Transgender 201: Being Attractive Is Not Enough

While having a first time face-to-face meeting with a fellow transwoman in a local cafe, our friendly conversation was interrupted by a 20-something guy who thought I was someone he knew. However, her and I entertained him as we rarely have moments like these. He talked our faces off upwards of an hour about big, intellectual ideas centered around psychology and humanity that genuinely interested me. He then kindly asked us for our numbers, of which she declined while I casually offered it up as I tend to do in an playful act that has become something of a personal social experiment I’ve been unofficially collecting data on.

The next day, he pretty much asked me out on a date via txt which honestly surprised me. On my way to work that day, I saw he was attempting to “friend” me on Facebook. I accepted his request and left it at that. Hours later, after clearly going through my Profile Photos, he messages me with the one of the most transphobic one-liners you could ever say to someone. While on the job, I broke out laughing & immediately sent a txt to the friend who was with me yesterday that the inevitable had happened. My brief exchange with the guy inspired this Tumblr post of which he was guilty of doing all but one. Feel free to guess which one in the comments.

Yes, he was relatively attractive. Yes, I would have given him a chance. Yes, I did not feel the need to reveal that I am a transwoman right out the door. Yes, I would have eventually told him if he had found something beyond my looks and initial actress charisma to desire more of.

Figures my first hands-on instance of transphobia & bigotry would be with a person who I had just met. No, I am not wrong for refusing to over-share in an effort to give myself a chance to be seen as the woman I am. Despite my seemingly jovial response, I am the victim. Not him.

Why am I posting this? Because it’s important to highlight my experience to the friends who think me having low expectations about ever obtaining a long-standing relationships is grossly unnecessary and misguided on the basis that I’m arguably an attractive black woman. To the masses who think transgender people are actively being deceptive by either going “stealth” or giving someone a chance to know them as a person in an effort to trick someone into a relationship.

On the contrary, we are protecting ourselves from gender discrimination, psychological harm, and, for those with less of a thick skin than me, losing hope in our existence. Case in point, according to the latest data compiled from the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey, 39%  of respondents “experienced serious psychological distress in the month prior to completing the survey compared with only 5% of the U.S. population”. 40% of respondents “have attempted suicide in their lifetime — nearly nine times the attempted suicide rate in the U.S. population (4.6%).” My particular instance is centered around relationships, but is hardly the most prevalent of reasons so many of us would rather continue living a lie or be “stealth” due to the stigma of simply being honest with ourselves. Worse, deny ourselves of being alive any longer.

This is not a joke and people on the outside don’t seem to get it. To be told “ohhh you’re attractive – there are people out there who totally would jump your bones” is downplaying a very real struggle that they will never have to navigate. Being told this by people who are either already spoken for on the long-term or have already ruled them out is even more demoralizing regardless of a strong will to endure.

I have not nor will not hide who I am in the interest of finding a mate. The moment I chose to continue pursuing a career in entertainment, I relinquished this and embraced my past for myself so no one would have ammo to dehumanize me. However, this is a very real thing that people do and likely have done to me multiple times in silence after me giving them my name for them to google at will. In this case, even after I sent them an open offer for candid discussion, he chose to remain silent. I’ve given people my name and number more times than you might believe, and the result, thus far, has been the same [among cis males].

For a final bit of insight, this instance of being asked to hang out one-on-one at a later date is the furthest I’ve ever gotten with a completely new person that I was truly interested in AND who showed a genuine interest in me after just an hour of conversation. This was also the first time I actually thought, “He’s quirky, incredibly smart, and hungry for knowledge; maybe he could be different...” For a moment, there was a semblance of hope…

I intended to unfriend him if he remained unresponsive to my offer for “open candid discussion” all weekend.

He had beaten me to it.

For more valuable insight & statistical facts pooled from over 20,000+ respondents (including myself), download the full report of the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey. And, as always, thank you for reading.

A Price For Peace

The life I’ve been living since I’ve turned thirty has been unlike anything I ever imagined. I have no real complaints about where I’ve ended up in the whirlwind of events that led to me having to survive on my own. I feel more at peace with both the challenges I face, the choices I have made & the path I am now on.

I’ve had my share of support from those who didn’t really have to do a damn thing for me, and now I’m doing everything in my power to make up for their kindness. I work hard at a job I love & the fruits of my labor are already reaping due acknowledgement and reward. My momentum in voice-over is gradually being revived. Everyone who has ever lifted a finger for me has not been forgotten. I have held onto each significant act of kindness given to me & vowed to repay them in kind.

Honestly, I thought that my world had expanded and blossomed to its full extent. I was wrong. Living as the female I quietly always knew I was has not only been emotionally eye-opening for me, but deeply revealing of how much I still don’t know about myself. All the things I mentioned in the first paragraph that I feel at peace about have played a part in what has seemed like a rapid evolution of my truest nature.

In this moment, I’m so happy I could cry. Though I’m still striving to reclaim all that I’ve lost, I feel zero stress. Things are not perfect, but I accept all that has been offered to me in all of its imperfection.

Every opportunity. Every desire. Every chance to connect.

So much is clear to me now. What I want out of this life. How I want to spend my time. The list of goals that motivate me to keep pressing on. The kind of people who I want to surround myself with. The type of person I would share a bed with…Truly comforting to now be privy to such classified information previously locked away.

So much about my twenties were twisted, fractured, and better forgotten. Thank goodness I’m incredibly optimistic about my thirties being the best years of my life. Cautiously optimistic, but optimistic enough that I’ve dived headfirst into all that being a respectable, responsible,  independent woman can offer.

However, if I’m truly being honest with myself, this cultivated peace does come at a price. Sacrifices of both physical and emotional comfort. The certainty that no matter what, there will always be someone or something serving as my anchor. For the past four years, my “anchor” has been my self. Though I have done well to fortify my psyche to weather many harsh storms, even I experience moments when my anchor reveals its weakness due to a choice I made. Or worse, offering a piece of myself only to be tossed to the side because I foolishly forgot my self & expected more.

And in those moments of weakness, I remember that I only have myself to blame. Terribly lonely, yet frustratingly motivating.

This is the first time of my life I only have myself to answer to. The first time I am in a place where allowing myself to experience the harshness of reality rather than running away makes sense. Logic continues to prevail were emotions would break me…as is most preferable.

What Freedom Looks Like

So much of my life has changed since I left my mother’s nest. As likely eluded to in past posts, my departure was not by choice, but rather out of my mother’s desperation to have her freedom. The same freedom I had strived for nine years of my post-college life to give to her. The same freedom that all of my well-laid plans failed to accomplish.

The strange thing is how in just three months, I feel as though I’ve experienced more than I had in those long nine years leading up to turning thirty in just the past three months. Most likely, that feeling can be attributed to the majority of my 20s being rife with gender dysphoria, financial and emotional struggles, my rise and fall from grace within corporate America, and a daily bath in self-loathing. My path to self-discovery began at age 26, self-acceptance at age 27, public admittance at age 28, and mental maturation into the self-confident, charismatic woman that once only existed as a transient existence within this blog. Regardless of the insanely arduous path that has led me to this point, accepting my mother’s [legal] ordinance to leave and becoming self-accountable in every possible way has radically broadened my personal ideologies & goal-setting standards.

In layman’s terms: I have rapidly cultivated a much sharper understanding of what I want and believe I deserve out of this life.

Now, a month and a half into this new chapter of my 30s, I walk taller, trust more, set smarter goals, and indulge in ways I would not have done before. My identity has virtually been carved in stone & no one dares to question the legitimacy of my womanhood. In the last few months, men have begun making passes at me when I’m only wearing basic problem area cover-up on my chin. Quite honestly, this truth continues to baffle me.

As I type this entry on my phone while washing clothes on my own in my local laundromat for the first time, more and more do I feel as though I am slowly grasping the life – what it’s really like to be “busy” – that my mother led for so many years. I was able to find a place to live with a male roommate who I discovered is a closet geek. I’ve taken the next step in transitioning from a 7-day work week split between two part-time jobs to taking the plunge with one relatively flexible, full-time position with a relatively new company franchise that welcomes my creativity & business acumen. This new position now opens up my schedule for putting more time into my voice-over work, exploring new skill sets, running needed errands, & being social with minimal sacrifice. All coming with a suitable paycheck and a healthier work-life balance.

My life as a 30-year old woman rapidly continues taking each decisive, difficult stride one goal at a time despite clawing my way up from practically nothing.  In the face of intense doubt & bloodied pride, I become accustomed to the painful crashing through each wall of uncertainty, defying any and all which dares to hold me back from reaching my destination. The legacy of my life shall echo through the ages. I will settle for nothing less.

Freedom is like a new, untrained pet given to a child. An immediately gratifying source of joy in the initial moments, the new owner holds it close only to be peed on without warning. The child quickly discovers it was all a farce as the pet requires so much more effort and attention to maintain than they could have imagined. However, if they remain diligent and train the pet well, moments of joy can still abound amidst their constant demands. Alas, the child’s perspective of pet ownership will never be the same and relies solely on their own will to either care for it or hate it.

I have chosen to care for this “pet” called freedom the best way I can, loving my self and life more than ever.