I know four people, thus far, that seem to be able to recalibrate their brains to easily deal with me as female. And, I don’t mean only accept my transition, but rather the cognitive ease by which they accept, refer to, and treat me as female. I believe this is a result of these four people not viewing people and their relationships as gendered, as far as possible. They are in a sense beyond a binary view of gender, at least with certain people. One of these people is uncomfortable with the gender binary. Another person is his wife; another is my girlfriend. And finally, there is a French guy I know. The latter being just a special bunny.
Now, the person I’m going to now refer to is lovely, he is a marvellous species of human being. He is also French, but half Texan. Yeah, I know. He’s like a European food aficionado with gentlemanly tendencies and a thick southern accent. He’s also probably my longest lasting post-childhood heteronormative friendship with a male. Said dude is very supportive of my transition. However, his changing behaviour towards me has given me insight into how people, especially males, have difficulty dealing with my transition and how it seems to force them to recognise the gender binary. In part, for the man under discussion, I believe this comes from how he genders his relationships. And this is seemingly typical of many men I’ve known. There is nothing overtly misogynistic about how he sees women–not beyond the usual “bro” talk. It’s merely that he behaves in a certain way towards women and a different way with men. In his case, he is also highly observant of propriety, thus it makes it easy to see the distinctions in how he interacts with others and across genders. I assume this is the southern gentleman in him.
I believe that when it comes to me, his brain is in the uncomfortable position of trying to place me in one of these categories, but the overlapping aspects of our previous male perceived relationship causes him stress, perhaps not consciously. I break down the order of his gender system. He does not treat me as he treats the “girls,” but nor is he comfortable treating me as a boy. I’m okay with the latter, but it’s interesting to see how my transition makes him deal with the gender binary. It is often seemingly unsettling to him, and I think it is something that he has not previously considered. These types of reactions seem to be more true with regards to the heterosexual males I know. With regards to women, it is somewhat harder to know how they saw me prior to transitioning and coming out. Despite me being somewhat feminine spectrum before transition, men would usually categorise me as “man.” I think cis women who knew me previously had a more nuanced impression of where I fit into the gender spectrum, kinda like a gay best friend. They often found my heterosexuality suspect.
To conclude, these are merely personal impressions gleaned from one relationship. However, at the outset of my transition, I remember dealing with my mother’s mourning phase for me. Us trans people get to experience these weird pseudo funerals for our perceived to be lost former genders. “But I’m the same person,” I cried in an initial effort to deal with her sense of loss over her son. I naively assumed that if I didn’t perceive myself to be different, then others wouldn’t either. I didn’t then realise just how gendered people’s interactions with each other are. France/Texas was one of my best friends at the beginning of my transition, and he’s still damn special. But there is some discomfort between us now–coming from him–that seems, at times, impenetrable. So, maybe us trans people cannot be the same person to all our friends. It’s said that transitioning is a lengthy process and the people in your life transition with you, but maybe not everyone is equal opportunity when it comes to selecting friends and their genders. They may eventually come to accept you as your experienced gender, but that doesn’t mean it won’t alter the dynamics of your friendship. This seems obvious now, but again, naive. I’m just glad that I don’t have many heteronormative cisgender male friends 🙂