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“So, What Are You Supposed To Be, Anyway?”

If you want to irritate a trans person and don’t want to put a whole lot of time or effort into it, simply ask them what they are supposed to be anyway. We hate this because generally speaking, aside from some of the more slovenly amongst us and goths, we go out of our way to make it perfectly clear what we are supposed to be. Isn’t it just a pickle of a thing though we turn around and do the exact same thing?

I was watching ‘Hedwig and the Angry Inch’ and one scene showed Hedwig on an open air stage with one fan watching with admiration. I immediately began wondering if it was supposed to be a man or woman due to the androgynous haircut and face, not to mention wearing what might have either been a long black skirt or those supersize Hot Topic goth pants. I thought they were cute and concluded their gender really didn’t matter to me. It did get me thinking a bit though.

I think we all do this, try to determine what someone is supposed to be, because it is innate. As a trans person though, it is particularly embarrassing when I get annoyed because I can’t figure it out. More than once at Spectrum meetings I’ve squinted at new faces in attempt to determine if they were trans or not, if so, what direction they were going in, or allies. The thing is, I’ve been wrong more than once, so I don’t have a lot of confidence in my own transdar. All the while I’m doing this, I feel like a tremendous boob for even thinking about it. I mean seriously, aren’t we all there specifically because this kind of thinking persists? I can’t even ask anyone if they do the same thing for fear of painting myself as someone who cares. I secretly like to think everyone does it; something that is probably going to invite a Texas toast load of “well I never!” type indignant comments.

Unfairly, I fantasize about people asking me this exact question. “So twinkle-toes, what the hell are you supposed to be, anyway?” They would correctly add the comma pause because only someone grammatically correct would even consider asking this question. My pat answer of course is, “your mom”. It’s much more polite than getting all pissy pants over it, and who doesn’t love a good ‘your mom’ come back? It’s just classic.

As humans go, this is simply built into the model. Upon encountering someone new, we immediately classify them by features of identity – gender, race, body type, attractiveness, and familiarity – all within a few seconds. Trans people happen to trigger the old “more information needed” directive right off the bat and tend to get a lot of stares unless they are really passable. I used to take this as a hint of transphobia until I read up on the whole recognition thing and understood better. This of course excludes those who continue to stare for tens of minutes with a scowl, sneer, or super seldom ‘come hither’. I don’t think I’ve gotten any of the last one, but familiar with the first two.

My whole point here is that we can’t take it too personally when people do this. Yes, it’s super rude of them to ever ask because with the exception of children, it’s a question that is really meant to convey, “I can see right through your little costume there, chief.” A lingering look, however, is just an old-timey software routine that hasn’t yet been deleted from the now well obsolete Homo Sapien Sapien 1.0 model. Someone really ought to update those things sometime.

About michellelianna

I'm a transgender woman now in the maintenance stages of transition having all the electrolysis and surgery one can reasonably be expected to undertake. While busy exploring my new world, I took to blogging about it with dubiously popular results. I don't have quite as much to say as I used to, but I'm not quite done yet either.

3 responses »

  1. Boy, I should take a few weekends and read all the past blogs. I tripped over this one just because some troll commented on a year-old post, and it’s like finding the bread crumbs on the trail. You want to find the next one real soon.

    Not to diss anybody in particular, but haven’t we all seen people out there wandering around who are kind of like that “Pat” character from SNL? I sure have. I work with a bunch. The thing is, these people, and most of the populace of the plantet are not the kind of people you see when you go through the sale ads in the Sunday paper. If it were, there’d probably be a lot fewer customers visiting those stores. I’ve written in past comments that we unfortunately are living in a society that has established pretty narrow ranges of what is to be considered handsome and beautiful. In my own case, it has flavored not only the standard to which I aspire, whether I can approach it or not, but it has also impacted my acceptance and tolerance of people who do not or are not capable of approaching those standards.

    Somewhere in this miasma of seeming bigotry, I try to rationalize why it’s okay for me to feel this way. Evolution and natural selection tend to indicate that we are attracted to certain physical attributes, depending on who we are. That I find myself attracted only to certain types, whether romantically, sexually, or just Platonically, is not because I am selective due to bias for the sake of being ungracious. As much fun as someone may be, I’m not going to be comfortable engaging in conversation with them if they’re missing teeth, for example. No matter how eloquent a companion they might be, I likely would not enjoy hanging out with The Elephant Man or The Phantom of the Opera. This is me. I know there are compassionate people out there in all walks of life who feel exactly the opposite and are going to want to see me hung by my own petard. Would that I could be one of you. But we are who we are, and our brains are wired the way they are when we develop. One may learn from experience, example, and self-examination, and there are some things that cannot be learned.

    But these are extremes. What about the Everyperson who inhabits the real world? The nondescript, dull cisman, the dowdy, plain ciswoman? Do not these persons regret missing the mark of exceptionalism? The world is awash with snowflakes of humanity, no two alike, each with some facet of meaningfulness. I’ve recognized that unless I force myself to ignore my instincts, I am going to miss a lot of opportunities to connect with people who matter, who are not by necessity the product in which they are packaged. Conversely, wouldn’t it be ironic and not beyond imagination that these very people might be judging ME based on my appearance, making assumptions about my motives, and therefore avoiding me?

    “What am I supposed to be, anyway?” I ask myself that a lot. My answer lately is that I am what makes me comfortable and gives me pleasure at the given moment. If that is presenting as a woman, then woman is what I am. Most of my moments find me being Deanna now, and I want there to be more of those as time progresses. The more I live in this skin, the more natural it feels. The boy in the mirror is disappearing except as a costume required for my livelihood. I suppose the answer to the question is, “I was SUPPOSED to be a girl from the get-go, and something went awry, so I’m fixing it.”

  2. Aw, this was a very good post. Taking a few minutes and actual effort to produce a good article… but what can I say… I procrastinate a lot and
    don’t seem to get anything done.

  3. I wish you were my mom, not really:) I learned a long wile back, Don’t ask, give it a bit and than you’ll get your answer.
    I don’t let this question upset me, I have enough to be concerned about. I’m just trying to keep my chin up and not let the jerks get me down there are way too many unhappy people out there and I think I have meet most of them.
    This time of the year is hard for a lot of people for many reasons, mine is the lose of a child. I feel silly some times for this, after all we lost Jason back in December 11, 1985.
    I don’t understand why in the world people can’t just focus more on the good and put their best effort into building a happy place for themselves, I’m sure it will come back to them.


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