Ever feel like a total outsider? No, no, I’m not talking about Pony Boy, Dallas, and a pre-Miyagi Daniel-san and their good time crew. I did grow up loving that movie, even though I better identified with Cherry. At least the Outsiders weren’t really so isolated that they couldn’t hold their own in a stormy night rumble or seduce the two Corey’s into a vampiric lifestyle. There is a chance I’m mixing up boy gang movies here, but they are all pretty much the same anyway, so no biggie.
I went to my son’s kindergarten performance in a sweltering auditorium, and after each of the 900 children read their line and a dozen songs were sung, they ended with a slide presentation. As an aside, I was happy to see that the school systems have continued the tradition of only hiring teachers who cannot successfully operate audio-visual equipment. In my day it was the old reel-to-reel, followed in later years by a chorus of students shouting, “You have to press TV/VCR!” at befuddled instructors. As I scanned the slides for my boy, I saw so many fresh young faces mugging for the camera, often with arms around each other, and so very comfortable. Remembering myself at that age, I was hoping to see my son doing the same.
It always seemed like everyone else was part of the gang, happy to be there, or fit in the right skin. The black and white yearbooks in middle and high school showed the same kinds of pictures I saw in the slides. In the few I was actually in, it was usually the back of my head, my shoe, or a distant profile that the camera picked up; confirmation that I was there, but not really there. I was well aware that I was an enrolled student and showed up most of the time, but in terms of student society, I always felt like an extra. Fortunately, as time went on I managed to attract other weirdoes and as a conglomerate, the feelings of isolation somewhat passed. Not that they really knew me, but still.
I think the trans existence is one of being on the outside, and often both before and after transition. Before we come to terms with our reality, many of us, no matter what efforts we muster, never really manage to feel like one of the gang. When you think about it, it’s hard not to feel this way. After all, when the boys are wolf whistling at a girl going by and remarking about her generous assets, and you are wondering where she got those really cute shoes, it’s apparent there is some kind of disconnect. You even suspect that not a one of them is planning to burn the midnight oil to get that paper done while wearing a dress.
As we transition, a whole lot of us go into this with high hopes that we will blend into and be accepted by female society. The problem, as we come to find, is that even if all goes very well and we are in there like swim wear, it doesn’t quite erase the feeling of being different. Now, having only been full time for almost a year now, I’m still holding out hope that some of this feeling will wash away over time, especially if I succeed in my efforts to become more passable. In the mean time, feeling like one of the girls only comes as close as feeling like you are being tolerated as a latecomer to the club. Someone who got that ‘way too close to the event’ invitation and is filled with deep and warranted suspicion that they were on the B or C list and got tapped because so many others pulled a no show. “Well, we are pre-paid for so many and better I guess to have fucking Michelle come then let it go to waste.”
Before I break you all down into inconsolable transition despair, there is a light side to this. For starters, in our younger days, pretty much everyone feels this way, cis and trans alike. Well, except perhaps for the cheerleaders and football players, though to be honest, you would think they would be high on the list. Anyone who really liked high school and thinks of it as the best time of their life, were probably so reviled by the greater student body that even today candles are lit in gloomy Catholic churches with whispered prayers for their doom. The rest of us just dealt with varying degrees of healthy self hatred.
In truth, everyone starts on the outside, looking in through the windows of an imaginary house and dreaming of how nice it would be to be invited in. Growing up is much about learning to be comfortable in one’s own space. For the trans, this just takes longer, especially with the whole second puberty thrown in there to really muddy up the waters. Eventually, we are in where we need to be.