I often tell people that being trans and visibly queer is no cake walk. It has been about 2 years since I started dressing more androgynous and masculine (deliberately) and about a year since I came out as non binary on platforms such as Twitter. In this time I have experienced far more bigotry that I ever did as a very out and loud femme presenting lesbian. I can count the number of overt homophobic experiences I’ve experienced on one hand. Mostly these experiences have been easy to laugh off and haven’t been overly aggressive. Truly the worst of which was a couple of drunk guys screaming “Dykes! Lesbians!” at myself and my girlfriend at the time, as we kissed each other good night outside a local hangout.
Since coming out at non binary trans the story has been very much different. I have been harassed and trolled online. People have been threatening on Twitter. I have had trans people tell me that I am not trans enough and that I am a “transtrender” because my non binary gender is just an attempt to co-opt the trans narrative. People have told me that me that my gender identity is just internalised misogyny that makes me reject being female.
Non binary erasure is real. Transphobia is real. The scariest part is that while homophobia exists it is relatively passive-aggressive, while transphobia is far more aggressive and leaves me feeling fearful at times. I am grateful that I live in South Africa where I can’t actually be doxxed by online trolls to the same extent that I would be in the US.
I spoke about my hesitation to give up my passing privilege for days where I am emotionally fragile and that is still a real concern. My spouse experienced it first hand the other day. We were at the mall with our kids and I had the one with me and they had the other with them, though they were walking a couple metres behind me. By the time they got to the store they were visibly upset. Later that night they admitted to me that the comment they heard as people walked past me had been brutal; “What is that?” “Did you see it?” “Oh my god! *laughter*” “Sies!* They asked me if this is a normal thing I experience and I could only say yes. I wish I was able to reassure them that this is some how the exception but it isn’t. Being openly non binary and queer means that I am far more of a target, more than I ever expected.
What do I do? How does one react against such negativity?
I square my shoulders, lift my chin, look people in the eye and challenge them to tell me that I don’t exist, that I don’t deserve to exist. I demand space. I take up space unapologetically. Sometimes though, when the spoons are low, I just don’t leave the house.
*sies – Afrikaans expression of disgust