Further Out at School – Awkward Conversation with a Cis Person
Today, out of the blue, a schoolmate –let’s call her Q– began asking me about my gender identity. She started out by asking if my legal name bothered me, and was really surprised when I said that it does bug me a LOT. I was relieved that she asked: recently I’ve been dreading school, even if I do love certain classes, because it’s so tiresome to be called, over and over again, by a name that doesn’t fit (except by my friends, who try to respect my name and pronouns).
I think all my classmates know that I’m trans, but they probably don’t understand what that even means; I imagine that they think of me as a weird faggysuperbutch dyke with a “special” name she likes to call herself. True, I’ve never spoken directly to them about my identity; I felt stuck in a limbo where it didn’t make sense to come out –everyone already knew– but I wasn’t out enough to improve my life, either.
There were another two classmates present during my conversation with Q, and one of them promised to call me by my male name; she hadn’t realized that my female name hurt me (the other person pretended he wasn’t there; it was a pretty awkward situation). Maybe I could have gotten out of that limbo earlier had I told people directly that I was changing my name, but I don’t know how I would have done it. It’s hard to deal with people who aren’t exactly friends, but with whom you interact daily.
Then the conversation turned towards inappropiate and intrusive areas.
“You like girls, right?”
“Do you want to get surgery?”
“Are you like those men who are born with boobs and girl parts?” — I answered “yes” to this at first but then I realized she wanted to know if I was intersex; although she didn’t actually know that word. And I know that some cis men develop breasts, but I doubt they are BORN with them.
I was caught off guard so I answered kind of incoherently. I feel a little frustrated because I tried to explain things in a way she could relate to instead of telling her that, in my opinion, body doesn’t determine gender (or vice versa). I know it isn’t my obligation to teach cis people about trans issues, but sometimes I like trying to open someone’s mind to another point of view. I also wish I had retorted something like “do you like girls? do you want surgery? are you hitting on me?”
I am improving in the way I handle this kind of situation. I managed to deflect these questions somewhat, instead of answering personally: I said that who you are is different from who you’re attracted to, and that some trans people want surgery but not all of them, and that it’s a tough decision. Now that I think about it, I’m happy with how I reacted, given the surprise situation; and I think I’ll be more prepared next time. And I hope people at school start respecting my identity.