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.