I’ve been out as queer for over a decade, and have been to every Pride festival here in Portland since moving in 2010 (actually, Pride that year was my first weekend living in Portland — it was a nice little gay welcoming party from the city).
But this will be my first Pride celebration as an out transman. I’m really looking forward to running around shirtless with my 11 new chin hairs and SPF 100-laden top surgery scars to celebrate with our community, but also terrified to immerse myself in it.
I have a lot of privilege coming into this, more so than perhaps I’ve ever been aware of beforehand. I’m lucky to have the love and support of my family and friends, a stable non-profit job, a patient wife who has put up with my hormone-driven heat flashes, and sufficient health insurance to cover most medical expenses. My transition has been well-received by dear friends and new acquaintances, and I’ve even been lucky enough to speak at human relations trainings and with parents of trans children. I am by no means a trans expert, but I am an expert of my own experience.
I am by no means a trans expert, but I am an expert of my own experience.
Actually, everyone is the expert of their own gender identity and sexual orientation. My daily reminder to myself is that it’s called a transition, not a change, for a reason: this all takes time. I feel like I currently exist in a gender waiting room, each day becoming more familiar with the changing face in the mirror, but not fast enough to avoid getting mispronouned fairly frequently.
My now one-octave-lower voice will be emceeing the parade, an opportunity for which I’m incredibly grateful, and it might be a total shock to those who knew me “before” but haven’t seen me since starting my transition. And with surprise and unfamiliarity come questions and raised eyebrows. It’s ok to ask questions when you don’t know the answer — what’s the old adage about “assuming”? — but with myself and other trans or non-gender conforming individuals, there are acceptable and unacceptable questions. Welcomed questions include, “What pronouns do you prefer?”, “You’re cute, want to get some pizza?”, and “Can I have all of the pants that no longer fit you?” Inner-monologue questions include anything to do with what’s in (or not in) my pants, why I’m using the restroom that I’m walking into, and anything about what “other things” I’ll be doing to transition. Everyone experiences their gender and their bodies differently, even straight cisgender people, the least we can do as a community of all-gendered folks is respect each other, how we express ourselves, and our privacy.
When you see me over the 10 days of Pride events, feel free to ask me about pronouns or compliment me on my buff arms (the beach is that way!). But don’t give me side-eye when I walk into the men’s room. It’s good practice not to give anyone side-eye when they walk into any restroom — folks can probably recognize the difference between the icons and know where they’re supposed to go. Or, more importantly, where they feel most comfortable. I’m fairly certain that I’m perceived more as a threat in women’s restrooms than men’s, and I’m still far from passing as male. And if their presentation doesn’t match where you think they should be peeing, remember that it’s not your bladder.
Everyone experiences their gender and their bodies differently, even straight cisgender people, the least we can do as a community of all-gendered folks is respect each other, how we express ourselves, and our privacy.
Pride celebrations have always been a place where I’ve felt safe to express myself, sometimes because I didn’t have space outside of Pride to do so, and I’m sure this window for freedom of expression was not unique to me. So when we’re all galavanting around Portland in rainbows or leather or perfectly-normal-Saturday-afternoon-in-June attire, let folks live their lives. If you have questions, you can ask. (You might not get an answer, though, because that shit’s exhausting all the time). If you don’t want to ask, please don’t stare; keep living your life in your own gender bubble and hope that folks are giving you the same respect.
This essay originally ran in the June 7 edition of the Portland Phoenix. Read full text here.
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