Friday, May 22, 2009

Ack! An encounter with the socially retarded.

Two of my best friends are a little married college couple. One of them is a cousin to me and this summer they are staying with his mom and dad in my community.  His parents are the aunt and uncle who know about my transitions and my current use of hormones.

So, while my friends are living close by we are visiting quite a bit. Up until yesterday that was going very well. I feel a bit awkward there, because I'm being invited over by my friends, and not really by the homeowners.  My aunt has been very sweet, and is a cordial hostess.  But I don't interpret this to mean I am welcome. She is just incredibly polite and often hard to read. But my uncle on the other hand has been incredibly cold, and practically never speaks to me.  Its a very subtle change, as he barely spoke even before all this. 

Yesterday I stopped by with my friends for a visit, and my uncle was in the yard as we pulled up.  I got out of the car, and he approached me, red faced, looking very angry. Without anything remotely like a greeting he opened the conversation, "You should get a summer haircut." The way he said it sounded more like an order than a suggestion. 

I was taken completely off guard and after a moment I decided to stay nice and treat it like he hadn't stated it so harshly. Like he had meant it half as a joke. I laughed and said "No, I don't think so.", with a broad smile.

But he wasn't going to give up that easily. He looked more stern than ever. "You know it looks bad."  He waited a moment for a response that never came.  At this point I was struggling to keep my composure. Since he couldn't bait me in he decided he better try harder.  "You used to look a whole lot better."

At this point we are all making our way inside as he finishes his half wit verbal thrust.  I still don't feel like arguing.  With another light laugh, I reply "That is a matter of opinion."

Still he won't let it go.  He turns, looks me dead in the eyes and says, "Well that's MY opinion."  

My calm starts to slip.  There is obviously going to be no way to defuse this by being light.  He's only getting more angry at me for not taking him more seriously.  So I reply back just as stearn, "You're entitled to it."

At that point he finally shut his mouth. Then when we got inside he renewed the conversation by asking his wife if she thought I needed a short cut for summer.  I think she realized this conversation wasn't going anywhere productive, so much as I did, she responds all sugar sweet. She starts mentioning specific styles and such, but without that bossy confrontational edge her husband had employed, it didn't cut as much.  I just told her it was not my style, with a smile. And the whole thing was over.

But I am still angry today at my uncle. That was one of the most uncivil, socially retarded things I have ever seen done.  No one, except an idiot, would greet a house guest by insulting their personal appearance, and then try to push the matter like they have some authority to demand change.

I had been in the building where he works briefly during the day, and I suspect that summer gossipy stuff about my appearance got started up after I left and that it was embarrassing for him.  So this whole confrontation was probably a very stupid attempt to make me alter my appearance so I wouldn't hurt the family reputation.

But here is the simple truth.  There is nothing wrong with me. I am a transgender woman, in early transition.  I pretend to be male, to the extent that I need to to keep my job. I dress appropriately for the position I hold.  I am courteous, punctual, and kind in all my professional and personal dealings.  My hair is the way I want it cut. And though it is not a particularly masculine style, it is VERY well groomed and professional.

I will not make further allowances to appease this close minded element of our local culture. They can talk about me behind my back all they want. I have worked hard at this job for over 7 years, and I am entitled to be myself and keep this job, as long as I see fit to stay here.

I will be here as long as I want. I will express myself to whatever extent I feel it is appropriate at any given time.  As for my family, any rumors are about me, not about anyone else. It is not fair for me to have to pretend to be something I am not, to alleviate someone else's embarrassment, stemming from gossip that is not even about them.  I am the one who has to walk around with high school age kids occasionally snickering or, whistling, or calling me faggot.  If I can handle it, that is what counts. 

My aunt and uncle can suck up and play local politics trying to find a way to eek a few more dollars out if they wish. I'm not here to suck up or play little political games. I am going to be myself. And I will decide how to manage my own transition.  

Mom and Dad have been nice enough to let me board here. So if they do not approve, I can move. But as for anyone else, I really don't care if they approve of who I am or not. If management at work don't like it, we can go to court. Gender expression is a protected right for state workers in Kentucky.  As for everyone else, they can just cope.

There are limits on how much you can sacrifice, and giving up major parts of who you are, just to alleviate discomfort in those around you is far too much. I flatly refuse to bow to idiots.

All in all, I feel I was patient, polite, and serene. While he demonstrated  ignorance and a complete lack of social grace.  So I'm fine, especially now that I have vented my frustrations.


Lori D said...

You're doing pretty doggon fine with the lemons life threw at you.

So now WTF are we BOTH doing cutting our hair? ;)

Leslie Ann said...

What is it about mountain folk and the need to conform? You know my dad is from a couple counties over from you. When I left my parents' house to live in sin with my future wife, his biggest concern seemed to be what he would tell the neighbors. I'm pretty sure the topic never came up with the neighbors.

Stay the course, Shan! You're doing things the right way, the way YOU need to do them. Don't let 'em bring you down.


Anonymous said...

LOL at Lori's comment! (I read her blog about cutting her hair...and you're comment.)

Shandy, There will always be mean people in the world. Who knows why they are mean. I'm sure it is something they had to work at, because it's just so much easier to be nice. I wonder if his wife is so sweet because she feels she has to overcompensate for his meanness by being super sweet.

The main thing is that you are able to stay above the to speak. You have managed to be civil, even under direct fire and confrontation. For me personally, this is a much more powerful way of showing what a transgender person is really like. We can scream and shout about our "rights" or we can quietly go about being stable, loving, yet powerful human beings. I feel you did a tremendous job of maintaining your composure and remaining the lady we all know. I wonder if he was baiting you, hoping you would lose your temper, then he could deride you for that...perhaps even throwing some "insult" about not acting like much of a lady. I don't know if he would do that but it sure was strange for him to persist like he did.

Thanks for being a shining light on the really makes your beauty shine forth. :)Suzi

ms.shandy said...


It felt very much like I was being baited into a fight. No one could possibly think it would be that easy to cause me to actually cut my hair and change my behavior. Not everyone is good at understanding other people's feelings, but it would be obvious to almost anyone who knows my situation that my hair is long for a reason, and that I'm not going to cut it off at a rude suggestion.

He's not a stupid guy, and he knew it wasn't going to happen. So I'm almost sure he wanted a confrontation. As you said, I felt like I was being baited into a fight.

I think perhaps he has not been comfortable with me visiting his home, and decided that since giving me the cold shoulder had not been enough to keep me away, that starting a huge argument might be more effective. He clearly wanted me angry.

I see through it. But he still gets the results he wants. I am not afraid to stand up to him. But if he is not comfortable with me being there, I'm not someone who would ever intentionally intrude. It his his home, he has worked hard for it, and he has every right to decide who should and should not be there.

My only regret is that when I stop visiting, he will probably be all smug and believe I was simple minded enough to fall for it. When really I'm just doing my best to be polite and respect someone else's property and rights.


Yes, isn't it weird? You, me, and apparently Chrissie's daughter all decided to hack off parts of our hair within a few days of eachother. Maybe its astrological. Any other capricorns involved in this fiasco? LOL!


They do seem overly concerned with public opinion, people in these areas. I guess its just that population density is low, so everyone knows everyone else's business. Add a little religious hypocrisy to the mix and you have a situation where most anyone is going to feel a strong need to conform. If I were a genetic girl, and could live how I want without without breaking the rules, I probably never would have learned to think outside this little box myself.

But, now I know how to keep the opinions of others in perspective, and it feels incredibly healthy. Just a little blessing I suppose!

Tina Jenson said...

You're a Saint honey! I wish I could control myself as well as you do. Situations like this seem to unleash the smart ass in me. You are being smart about it though. You don't need the validations of others to know who you are. :)

<3 Tina

Wickked said...

For the record, it's not just "mountain people" that are notorious bigots. There are plenty of uncultured folk who reside in cities who share the same opinion. For example, the families of many of the people we are friends and acquaintances with.

But either way, I thought you handled the situation very lady-like, Shannon. At least you showed dignity and self-control, unlike my father-in-law. I know I've told you before, but I'm sorry that happened.

Anonymous said...

Way to go Girl! Stick to your guns. ;)