I’ve written before about the burden of hypervisibility as a trans person who is never going to pass or not be noticed everywhere I go. I even wrote a chapter about it for the anthology Nonbinary: Memoirs of Gender and Identity which comes out next week. But I do want to circle back around to that topic briefly.
I’m not entirely sure what exactly changed but slowly over the last year and a half since I wrote that essay, some of that burden has lifted. I no longer feel that constant pressure of eyes on me everywhere I go in the same oppressive way. It’s not that people aren’t staring, it’s about my perception of it.
It may be that I have simply developed thicker armor when I go out in public and like so many women before me, have had to learn to accept that unwanted attention is going to happen in a world where misogyny reigns free. Or it may be that I’ve redefined what that attention means. I no longer assume that everyone who I catch staring at me has ill intentions. I know from experience that the vast majority of it is probably curiosity or even good will. And knowing that I can’t determine the meaning in their gaze (unless they are openly videoing me and leering) has left me more open to generous interpretation.
Now I’m not trying to give you blanket permission to go stare at everyone you encounter who is “different” or edgy or whatever you want to call it. When I’m already raw from microaggressions, that attention still chafes. But having so much support at home, in my friend circles, and at work helps relieve some of that daily microaggression exposure so that I’m more able to tolerate things like misgendering and stares in public.
In a lot of ways, my dysphoria and mental health has gotten worse lately as I dive deeper into my self examination and awareness. And all I can do it to keep trying to find the energy to push forward in hopes that that burden will lessen as I get the gender affirming treatments that I need. But it is also helpful for me to look back and acknowledge these areas where life has gotten better and the things I thought would plague me forever have faded away from my conscious thoughts.