Something that can be particularly difficult to dream up is the idea that one day you might wake up to the fact that a lot of people suddenly don’t like you, or maybe even hate you. Seemingly for no reason, friends are turning on you, family is adding conditions to their once unconditional love, even random passersby stop off to yell at you about the injustice of your existence. It can be hard to grasp something like that happening for a lot of people but for many trans folks, it’s a daily reality. The hatred that comes with just being who you are is not only scary, it’s often quite isolating and it’s hard to not be afraid of so many people because you never know who it’ll be. Some trans people even turn to being transphobic themselves hoping to avoid the hatred they see directed at their trans siblings daily, only to find that the transphobic ranks they’ve joined still treat them as an “other” and the vitriol they spewed at the people that should’ve been their community, can’t be taken back. Sometimes even the people who have always seemingly supported you even after you came out, are fully liable to turn their back on you the second something about your transition becomes inconvenient to them. Transitioning is scary, and sometimes it’s a struggle to handle everyday. But something I like to think about when I’m feeling particularly awful is, for all the hurt you’re going through it’s not and never will be something you’re doing alone.
Coming out is terrifying, truly one of the scariest experiences of my life. And it’s that way for more than just the anxiety of people turning on you. For some, it’s the fear of violence and physical harm. For others, it’s finally accepting something about yourself that you’ve wanted to push down and put away for so long. It changes the way people see you, even if they don’t think it does. It will always paint you in a negative light to some people because some people just won’t ever change, I’ve learned it’s not worth it to try and rebuild with people like that. Because regardless of what you do, some people want to stay ignorant, and even if they show some leniency to you due to a personal relationship you still have to live with knowing that they hold those views about you and people like you. No matter how you try to make yourself okay with it in your head, you’ll never feel the same about those people and they’ll never feel the same about you. Fundamentally though, for the people that are worth keeping around, coming out is no big deal once it’s done. You’re still you, and even if your body changes or your style or your behavior even. The person in there will still always be you. I think that’s a fantastic thing to keep in mind.
You never think about just which family members would flip that switch on you at a moment’s notice, unless you hear them say something specific to either position, you feel like you have to assume the worst. For me, the family members that did decide it was disgusting to want to be myself, did so quietly and in very few numbers. I attribute that to a lot of luck, and a little bit of my ability to keep good people around. Unfortunately, that won’t always be the case and even for the luckiest of us (there aren’t a lot) there will still be one or two bad apples that while not spoiling the bunch, still spoil your mood for a while.
The experience that I hold onto the most and that I think about whenever I feel like maybe someone has their reasons for being awful towards me or any other member of the trans community, was the first time I saw my grandparents after coming out. I was always pretty close with them, they lived a little further away than I was capable of getting too often but I still saw them once in a while and it was always a nice time, my grandmother was very affectionate and even my grandfather while not super physically affectionate, liked to chat me up and was never cold. The day that I saw them after coming out was at my younger siblings birthday party, I just had the one interaction with them that whole day and honestly I was fairly nervous to see them at all. I said hello to my grandma as usual and went to hug her, she looked visibly discomforted. Instead of hugging me back, she looped her arms around me like a ring being careful not to touch me, mumbled something under her breath and then walked away. My grandpa on the other hand, completely ignored me and acted as though I wasn’t even there while making deliberate attempts to avoid eye contact. I tried at the time to shrug it off but it was honestly heartbreaking, I was being treated like a disease by one of them and a ghost by the other, and after that day we never spoke again, I haven’t seen them since and I have no real desire too. You learn going through things like that, that if someone found it so easy to shrug you off, it was only a matter of time. It doesn’t make it hurt less, but it lets you use that hurt to stop justifying actions like that wherever you see them.
Speaking of justifying actions, society desperately needs to stop giving people a pass on bigotry for things that are completely irrelevant. One of the biggest offenders being age. The date on your birth certificate does not coincide with your hateful views, and you don’t get a pass just because your parents had shitty ideas and you chose not to rid yourself of them when you realized what they really meant. For an example, the first time I experienced what I would call the polar opposite of the situation I shared above. It was my first time visiting with a good friend since coming out, someone I’d known for years, knew the family and everything. I happened to come by on a night they were stopping at her grandfather’s house for dinner, and I was invited along. Nervous as ever because I’d come to expect that trans people and old people just don’t mix, I still agreed. Once we got there, it was just as it had always been when I’d come along with them before. Her grandpa had no different reaction to seeing me in a dress and makeup than he had when I showed up in a flannel and jeans the first time I met him, we all sat down and were chatting as usual when he had something to say to me for the first time that evening. As he was trying to get my attention, out slipped my dead name, I froze and I started to get pretty upset. Knowing I shouldn’t have come and the night would only end with me upset and angry at myself for not thinking this would happen. Then he spoke again, he apologized profusely, he then followed up with
“I meant Alex, that’s the one you go by now right? I’m really sorry for that.”
And he got real quiet again, I told him that yes, that’s the one I go by now and thanked him for his apology and then our conversation continued. I thought about it during that conversation and for a good while after that. He was in his mid-70’s at the time, and had probably the most “out-dated” upbringing of anyone I’d met before, and yet, he acknowledged his mistake and treated me with respect for making it.
I’ve since had plenty of experiences with my older relatives that are completely fine with my transition and are in fact very encouraging. Every now and then though I’ll still hear those excuses that older bigots know everyone will let them get away with, “It was a different time when they were growing up.” I try not to start an argument every time I hear it but I will say, it’s been bullshit each and every one of the times I’ve heard it. Stop giving out bigotry passes, and start holding folks accountable for what they decide to say. After all, you’d think the opposite would be true, all these years on earth they never learned to be a decent person?