Fairly early on in my transition, when I was living in the Washington, DC area, I had boarded a Metro train to go into the District. I don’t remember what for, any more, but I was dressed en femme, so I wasn’t going to work; it was before I came out at work.
Anyway, at the stop after mine, two adult women and two young girls boarded the train, and both little girls were saucer-eyed, watching me. Now, at this point, I still didn’t know a whole lot about how to dress myself, or makeup, or any of that, so I was not a pretty sight, and I knew it. The two women were admonishing the younglings, saying, “don’t stare!”
I told them, “no, it’s okay; if they have questions, let them ask.” There was a whispered conversation, then the youngest, about 6, came over and asked me in a tiny, shy voice, “are you a boy, or a girl?”
I suppose I should not have been surprised, but I was. I thought for a minute, scrambling around in my head for some kind of sane, age-appropriate answer to that simple, honest question, and said, somewhat conspiratorially, “Well, when I was born, the doctors thought I was a boy, and they put that on the papers. But my brain thinks I’m a girl. I dress this way to make it feel better.”
She went back to her party, and told them what I’d said. The younger of the two adult women looked up thoughtfully, and introduced her family–her daughters, and her mother, the girls’ grandmother. They were from West Virginia, and to their knowledge, had never met a trans person before. She said, “would you mind if I asked you some questions?”
What followed was a 20-minute conversation on how I figured out who I am, and how the news distorts who we are to make us look bad, all the usual questions. I got off the train before they did, so I haven’t a clue where they were going, or what they talked about later.
Did it change hearts and minds? I’ll never know. But when they hear about an ordinance in their town or state that wants to allow discrimination against me and my trans brothers and sisters…they’ll remember. I could have been closed-up and private, or fled the train car, or something…but that’s not how I wanted those two little girls and their mother and grandmother to remember me.
You never really know the impact of the stories of your life. All you can do is live them, and do all you can toward a good impact. You won’t change the world overnight that way, but you’ll make a difference.