When I was out of state a few months ago, I visited a transgender bar.
My friend and I found this place looking for somewhere to talk over a couple of drinks. It was a smallish, fun bar, with people singing show tunes. Now, show tunes aren't my cup of tea usually, but the bar was a good place to talk, and my friend had some stories to tell.
I have to admit that I really don't know much about transgender people. I've only ever talked with a few, and I don't know much about the terminology, so please forgive me if I sound uneducated, because I am. I googled the words transgender, transsexual, cross dressing and drag queens, to learn a little. From what I can tell, transgender is a catch-all term that could encompass all of the terms above. I did learn you should address the person as the gender they're presenting.
But I'm still confused. Take a male to female person who’s transitioning and sometimes presents as either gender. Should I say that “she’s a transgender woman” and “he’s a transgender man” depending on how s/he is dressed? Or am I supposed to spell out everything about this person’s gender identity and orientation? Should I say, “She’s a transgender male-to-female person whose gender identity is female, but doesn't identify as transsexual. She's presenting as a woman. Her sexual identity is homosexual, because she technically has all male parts, and she's at the bar with her boyfriend?” And is her sexual identity homosexual or heterosexual, because even though she has male parts, she identifies her gender as female? Or can I simplify, saying, “She's a transgender woman at the bar with her boyfriend?”
It’s still very new to me.
But back to my story at the transgender bar. I looked across the bar and saw a happy couple singing along with the performer: a transgender woman with her boyfriend. They were laughing blissfully like couples do when they’re on a romantic date, and gave each other dollar bills with which to tip the singer. It seemed so simple: They were happy and in love.
But then I always analyze things and try to look at everything from tons of different perspectives. I wonder what it’s like for a guy to fall in love with a transgender woman. If a guy strongly identifies as either gay or straight, he’s probably got a lot of mental adjusting to do at first. Men of just about any orientation can be very single-minded like that.
Then I looked around the bar, and I saw her – a transgender woman who reminded me of someone. Like the couple she was sitting with her friends, intently watching the performers, singing along with the show tunes and generally having a good time.
I realized then that she reminded me of a girl I've had a crush on for as long as I can remember. So long, in fact, that I can’t remember a time when I haven’t had a crush on her (though I’ve never told her about it).
Then, the transgendered woman looked over at me across the bar, and we stared each other in the eyes for what seems like a long time. You know when you meet someone and feel as though you can tell so much about them, just from a little intense eye contact? Well, that's what happened to me.
And after we broke eye contact, I realized that this transgender woman reminded me more than ever of my childhood crush. It was like my crush was there, in that out-of-state bar, fixated on me longingly, like I'd been hoping that she would for my entire life. Needless to say I had to so a little mental adjusting.
Meanwhile, my friend continued the story, unaware that anything so interesting was happening. As my friend spoke I kept locking eyes with the woman across the bar. My friend finished the tale and we paid for our drinks. On our way out, I stopped at the door for one last look.
I guess I really wasn’t paying too much attention to what my friend was saying the whole time. So I guess the moral of the story is: Don't take me to a transgender bar if you want me to listen to your stories.