Person 1: “What are you thinking?”
Me: “I wasn’t thinking anything.”
Person 2: “That’s not possible. Everyone is always thinking something, that’s how brains work!”
Person 1: “Actually men are capable of thinking about nothing.”
And I flinch. And wait. Will someone say something about me being trans? About how my brain isn’t really male? I wait and hope the conversation just moves on. Thankfully it does. This time.
But what about next time? Or the time after that? What about all of the other conversations where we talk about how men are different from women? What about the questions about medical issues and body parts? I hate these conversations. Not because I am ashamed of my body or my history but because I don’t always want to talk about it (especially not at social functions with people who may or may not know my history or who may or may not be okay with my history).
I also hate these conversations because they always make me feel “othered”, as if I am not really a man because my body is different. Or because my history isn’t the same as other dude’s. It sucks to think that I will be always considered “less than”. I will be always on the outside.
My body is my own. I feel comfortable in my own skin. I am proud of what I have built and continue to build. My body is a good body. And yet there are so many who consider it deficient. Or bad. Or freaky. Or, at the very least, not quite right. It’s considered less optimal. I can’t change people’s minds about my body. They will project onto my body whatever they want to. But it still hurts.
I know that I don’t owe people explanations. I don’t have to talk about what surgeries I have or haven’t had. I don’t have to talk about what my body looks like under my clothes (unless I am planning to be naked with someone). And yet people still make judgments. Or they make assumptions about what my body looks like or what it can do.
And then they extrapolate out further to make assumptions about who I am, what I think, how I move through the world. A whole host of projections and my body becomes the screen absorbing them and reflecting them back. I have no control over it because I am simply the screen, someone else controls the projector.
This is why I talk so often about trans people being able to control the narratives that are told about us. Because when we don’t get to control those narratives it makes it even more likely that we become the screens for other people’s projections. And those projections can be hurtful or downright dangerous.
Until we can gain back control of the projector, until what we project of our lives comes from us and not from other people, there will always be misinformation and othering that happens any time the conversation turns to gender or bodies.
I want to project my own reality and have that honored. I don’t want to be othered by my body. I want to be able to move through the world in the body that I have and have my identity has a man honored and respected. I want to be able to be shirtless without fear. I want to not have to worry about bathrooms or locker rooms or overnight sleeping arrangements. I don’t want to have to look over my shoulder or be nervous that someone will see me in a state of undress and use that as a reason to disrespect my identity. I want to be able to be in my body and have all of myself taken seriously.