Monday, October 17, 2011

How I Was Outed By the Nike Swoosh, and Other Tales of Sort of Passing

I recently started a new job in Palo Alto. I assumed during the interview process that, like previous employers, they saw me as a bulldagger who wanted to be called he. But when I started working there, not a single person made a pronoun slip. I am passing at work!

In addition to making me wonder whether I got the cock markup in my salary negotiations, this development has led me to reassess my assumptions about how others perceive me. Now I strut a little more as I walk into the gym (incidentally, it may be true that testosterone has made me enjoy sports a little more) — then suddenly I arrive at the door to the women’s locker room —  no way can I pass naked — at which point I put on my best I’m-a-girl-I-don’t-know-why-you’re-staring-at-me face and dive in.

Obviously, it’s time to have top surgery done. I also know it’s time because I’ve been “losing” sports bras at an alarming rate. I hate those things — not least because they’re expensive. I’ve only got three or so at a time and yet I somehow have to preserve at least one that’s not soaking wet or rancid smelling. When you’re transporting clothes to and from the gym 7 days a week and you’re a total dude, it’s no small task.

The other day I swaggered into a sporting goods store. Athletic socks: check. Now for another $45 quick-wicking sports bra. I went to the usual place. They weren’t there. I looked around and spotted an employee. As I approached him, I thought about how I was passing at work and made a mental note to act as if I were buying the thing for my girlfriend. First I try to call it a “triathlon top.” Blank look. Then I describe it — dismissively, like a guy might his girlfriend's lady stuff, which isn’t a stretch — as a black sports bra thing with the Nike swoosh on it. Except I make the swoosh pointing towards me, from my right to my left.

Will I ever stop making this kind of mistake? Or is it a mistake? I’m not undertaking to pretend to be someone I’m not, and I don’t want to lose the complexity of gender that I’ve been flagging for the last 15 years. But shouldn’t I be in charge of what I disclose to whom? Then again, how can you casually insert signposts like “when I was female” into idle chit-chat? I’m not ashamed, but I really don’t want to conjure up graphic visual images of my tranny cooch because that is goddamned private.

Except to the women in the locker room to whom I offer to show it, like a scar, to fend off their assertions that I must be in the wrong place. It’s the place that’s messed up, not me.

If you enjoyed reading this post, please consider making a small donation for my surgery or buy a photograph with proceeds going to the surgery.