Please share my umbrella
I meant to write this up a few days ago, but somehow it's taken until now for me to get to it. Re-learning to blog is quite the thing.
And it's fitting, perhaps, that I waited because this is the time in which the city bus system has undergone a vast overhaul and early observation suggests the changes are not exactly a welcome improvement.
A few days ago I was on a bus, taking what for me is a long journey between southern and northern Baltimore. I'm well-versed in bus culture; I've ridden them my whole life. For me a car is something of a luxury item. When I can, I thank drivers when I de-board. I know how to avoid talking to lechers. Free tip: reading a novel by Fay Weldon or Tama Janowitz won't help, even in hardcover.
The bus was full, and it was late afternoon. A lot of students on the bus. Students have always been the hardest passengers to be with. In most cases I prefer people to be brash and unafraid but I'm gonna postulate that no one on the 3pm bus, save the driver, is having a worse time than an early-transition trans person. She's a target.
As an aside about language choices here on this blog, I'm more likely than not to default to the feminine pronouns when I speak about figurative persons here, primarily because they are more often than not going to be projections of myself, and this primarily because I have yet to see myself adequately represented in the culture.
This was one of the first hot days and everyone's energy was vibrating intensely. I was already fuming about some of the indignities that regularly accompany trans health care. The bus was steamy and packed.
Way back in the back, I heard someone hiss the word "transvestite." It was a hard hiss, and I was unsure what it meant. I didn't recall seeing anyone on that bus who might have elicited that description from me. If I looked around, might I reveal myself as trans? Worse, would take the bait towards an escalating conflict? I was tired and hot. I figured that the bus was packed enough for me to hear any additional commotion and be warned, so I stared straight ahead and waited for the other shoe to drop.
This is a familiar emotional state for me, with behavior so ingrained that it feels innate.
I heard no other shoes drop. I got off the bus at my destination. I walked home.
I mentioned this story on Facebook as it was happening, and I loved reading everyone's responses of support for me. People told me I was beautiful and that I didn't deserve to be talked to that way. I tried sending some of those lovely words back in time, to my younger self, the one who was still somewhat convinced she was a monster meant to be destroyed.
How I needed those words of encouragement then. How I needed to believe that I'd find happiness and comfort in my skin.
It's rare for me these days to endure transphobic taunts on the street, which is why I didn't think the slur was directed towards me. But as i sat staring ahead, I felt myself preparing to fight or flee. Nothing's going to come of this, I told myself. That wasn't about you. And yet still I breathed slowly and deeply. My heart quickened. I assessed the distance to my intended stop.
This feeling will never leave me, and I wish it would. And this is what I wanted that story to be about, that these minor traumas add up for me, which I can only imagine means they add up for all of us, and ultimately, I think, they diminish us all.