I was walking down Broadway -- a small group of friends in tow – when just as I crossed West 22nd Street I heard a voice shout out, “Hey, beautiful, is that an Adam’s Apple you have”? I turned, with a grin upon my face and saw five guys in their late-20s, sitting in their compact car (no doubt part of the “bridge-and-tunnel-crowd” that descend upon Manhattan from New Jersey, Connecticut and the other New York boroughs each weekend) laughing as they waited for the light to change.
"Honey, that’s the least of what I have,” I said with a giggle, prompting them to laugh once more. We then engaged in a playful banter for the next few moments. Were they initially laughing at me? Perhaps, though I wasn’t sure, but, now, they were laughing with me. As the light changed they pulled off with a parting, “you’re pretty cool, have a great night!” And so I did.
Since I had walked out of the closet so many years ago, encounters like these had become a regular occurrence for me. I don’t necessarily go looking for them; but it’s pretty hard not to find them when you’re walking down the street in a pink, spaghetti strap, Gucci mini-dress and matching spiked sandals.
And though things don’t always go so smoothly, I have to say that most times they do.
For all the remarks that are aimed at me, I never took any of them too seriously. Several of my friends were offended at the Adam’s Apple remark, and given the chance would have opted for a simple, “Fuck you,” or some other aggressive response. But it seems to me that many of the guys who are arrogant with TG girls are often insecure within themselves to start with, making for a potentially explosive situation. So, when meet with head on anger it is a breeding ground for physical confrontation. Leaving me to wonder why any TG would risk the possibility of physical harm as their first course of action? What purpose could such an action provide?
Even if I had taken an aggressive stance, met a physical confrontation head on, and emerged victorious, what is the prize? The odds are higher that I would have ruined my new shoes rather than changed anyone’s views about me. Not to mention that the rest of the evening I would have been all worked up emotionally, only to have me right back where it all started anyway.
That’s not to say that I take everything that comes along, because sometimes, you just have to stand your ground. But I at least try to give the antagonist a way out by trying to ease the tension first. If it doesn’t work, then sometimes you have to decide your next option. In fact later that same night, outside of Centro Fly, the club we were en route to, another fellow yelled out from his SUV, as he was waiting to park.
Again – with a smile – I found myself in a verbal banter; however, this time was different. This guy was hostile and arrogant. The more my remarks brought laughs from his friends, the angrier he became. But, I never downgraded him; I only made light of the situation. It is easy to keep a lighthearted mood if you don’t allow people under your skin. By realizing that their words define them, not you, makes that easier to do. Someone calling me a freak, fairy or jerk doesn’t necessarily make me those things; but does define who they are for saying it. With every insult he threw, I tossed back something light and easy, until finally, when he had been verbally out-jousted long enough, he screamed, “ I’m gonna kick your ass fagot!”
What was I to do? My friends were quite stunned when I reached down and took my shoes off, looked at him and quietly said, “OK, come on. How bad a beating I give you will depend on how dirty you get my dress.”
He stood there a long minute, absorbing the words, and finally, cracked a smile and started to laugh. And that was that. Maybe he realized how ridiculous the whole affair was, or perhaps he suddenly realized that had he lost that his friends would never have let him live it down. Still, right until the very end I kept offering him a way out through humor, and just in time, he took it.
Confronting someone is always a last resort however, and only if you’re confident you can handle the situation. Otherwise just walk away: use your head, not your ego. Believe me, I have walked away from many hostile situations where I felt that I was in danger. In one instance I didn't walk way -- when they yelled out the car and saw them turning around, I made a quick left and ... ran to saftey.
For the most part I have found that being candidly transgender disarms people. Straight guys love to yell, “You’re a guy,” or something to that effect. But, when you shrug it off as though “Your point being,” what else is there really left for them to say? Their punch line came and went, and had no effect.
When they then know that you know that they know, and you're self-confident enough to be O.K. with it, everyone seems to be more comfortable. That doesn’t imply abusing yourself for their sake, but rather making light of the obvious. There are times when being TG can be funny, and onlookers shouldn’t be expected to pretend that something out of “their” ordinary hasn’t occurred. When someone yells out, “Hey, you’re a guy,” that’s an observation not necessarily an insult. And even if it is first intended to be, most people chuckle when my friend Dahlia would counter, “Thanks for reminding me, I had almost forgotten.”
In the end, we are new to people in the mainstream, and many, especially young straight guys, are intimidated and insecure. So, to cover it up they try their hand at an insult for laughs. Our society breeds contempt and insult, just watch any of the late night talk shows. So I say there is too much drama in the world already, why add to it?
Does it make you feel better to be hostile in trying to make a statement? Get over it, and make your point by example: live and let live with a smile. Even if the other person is a little slow to grab the idea, usually they’ll realize how silly they are acting in time.
Besides, wouldn’t you rather be trying on a new pair of shoes?
Until next time, be happy, be safe, and always think pretty.