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Outsiders: When Trans Don’t Feel In There Like Swim Wear

DariaEver 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 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.

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.

8 responses »

  1. Female culture is all about embracing similarities to each other, giving and receiving support and finding common ground. At least, that’s how I roll. It’s pretty awesome, and I have some very good friends. I always feel better after chatting with them. But plenty of women don’t like other women. Plenty of people only have acquaintances outside their family borders, and don’t have time for anything deeper. Not everybody achieves that ideal female relationship or can sustain it because people change and priorities shift. Some people have it in their family — a mother or sister. But if you can find someone to have real sharing with, it’s so sustaining. I read an article that suggested that the reason men married to women live longer than men who don’t is because the way women interact makes a person actually live longer. My mind was blown, but I can believe it. I hope you are able to have enough friends in your trans bubbles that you find the right person who can be your female buddy. Or a group of people. I’m sure someone as articulate and funny as you will eventually find good friends to hang with. How can you not? Have faith in us non-trans women. At least speaking for me, that would not be an issue for me to prevent friendship. I’ll look forward to more posts!

  2. My days of feeling like an outsider are over, but I can relate to what you are saying, Michelle because I missed out being a high school, college and working girl and I won’t have those memories upon which to look back I still have the memories of not fitting in as do all the girls who were not cheer leaders or sorority snobs. I believe that I have achieved a place of respect for who I am, right here and right now and when all is said and done, I can say that I have lived my life for truth and love. Deanna Joy

    • nobody you know

      As a clue, not all young females had an interest in being cheerleaders or being in a sorority. To claim otherwise is simply yet one more instance of appropriating stereotyped beliefs to advance what trans* wants to claim was missed out on.

      What some of us DID want was the opportunities that exist now with Title IX that did not exist when we were girls and that are being eroded away through all the gender identity crap being forced upon schools…if we wanted scholarship opportunities, it came through the academic route which often meant sacrificing our passion for athletics. And that was as recently as 30 years ago.

      • You are right that not all young women pursued either of those hyperboles that I used but that doesn’t take away from the fact that had I been given the opportunity, I certainly would have.

  3. Yes, I understand this “outside” feeling too…

    I wrote a long comment and then thought: “I should post this!” 🙂

    So, I posted it to my blog and you can read it here:

  4. I hear ya Sis! Here is my theory. Every little human brain has to “grow up” and find it’s place in the world. This growing takes energy. Some brains use a lot of their energy on other things like Dungeons and Dragons, or alcoholism, or worry, or trying really hard to be a boy and not letting anyone EVER know that they are something else… All these things make us put another part of our growth on Pause for a while. Most of us in Abbie’s trans bubble (Love that!) put so much growth energy into trans-hiding-osis and earnest denial that we had to pause several things for a long time!!! Like mebbe we didn’t do socialization real well, cuz it seemed we were trying to socialize into the wrong society?

    Well now we come out and transition and we get to catch up! I had a cis-friend tease me about how much more social I am since I transitioned (over lunch with a mutual friend and sangria). I told her it was because now I am social as the Authentic Me so it is much more rewarding. And with other trans people we are more comfortable to start cuz we have nothing to hide and way more shared experience! In addition to having second physical puberty I’m in my second social puberty. I’m just very grateful that my peers already got grown up and are much more gracious about it all!!! They had sort of a 45 year head start but I’m running as fast as I can.

  5. BTW WordPress is really stupid for leaving comments. I use disqus, but it just gave me like 5 errors trying to leave that last comment.

  6. you’re not an outsider. We’re in this awesome trans bubble space, and they’re on the outside wishing they understood themselves like we do every day. That’s how I see it. I don’t give one shit about female culture, because it’s mostly comprised of awful stereotypes of braindead people. We all are survivors, and we’ve invented our own style of femininity. That’s how I see it at least. I’m in the trans bubble feeling good about myself. I think other people will like it too.


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