For better or worst, I am the transgender community. Each and every one of us who is an “Out” trans-person is the trans-community. Whether we like it or not we are probably the first trans-person most people have seen and our community will be judged by our actions. Wherever we go we will be judged, at school, grocery shopping, to the dentist, to the car dealer… the community will be judged by what we do and how we act.
Sometimes the encounters are humorous, sometimes they are serious and sometimes they are hostile, but most of the time they are just ordinal day to day encounters. Like the man who held the door open for me, I could see in his face the moment he realized that I was trans, I smiled and said “thank you” or the time I had my car repair after an auto-accident and the manager recognized I was trans, he took a couple of steps backward. However, by the time I picked-up my car, he was relaxed around me and the trans-community probably has another ally. Maybe the next time someone is talking about a transgender person, he might said, “Yeah, I met one once and she was just like everyone else.”
Another time, an older woman in the grocery store asked me to get a can from the top shelve and she read me as trans. In that instant not only was I being judged, but also I feel every other trans-person was also being judged. Do I feel that it is fair to judge the community by the actions of one member of that community? No, I do not. However, that is done all the time, the majority always judges the minority by the actions of a few and the opposite is also true. The majority always forms their opinions based on the action of a few, whether they are black, Latino, Muslin or a person on welfare.
When you hear “Food Stamps”, what do you think? You already have a preconceived image when you hear “Food Stamps” which is strongly fixed in your mind. It is the same thing people have when they see a trans-person, they already have a fixed notion of what to expect. Therefore, I feel that I always have to be on my best behavior to disprove their preconceived image.
I think, that for many of us, we are over achievers because we feel that we have to prove to everyone that we are just like everyone else. I know that it is true for me, if I get a “B” for the class; I feel somehow that I let myself down. That maybe if I only worked a little harder or studied for the test a little longer, that maybe I could have had an “A”. I feel that if I am quiet in class and do not take part in the class discussion, that it will somehow reflex on the trans-community.
I sometimes feel that I don’t know how to say “No” and let myself have some free time. I sometimes feel that I have to relearn the art of delegating, that it is OK to let others do it. I sometimes feel that I have to go to LGBT meetings, because if I don’t there will be no one to speak for the “T” community. Just like the meeting I’m going to this afternoon, it a LGBT Leadership Council meeting of all the major LGBT organizations around the state and I am the only trans-person that attends.
I answered this question once, “How do we know when we are trans-inclusive?” and my answer was when you stop asking that question, as long as you are asking that question you are not there yet. The person responded, you mean it is like a child in a car asking their parents “Are we home yet?” and that was exactly as I meant, you will know it when you get there. It is when you see the person sitting on the other side of the table as a person and not as a black person, or a Latino or a trans-person, but just as a person. And maybe, I will not be under the microscope any more.