When I started changing my gender presentation in public I sometimes used a yellow sticky where I wrote “Hi, I’m transgender.” I used it similar to the way you’d use a business card, to convey more detailed information than just my physical presentation. Back in the day (circa 2015 – 2016) I thought it was a brilliant idea that helped other people deal with me and my gender expression. Little did I know then that in fact it was the opposite. It rather helped me deal with other people.
The Rationale (AKA The Fears)
In those early days that I started using my feminine gender expression I assumed that I was being read or recognized as a trans person, but I wasn’t completely sure. There were few situations where I needed to show my ID, for example at the lab for my regular blood tests. My thought was that, for example, if a lab technician saw a guy in the photo of my ID, a guy’s name with an “M” to the right of the sex marker and then looked at me, that they’d be confused and would start questioning me. That was my hypothesis, so I thought that if I had a note that clearly stated that I was trans, that they would understand the discrepancy and avoid making a scene and an uncomfortable situation. It worked every single time! The lab technicians in this common example, would first read my yellow Post-It™, quickly review my information on my ID and lab requisition, look at me and would always be very emphatic. In some cases they would just carry on as if it was business as usual and in others they would engage me with curiosity small talk, but always very respectful.
I was very proud of my idea and that it was working. It allowed me to be confident when I had to show my ID. Think of it as my security blanket or a way to break the ice without even saying a single word. I too had a variation that read “Hi, I’m Franches and I’m transgender”. This ‘enhanced’ version with my preferred name hinted to how I wanted to be addressed to the person reading my sticky. I thought it was a slick idea that really helped others deal with what they were seeing and reconcile that with what was on my ID.
I felt that my Post-It™ idea was further validated when I’d hear horror stories of people showing to the lab, dropping off their paperwork and then being called by their ‘dead-name’, meaning their given name on their ID. I never got to see one of those scenes first hand, but it seemed that the situations were quite awkward and worst of all, that the patient would feel threaten and extremely disrespected.
The Flight to Paris
After going full time, my first flight was in October 2016 to Paris on my way to Marbella for FFS. The passport I was travelling on had been issued in 2012, which was 3 years before I started HRT. The point I’m trying to make is that I looked fairly different from what was on that old 2012 passport. It was the perfect opportunity to affix my yellow Post-It™ and help those that would need to see my passport to process the discrepancy.
I got to the check-in desk at the airport for departure and showed my passport with my incredibly powerful “Hi, I’m transgender” sticky attached. The lady that checked me in definitely saw my sticky note and didn’t even blink. She checked me in as any other passenger and sent me on my way to go through security. It had worked! My Post-It™ saved me and the Air France employee from an awkward conversation. It felt incredible. There I was, ready to travel by air presenting as a girl for the first time ever, and the first possible hurdle had been no problem! Yasss!
Now I think that my yellow sticky also prepared me in case I’d be questioned. Instead of feeling insecure about my presentation and being questioned about the discrepancy with my ID, it was a great starting point for conversation and to explain my situation if needed. After all being trans is not illegal, at least in the countries that I was travelling through, and what these people at the airports are looking for are the bad guys. You know, smugglers, tax evaders, drug traffickers, etc. and not trans people per se. So, in the case I’d be questioned, I was feeling super comfortable that I would be able to have a normal discussion with whom ever needed any clarification.
To my surprise, after checking-in my bags, the next time that I had to show my passport wasn’t to go through security, nor at the lounge at the airport, and not even to board the plane; my boarding pass was the only document required that day. It was after I landed in Paris and I had to go through EU Passport Control (aka immigration) that I needed to produce my passport.
Even though I had confidence on my Post-It™ I was still nervous when I got to the see the French immigration agent. It was one of those booths that there are two agents, one on each side each checking a different passenger. I handed my passport, with a smile of course, but without saying anything. The Post-It™ was on the page opposite to the one with my photo and personal details. The immigration officer first looked at the page with my data, then looked at me and back to looking at the passport. Then he noted my yellow sticky note and read it. It took the guy a second or two to figure what was going on. Without saying anything to me he turned to his colleague in the booth to tell him something. They made some comment amongst each other in French and had a chuckle, which was not cool but whatever, and he proceeded to stamp my passport. When he returned the passport back to me he simply made a quick comment in a super thick French accent: “Next time it would be better if you had a new photo”.
It had worked! My yellow Post-It™ note saved me again from possibly having a long and awkward conversation with the French immigration agents. I remember walking away from the booth, stamped passport in hand, and LMAO with a huge sense of success even with the chuckling they seemed to have had at my expense. That didn’t matter. I was happy as a clam at high tide, on my way to catch my next flight!
Then & Now
I have a little confession. I’ve been wanting to write this blog post since late 2016 or early 2017. It has taken me almost 4 years to write it. The procrastination worsen after my IDs expired. I got a new passport and new ID after FFS and with my current gender expression, so I stopped using my “Hi, I’m transgender” note. Still, I had this post in the back burner since then.
After so many years of that flight to Paris, now I can see that this blog post would have been somewhat different had I written it in, say 2017. In those days I thought that my Post-It™ was helping others deal with the discrepancy between my presentation and the information on my IDs. Now I can categorically say that the yellow sticky helped me deal with those situations.
It was not for others; it was for me!
Probably one of the more important things that I learnt about myself by writing this in 2020 instead of 2016 or 2017 is to recognize that I was dealing with my own fears. Back then I didn’t see it as fear. I saw is as being prepared – being ready and in control. But the deep truth is that I feared being interrogated. Though I knew that even if I’d be questioned I would perfectly be able to explain anything, I really didn’t want to find myself in that situation. If I had written this years ago, the first subtitle in this page would have only read “The Rationale”. This 2020 version is more accurate and transparent. Certainly it’s more thoughtful.
The best part of all is that it worked. My “Hi, I’m transgender” note attached to my IDs helped me deal with the fears. I am almost sure that by feeling the support from my Post-It™ I was confident dealing with people at the lab, or airport, or immigration, etc. and that confidence did not raise any suspicion in whom ever was checking my ID. They were just regular interactions.
I wish I could give everyone a “Hi, I’m transgender” post it to help them deal with their fears. In essence the moral of the story is to find whatever security-blanket and use it as such. As a shield or as a superpower cape; a way to brush off fears that need not be.