And it was not awesome. It was a small meeting and I got there a couple of minutes late (literally, because the meeting started at 7 and I walked in at 7:02) so I immediately felt awkward. An older trans woman stared at me (with like laser beams) for way too long, and I just felt myself shrinking in my seat. I wanted to like the meeting. I wanted to meet people like me, and I was happy when I saw two genderqueer transmasculine folks sitting near me. One had facial hair and had clearly been on T for a bit. They both looked young, maybe early 20s. I felt intimidated by them, like I didn’t belong there. There was an older trans guy, probably in his 40s, at the other side of the room. He was really quiet.
They wrapped up check-ins and started the meeting, going through the rules for the meeting (no interrupting, etc) and declared the room a safe space. You were supposed to say “ouch” if someone said something you found hurtful and “oops” if you were the person causing the hurt. We did introductions and stated our preferred pronouns. I went with they/them because I’m too scared to try he/him. Either it will reinforce my feelings (which would be terrifying) or it won’t feel right at all (which would be confusing). There were lots of pronouns to remember and I hadn’t even heard some of them before. I focused so hard on remembering everyone’s pronouns that I forgot to memorize their names.
There was a discussion topic but it wasn’t great so there was a lot of awkward silence. At some point the conversation shifted to non-binary/trans representation in the media. There was a whole lot of talk about how problematic everything is, from Friends, to The Danish Girl. There were murmurs of disapproval. The moderator asked the group if we should be patient with the media or demand that things be changed. I finally spoke up and said that, personally, I try to be patient. A lot of trans people hate Transparent but so far I’ve found that almost no one watched season 2 (when imho the show got way way way better). Yes, the show has its flaws and it sucks that it doesn’t center more around Maura and her journey. Yes, it sucks that Maura isn’t played by a cis man. But, oh my god this show actually exists and it has quite a few trans characters played by actual trans people and they have a trans staff writer! I don’t think many people realize how amazing all of that is. Five years ago no network would have taken a risk on a show like this. But now we have Amazon and Netflix and Hulu just kinda doing what they want and making shows that they like. That said, they do need to cast a star to bring in an audience…so as much as people criticize the show for casting Jeffrey Tambor as Maura, they need to realize that the producers and studio execs who decide whether or not to produce a show pretty much have to cast a celebrity.
I was saying all of this because I aspire to write for TV and have friends that actually write for TV and so I do have some insight into how that business actually works, and I said as much. While I was talking about stuff, I noticed the two transmasc guys to my right lean toward each other and start whispering. My heart sank. I felt like shit. It called back memories of being bullied in high school. I wrapped up what I was saying and decided whether or not to just leave the room. Ultimately I decided to stay.
At some point the conversation shifted to The Rocky Horror Picture Show and how problematic it is. Now look, I can acknowledge that in 2016 that movie is problematic as fuck. But it was made in 1975. I personally don’t feel it’s fair to judge it based on a current day set of standards. And for me, Rocky is a piece of nostalgia. It’s one of the first times I’d been in a huge room filled with queers and misfits – people like me. The first time I finally fit in and felt free to just have a good time. I said as much, but I could tell they didn’t get it. The two other people in the room over 30 got it, though, so that’s something. 🙂
But then there were some really snide comments about passing and needing to pass. About people on Reddit and Tumblr posting pictures and asking if they pass, and how awful and disgusting that is. My stomach fell through the floor. All I could think was ouch ouch ouch but I couldn’t open my mouth. It was like I was frozen. I’ve never posted a “Do I pass?” picture. But I understand that for some people it’s very important. For some trans people it’s a matter of life or death. And to mock those people is horrible and cruel and I didn’t think actually happened. It made me angry and sad. I kinda tuned out for the rest of the meeting.
At the end I helped put away the tables and chairs. The quiet, older trans guy approached me. He asked if I’d be coming back. I said I wasn’t sure. He said he went to other meetings at the Center and I asked how those were. He told me, and one of them sounded good, so I told him I’d probably go to that one. He nodded, kinda smiled and said, “It would be really good to have someone close to my age in here.”
I kinda chuckled and got the hell outta there. I bought a six pack on the way home.