Sunday, July 15, 2012

Trans-Vacational Paradox

Fair warning: I just completed and submitted a ten page English Lit paper, so there is no foretelling the outcome of this post.  I am beyond loopy.

We just returned from a pseudo-family vacation trip to Branson, Missouri, the (as I have dubbed it) Knock-Off Capital of the Midwest.  It was not an entirely bad trip.  But pack two women, a precocious ten (going on twenty seven) year old girl, and a behaviorally challenged puberty riddled fourteen year old boy into a single hotel room for several days, and you may just unlock the mystery behind the disappearance of the Mayan empire.  You at least have the basis of an excellent murder mystery novel, but we will avoid those stories for today.  I would mention that if you ever need to feel humble, try spending an extended period of time in close proximity to someone who’s only predictable trait is that he will consistently do exactly what you tell him not to do.  That will knock you down a peg or two (and convince you that military schools might just have their merits)!

The trip was not without some very pleasant moments and was generally a good one.  We saw some really great shows, took a very interesting tour (more on this in a moment), ate awesome food, and saw some new and beautiful sites.  We also saw some very authentic human unpleasantness.  Peace and pleasant human interaction are never a guarantee in my situation, of course, but when one is a trans woman surrounded by red necks, blue hair, and bible churches; discomfort and discord take on feud-like proportions!  There is no question that I was well behind enemy lines at the very least.  I know that some of you are saying to yourself, (or possibly out loud, there’s no telling with this bunch) “well she put herself in that situation... what did she expect?”  

You know what?  You are right.  I did put myself in that situation.  I have repeatedly put myself in that situation, and I will continue to put myself in that situation; because I do not believe I should have to voluntarily segregate myself from mainstream society in order to secure my own rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.  Further, I repeatedly put myself in that situation, because more often than not, the result is positive.  Indeed, even on this trip, I enjoyed a few very positive (or at least not negative) interactions.  The unfortunate truth, though, is that this time the odds played out on the side of the negative.

Between angry onlookers, blatant oglers, and disrespectful hotel staff; I got the very distinct impression that there a lot of people in Branson who do not believe I deserve to enjoy any of the rights I mentioned above.  Possibly the worst offense was my very first interaction in Branson at the front desk of a Baymont Hotel (who, by the way, will be hearing exactly what I thought of my experience there), which started out very pleasantly.  The gentleman (and I use that term sarcastically) behind the desk was exceedingly friendly and joked smilingly with both my partner and I right up to the moment he looked at my ID (and the incriminating “M”).  In an instant, his entire demeanor changed.  The smile quickly disappeared from his face, he stopped making eye contact, and his voice affected what I can only compare to a growl as he as hurriedly as possible completed his dealings with me and turned away.  From that point, the worst encounters were little more than angry or baffled stares from overstuffed redneck men and angry old ladies, the latter of which I am used to... old women are the worst and most blatant offenders when it comes to human sensitivity... and you can quote me on that.

This is the screwy part.  Aside from the first night there, every negative encounter happened during the day when I was out and about (and sweating my ass off... sorry... glowing my ass off), and every experience was either with passers by or other patrons in establishments we visited.  The worst were restaurant visits, during which I spent my entire lunch being stared at from every direction.  I will say that with the exception of the hotel dude, every other “employee” I encountered in the businesses of Branson was perfectly courteous, even when an ID check was involved... so that was good.  What makes this interesting is that when we dressed up and fixed up to go out at night, whether to a show or a restaurant, I was treated with the utmost respect and courtesy.  Every interaction from friendly conversation to flirtatious banter was a positive one.  That was good.  But the whole experience really made me think.

What a strange paradox it is that in the space of a few hours and with a simple change of clothing, I can go from vile specter to lovely patron (and in some cases, "hit on" material).  I worry about that.  What if it never changes?  What if those awkward moments continue to happen?  I am about to spend an entire barrel full of money to fix most of the remaining features that “call me out,” but I will always be a tall girl with broad shoulders... a beautiful and sexy one, for sure, but the fact is I will always stand out.  What if in always standing out, the added attention continues to cast doubt?  Am I being foolish to even try to correct my non-feminine features?  I know what some of you are saying to yourselves (and at least one of you out loud, you know who you are): “So what?!  Fuck them all.  Be proud of who you are.”  

Thank you for that, and you know, most of the time that is easy enough.  One thing many of you know about me is that I look at all things with a certain amount of skepticism.  I never fully relinquish doubts.  It is one of the things that made me a pretty crappy christian (never mind the whole divorced gay transgender thing).  This trait has honestly served me well over the years, and I frankly consider it a strength.  I bring this up, because I want to assure everyone that I am not changing course, and I am not considering backing out.  It is important to me, though, to continue to recognize what is going on in my head.  And over the last week, I have worried a little about what will come after surgery.

There is only one way to find out of course, so anchors away boys!

Remind me next time to tell you about the “Sixty Six Million Dollar Man’s Problem: Nature,” Or, “Why should I move off this flood plain? You fix it.”  

Also, I have to tell you about a hilarious battle of wits between a ten year old girl and a zipline tour guide.  Spoiler alert: girls rule!

Peace friends,


  1. Looking forward to hearing about the zip line experience :-)

    Unfortunately no matter how much they are trained to treat people with respect, some staff in shops and hotels are going to slip up and show some level of intolerance. I'd do the same and write to the chain to complain about something like that happening.

    Last year I was in a shop with a friend, one of my first forays as Jenna for a while, and was treated really nicely. I ended up writing to their head office to commend everyone at the shop, I'm hoping that got back to the shop in question.

    1. Hi Jenna,
      Isn't it refreshing when customer service people treat you well? I am afraid interpersonal skills are being lost to the cyber-world, as that level of service seems rare these days.

      Honestly, I almost never have issues. Whether it is because people don't read anything unusual, or they are just being polite; I do not know. But I can say honestly, that I am virtually never mislabeled anymore - even at drive-thru speakers, I usually hear Ma'am (or nothing at all) - which is interesting, because I don't go to any extensive effort to present myself in a certain way.

      That said, those moments when someone shows such disrespect are very hurtful (maybe more-so because I am no longer "prepared" to encounter the opposition). I am certainly planning to report the incident to the company; however, my partner and I have discussed the idea (in general, not specific to this incident) of going a little further still.

      We are considering creating a resource website on which we can highlight businesses where we are treated well. I am already a die-hard Yelper, but I was thinking more specifically of a Trans LGBT specialized resource. I think it would be great, especially for people just coming out, to have a resource to identify "safe places" they can go. What do you think?

      Hope you are well!

    2. Kate,
      I know there are a couple of websites that identify Trans friendly places but you tend to have to wade through to find them.
      I'd like to see something where you have those places listed and perhaps even short reviews of them. Maybe even something from whoever owns the place. One of the things that I've always found useful when I've contacted places is to ask them when would be a good time to go there, I've usually been told when their most quiet time is which I find helps to overcome any nerves you might have.
      Also a dress agency that I went to a few years ago suggested that I brought a friend with me if I wanted to try anything on. I had a female work colleague who knew about me at the time and she came along and hung around outside the changing room in case someone came in, as I was in boy mode at the time it made life easier as we could pretend we were looking for her and if necessary she could come into the changing room and we could make it look like I'd been helping her with an outfit she'd been trying. The changing room was basically a single cubicle with a curtain you pulled closed.

    3. Hi Jenna,

      Yes, I was envisioning something along the structure of a Yelp, though I would make the search much more robust, and probably include forum capabilities attached to the business links. I would want to provide location and business type information (searchable by both) as well as site and shopper reviews - and a business POV would be an excellent idea too!

      I guess I was thinking a little more globally than Trans friendly, but LGBT friendly (but with specific information at the detail level - maybe ranking for each letter. :) See, these days I am more often judged on the fact that we are lesbians than on the fact that I am trans. WIth very few exceptions, that just doesn't even come up anymore.

      Take care!

  2. I am surprised and shocked. What in the hell is this with ID checks at hotels. Airports yes but as far as I know you are not obliged in the good old US of A to produce an ID to the clerk of a hotel. I spent 20 years traveling all over the USA for work and only once was asked for an ID and I refused to sow one. A credit card to prove you can pay your bill is all that is required. Sorry rant over but some things are just going too far. Love reading your blog and good luck


    1. I've never had to provide proof of ID at any hotels in the UK either. Only times that I have had to show any form of ID/proof of address is for credit checks, when hiring a car (drivers licence and two utility bills with my name and address on them) or when I've been for some job interviews.

      Not sure how things work in America but what happens if you don't drive, so don't have a license, and have never travelled outside the country, so don't have a passport or aren't carrying it. How would you proof you are who you say you are?

    2. It's a bit of a mixed bag here. If you don't possess other forms of ID, most states will issue a basic "state ID card," which looks like a driver's license but carries no "certifications." I suppose if you don't have one of those, then you are not generally one who is in a position to need to present ID.

      Regarding the hotels, I have found that this trend seems to somewhat follow "class lines." After many years of business travel, I am a bit of a travel snob, and I usually avoid hotels that are not either very nice or well known to me... you know, flea bags. I have never been asked for ID in nice hotels (unless the receptionist is simply looking for an easy way to collect my address, and then it is a request not a demand). It only seems to be the low-rent places that demand this, though I'm not sure what good it really does them.

      Take care!


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