“I was just talking to A CHANGE the other day and…” To me, this suggests that you are having strange conversations with your pocket money. No one IS a change. One can ask for change, own change, ex-change, change tires, change clothes, change sides, change to a minor key and change of life, but one cannot BE a change.
“You look just as good as I do.” Of course I do. And this is precisely the state of grace to which we all aspire. But more than likely you do both of us an injustice.
“Well I want you to know I certainly consider you a woman.” It is a never-ending source of wonderment that well-intentioned, and otherwise very well-brought-up, people say this to me, with a light of total sincerity shining from their eyes for which any self-respecting cocker spaniel would kill. Unfortunately, this assurance turns on at least four assumptions which, upon closer inspection, prove to be entirely unfounded: a) my gender is a subject about which reasonable people might be expected to reasonably differ; b) my gender is a topic that is currently open for discussion; c) my gender and your perception of it, is something about which I suffer rather a great deal of anxiety and about which I am seeking some reassurance; d) you, since you are a non-transsexual, are in just the providential position of providing me with this reassurance I desperately seek.
“I consider you as much a woman as ANY of my friends.” What a treat for them; especially your male friends.
“I would NEVER have guessed you were a transsexual.” This phrase is usually accompanied by a look of the utmost incredulity, followed closely by a searching, penetrating, and largely sotto voice reappraisal of all the things you thought you knew about me (or perhaps only all the times we slept together). Unfortunately, this utterance assumes that your credulity, no doubt a topic of endless fascination to you, is of equal interest to me. Since there are tens of thousands of us (perhaps in your building alone!), the fact that some of us can “pass” (a nasty concept if ever there was one) as non-transsexuals only prophesies that, wedded to the entirely fragile notion that you should be capable of identifying all of us on sight, you are destined for a life of more or less unending private humiliations.
“When did you decide to become a woman?” Well, when did you decide to become a woman? Oh…I see; with you it is normal. Um-HMMMM.
“Can you have an orgasm?” Yes, but only when I’m asked this question.
“Can you have an orgasm?”
“Can you have an orgasm?”
“Can you have an orgasm?”
“You must have a lot of courage to face surgery.” To have the actual surgery, I just had to be able to breathe deeply, count at least partway backwards from 100, and fall asleep with some semblance of dignity. In all of these tasks I was reliably aided by enough I.V. anesthetic to subdue a small water buffalo. It would also have helped, had I $10-20,000 in spare change (See #1 above) about my person. Unfortunately, while I was thus drifting majestically off to sleep, I found I also had to be able to watch my friends, most of my lovers, all of my family, and any Lesbian who used the term “politically correct” in any context other than a Lily Tomlin joke, fade out of my existence forever. Also, I found that I woke up to endless refrains of DON’Ts #17, above. That is the hard part; the surgery I could probably do again before breakfast.
“I don’t think it’s anyone’s concern what’s between your legs, unless they’re sleeping with you.” Well, yes. But you, like me, might be surprised at the profound lack of fastidiousness some people display to even this tender area, as my weekly trips to the accoutrement racks at The Pleasure Chest and Eve’s Garden confirm. In any case, I’m quite certain that whatever is between your legs, even during those hot, sticky, yucky days of summer, is totally above reproach and perfectly charming, while what’s between mine, even on the very best of days, is, well, let’s just not talk about it.
“No one needs to know…” Of course they don’t. We all have our little secrets, the small indiscretions we would prefer no one know. The thirty-five or so years of my life just happen to be mine.
“This is a women-only space.” This is usually said to me by a rather red-faced Lesbian, who probably believes she is confronting the LIVE PENIS-MONSTER (moi’) as it (Ack) approaches her VERY DOORSTEP. But then, these things are so difficult today: perhaps she is a really a lonely straight woman complaining bitterly about a lack of men. The only correct response is I can ever think of is, “Well I certainly feel better knowing THAT”.
“How did you know you’re a woman?” Well, how did you know you were a woman? Ah-humm: breasts and vagina. Well, I can introduce you to some very handsome, bearded, muscular young men of my acquaintance who began life with the very same equipment, so that’s not particularly compelling evidence, is it?. . .I see, inside YOU just know. . .Call me sometime, we’ll have lunch.
“When you were a man…” Unless it refers to a prior life of mine (something I have yet to explore), it’s always a toughie, because it assumes itself; i.e., that I ever was a man. I think this sentence is supposed to begin with, “When you lived socially as a man…” or “When people thought you were a man…”; small, but nonetheless, like lapels or pleats, highly significant differences.
“I think transsexuals are just men in drag.” Of course you do, and you’re entitled, even justifiably proud, to think so. Do not, however, voice this sentiment while surrounded by a full room of men who really are in drag, (for instance, the next Night of a Thousand Gowns) Also, be certain to note the exception to this rule, which is, of course, female- to-male transsexuals, who are really, well, just women in drag. We all know how naturally distasteful it is when men wear dresses or women wear pants. Do not, however, voice this sentiment while surrounded by a room of S/M dykes in full leather and studs.
“Well, I want you to know I respect your choices.” And I yours, particularly in transcendent matters, such as whether to register your pattern at Bloomingdale’s or Saks, or whether a bright, robust yet tart, Almanden can properly accompany sushi. However, in more pedestrian spheres, such as gender identity, it profits us immensely to recall that none of us exercises much choice.
“Isn’t it AMAZING you’re the ONLY transsexual I know.” Yes, and isn’t it amazing, when you came out to your mother, you were the only homosexual she knew. Ho-hum. The fact that I am the only transsexual you know only emphasizes that: a) you probably know a few hundred of us, but you don’t know you know us, and we won’t tell you that you do; b) there are tens of thousands of us, and more all the time; c) we are secretly plotting to take over the planet earth, and infiltrating your prevailing non-transsexual culture is just our first step; d) while we are waiting to take over your planet, we are amusing ourselves at your expense by seeing just how much we can fuck with your head.
“This may be a really dumb question, but…” No question is dumb, especially yours, and particularly those you feel must be ushered in with a disclaimer. It is wonderful when someone cares enough to ask questions, and to add to their information. However, I do confess to problems with certain kinds of inquiries which (for reasons which continue to elude me completely) I still cannot seem to answer properly. These include questions such as, “Have you stopped beating your lover yet?”, and, “Have you always looked this bad in sunlight?”
Riki Anne Wilchins