Growing up with a gender variance made me super suspicious and fearful of people. I grew up with the belief that it would be super negative if I ever let anybody in on my terrible secret. I didn’t need to be told this directly, I just knew that this was how it was supposed to be. This is, after all, a country in which many transgender people lose their homes, their jobs, their families, their lives, at the revelation of being transgender. In many ways, the public is certainly a thing to be afraid of. Which is why during my first few years of being out, the thing I felt most deeply was suspicious of other people.
Whenever I saw people looking at me, I quickly looked away. I avoided interacting with others as much as I could and luckily had my wife to do most of the talking, if it was required. I always imagined the worst in people and was constantly on edge waiting for something to happen. Years dragged on this way, while I continued to push myself to go out, go to new places, experience new things, but always avoided public interactions as much as possible.
Nothing bad happened to me during this time. Nobody was super rude. Nobody pointed at me and laughed. Nobody denied me service. I never lost my job. I wasn’t beaten up. Which are all things I have heard of happening. But somehow, someway, those things just never happened, no matter how much I continued to go out. What did happen though was that one day, I saw my reflection in the mirror, and I clearly heard myself say the word freak. It took me by surprise because it was the worst thing anybody had ever said to me and in that moment I realized I had been saying it to myself for years, possibly decades.
That was certainly a shock to me. I thought that I had to be afraid of the public, but it turned out that it was myself that I really needed to be afraid of. I had been going out for years. I had been around many people. Yes, true, I had curtailed much of my direct interaction with them, but I had been around the public. I had been directly seen by the public, up close and personal. I walked right by them, the giggling girls, the tough-looking guys, all sorts of people. And the worst words I heard were coming from inside my own head. Unbelievable. Shocking. Clearly, most of the public were far more okay with me that I was with myself.
It was right around this time that I began to understand that I have been wrong about the public. Most of the people on this planet are decent, kind-hearted, lovely individuals that I do not need to fear. They are not out to get me. They are not ready to attack me. They are not eager to torch and pitchfork me. Yes, bad things happen. Transgender people suffer badly, in many ways. But most people, really are good people. It was these realizations that caused me to begin to change how I interact with the public. They caused me to smile.
It may sound small, but smiling is super powerful. I have discovered that much of the time a smile can break down many social barriers. Frequently I get people staring at me, which used to freak me out, and piss me off. Now I turn and give them a genuine smile. Not a smart-ass smile, not a “hey screw you” smile, but an honest genuine smile. Most of the time, people will return the smile. This has led to some great conversations. Not about me, but just about the weather, or the location, or whatever. By being vulnerable first, by smiling, I broke down the barriers between us and allowed us to interact as two regular human beings.
Smiling is now the number one thing I remind myself to do anytime I look at a stranger. It has bled over into all areas of my life, and I had no idea how it would change how I view the world. It gave me a faith in humanity that I had never known. Now when I see people who don’t smile, I feel badly for them. I understand how much it has helped me achieve an inner peace and joy. I know it is hard to do. I know there are many reasons to protect oneself and to not give that opening vulnerable smile. I know how scary it can be. I watch the news. I read the reports. I know the statistics. I know it can be a scary world out there. And still I smile. Even when people give me whatever looks they want to give me, I look them in the eyes and I smile.
Mostly smiling is for me, but a smile can be a touching gift we can give freely to strangers, if for nothing more than to just bring a little more happiness to our seemingly scary world.
Smile more. It can change your world.
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Hi, I’m Nadine Spirit and I have been a lifelong gender non-conformer. I have always understood that I am a bit different than most but it was not until sometime in my thirties that I came to understand that I am transgender. While I spend most of my time presenting as a male I am always presenting in a gender non-conforming manner.
I started my blog, Unordinary Style, with the idea of being able to show a stylish side to those who identify as transgender. Since that time my blog has evolved into showing my personal style, discussing a wide variety of transgender topics, as well as posts about my personal life. My personal style continues to evolve as I attempt to continually push myself to pick stuff off of the racks, take it into the dressing room, and try on as much as I can. I am a firm believer in ignoring tag sizes, never paying retail prices, and due to a terrific allergy – that nickel should never be in any jewelry!