On the bus going south into the city I get reminded over & over that I am trans. First, as I’m hurriedly walking to the stop I’m asked if I “need a ride”; he licks his lips before I say no. I wave the bus & when I get on board I feel eyes follow me. I put in my other headphone. A couple minutes pass & the girl behind me asks “are you transitioning?”
Most of these interactions are well intentioned, but they are nonetheless manifestations of my larger fears. — That someone would see me as a disruption; that someone would take away my ability to take up space.
This fear is real. Trans people’s ability to take up space is constantly undermined, through large measures like bathroom bills or small ones like the ogling I received earlier today.
But, what space do I have a right to take up?
I have often found myself raising an eyebrow at the leniency with which white people in the trans community label spaces with words like “sketchy”. While it upsets me that these people are using this word as a synonym for “predominantly black”; I also remember the names of trans women who were murdered in those streets. In some way their fear is the same as mine.
The defensiveness to put in the second headphone & dismiss any comment as an attack means that trans survival tactics involve actively trying to not interact with their environment. To me, that sounds like textbook gentrification. — Yikes.
To clarify, I don’t think that this is something that has to have a ‘victor’. This is something that I’m working on, an ongoing balance of vulnerability & safety. I think trans people need to be more open & forgiving of the community’s attempts to interact with them — especially in checking their privilege to write off, dismiss & ignore black people.
As well, I think that interactions strangers have with me often require a lot of my energy, but very little of theirs. For example, I don’t mind people complimenting my outfit, but if your compliment requires that I over-preform gratitude — I’ll pass.
Bottom line, we all need to be aware of the spaces we are in & the space we are afforded; how that functions for others, & how we function in it ourselves.