I have a small confession to make: when I first came up to my family and friends I didn’t put too much thought into what they would feel. I knew it was going to be a tremendous surprise and that they may have had some jaded preconceptions, but beyond that I didn’t dwell on their point of view.
Who Are You?
Recently I visited with two of my nephews that I hadn’t seen in person since early 2016. Back then I had just come out to them, I was not full time yet, though they did get to see me dressed in ladies’ outfit once in person. Since then they’ve seen me a few times over videoconferencing but not face to face. Before arriving to my nephew’s place we were texting and they knew I’d be arriving in a few minutes from my last text message. Still, when one of my nephews opened the door he just stared and didn’t say anything. After about 2 or 3 seconds I said “it’s me!” and then he recognized me. During those terribly long 2 – 3 seconds, though he didn’t say anything I could read his face saying “who are you?” and being totally confused.
Clearly my nephew, his brother and their wives were not expecting to see me the way they saw me. Probably they were expecting to see me more similar to the way they remember me before I started my process. Who knows, possibly they were expecting to see me not at ease with the person I am. Maybe, and being raw, they were expecting to see “a guy dressed as a girl” and not a girl.
I enjoy those awkward moments. I like them because for those 2 – 3 seconds my nephew didn’t know what was happening or who I was while I was more than aware of his confusion.
Another way I take those moments is as an incredible leap of acceptance from people. I figure that during those awkward moments they are assessing my demeanor and my reactions. Once they see “that I don’t bite”, they drop their guard and accept that even if I look different, that I’m myself and that I’m good with myself.
Preconceptions, Ignorance and Acceptance
Sharing with someone else that anecdote of my nephew’s reaction, his reply was “yes, it’s hard”, meaning that it’s hard for other people to see the changes I’ve gone through. Not that it’s hard to see the actual changes, but rather the discrepancy between what they expect to see and what they see is quite large, or hard.
I believe that in many cases people’s preconceptions of what it means to be trans are very much influenced by ignorance and terrible stereotypes. TBH I also had a series of preconceptions, was ignorant and was swayed by a bunch of stereotypes. Another confession: growing up I didn’t know the difference between a trans woman and a drag queen, or using the discriminating labels of those days, a transsexual and a transvestite. (Don’t judge me on the use of labels; the point is that I was way more ignorant than not.)
Coming back to my nephew’s confusion, probably he had a bunch of preconceptions of me and when he saw me I shattered a few of those. I’m pretty certain that when everyone saw that I was at ease with the situation and with the way I was presenting, their love and acceptance just overpowered any negative expectation they may have had.
From 0 to 100 | Just Being Selfish
While growing up I always knew I was different and I kept it to myself. Also I sorta made sense of myself and gained knowledge and understanding about my situation. In other words all my life has been a process to get me to where I am now. Especially in the last few years before opening up I got to shed lots of my preconceptions and ignorance about other trans people, specifically trans women.
Then, when I open up I assumed that other people around me would be able to jump to my same level of understanding of the trans experience. That was just my own selfish view on other’s perception of me. Imagine that you’re an experienced astrophysicist and after just meeting someone and telling them what you do, expecting them to know as much as you do about astrophysics. It’s not only not going to happen but I also think is selfish.
Of course I want people around me to have an understanding of my trans experience. The more knowledge the more acceptance; the less ignorance the less rejection and misunderstandings. I just wish I could take people from zero knowledge and understanding to my level of understanding and perspective… It ain’t going to happen!
Note to self: be more proactive encouraging people to ask me questions and dissolve both their presumptions and ignorance, or lack of knowledge.