An A-hole in a Dress

My mother used to say “It takes all types…” and left the rest of the sentence for the listener to fill in the rest (“to make the world go ‘round”).

A few years back, I was at a transgender conference along with about five hundred others whose gender identity doesn’t match the one that was pinned on them when they were born. Five of us were seated at a table in the hotel lounge, sharing stories of our experiences.

One of the ladies told of how she was terrified one evening when her car broke down on a country road. She went on to say that she was relieved when an elderly man driving a pickup truck pulled over and offered to help. He was very courteous, expressed some concern about her being stranded, but said nothing about her ‘presentation,’ although she was sure her male gender was obvious. He determined the problem with her car, got it running, and went on his way.

It was a nice story; however, it suffered from one blemish. In the course of telling it, she identified the man by using the ‘N-word’ and said that she felt secure in the knowledge that she was safe because he ‘knew his place.’ (It takes all types.)

Sometimes I’m reminded of my mother’s axiom when I’m with other transpeople. In the thirty or so years since I’ve been ‘out,’ I’ve met a lot of transfolk, and they weren’t all people I’d usually choose to hang out with, regardless of how they ‘presented’ themselves or with what gender they identified. Unity is a good thing, but it needs to be tempered with reality.

Simply put, there are homophobic transpeople, racist transpeople, anti-semitic transpeople, and even some who are Republican. This simply shows that transgender people are not one-dimensional. (It takes all types.)

A post-operative transwoman friend of mine bemoaned her transition because it meant she wouldn’t be able to pursue one of her favorite hobbies, restoring sports cars. “It’s not feminine,” she said. And even though it stirs the ire of feminists, she persisted in her belief, despite the fact that she worked for General Electric teaching mechanics how to service and repair dynamos. (It takes all types.)

Another transwoman I knew, when she announced to her boss that she was planning to transition, was told that if she showed up at work as a female she would be fired. Nonetheless, she went through with the procedure, including breast augmentation and sexual reassignment surgery. She then returned to work presenting as a male. She taped up her breasts and wore her male clothes. It didn’t matter, she said, because she knew who she was. (It takes all types.)

Supporting the movement for equal rights for transgender folk is important, and coming together to work for that movement, regardless of what ‘type’ we are, is absolutely necessary. But we don’t need to agree with one another or even like one another. There’s more to each of us than our gender identities. When the T becomes our be-all and end-all, we sacrifice everything else we can be. Before we go running into the arms of a ‘sister’ or ‘brother’ and embrace them solely because they share our genetic distinction, we ought to take some time to find out who they truly are.

A couple years after my first transgender conference, I was invited to speak at another one in another part of the country. After I arrived and checked in, I went to the hotel lounge to see if there was anyone else there I knew. Sure enough, my old friend Beverly from Vermont was there. With her was another transwoman who was emphatically trashing those present who didn’t measure up to her notion of being transgender.

When Beverly left to go to a session, this woman made it clear that she didn’t really belong at the conference. “She’s just a crossdresser,” she said, then nodded toward another girl and muttered “She’s not one of us.” (It takes all types.)

So it goes in just about every community that has been assigned a name and an identity. And for many, such designations cloud the ability to recognize people for who they really are. We should not be unwilling to recognize mendacity, regardless of how it’s ‘dressed up.’ If a guy is an a-hole and he puts on a dress, he is still an a-hole.





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