Is being clocked a bad thing?
by Kira Wertz
Community Issues Columnist
Very recently, something amazing happened. Someone who I’d been serving since before my transition came up to me and discreetly said, “I can see you’re in the process, but I just want to know how I should refer to you.” The woman was quite simply asking about my pronouns!
Considering this was in a small Oklahoma town, I certainly didn’t expect such an evolved and respectful question. To say it moved me and made me feel a greater sense of self-worth would be an understatement.
Something similar and altogether different occurred just a couple of days ago. I suppose to add further context to this I need to explain my work and day-to-day presentation. I deliver propane cylinders off a tractor trailer. You’ll typically see me rocking purple hair and contoured makeup. My strength and build haven’t suffered much in the wake of HRT, so I’m basically an Amazon. And I guess a huge “tell” is how many tanks I can carry at any given time; three or four, depending on if they’re full.
Anyway, I’m once again in a small Oklahoma town. A woman pulls into the business I’m servicing and, as she passes me, I greet her as pleasantly as possible and continue about my business. A few minutes goes by, she exits the store and heads back my way. She then proceeds to say something like “Okay, I can see you’re very pretty, but I’ve got to ask, are you a man becoming a woman?”
I feel so stupid because it’s the one thing I should have had a response for; instead I stood there, emotionally wrecked in silence for about 15 seconds. I became lost in my ability to respond intelligently, and all I could do was reply in a defeated tone, “I am transgender.”
She knew what she’d done to me by this point and she continued to try and gloss over the situation by reiterating how pretty I was. Then she takes my hand and tells me to have a “blessed day.” Unfortunately, by this point, I would have needed a time machine to have a blessed day.
Almost two weeks before I’d gone to Pride hoping to meet new trans friends. The kicker is that unless they’re draped in the trans flag, how in the world did I expect that was going to happen? It occurred to me during that event that there is absolutely no polite way to ask someone if they’re trans. Even those I suspected as trans would be just as unhappy being clocked by me as by anyone else.
What’s the takeaway here? I am emotionally devastated by a person who for all intents and purposes seemed well intentioned, but overwhelmingly ignorant of basic human decency. Asking a trans person to out themselves is wrong, but asking anyone if they are trans is beyond insulting. And what’s worse is that there are a lot of manly looking cis women in the world.
So, having been clocked in small-town Oklahoma, I’m left realizing that I am so far from passible that I cannot even be mistaken for a masculine ciswoman. “FML”* seems like an applicable thought to me now!
I lament that I was unable to find my voice in this situation. It only serves to highlight that my personal growth is far from complete. Regardless of how strong I appear, I can be broken with just a few simple words.
*FML means “F*** my life”.
Copyright The Gayly – September 24, 2017 @ 7:10 a.m. CDT.