Being on the outside of mainstream society brings a different perspective.
By Kira Moore
For much of my life I have found it difficult to understand many things about the society around me. The ways language is used to the expectations placed upon us based on the perceptions of others. It seems much of what I have seen and heard is the same as what people around me have experienced, the difference being how I internalized and dealt with them.
Growing up in the seventies and eighties I had the misfortune of experiencing the open, often hostile, racism of people who grew up with parents born and raised in the Deep South. Simply driving to the grocery store would often include derogatory comments about any person of color we saw walking down the sidewalk. Casual, spiteful, hateful comments and jokes which had nothing to do with its target but everything to do with the two people sitting in the front seat. It was the same when the topic of gay people came up, only now it was laced by scripture wrapped hatred and disgust. All spoken by people who never lived what they preached, with all of the self righteousness of the self proclaimed pulpit of divine right.
I remember being seven or eight and walking to school. I was debating over why anyone would use the phrase, “God dammit.” This was a way to ask God to destroy something utterly. As if it had never existed. How could such a horrible curse be used so casually by those around me? Didn’t they understand what they were asking?
I experienced domestic violence first hand, a man who claimed on Sunday to walk with God, on Saturday nights became a terrible creature driven by alcohol and hatred. How many times did I listen to the apologies and excuses just to watch it all repeat week after week?
Of course these are small examples experienced on a very personal scale. There were so many things, spoken and unspoken rules, expectations, and understandings I absorbed every day, often without realizing it. The interactions between people based on a countless number of factors from economic status to gender to sexuality.
I’m sure these are incredibly complicated for heterosexual, cis, whites who share the same religious background and economic status. How much more so or anyone who finds themselves anywhere outside of this assumed “normal”?
For me, this meant hours spent researching in the community library for everything, anything, which might explain why I felt alienated from those around me. People who seemed to never question all of the things I did. From the physical to the mental to the emotional. I wanted to understand every level at which all of our bits and pieces came together to make a human being.
Even though I never asked directly, it didn’t take a genius to know most people didn’t share my thoughts and feelings and they would be unlikely to view such things kindly. How could I have a conversation of wanting to be able to push the wrong dangly bits into the correct position? Of wanting to be more feminine, more in line with what I found in the girls and women around me. What about finding the ways boys interacted to be crass, boring, and often too stupid to be taken seriously? Despite what seems to be part and parcel of the “not feeling like a boy” narrative, there never was a question of toys. I preferred Lincoln Logs and building blocks. Cars, trucks, even tanks were a way to move the stories I made in my head from one place to another; the tire tracks in the dirt often more important than what had made them. While the boys around me liked to play S.W.A.T. or mock battles with little green army men, in my imagination I could do anything, be anyone or anything.
The one thing I couldn’t be was like my father.
The very thought made me physically ill. I wasn’t like him. I didn’t want to become him. Not mentally, not emotionally, and absolutely not physically.
To this day I have a memory, an image in my minds eye of who and what I have always been in my heart and soul. As long as I live I will feel an obligation to that little girl in the mirror.
This brings me to today and the isolating feeling of watching how people interact as if I am incased within a two way mirror. Inside I see myself, my true self. Outside the world only sees what they want to see regardless of reality. Yes, I know this is true regardless of if a person is trans or cis, it is part of human interaction, yet it seems as though such things, small as they are, have been magnified.
I’m writing about this now because it seems day by day I am becoming hyper aware of how I am internalizing these interactions and how they build a growing negativity. For many years I pretended such things didn’t bother me, they weren’t important, yet as I am finding I have a long catalogue of things seen, heard, and felt going back to childhood which shows me I was foolish not to deal with them before they became so ingrained into my everyday thinking.
You know many of these sayings; “man up”, “boys don’t do that’, “only girls do that”, “your acting like a girl”, “you throw like a girl.” There are many more, much more crass than these, but you get the point. If you are assigned one gender at birth then anything which seems to go against others expectations of who and what you are is met with disapproval, verbal, mental, and emotional assault and physical violence.
Sadly, most people are so enmeshed in institutional, systematic behavior they can’t see how damaging such attitudes are.
It has taken me being “read” as both male and female, (sometimes within seconds of one another), to see how powerful all of these influences truly are. You see, I find myself often asking, “what’s the point of doing anything witch accentuates my femininity if doing nothing at all often brings the same reactions?” Why should I worry about transitioning further? Will it make any difference in the end?
The answer is “yes.” Maybe not for anyone else, but for me. Bringing the inner me to the world… to be seen, spoken to, interacted with as my true self, not just a fabrication built by others seeing their own reflection.