reading: i’m telling u this story bc i want you to know. not even necessarily bc i want you to DO anything; i just want you to know. it‘s lonely, sometimes, to try to talk to you about trans experiences, bc you don’t know. that’s not your fault! but it’s hard.
and for the trans folks reading: i’m telling you this story to make clear something i have to tell myself every day, in case you need to hear it too. the hateful people of the world? the transphobic bigots? they are lost causes, and you are not their patron saint.
i was nothing but kind to eddie. i did nothing but listen to him, help him. my being trans had no impact on his life — wouldn’t have affected literally anything for him — but he couldn’t forgive me for it. that sucks! but that’s on him.
so if there is a part of you, like there is a part of me, that thinks “oh, if only i were better — oh, if only i were good at this — oh, if only i tried harder, these people wouldn’t hate me,” then i am here to tell you i understand, and that you can let it go.
you will never be a good enough trans person for people like this. they don’t think there is such a thing, and it is not your job to convince them otherwise. who you are, as you are, is good enough. hopefully someday they’ll see that; if they don’t, that’s their loss.
i hope you’re all taking care of yourselves and each other out there. i hope you’re being kind. i hope you’re listening to the people in your life, and i hope, most of all, that you’re not eddie. don’t do that to the people around you. don’t do it to yourself.
wow, uh. good morning, everyone! this has gotten a lot more attention than i expected, thanks for listening 💜 if you want to help me, you know, work less hours at this shitty service job and/or someday pay for top surgery, my ko-fi is here! ko-fi.com/dylanthyme
hello again! i love and appreciate you all very much, but i’m going to mute this thread now so that i can once again use twitter for its intended purpose: communicating with lovely people on the internet about their extremely excellent pets
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