When you are the living embodiment of a social stigma for a vocal part of society, things can get weird. It not only gets weird for you, but for your loved ones. Being transgender is a social stigma for a lot of uninformed people, many of whom are not shy about screaming about it.
When I came out, I only had one person that made a point of coming to tell me (on Facebook, no less) that she didn’t “agree with the Transgendering”. She played the often used religious trope of loving the person, but not what they do, paraphrasing “Love the sinner, hate the sin” which is so often used to do hurtful things to already marginalized groups. I shut her down pretty hard, and she then uncomprehendingly spent a long time lamenting how mean I was, and why couldn’t I just accept her bigotry?
I’m in a very liberal area of the country, were the latest bathroom bills (6 of them!!), attempting to criminalize transgender people peeing in public bathrooms, were shot the hell down with finality. That means the kinds of reactions you receive here might be minor in comparison to the outright shunning and violence in other areas, but it’s still there.
I am completely out at work, where I work with my husband, and my recent surgery was not a secret. I had top surgery with some liposuction on my hips. They called it “masculinizing lipo” on the paperwork. It was the only way my 44 year old self was going to get rid of my hour glass hips, and very full DD’s. As such, I talk frankly with my respectful coworkers about the surgery, what I got done, and how great it is.
What I notice is that I have a large number of very vocal supporters at work. This could be in part because we have a shockingly large LGBT+ community in my normally very conservative government agency. However, we still have people from all over the country where I work, and some come from far more conservative bible driven areas.
Because I have the support of management, and the open support of so many coworkers, the prejudice I get from folks is a lot subtler.
How do I explain this? Have you ever dated someone, and had them ghost you? You think you are fine, texting along, and then one day they just stop talking to you and act like you don’t exist? That happens in a social context when you are transgender and people figure it out.
It’s not like I’m hiding it, but some of my coworkers literally could not figure it out at first. Now that some of them have either figured it out, related to talk of my surgery or been told outright, I notice there are a couple that have totally ghosted.
It’s not something you can point your finger at, and say “This is definitely because I’m transgender.” However, when you see it enough times, you are 80% sure that’s the reason they don’t want to eat lunch near you, or talk to you, make eye contact, or even look at you and say good morning.
I think, as we make progress away from the brutal open hatred against transgender folks, this will be more the way it is expressed. When you can’t outright condemn someone in a marginalized minority, you are left with social shunning and quiet ghosting.
What makes being transgender or queer such a weird thing, is that often the bigot can’t tell at first. This means you get to see the intolerant person as a human being with a sense of humor, and nice qualities before they make that realization that you are the embodiment of a social stigma for them. Then, POOF! gone. You’ll never see them again if they can help it.
It’s even weirder to watch that umbrella of stigma drift across your loved ones. My husband is avoided by the same people. Before they knew, they were completely fine with him, and sought him out regularly. Even knowing he was married to a man. Not so much anymore now that my deep dark not-so-secret about being transgender was discovered.
This is the part that really drives me nuts. I am far better at taking the hit myself, than watching my loved ones get caught in the cross fire of some sort of mean girls campaign. My husband is a big guy, and always willing to stand up for what’s right. He can more than take care of himself, but that doesn’t make it any easier to watch folks ice him out just because he’s married to me.
There’s a Heather’s reference in here somewhere, but I just can’t shake it out. (Obviously for old people, because they are the only ones that remember that movie.)
I can’t say 100% that this is the reason, but I can sure extrapolate because I have seen it again, and again. It’s like you perpetually have to come out to people when you are mostly read as cis gendered. I don’t like being in the closet, but honestly, being transgender doesn’t come up a lot in office conversation. Getting ghosted by folks that don’t want to be around a transgender person, is now a part of my foreseeable future. Forever.
I’ll take this over the violence so many other transgender folks face, but it’s still exhausting. This is why I don’t want to be in the closet about being transgender. I’d rather these folks, with their quiet bigotry, self select out of my life. I’d rather not grow to like someone that’s going to ghost later when it comes up. I may be the one they think is stigmatized, but in the end, I wouldn’t want anything to do with them anyways.