My life didn’t turn out exactly how I planned it. This is noticeable first by the sad absence of a dragon in my daily routine. I also expected to either be a dead man or a wildly successful archaeologist that only studies the past to find old swords and fight monsters with them. I didn’t get into archaeology–first departure from my expectations. I am also a girl–second departure. And sometimes a lot of people on the internet argue about whether or not I should be allowed to live, use bathrooms, and just generally be anywhere that isn’t a small padded room. Didn’t really expect that at all.
It’s exhausting being trans. It’s hard knowing exactly what kind of white-knuckled loathing will be in the comment section on any piece of media that mentions trans people. I’ve had to delete a lot of comments off my own posts because the people who hate us really make a job out of it. I’ve seen Twitter threads dominated by young moist-looking men shouting in unison that they are being silenced because there was a gay person on a tv show they don’t even watch.
But in all that bullshit, some things can still be ok. Imagine a tiny dying bird stuck on a log floating through a swamp. Sometimes other logs with other animals drift by, and maybe we cuss about how ugly and miserable the swamp is while our logs are close to each other. Other times, maybe a bird realizes its log has a decent wifi signal and it can find some other good things in the world beyond its swamp. Sometimes the birds talk about how great guillotines were and how they really should make a comeback.
There are still good things. There has to be. I’m not a particularly positive person, but I try to make myself look at good news in the same way you have to feed a pet medicine. I either trick myself into reading it by saying it’s “research” or I shove that positivity down my throat and hope I don’t throw it up once my sense of self preservation leaves the room.
Here are some of the good things because if I don’t write them down, it’s really easy to forget they exist.
Sometimes people say nice things to me.
Back when I was in disguise, I usually looked exactly like what you’d picture if you listened to a 2008 pop punk song called “Skinsuit Tragedy.” Now that I look ia little more in line with who I am, it’s pretty swell when someone tells me I look nice. Before, on the mythically rare occasion when anyone would muster the pity to tell me I looked like anything more than a lizard piloting a flesh balloon, it still didn’t feel good. Imagine if you went to a halloween party dressed as your deepest insecurities, and everyone around both didn’t notice you’re in a costume and said you look nice today.
So it feels pretty neat when someone says my hair looks ok. And even if I find it really hard to believe people when they say nice things to me, it’s getting easier. Like anybody that has trained their brain to emotionally self mutilate, it’s challenging to accept that anybody would say and mean something kind about me, but sometimes there are moments where that doesn’t happen as immediately. Sometimes someone will say “hello your hair looks ok today,” and I’ll think “Shit yeah motherfucker Reddit told me how to do that.” Those are the good moments.
I have met zero (0) transphobic cats.
This may seem like a low bar to set, but the only things I don’t expect to hate me are animals, especially when I have food I can bribe them with. Sure, one of my cats once my cat stole a bottle of pills from me and batted it around the room like a DIY maraca, but I like to think she was just finding whimsy in mundane objects and probably isn’t herself as intolerant toward me as she is toward birds, for whom she makes no allowances. The best thing that can happen to me once I leave the house is seeing a cat. The only thing better is being able to pet that cat and discuss its likes and dislikes, favorite colors, aspirations, and preferred lounging spots. It’s good to know the best thing hasn’t changed just because I stopped looking like someone hit a baked ham with a truck.
Some things are fun
When I first started transitioning, I was constantly miserable because my body didn’t look like the person it was holding. Time went on, and I entered this weird kind of limbo where I either looked like a super feminine guy, an absolutely exhausted woman with interesting proportions, or like someone had accidentally given life to the hair that clogs your shower drains. I spent a long time looking confusing, but I always looks pretty close to what I had looked like for years. Then, about a year after I started medically transitioning, I got a haircut, and I rode my bike a lot, and I washed my face for the first time since the turn of the century. Suddenly I looked pretty different from the person people remembered me as. I basically had a year-long Rocky-style training montage except instead of getting into shape, I got better with eyeliner and grew boobs.
And not many people from the before times recognized me, which is understandable because I’ve noticed someone being transgender isn’t really an option for change people keep in their expectations. They expect you to change size or hair style or clothing or maybe get a sick new tattoo of a barracuda, but from what I’ve seen, very few people saw me and thought “Ah yes, that person has similar facial features, hair, and excellent comedic timing as a work chum who has not been fired or quit, so my work chum most certainly did some of that ‘transitioning’ I’ve been hearing so much about.” This doesn’t happen, or it hasn’t yet to me. This includes people I’ve worked with, friends, and–most importantly–cashiers at store I’ve been visiting for years.
This is a lot of backstory for a brief interaction with a cashier at a thrift shop.
The scene unfolded as follows:
I walked up to the counter carrying a bunch of black clothes because it turns out I get to be a pubescent goth a second time. The cashier starts ringing my stuff up. He’s quiet, I sniffle and it’s the only deliberate sound either of us make. Along with my slight sniffling, it is important to note my eyes were probably pretty red because I had stayed up late the night before reading and drinking pleasant herbal teas (my life is exactly the party I expected it to be). So I looked a little haggard when the cashier said “do you have a Savers card?”
And I said “No, but can I use my brother’s” which is a real smooth line my partner thought of to keep from awkwardly telling every single cashier that I’m a big ol’ gay. So I said that too.
And the cashier, bold, youthful, throwing caution to the wind, said “Sure, do you think he would mind?”
This is the first time someone has asked that. This guy went off script. They’re supposed to just say yes and let the world keep moving along. There’s not supposed to be an interview segment. This could have gone smoothly. It had gone smoothly before. Why wasn’t this guy letting things be smooth? Why was he introducing entirely unknown variables into the situation? Why would he just throw a line in there that nobody could anticipate, certainly not someone who has to plan out conversations before she has them so she doesn’t accidentally say something stupid or weird? Why is he making it weird? Why is he throwing open the doors for the unknown? Why is he forcing this to happen?
I said “No,” and because people put under duress in an interrogation will often confess to something that isn’t true, I added “he’s dead.”
I often wish I could view my life from above; maybe then I’d finally understand what’s going on. Maybe then I would have realize that this guy who probably graduated high school that afternoon was seeing something completely different than I was putting out. I thought I looked sleepy and maybe sick, but he saw someone with red eyes, a drippy nose, buying and wearing all black, who just said her brother had died and she wanted to use his Savers Rewards card, presumably, one last time.
Being comforted by a teenage cashier at a thrift store is probably exactly what you expect it to be: brief, kind of uncomfortable, maybe they say something like “Oh?” and a hesitant “I’m sorry?” and then you’re back in the parking lot, speedwalking toward a McDonald’s because nobody knows what you’re like there.
And then you laugh until you cry in a bathroom that matches your gender, and things feel weird and way better than they ever have.