Last week, three things happened to prove that there is a mountain of educating to do regarding what it is to be transgender.
I sat across from the woman who was notarizing my signature on my name-change application. She was very friendly. Barely let me get a word in edgewise. Anxious to tell me what she knew about transgender and to ask her questions.
What she correctly knew could be fit into the space between one of the words on this page, with room left for what must be the majority of the rest of the general population’s knowledge about what it means to be transgender.
Despite my anxiety to get into the clerk’s office to get my application filed, I was happy to take time with her. If this is what it takes, I will educate the world one person at a time. Besides, after our chat she waived the $2.00 notary fee.
Her first notion exposed everything: “I thought you just liked to wear women’s clothes.” No, I explained, but there are crossdressers for whom that is what is important. She then excitedly told me about a Halloween party and some of the men who were lavishly dressed as women. “They had such gorgeous bodies!” she exclaimed, amazement filling her eyes.
This got the subject switched to drag queens. “Aren’t these all the same thing?” No, and I explained how drag queens generally are gay men who dress up to entertain.
I returned to the clothes, and used the example which has become my go-to: Imagine, I said, that you were forced to wear men’s clothes, cut your hair short, let your eyebrows grow out . . .
I had to go no further. She got it, vividly, how horrible it would be to be forced to live as the gender with which she does not identify. That, I said, is what it was like for me, being forced to dress as a man, and also act and be treated as a man.
She wanted to know how this happens to people. I explained how I believe it happened to me, with my hormones disrupted when I was forming in the womb. She was fascinated. She was shaking her head. She was getting it.
One more person educated.
She treated me with respect and friendliness the entire fifteen minutes I was with her. She had a chance to ask questions directly. Not everyone is comfortable being questioned, but I am, so I will patiently and happily field every question.
The next day, this happened all over again.
To change one’s name, one must place a notice in a local newspaper for three weeks. On Friday, I proceeded to do that. The lady who waited on me was friendly and sweet. Processing my form, she said, “I’ve never met a transgender person before. I don’t mean to offend you, but may I ask a question?” Licking my lips, I hope I didn’t drool. “You are not offending me. You are very kind. I love to teach people. Ask away.”
As with the lady on Thursday, she demonstrated how transgender is a complete mystery. After ten minutes of chatting, she now had met a trans person, and she learned that we are just regular folks, as real as anyone else. I exuded friendliness and humor, thanked her for her time and friendliness, shook her hand and virtually skipped out of the office and to my car, to head north for last Sunday’s family funeral.
Last week, I learned that a group in a congregation which knows me well has declared me to be homosexual. Since I received it secondhand, it is hearsay. Yet, I include this because my source is reliable and this is instructive.
In my former church body, for a minister to be declared homosexual is as monstrous as being a despised congressman who was just exposed as a tax-cheating pedophile.
The pastor in this congregation should know that I have been deliberate about saying that I am a heterosexual male who is transgender. Sadly, he has not contacted me since I went public. Very few of my former pastor-colleagues have contacted me, and I know a lot of pastors. To some, I have become a pariah, one among the biblical “tax collectors and sinners.”
No one learns a thing by casting judgments upon topics and conditions about which he knows nothing, which he has not investigated. No one is benefitted by assuming we know all we need to know about something we know nothing about.
Churches. Pastors. Notary publics. Newspaper office workers. Anyone. Everyone.
The educating continues. I love this work!