We sit on the curb in comfortable silence. She lets me mull over what I want to say. My mouth opens and I start a sentence, stop, and think about it again.
This conversation shouldn’t be hard- it is, afterall, about something that beats louder than our own hearts, something that shivers in our core before our skin puckers in the cold, something that we know with more certainty than anything. Somehow, it has become the hardest conversation of my life, and one I find myself having over and over and over.
The topic on hand is open transgender service and why I don’t want to become a spokesman for it.
We are both transsexual and we would willingly trade bodies if there were such a way. She is gorgeous- made of estrogen, coy smiles, and whatever other dainty things they always told me I should have been. I am…well. I’m not quite this rugged individual I want to be, but for the sake of this, we’ll say I am. I am made of testosterone, pinpoint needle pricks forming constellations on my body from thigh to shoulder, and I am all the things she was raised to be.
In conversations, she must filter parts of her military experience because her role was one of a male. In conversations, I must filter parts of my life experience because I played female for far too long. So on this, we mesh. We understand. But still, she questions: why not take your passion for this and spread it, make others see that we aren’t the enemy?
“I don’t want to be that…” I pause, clear my throat of the inevitable crack that I predict is coming. “I don’t want to have that stigma attached to my name.” I lean back, propping myself up on my elbows, talking more to the stars than her. “When all is said and done, I want people to look at me and say ‘he’s a cool guy. He’ll gladly give you the shirt off his back if you’re in need.’ I don’t want words like ‘transgender’ to come to mind, or for them to see my face, my body, and whisper to their friends about the surgeries I did or did not have.” I stop, shrug, and look over at her. She’s studying me with understanding. “I am more than this body that doesn’t belong to me.”
I sit back up and rub my chin, a habit I’ve picked up in the last few months as I eagerly anticipate facial hair (I tend to err on the side of optimism). “At the end of the day, in or out of uniform, I want to be able to come home to someone who loves me unconditionally, maybe be greeted at the door by a smiling face that calls me Daddy. I want to be able to do my job and do it well, without someone having to justify it as compensation.”
That’s what it all comes down to. At the end of the day, all we’re asking for, is to blend in just as well as the next person- no filters, no stigma, no justification. Just the quiet knowledge of who we’ve been and who we are. Just authenticity.