Not too long ago, I was standing at the front desk of a hotel in London’s Kings Cross/St. Pancras neighborhood, waiting for some assistance. Granted, that’s not exceptionally noteworthy in and of itself, but when I happened to glance at the guy standing next to me, things got interesting.
It was like looking in a mirror. Well, except for the guy’s hair, which was bleach-white and kind of spiky-ish, (Apparently, my hair is more of a green color.)
But there we were, side by side, waiting for assistance at the front desk of a discount hotel in London: two female-bodied men.
My mind clicked into high gear when I realized that I was looking at a trans guy standing right next to me! I had been at the LGBT tourist center just the day before trying to locate where the trans guys in London hang out and had no luck there, and here was a guy not three feet away.
(The London LGBT tourist information office might has well be renamed the LG tourist information office because there wasn’t much information that I could see for the B’s and the T’s, although I went at a time when it wasn’t staffed by a live person.)
I contemplated what to say to him. What if he didn’t want to be bothered? What if he just wanted to be left the hell alone? What if he’s very early in the process and I say something that freaks him out? What if he isn’t trans? These questions went through my mind as I quickly studied him.
After analyzing the situation a bit more, I decided that I would just offer my hand, introduce myself and see what his response might be. Yeah, I would shake his hand and tell him my name, and maybe he would give me a knowing smile and we would go get a cup of coffee (or tea) and exchange notes on being trans in our respective countries. And then maybe he would introduce me to other guys in the city, and we would hang out and it would be a blast! Yeah, I would just offer my hand and introduce myself.
As I started to turn toward him, a woman appeared behind the front desk and handed my white-haired counterpart a sheet of paper, at which he abruptly turned and strode out the door of the hotel. I stood there watching him go, my hand midway on the upswing to a handshake, unable to decide whether I should go after him. If I caught up with him, what would I say? “Um, er, nice to meet you, uh… trans person?”
Right. That wouldn’t have been cool.
The thing is, it wasn’t the first time this had happened. There have been a number of other instances where I have ‘seen’ people who I believed to have been trans. They have been pre and post-transition, MTF, FTM and other designations. I’ve seen them in a number of different places – at the airport, shopping mall, restaurant, grocery store… Some of you might think I’m just seeing things, but honestly, I feel like Haley Joel Osment in The Sixth Sense when he finally confesses his secret to Bruce Willis:
I see trans people… all the time.
When I see people that I perceive to be trans, I want to say to them, “Hi there! It’s so nice to see you! I like meeting other trans people!” Or something to that effect. The problem is, you can’t just walk up to someone and assume they’re trans, or even ask if they are.
I mean, forget the issues about whether the person actually knows they’re trans, or might not even be trans, or might be in a delicate place in their process where they can’t admit they’re trans (to others or maybe even to themselves).
All that aside, some trans folks just want to blend into the crowd and to be left alone. After transition, when mind and body, gender and sex, are congruent, some trans people don’t even think of themselves as trans any more and they may not want somebody bringing it up. Some trans people feel that there’s more to them than just being trans, and so don’t want to focus on it.
But even beyond all of that, the bottom line is, it’s really not anyone’s damn business.
Having said that, there must be people like me who wouldn’t mind being greeted by a brother, sister or other compatriot under the transgender umbrella. In those cases, with two like-minded trans individuals (at least like-minded along those lines), it would be helpful if we had some way of identifying each other, a signal that says, “Yes, I’m trans, and I don’t mind acknowledging it.”
That’s what we need! A little sign that we could use to ask whether someone else is trans and okay to be greeted, and also to show that we are trans and are open to saying hello. It could be a secret symbol, something only trans people would know, like a super-deluxe-double-decoder ring! Or maybe even something simpler than that, a hand signal of some kind. And it would only be known by trans people, so if the other person isn’t trans, we won’t be outing ourselves.
How about something like the American Sign Language letter “T”? Seems simple enough. Just flash that “T” for “trans” on the bus, in the movie theater, in the classroom, and see if any other fellow trans person is around and wants to communicate.
Except, I just realized, we can’t use that signal because there are non-trans people reading this blog and then they would know the super secret trans signal. Besides, the “T” sign might also confuse people who communicate with A.S.L., so we’ll have to come up with a different ultra-secret super-duper trans-signal. After we figure one out, you trans folks out there can look for it using your deluxe decoder rings. Then we can start giving each other the high sign right out in plain sight.
Yeah, that’s what we need… (I wondef if they’ll pick this up in London.)