I am in a unique position where I can stare directly at someone I’ve known for years, stick my tongue out at them, wave, and make trumpet sounds, and they won’t notice me. Or they’ll notice me, but they won’t register who exactly is staring them down frantically muttering “toot toot.”
There are plenty of reasons why a person might feel disconnected from the people around them. I happened to subscribe to a lot of them. In 2014, I made a full-time job out of exiling myself because genuinely connecting with someone might let them see just how broken I was. I never wanted anyone to know just how much of an involuntary hobby depression had become or that pretty big parts of what people saw as my personality–being tired, drinking too much, joking about suicide–were just reflections of my mental health and not who I was as a person.
I’m not quite as depressed anymore. A lot can happen in 4 years, including some miraculous shapeshifting on my part. For a long time, none of my friends saw me except during those lulls when I had the energy to see people for long enough that they wouldn’t worry I’d died in my apartment and was just waiting for the smell to be discovered. I leave the house more. I go on walks around campus, go out for tea when I have money that hasn’t been claimed by bills. And sometimes I see people I haven’t run into in years, the people who may have worried I did become a bubbling puddle on a cold floor. And I wave, and they don’t notice.
In the last 4 years, I dropped 80 pounds and transitioned, so there is a marked difference in appearance. Where once I looked like a sad grocery bag full of yellow pipe cleaner, now I more closely resemble a more shapely trash bag with pink feathers coming out the top. I look different, but that was the idea. However, very few people recognize me unless I send them a very clear email saying I was the person aggressively waving at them from the crosswalk by Dunkin’ Donuts.
But if I don’t send that email, I’m invisible.
I see old students all the time. They’d probably be a little thrown off if their old teacher sat next to them in the hall and said “How’s your semester going and also I’m a girl but nobody knew it while I was teaching you how to avoid comma splices.” I’m not worried about my old students knowing I’m trans. I worry with them about the same thing I worry with everyone: what will they do once they know. I’ve had a mixed set of reactions from friends when I came out. Many were supportive, a few were confused, one was angry because I didn’t tell her the way she thought she deserved to be told, most of my friends from high school stopped talking to me, and one person called me a slur so we aren’t close anymore. Being trans isn’t inherently depressing or painful, but the way we’re treated is.
It would be easy to stop being invisible to the people who don’t recognize me, but there’s always a risk that revealing myself will open me up for disappointment. I delayed coming out online because I didn’t want to learn how many people will hate me. I don’t tell all my old coworkers or students because I don’t want them to hate me for something I love about myself. So, instead, I just stare at them at coffee shops and stick my tongue out when they’re turning away–so they see, but can’t confirm it really happened. I play games with myself because it’s easier than learning that the people I used to consider friends never deserved that friendship if they think I, or people like me, are weird.
Anyway, here’s a selfie.