Challenging phobias: a personal journey to LGBTQ+ allyship

Author’s note: The following was originally posted to Facebook June 5, 2019, during Pride Month. It contains language, and references to assault and inappropriate sexual touching, some readers may find triggering or offensive.

I’ve been wrestling for a while with whether to post this, but here goes.

Before I get to it, I would like you all to bear in mind that I grew up with the conservatism of the 1980s, when the AIDS scare meant homophobia and everyone believed you could catch it from toilet seats and that breathing “LGBT air” would make you gay; when sex education meant learning how to put a condom on a banana and learning the correct anatomical names but nothing about sexual orientation, sexual/gender identity or gender expression; when you didn’t talk about being on your period, much less masturbation, pleasure, or, God forbid premarital, never mind chocolate or non-hetero, sex!

I, like many in my peer group, knew nothing about LGBTQ+ subjects and no one in the LGBTQ+ community. Cpl. Max Klinger, to me, was transvestism, and Jack Tripper, well, you get the idea…

What I knew and understood, and it was, as I said, next to nothing, was largely misinformed, stereotypical bullshit.

It was not until my late 20s and early 30s that I met a bisexual individual and talked with a few lesbians. Still, I don’t think I “got it”.

Then, someone close to me bared their soul and came out to me as transsexual/transgender. I didn’t handle it well, and I’m not at all proud of that. Being witness to the early days of her (she now uses “she/her” pronouns) transition made me reeeeaallly uncomfortable.

I realize now how utterly, completely, unequivocally wrong I was.

The act of coming out took tremendous courage, and I wish I had understood then what I have since come to understand about courage and unimaginable vulnerability. I was certainly not as supportive of, let’s call her M, as I ought to have been.

Let me explain.

M is now a fierce advocate for trans people, LGBTQ rights and sex workers, and, yes, I admit (again, less than proudly), that I have stalked/lurked her blog over the years.

I — I — was uncomfortable with seeing her dress as a woman?!

Shit. How fucked up is that lack of perspective when it is she who fought for decades with her gender dysphoria and people’s ignorance? With, after spending time and effort binding, tucking, making up and primping, still not being able to “pass”? With waiting hours in a walk-in clinic to see a doctor only to be refused service by a transphobic prick? With having to forever look over her shoulder because assholes had stalked where she lived, lain in wait, and hidden under her car, only to jump her and beat her with boards and chains?

I recently had the good fortune of meeting V, a male to female, or MTF, trans person. That was eye-opening!

While other trans people I’ve met since M “look” like the gender with which they identify, some, like M and V, do not.

I’ve discovered the ills done unto those who don’t have “passing privilege”. And it’s unimaginable!

I quite mistakenly assumed some of the people I have met in the LGBT community are female when they are MTF. The reverse is also true: I’ve also met FTM I thought were male.

Never assume. You know the adage: assume makes an ass …

Okay. Me. Entirely me. I’ll own that.

And… I’m not ignorant to the insensitivity of what I just wrote above. To say — or to think — “I could have sworn X was female” or “I could have sworn Y was male” speaks to how hurtful words, misgendering, ignoring/dismissing pronoun preferences — and passing privilege — can be. You see, these people “pass” for the gender with which they identify.

Others, like the towering, burly V do not. She has been discriminated against in countless ways, including when seeking employment. She has been terminated from employment. Her stepfather has watched, with sick, sick fascination, her undress, even daring to fondle her breasts because, really, what’s the harm? It’s not like they’re real female breasts, right?

She, like the diminutive M, has been followed down the street, the subject of verbal assault and slurs. In V’s case, her six-foot-some, brick shithouse physique has its advantages. One time, utterly fed up, she turned around to face her aggressors, picked up a newspaper box from the street, and hurled it at the gobsmacked bastards.

I implore you. The next time you think trans people — or someone’s coming out story — makes you uncomfortable, give your goddamned head a shake and get some perspective!

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