Or you could be the asshole on the train who yells at S, “Are you a man or a woman?!”
And keeps at it*.
She lets him know— in his native Japanese— that he’s being offensively rude**.
Then puts in her earbuds, volume high and tries to ignore his bulging frog-eyes and limpdick stare.
He comes closer.
She changes seats.
She walks to another train car.
This dude is an insistent fuck.
She keeps walking.
He stops. And stares through the sliding door glass separating the cars.
S went from holding the highest seat of privilege— white, heterosexual male to bisexual transsexual, which is about as drastic a drop as possible on the sexual-gender identity hierarchy. As S goes from looking unmistakably male to slightly androgynous to very androgynous to fairly female to undeniably woman, visibility is an unexpected but oft-mentioned word in our household. It’s amazing how visible she feels and how it highlights and detracts from her goal of invisibility.
I remember a time in the States when S said a friend of hers had stopped by my vintage pop-up shop. She was with her boyfriend and S proceeds to describe them. I have no memory of this couple. She keeps describing them and I think I remember the guy. But her friend, his girlfriend? No recollection. S smiles, satisfied. Her friend has attained the ultimate goal— to go unnoticed or in this case, to simply be a woman in the background.
Transition is hard and the hate— wow. The true feelings behind curious looks, stares and gawks are easily felt. I’ve discerned the varying degrees of judgement over the years, stemming from racial, homosexual or most recently, transsexual prejudice. And over the years my danger radar has been honed—it’s a matter of safety after identifying this bigotry.
How safe am I?
*Of course no one pipes in and gives support because that’s Tokyo hesitation and apathy for you; this happens in many scenarios, whether the person is a victim of harassment or physical injury.
** A tough thing about Japanese being my non-native language in this mostly polite society: I do not have an arsenal of situationally appropriate comebacks. This drives me mad at moments. Because sure, a cutting look can shut down many assholes but there are moments where there is no substitute for whip-smart articulation.