Having recently 'come out' once again in another of my social circles, I had to endure a whole new bunch of people navigating my identity, apologising for getting my name wrong, and asking well-meaning questions. On the whole, it went well, and there were no ill-effects (although at some point I will want to write about the minefield that is 'people getting your name wrong'). In many ways, it was wonderful! Inevitably, however, there were a few sticky moments. The most irritating comment came from someone who I didn't know all that well, having worked with him once a few years before but not seen him since. One night at the pub after rehearsal, he said to me "So, I guess you're sick of people asking you this, but are you going to go all the way towards, you know, actually becoming a man?"
So, I guess I should get used to people asking me about surgery.
To be fair, they do it in a variety of innovative ways - rarely does anybody actually use the word 'surgery'. My favourite one came from someone who had just met me, having heard all about me from a mutual friend. Having told me that I was 'not what she expected' and that I looked 'like a gay girl', she asked, in all sincerity, 'will you stay with C afterwards?'
The levels of offensiveness in those three phrases hit me right in the heart. I actually couldn't speak for a moment or two. We were at a party and there were other people around, so after spluttering briefly I think I evaded the question and we moved on. But that was 6 months ago and it's still bothering me now. It's not that I want particularly to be what someone expects, or that I'm offended that I look like a gay girl. In all honesty I might take that as a compliment - it's nice to be visibly queer, even if it's not quite the right kind of queerness that people see. But that final question was too far. Quite apart from the rudeness of it, it enraged me to have my relationship with C taken so lightly. Even assuming I were to transition surgically, hormonally and socially, why should anyone think that might change my feelings towards my partner of over two years? C was there with me at the party, and we were our normal tactile and loving selves, so it's not like this woman thought I had C hidden away at home, unaware of or unhappy with the situation.
But most of all, it's that little word 'afterwards'. There's no need to wonder what she meant by 'afterwards', right? After you change. After you actually become a boy. After the surgery. At no point had we discussed my having surgery. We were not friends. We had just met. The punch was the casual assumption that a) I was not a boy yet, b) I would be a boy once I had surgery, and c) there was no other way to be a boy. And despite all my knowledge to the contrary, despite my conviction that this is simply not true, and despite the plethora of knowledgeable and compassionate people, internet-based and otherwise, who are right there with me in my conviction, somehow it's these tiny, casual, curious remarks which make the most impression on me. I guess this is what they call a 'microaggression'? It doesn't feel very 'micro' to me. Still, I guess I'd better get used to it!