A gender oasis
For months, I’ve been attending a journalism course where all my classmates think –or thought– I was a cisgender boy. I’ve known the teacher for a couple of years –he used to teach at my school– so he knows I’m trans, but no one else figured it out. I used to think they might, but since then I’ve learned that most people in my context will see me as a guy. I could say that I “pass” well, but I know that in other places I might be perceived differently; so I won’t take any credit.
That class was my safe haven; the one place where I was treated unconditionally as a boy. Until very recently, only my closest friends managed to use my preferred name and pronouns, and on my insecure days I doubt that they really see me as a guy (well, I know they can’t, but it only matters on insecure days). With my journalism mates, I knew that my masculinity wouldn’t be constantly in question. If I didn’t bind too tightly, no one would think “ah, her –his– breasts are showing”; they wouldn’t even be aware of my chest. If I didn’t act super-macho, they wouldn’t attribute it to my female past. Having that space to look forward to, every week, helped keep me sane.
I might say that I was/am “stealth” there, but I didn’t feel like I was lying. Although I always got along well with my classmates, we’ve never spoken much about our personal lives. I didn’t have any reasons to come out as trans, and I did have a very good reason not to: my maleness would begin to be questioned, and I didn’t know if it would hold up to their scrutiny. Some people, after learning I’m trans, suddenly start using all the wrong pronouns; after all, for a heteronormative mind, it’s very easy to see me as a female/girl. I did not want to lose my gender oasis.
This last class, the teacher invited a gay activist for us to interview (gotta love this teacher). The activist was really trans-positive, so afterwards, when we were walking together to the bus stop –him, a classmate, and I– I mentioned I was trans. My classmate was surprised and said I didn’t have to “hide” who I was — uh, sorry, I was being myself when I introduced myself as a guy. But all in all, she was cool about it. Also, she wasn’t sure whether I was a trans boy or a trans girl — I love it when I confuse people that way. (I might miss my androgyny a bit if I take T, although it’s worth it.)
Knowing this person, she’s probably going to tell some of our other classmates, which is fine. We only have a few lessons left before summer break, so I don’t have much to lose, and it’s a good chance to teach the other students a couple of things about trans people. First, that we aren’t always visible. Second, that we can be kinda nice people. A couple of kids made transphobic jokes at one point, so I hope I make them reconsider their view of trans folk — or at least, make them think twice before telling those jokes among people they think are cis. I’m not going to change the world, but I think tiny actions like this do help a little. I hope that, someday, I feel strong enough to do more.