…and then I had pink shoelaces.

Once upon a time I was a freshman in college. Okay, so last year I was a freshman. It was actually this time last year that I was walking to the administration building to pay the balance on my account for the semester.

Blahblahblah. Anyway, my nervous, stressed little self was high-tailing it across campus. I’m sure I only had a bit of time between classes or something and was a bit peeved that I was going to get a rather large sum of money slurped out of my bank account.

I was making a beeline down a section of sidewalk, and a woman was walking in the opposite direction. As I approached her, she collapsed to the ground, and stayed there.

Shit! It didn’t look good. I ran up to her and bent down. She could hardly talk and was kind of curled up, saying something about a stabbing pain. I was worried she might be having heart problems, so I asked if she was feeling pain in her chest.  She said no, that it felt like her back. Another lady ran up, and started talking to her too. Apparently she had put her back out of place when she tripped on the crack in the sidewalk. The other lady said for me to go, and that help was coming. After a quadruple chorus of “Are you sure?” “Yes, go on ahead.” I headed toward the admin building.

A person was leaning out the window yelling “Sir! Sir, young man!” Last year, I didn’t get correctly gendered very often, so it took a sec for me to notice she was talking to me. I looked up. “Is she okay!?” I called that yes, she does seem to be okay.

I went in the building and came up the stairs. The same person calling out the window was walking down the hallway. She looked flustered. “I’m so sorry! I thought you were a guy, but then I saw the pink shoelaces.”

Woah. Hold the bacon. Guys can’t wear pink stuff? The manliest dudes I know wear something pink on occasion. It’s what I was thinking to myself that morning when I was deciding what shoes to wear. In he defense the laces were not just pink, but hot pink. But I liked the shoes, thought they were cool and all. I also thought that morning that I was confident enough in my gender identity that I could sport a bit of pink every now and then.

She continued, “you are a girl, right? are you a girl or a boy?” I felt like sometimes people stress too much about gender. (Irony intended, haha; I’m fully aware I spend 99% of my waking and sleeping hours stressing about gender.) But honestly, in the grand scheme of things, was my interaction with her really going to be that much different if I had a vagina or a penis? Does that aspect of a person really have anything to do with a verbal conversation?

Back then, I wasn’t out. I stuttered, taken off guard. “Er, doesn’t really matter… I mean… whichever works.”

“But you are a girl, right?

“Yeah, um.. well… I have to go.” Kthxbai. Awkward.

Why couldn’t I have taken that moment to educate someone? I could’ve been the person that stole her ignorance, and made it easier for other transpeople she might come across. I can’t changed what happened, or how I reacted, but I can change how I act in the future. And I will handle things like that more confidently.

My coach told me yesterday that I’ve changed in the past year – that I’m more sure of myself. I know he’s right.

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One response to “…and then I had pink shoelaces.

  1. you are 100% correct in your impression of gender being absolutely irrelevant in situations like these! it drives me insane! i wonder if ppl walk up to cisgender men asking how big their penis is, or cisgender women asking if they can see their breast to inspect for possible plastic surgery. why the hell does it matter the gender of a person when you are asking about a woman who for all this gal knew was dying on the ground. so weird!!!!!!!
    this is something every transperson i know encounters though. especially early in transitioning before hormones and actually settling into their correct gender. in the youth group, i would hold workshops teaching the kids, trans and cis, how to step back from the situation, take a breath, then begin in educating ppl as to how to interact, what pronouns to use, why that was important, etc. we also taught the kids how to properly ask about personal pronoun usage, and how to teach others to respect that in a way that wasn’t condescending to either party. i found some of the best trans advocates were cis teens who were tired of their friends being mocked or in their mind belittled.
    this maybe wrong…i don’t know, but there was an instance that was reported to me by one of the kids. actually it was several of the kids…there was a guy who dug his heels in at the school, refusing to call the transkids by their chosen gender and name. no matter how many kids approached him and talked to him, explaining gender and gender issues, this kid was an ass, it was deliberate and based on his “upbringing” and “knowledge” of what was “moral”. after about the 3rd week of listening to stories of this twerp i told the kids to only call him by feminine pronouns and use female names when addressing him. to feel free to call him (they chose this name) martha from down the hall or across the cafeteria. if they saw him in the male bathroom they should immediately tell him he was in the wrong bathroom and they felt violated. anytime he began whining and acting indignant they were to tell him they know better than he does what his gender is, it’s only the moral thing to do. so far this year martha has been nothing but nice and respectful to the transkids at the school.

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