Isn’t there that old saying that one occasionally must take a step back in order to move forwards? Having had somewhat of a knock backwards today, one can but hope we are paradoxically holding our onward course…
To clarify, we were invited to a wedding by friends who, aware of our decision to transition, added us to the guest list under the names “Cal” and “Eleanor”. So far, so good. We were getting ready for the ceremony this morning, and I had just finished my hair and makeup which, incidentally, I need even to feel non-masculine, as I still have dark facial hair shadow. Suddenly, word came down the chain of marital command that it might be better if I attended the ceremony and the reception as “Anthony” instead. I accordingly washed off my makeup, tied back my hair, and exchanged my blouse for a borrowed shirt with as ill grace as Cal exhibited while putting on his makeup (which, at any other time, he never wears).
Ironically, this was not even due to any direct prejudice on the part of anyone at the wedding. Word had merely got around that one or two Christians on the guest list might be offended if openly transgender people attended, and friends of ours who would otherwise have been accepting, worried that this might lead to a scene and thus spoil the day, had decided it would be better all round if Cal and me simply took one for the team rather than give the suspected bigots a chance to show their hands.
So in essence, the mere spectre of prejudice, internalised by well-meaning friends, has managed to ably do the work of genuine prejudice. In fact, more effectively, as Cal and I would not make any accommodations at all for true bigots, whereas we have now self-censored and accepted rampant misgendering for the sake of genuinely concerned friends.
One very dysphoric night later, and I have just been warmly complimented by one of our well-meaning friends on having been “brave”… which ironically makes me feel even worse, as it suggests I am more virtuous when I am struggling against my dysphoria and trying to fit in. At any rate, I have never quite so keenly felt the grim reality of my situation: that at any serious social occasion (of which, given the extent of our family, there will probably be several), Cal and I are quite likely to be perceived as the dirty secrets that ought to be played down for the sake of respectable friends and relations.
We will be doing this all again next month at a cousin’s wedding. Cal says it will be the last time we ever sail under such false colours, but I fear he places undue faith in our one day “passing” so flawlessly that we do not look transgender, and thus not respectable (which is particularly unlikely in my late-transitioning case). Failing that, he says he would rather just have me in his life than widespread acceptance under such terms, and I thank him for it, but I have no wish to drive us into exile from a circle of family and friends who are all, basically, very good people: they are merely haunted by that inescapable ghost of assumed prejudice that inclines us all to “play safe” lest we offend speculative bigots. I would love to just say sod the speculative bigots, and the real ones too, but life never seems to be that simple, alas.