A couple months ago I decided to take some supplies to a person who was having housing issues. I packed up a bag full of essentials they had asked me to bring and I started to walk towards the McDonalds where we’d agreed to meet. It was dark and I let my friends and partner know where I’d be walking and that I’d be back in a bit. And then my metamour (my partner’s boyfriend) showed up at the McDonald’s and insisted on giving me a ride back home. My girlfriend gave me quite the talking to about it, essentially, “the world sees you as a woman now, you have to be more careful.” I didn’t realize I’d done something unsafe for me by walking alone through city streets at night.
But I don’t always know how to be more careful, or when I should. I didn’t have to learn all of this when I was younger. I don’t always know what to look for or worry about. I’m not skilled in shopping for clothes or the nuances of how to respond to a man asking me to drink with him. I am reminded daily I was not trained to be a woman my entire life, so on topics ranging from makeup to how I should dress for different events to issues of my own personal safety I am oftentimes dangerously ignorant.
A lot of folks see my being “socialized male” as a benefit. I didn’t have to put up with the catcalls when I was 13. Nobody said crude things to me on the street. Nobody commented on my body in passing as a sexual object. I didn’t have to navigate the blunder years of bad makeup and fashion or endure the trials of navigating feminine friendships in school. I was treated, more or less, with respect and bodily autonomy that many, if not all, women are denied. I had privilege by virtue of my gender assignment. I will never deny that the world seeing me as a man gave me benefits, but today my history mostly hinders me.
All of that training I received — that I’m safe, dignified, and that every person is going to look at me with respect — can and has led me to put myself into situations that were irresponsible and dangerous at the exact same time as I’m floundering to learn social skills that I should have been learning since I was a child.
In many ways I am childlike, and I don’t know what I don’t know about womanhood and society. And were it not for the truly amazing group of friends and partners I have, I would undoubtedly have gotten myself hurt or possibly killed by now. Even with all of that help there are times that I’ve felt awful and embarrassed because I did or wore something inappropriate for situations I found myself in — because I didn’t know better. I don’t have the obvious knowledge that women accumulate by living.
We don’t talk often about that vulnerability of transition in terms of the education we’re missing. Guides online for how to transition seldom include tips on bathroom etiquette and personal safety. There are no classes I can take to teach me essential skills and attitudes that I would have learned by the time I’d left high school. Society views my transition as a medical and sexual experience and so guides and tips for me are often about about that. A lot of the conversation is geared towards how to keep me alive, but there aren’t a lot of helpful resources for me on how to live.
This is a serious blind spot in our community but also in terms of how we talk about trans-ness with society in general. For the people who have asked me how they can be better allies, this is a great starting point. Help bolster your trans friends by offering up one of the most valuable resources you’ve got — your history in your gender.