By Benson Navarro
“How do you know that you’re really trans?”
To put mildly, this is a very egregious question I’m sure many transgender people can attest to hearing. While it’s certainly not the most combative question, in a sense, it can be very trigger inducing causing a series of emotions to stir, such as rage, sadness, confusion, and grief.
I came out as trans after a set of pretty traumatizing events. I was still working at Phase 1 of Dupont at the time and admittedly, was still new to the D.C. LGBTQ community. I was another face in the crowd and frankly, I was okay with that. I managed to make a niche within the walls of the club and within the community and that’s how I wanted it to stay.
I was comfortable in my sexuality. I mean hell; it took five years to come out! (I better be). However, whilst growing in my ever-budding expression, I realized suddenly how present gender policing was.
“How could you not know that you were a lesbian? Look at you!” A co-worker said to me once after I came out and surveying my very obvious butch attire. Seriously?
It certainly wasn’t the first time I was mocked based on my appearance. However, I thought of all people, those from the queer community would understand. Surely I didn’t have to explain that clothes had nothing to do with sexuality or gender expression, right?
To be sure, there was a time when being perceived as butch was the worst thing for me because of the constant body shaming and forced gender roles I had been subjected to while growing up. I tried in vain to appear feminine and live up to my family’s standards of what being a woman meant, but fell short constantly. (The song “Reflection” from the Disney movie “Mulan” comes to mind). Even when I was dolled up in my black sequined evening gown, had a pound of makeup on, and had my long, shiny, straight hair pinned in an elegant bun, I still felt like I wasn’t feminine enough. So, to appease my family I pushed down any ounce of gender ambiguity I might have felt and looked as girly as I could stand.
It wasn’t until I started doing drag that I realized my gender identity might not have been as binary as I originally thought. All of a sudden I was looking in the mirror wishing the makeup and facial hair were real. I was admiring how I looked in men’s clothes that fit properly because the wretched witches on my chest were bound and hidden away from the world. I loved the attention and compliments received by the ladies.
I was in a crisis. My hair was short. I liked women. I wore flannel. And I was scared because all of sudden, I realized that I never was part of the crowd. I felt alone because my entire sense of being was gone. I wasn’t a lesbian.
And that’s the thing.
I can come out to other people but if I’m not out and honest with myself, the whole point is moot. That’s why the conflict resided within itself because I finally accepted the fact that I never failed as a woman. I never was a woman and had no grounds to ever hold myself to that standard except the gender roles forced on me. And that’s how I know that “I’m really trans”.