It’s a choice, what I wear. Isn't it a choice? I see many people wear what is arguably expected of them, without complaint or burden everyday. Clothing, even after middle school, is an important social passport that holds a number of meanings for us as people. It signifies things. It scares people. It celebrates. It disguises. It adorns. It represents cultural background and ancestry. It homogenizes. It is used for spiritual practice all over the world. It is marketed to us. We fight about it all the time.
It would be easiest for everyone involved if I just wore what a white man is supposed to wear in the United States. People wouldn’t have to fear not knowing what to say. Or understanding which bathroom is okay for me to be in. Or worrying that I’m gonna hurt someone. Or wondering why they have never worn a dress in a Taco Bell in western New Mexico. Wondering why they want to hurt me, when I have done nothing to hurt them.
But for me this is also a multifaceted issue. For me, clothing also carries meaning, and the central difference is that clothing - it has allowed me to understand myself and who I am. It helps me to blend in at times where I need to be safe, or to feel I am able to express myself freely when I want to. It allows my spirit to connect with my body. And all that is is having a relationship with clothing that is my own. Do you feel joy or comfort when you put on your favorite shirt? Do you feel proud and happy to dress up for church, for a date, for sleep? I feel the same way. On top of that, when I finally understood that I needed to change my body and gender identity, clothing was an ally and a tool for that process. I rarely wear it without thought.
Western New Mexico- Clines Corners - Rest Stop
I went in to use the bathroom. Flower dress because I was feeling happy - had just been at my grandma’s house for 3 nights. She warned me before I left that there were dangerous people out there who would hurt me for that. I brushed it off but my cheeks were rosy I recall.
Anyway Clines Corners. A white mother of four daughters was entering the store in front of me. One of those mega-rest stops with a candy shop and hot dogs and families milling about. As soon as mom got a glimpse of me in a dress I could feel her get afraid. Two of the kids were headed to the bathroom too. I walked respectfully behind them because I didn’t want to just barge past - I walk faster than they do. But mom made her presence known to me “Becka come back here for a second,” she pulls the two kids away from me as we are approaching the bathrooms. I hear her talking about me to the kids and watching me to see which bathroom I went into. When I returned to the gas pump, this family was about 20 yards away from us and still talking about me. I felt ashamed. Should I just take it off?
I could take the dress off. People would know me as a man. I could leave behind my most honest truth to travel safely in the material world. I could give up my native american heritage, a culture that respected and cherished trans people. I could stand down from my post as a visible trans person in the United States. But I won’t. I don’t follow rules. I never have. Always an aries, even as a child. I do what I want, so long as it is not harming others. Me wearing a dress is my choice to live in a world where all people are given respect and love.
There is another world. There is another way that we can treat people when we know nothing about them. It is the option of basic human dignity, and respect. It is the option of loving others and ourselves. It is the option of trusting people to speak for themselves. It is a feeling. It is the option of pursuing happiness. All of us, together. I’ve seen it in action. At the home of Racheal Gonzalez and family in Dallas, TX. When their trans daughter came out in pre-school, they loved, respected, and supported her. She is very happy now. With Monica and Darlene Helms, who want to adopt trans children and assure they are treated fairly in the school. With Tyler in northern Florida, who provides affordable legal services to trans and queer people. With all the families and children who welcomed us into their homes. I have been shown that the transgender community is trying to create a better world for all people.
So if you’re going to stereotype the us, stereotype us as people who have gone through a great period of self-knowing. Stereotype us as people who you can talk to when you are experiencing difficulty. Stereotype us as people who will defend and stand with you when you are being hurt. We always have. We have stood with the Queer Community. We have stood with People of Color. We have stood with Disabled People. We have stood with Elders. We stand against systematic oppression of all kinds. Before colonization, we were healers, spiritual leaders, teachers, and caretakers. We were considered to be magical, to be sacred. And I still believe that that is true.