by Aran Myracle
When I was in community college, I still smoked. Cigarettes specifically. Well, I smoked pot too, but not on campus. Anyway, I smoked cigarettes and I would go out to the designated smoking hut and socialize with the other smokers, nearly all of whom were at least 10 years my junior, but none of whom realized this because I looked like a high school student. I didn’t mind being read as a teenager as long as I was read as a male teenager.
I was certainly as self-conscious as a teenager. Was my voice too high? My face too smooth? My feet and hands too small? Was my binder flattening my chest well enough? Oh how I hated and loved my binder. Crushing my ribs painfully but flattening my chest into the male silhouette that I coveted.
I made friends among the smokers easily, and one of them was a cishet guy named Adam. One quarter I had to take American Sign Language on a different campus of the same school and it turned out that Adam had a class on that campus too, around the same time. He was taking the bus so I offered to give him a ride with me in my battered old purple Jeep XJ. He was happy to save the money and the time, and I was happy for the company on the drive between Lakewood and Puyallup in lunch-hour traffic. Occasionally he kicked in a few bucks toward gas but I would have been driving that way regardless so it was really more of a gesture than a necessity.
Being college students we discussed politics and philosophy and music on the drive, with my tastes ranging more toward anarchism and bluegrass compared to his moderate democratic alternative rock. I liked Adam, and I wanted him to like me, and that probably accounts for what happened one day on our drive, which still keeps me up some nights with regret and shame.
Remember my worries that my feet were too small? Well, someone noticed how incredibly small my size 5 1/2 feet were and commented on them and I decided “fuck it” and explained that I’m trans and that accounted for my minuscule feet. This seemed to go over mostly fine with the group of smokers, and Adam initially didn’t seem fazed by this revelation. Perhaps he had already suspected, I have no idea, but it took awhile for it to come up in direct conversation.
And maybe some of my reaction was because I was effectively trapped at the time, driving in traffic with Adam in my Jeep. But if I’m honest with myself it was mostly my deep desire to be seen and approved of by cis men. Men like Adam, who carried their masculinity so easily and took totally for granted the simple act of being perceived, without doubt, as a man in the world. Men whose biggest bathroom worry was being piss-shy at the urinal, and not the laws that were cropping up around the nation at the time, outlawing trans peoples’ presence in bathrooms. Men who could take a deep breath because their chests weren’t being strangled by binders.
My memory of how the conversation started is gone. What I remember is the moment I threw my trans sisters under the bus.
“Yeah, cutting your dick off is fucking weird,” I heard myself say, agreeing with Adam’s assessment of trans women, and the assumption that all trans women have bottom surgery.
In that moment I wanted to cast myself as the normal, reasonable trans person who didn’t have gross genital surgery, and I was willing to engage in blatant transmisogyny to do it. I wish I could say this was an isolated incident, and I wish I could say this stands out in my mind because it was an aberration but the reality isn’t so. It stands out because I remember my deep discomfort being trapped in traffic not knowing how Adam would assess me, not knowing if this was our last drive to campus together. Not knowing if I was safe. And maybe I should be more forgiving of myself; acceptance is safety and perhaps it was less about being liked and more about not being the victim of a hate crime.
Or maybe it was both. Por que no los dos.