Tuesday, June 14, 2011

A homeless man notices my transition

Ask your friends if you look different and you come up against a really strong social tabu against making dispassionate observations about someone's appearance. Should they admit they notice that whisker on my chin? Should they acknowledge that my neck is twice as wide?

You know who's not afraid to say you look different? Your neighborhood homeless guy. Mine is sweet and harmless and has lived on my block for as long as I have. He sees me going out, coming home, going out, coming home. It's a perfect opportunity to observe someone's physical appearance without any of the emotions or preconceptions that blind us to it.

A few weeks ago, he stopped me to ask a question. I thought he was going to ask me for money for the second time ever. But instead, he started to tell me about his friend Jet who was going through a change from a woman to a man, and — was I?

My answer was, I take testosterone, yes.

The other day he wanted to chat about it again. This time the case study was a lady cop he used to see who's now such a handsome man cop that he almost thought he should go for it. (Me: You should!: Giving encouraging dating advice to a 60-something guy who lives in his car.)

Then he asked, Are you a man stuck in a woman's body?

I didn't know what to say. But later, I came up with this: I'm a mostly masculine person in a fairly feminine body in a very gendered society.

Postscript: I just went out on a sailboat where the captain told us it was okay to use toilet paper in "the head" but please not to use feminine hygiene products. Then, looking at me and my gay male housemate, he added teasingly, "You got that, guys?"

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