This year I went to my first two Pride parades in the month of June. This story is about my experience at NYC Pride on June 30th. A week before the event, me and my trans woman friend Alice decided to do a rather radical way of bringing trans* awareness to the Pride parade. In NYC, it is legal for people of all genders to be topless. I have not had any surgeries, yet I am on hormones. This means I still have rather prominent moobs, but I am also a rather hairy guy. I also painted a male symbol on my stomach and had a two-sided sign; one side said My Body Does Not Define Me and the other side said Trans* Rights are Human Rights. I also wore my hoodie and my trans* symbol necklace. I made it as apparent as possible that I was trans* and male (which is something I do on a daily basis).
This was the first time for me being out in public, since transitioning, with a bare chest. My chest is the majority of my dysphoria for me. Now, this has lessened over the year and a half I’ve been on hormones, but it is still a problem for me. The idea of me being in public, with thousands of other people, openly half-dressed, was kind of a radical idea. It was something that was outlandish, even for me. However, I was excited as I was nervous. I had heard horror stories of people randomly groping other people without consent, lewd comments, and other such tales so I was prepared to expect the worst. However, my experience was rather pleasant. I only had one person touch my chest without asking once, my female friend had a couple people ask her out and one person brushed her nipple, but besides that, the over-all experience was pleasant.
I learned something that day though. While I expected ignorance, I did not expect almost no one to realize that we were trans* advocates, or that trans* people even existed. I understand that trans* visibility is something that is painfully new in the mainstream queer movement, but I guess I under estimated how new. I finally got to experience the great LGB….t divide. None of the stands sold anything trans* related, everything was rainbows with the occasional bisexual pride colors. There was some trans* inclusion in the floats, but even then it was always paired the rest of the LGB from what I saw. However, the reactions from the other Pride goers was the most eye-opening for me.
The most acceptance came from women. Older men seemed to scoff and advert their eyes. People with children covered their eyes or hustled away as fast as possible. Several people asked why we weren’t arrested. After my friend had left, I had someone come up to me and ask if I was going through ‘the changes’ and proceed to ask if I still had a penis. I quickly corrected him that I was a trans guy and he seemed baffled by the idea. Whenever people guessed I was trans*, they assumed I was a trans woman. Everyone else seemed to assume I was a lesbian. I can understand how my sign can come off as a feminist one (which it partially was) and my toplessness an expression of a woman not being defined by her body. While this is all true, I feel this was a mix of poor portrayal on my part and partially cissexism/cisnormativity.
As I already mentioned, including trans* people in the push for queer rights, acceptance, and visibility is a new thing in the mainstream movement. Before, trans* people were often excluded (and often, still are), even at the costs of their rights. I’m looking at you, HRC. Thus, many people do not know that the T even stands for, or what to do when they meet a trans* person. Cissexism runs rampant in the community. Cisnormativity even more so. People assumed I was a lesbian rather than assuming I was a trans man. When I was seen as visibly trans, I was assumed to be a trans woman. While in the queer community trans women are often pushed aside, silenced, overridden, etc. in the mainstream, they override trans men when it comes to portrayal. Of course, this is through either in extreme stereotypes (the deceptive gender bender or ‘men in dresses’) or porn. Wonderful images, right?
This is obviously something that needs to change. We need trans* narratives spoken by trans* people. We need people to be visible, people to be vocal. We need trans women to shout “That’s not us!” as the media and for trans men to let the women have their space. We need non-binary people to show and demolish the societal notion that there is even a binary. We need to make people second, triple, and confuse their idea of gender. We need to share our unique narratives in any way we can. We need to stop letting people get away with the idea that queer means gay and that LGBT and gay are interchangeable. We need to grow, we need to become visible, and refuse to be silenced or go away.
Since there seems to be some confusion, when I say visibly trans* I mean in ways of buttons, pins, flags, shirts, etc. Symbols that openly broadcast a person is trans*. Pride is about being open and well, prideful, of who you are. This is what I mean by visible and vocal trans* people, not stereotypes.