The Ghost of Prejudice

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.

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17 thoughts on “The Ghost of Prejudice

  1. How sad..I am a cis female and I cannot imagine asking anyone to be anything other than who they are. If those near and dear do not accept you for your truest selves, what is the point? I think it is offensive to ask you to compromise your sense of self in order not “to offend.” Why not be proud of who you are and your partner?

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    • I totally agree, but my instinct is that this will be only one of many times when well-meaning people who are just trying, in their minds, to keep the peace, will ask Cal and me to “fit in”. If we end up trying to fit in whenever we are socialising, though, we might as well have stayed in the closet, so I’m really hoping our timidity on this occasion will not be a massive precedent…

      Liked by 1 person

      • I hope not either because life is too short to please everyone else. You and Cal have to live your lives for the both of you. Anyone who asks to to “fit in” is essentially asking you to be someone else. I know that they are well meaning, but at the same time, they should care about the two of you for the people that you are not what others expect you to be.

        Liked by 1 person

      • That is true, and I am very disturbed at the idea they respect us more when we are not being ourselves. Hopefully they will adjust to the idea in time, as we have spoken at length about this now and Cal is adamant about transitioning (They are mainly his friends, so his feelings on the matter are paramount).

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  2. Sorry you had to go through that. In my case I am less concerned about people I know. I have been lucky to have had trans friendly friends in my life. I am more concerned about random bigots but I am getting better as that hasn’t matirialized. I guess having been out as gay first, it has lessened the surprise, particularly because I’d been open about being really trans supportive for a long time. Now there are family and older aquaintences from my earlier years when I was pretending to be a straight, cis male Christian – them I’m not so sure about. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • I did think we had trans friendly friends, but since they elected to take the side of a couple of suspected bigots in the crowd, I am now less certain of them… Cal and I will certainly have to talk about this in depth, as there is no question of actual transitioning if we cannot also socially transition (A process which does cost more than a few people their families, sadly).

      I pray you never have to deal with those random bigots. At least both you and I seem fortunately situated in our hometowns (the wedding having been elsewhere, in apparently a less liberal area).

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Sorry to hear that, going by my mother’s “what do I tell your uncle if he comes around?!” hysterical reaction I expect that forevermore I’m going to be the embarrassing joke of the heteronormative family. So I understand where you’re coming from.

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    • Another thing this made me realise is how indicative it is of how few people still understand that being transgender is an identity issue, and not a sexual issue. One would think I had planned to attend the wedding dressed in a gimp suit… Sadly, the distinction seems inapparent, and in their view I was simply being asked to leave my dirty little kink at home (as opposed to my identity).

      I was very naive, though. One would always dare to hope that one’s friends will be happy for you when you take the decision to be yourself, and if anything praise you for that. Being praised for hiding myself behind a veneer of cisnormality does not feel right at all, and I wish they could even understand that much.

      Good luck with your own family. I wonder if your mother underestimates your uncle. Perhaps not, but I am starting to feel that people who choose to be prejudiced on other people’s behalf are themselves the most dangerous bigots (as I suspect that for each hardcore hater there are probably ten or more well-meaning peace-keepers doing their hurtful work for them).

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Wow, what a terrible position they put you in! I have to say I think it was cowardly and wrong for them to ask you to hide who you are, rather than demand the potential (just potential!) bigots act like adults and be polite at the wedding.

    I think your husband is right that there will come a time when you don’t put on these costumes any longer, regardless of whether you are visibly trans in the future or not. It is possible to set boundaries with friends and family, letting them know that who you are is not a dirty secret or an inconvenience that is constantly up for debate. Some may reject you, but some will respect you. You deserve that genuine respect.

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    • Thank you for the encouragement. 🙂 It was a tricky day for all, I must admit in hindsight. The bigots turned out to be real bigots, and were racist towards the emcee who was black (although no-one was mad enough to ask him to come in “whiteface”, that I can recall…).

      Also, my husband feels his friends are going through a grieving process of sorts, and are not quite ready to accept the “new him”. In time, though, I hope they will see that he never changed: they just didn’t know him as well as they thought (but they will, if they have the brains I think they have, then want to know him even better).

      Liked by 1 person

  5. What an awful and unfair position your friends put you and your husband in. Perhaps the “well meaning” folks who gave you a heads up that there were “Christians” there might want to reconsider their relationships with the racist, trans phobic people they hang out with. Alternately, they could call these folks and say my emcee is black and my friends are transgender so if that bothers you, don’t come.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I did feel rather as if we had been invited under false pretenses, bearing in mind they knew about us well in advance. I don’t want to be too harsh. They really wanted us there, at the end of the day, albeit not exactly as ourselves (but they do not have sufficient understanding yet that trans identity is integrally part of us).

      The really lame bit, though, is that no-one wanted the bigots there anyway. They just felt compelled to invite them as they are family, and would have gossiped maliciously otherwise. It is all too easy in this society for the lowest common denominators to rule the roost just by banking on our pathetic fears of losing face…

      Liked by 1 person

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