Last week, over two days I experienced two separate acts of transphobia. It has taken me a while to process this and find the words to write about it. I could ignore it, I could move on and let it be, but I don’t feel that I would be accurately describing life as a trans* person if I ignored the acts of hate or ignorance that become part of our daily lives.
So please bear with me and listen closely.
PART ONE: The one with the cleaner in the toilet
I was asked to go to the Lush Creative Showcase down in London which is AMAZING and such a great opportunity. I was so excited to have been asked to go and represent our shop! I traveled down on my own, had a pajama party by myself in my hotel room with pizza and TV dramas. I got up the following morning and had a minor meltdown getting dressed.
It was set to be over 30 degrees that day and I was in all black, in a binder. I was hot and yucky before I was even out of the hotel room. My trusty chinos that have always felt great clung to my legs and hips in the heat and my top seemed to cling to the outline of my binder. Everything looked wrong, I looked female, I looked bad, I looked wrong.
I packed up and left to walk to the venue hoping some cracking tunes and sunshine would help. My thoughts on the walk were plagued with how would I correct any misgendering, how do I tell my pronouns to every single person I meet, how do I find the energy? I got to the venue, settled in. I found out where my place would be, I began to feel comfortable. Surrounded by the amazing Lush team from all over the world I felt at home and my queerness blended into the background.
I went to the toilet quickly before my shift began, skipping up the stairs and along the corridor and stopping dead at the sight of “men” and “women”. I pondered silently for milliseconds and decided that I would be brave, this is a place of safety, I feel more man, I will use the mens.
I walked in. I saw a cleaner, she looked up. She saw me. She said “further down”, I thought “does she want me to use a different stall?”. I moved forward. She more frantically said “no, further down”. I said “what?”. She told me “the women’s, it’s the next door further down”.
I said “I know”.
I walked in.
I stood and listened to make sure the bathroom was empty.
I walked out, washed my hands and ran out before I could dry them.
PART TWO: The one with the kids at work.
We’ve established I work at Lush – the BEST PLACE IN THE WORLD. I feel safe there, I’m out and I know that my colleagues and managers with stand up for me and support me however they can.
This day, the day after the Lush Showcase and Part One of the transphobia debacle, I was working in store. I was having a lovely chat with a customer when three children came over to us. I had spied them earlier giggling and pointing at me while i stood at the door but chose to ignore them. Anyway, they walked up to me and the gang leader (oh ok they’re not a gang but they felt like one…the eldest then?!) said “you look like a boy!!” and they all laughed. I told them “well I kind of am a boy” which they responded to (obviously wanted to upset me) with “err well you look like I girl I mean”. “why do you sound like a girl?” “why do you look like a girl?”. I told them that’s not nice and it’s rude, I thought they understood. They didn’t, they continued with “but are you a boy or a girl? You look like a boy, but you sound like a girl. what ARE you?” All while laughing.
I left the shop floor, went up to the staff room and cried. I don’t often cry, I can remain calm and strong and fight for my space and right to exist. But a week of dysphoria and the incident the previous day had worn me down.
These two things may seem small, and many cis people would shrug them off. But for me, they undermined my very identity. I am a grown up, I know which bathroom I’m using thank you very much, and if I didn’t then the wall of urinals and men in the bathroom would have given it away before you loudly pointed out the women’s were elsewhere. Being laughed at, ridiculed, in a place you feel safe…can you imagine what that feels like?
So why tell you this? Why relive it? Because ignoring it means that the experiences of trans* individuals remain forgotten. Because ignoring it goes some way to condoning it. Because, if we don’t speak up and tell people that what they are doing is wrong, we will never see changes that will accept us.
Transphobia, in any form, is NEVER OK. There is never an excuse. Trans* people are people, with lives and experiences probably way more varied and colourful than yours. So shut the hell up and listen to us, respect us, value us and don’t deny our existence.