A Question of Shame

I have this really hard time saying “Hi. My name is Becca”. Even in places where it should be very safe to do so. And it’s left me wondering if I’m embarrassed to be seen as trans. So, I thought I would explore that idea for a little bit.
Last week, I was at the bill signing for Colorado’s civil unions. I was really fine for the entire roughly 90 minutes we were there. There was a time when I wouldn’t want to be seen around gay or trans people. I feared it would out me or put me in danger. But I think, largely because of the personal acceptance I’ve gone through and the recently added vitamin B, I didn’t have a problem standing amongst a crowd of over 100 people.
But, when we were leaving, the person I was with saw an employee from The LGBT Center. The two women talked on our way to the door. At some point between seeing her and reaching the front door, the young woman next to the lady my friend was talking with turned and stuck out her hand and said “Hi! I’m ………”
This is something I’ve had a very hard time coming up with a solution for. I don’t pass. Im not sure even how. In the past, due to my social anxiety and lack of acceptance, I wouldn’t even try. Now that I’m more comfortable with who I am, I still look at my hideous face and hair line. I listen to the sound of my voice. I still avoid mirrors. Don’t even get me started on my nose.
Given I was standing next to the coordinator of the transgender programs at the LGBT Center, surrounded by gays and lesbians and shaking the hand of this woman’s partner (who I’ve met before), I should have felt safe enough to say the word Becca. But, every time this happens, I’m caught by surprise. I’m not used to being seen in public. I come and go in the background. People don’t want to talk to me. I exist in crowds with my head down. Heck, I successfully evaded a conversation last night.
To be clear, I don’t actually believe I’m truly ashamed of being trans. I’m out to all my friends and all my family members except my grandparents. I’m out on Facebook and Twitter. I’m one hell of an advocate. That is, as long as there is a phone or computer screen between me and the world.
I know what people see. A couple of months ago, I went to the LGBT Center for a meeting. Once I told the man at the front desk who I was there to see, he picked up the phone handset and asked for my name. I stood there for what seemed like an eternity before saying Robert.
There’s absolutely nothing about my facial structure that screams female. So, I continue living this weird male existence. My breasts have grown. So, I often wear a sports bra and a baggy sweat shirt. I’ve tinkered with my voice. But, I’m not really sure what I’m doing.
I’ve been trying to push my personal boundaries recently by trying to present at group meetings. And I’ve presented on the bus recently. Well, as best I can. I try to stay clear of the line that delineates where the laugh track starts.

I was thinking about this the other day. And something a friend told me about the gay community just popped into my mind. He told me about gay generations. People older than me have a different philosophy about being out than people who are, for instance, in high school right now. I know trans people roughly my age who don’t like it even if I say the word trans in a public restaurant. Even if its in hushed tones. I did that once with a friend who passes very well. I could see the fear in her face.
I feel like I’m caught in this weird middle ground between generations. People my age typically aren’t out unless they really don’t have a choice. I mean they don’t pass. If they do pass, they tend to blend in. Because I tended to use social media to out myself and try to beat my own anxiety to a pulp, I tend to be a little more vocal online. My Facebook & Twitter feeds often border on activism. But, I’m not about to walk down the street in a dress or wear a t-shirt proclaiming my particular birth defect to the world.
What did I do when this lady offered her hand and introduced herself? I was that jerk who shook her hand and said hi. I told her it was nice meeting her. But, I didn’t give her a name either way. I need to figure out how to solve this puzzle.

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About Frogtosser

A former sailor and pizza maker who is done hiding from the world and is now living life to it's fullest extent. I'm a single speed bicycle commuter who enjoys writing and photography. I'm a voracious reader. And a huge geek!
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4 Responses to A Question of Shame

  1. I have felt everything you’ve described here and I think you’ve hit on something interesting about generational attitudes. I’m now seen as I want to be seen most of the time, but I don’t think I’ll ever be comfortable with personal proclamations of my status. I see young trans* folks wearing “Legalize Trans” shirts and I admire them, but don’t think I could do the same.

  2. Hi Becca–

    While I’m not gay or trans, but I really connected to this blog post–not over the name issue, but moreso about identity. I grew up in a very “ethnic” part of Denver and went to a high school that was associated with poverty, violence, and mediocrity. As a white girl, I never quite fit in there. But I eventually became part of things. i adapted to be more like my peers. When I graduated from high school, I left that place that had become comfortable–though never quite mine–and attended a very white, Catholic university where few people knew poverty at all. I found myself flung into it, and though I looked like everyone else and could hold conversations with them–inside, I felt like an alien. And whenever anyone asked me what school I’d gone to, I’d avoid the question. If I did say it, I remember shrinking down and avoiding those people in the future.

    I wasn’t ashamed to be from that place, really. I was actually really proud to be from there and was proud of my accomplishment of escaping. But I didn’t want to be different. I wanted to be under the radar. I didn’t want it to be something that defined me like it had my whole life. I wanted a clean slate.

    That same year, months later, I went through a bit of an identity crisis. And I started to miss home, desperately. I had made it something it wasn’t in my head because I needed to commit to this new reality. I started writing for the school paper–opinion columns–and I started exploring what it meant to be different with the people in that new community. I was so miserable, I stopped caring if people knew I was miserable and started talking honestly about feeling like an alien. And I learned that all of the shame I felt came from me. No one was judging me. In fact, my differences made me more interesting to them. But it didn’t matter what they thought. It mattered what I thought.

    It took me several years–probably within the past five–for me to really love where I came from. I did it by simply acknowledging what it had been for me…what is was now…and what I always hoped it could be. Mostly, I had to grieve for the childhood I never got to have and the person I couldn’t be. I also had to celebrate it. And I had to love all of it. That old me…the new me…and the people/places I knew back then. When I really started doing that, the pain and shame went away. And now, I want to stand up and say where I’m from. I want to tell their stories. And I don’t feel any shame.

    It’s incredibly hard, but time makes it easier.
    Alma

  3. JuJu Namarupa says:

    I see shame as a second arrow, or secondary emotion. I believe it can be worked with.

    Try not to let it get you down honey.

    Oh, please keep writing. 🙂

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