What I wasn’t anticipating were the countless men hanging around the hotel lobby, covertly trying to find a bedtime companion.They wanted us so badly that they found out which weekend the conference was in town and drove here—but they were still ashamed to flirt with us somewhere more public.Those haters act as if we’re complaining that no one wants us when what we’re really complaining about—more often than not—is that the people who do want us can’t seem to be chill about it.The same survey that found that 27 percent of Americans wouldn’t be friends with a transgender person also found that four percent of Americans said that they had been on a date with a transgender person in the last year.We have been together long enough that I barely remember what it feels like to go on a date.
And that bad-faith twisting of our words needs to stop.
It was obvious to me even then that these were not gay men. If these lobby men wanted to have sex with other men, Atlanta had over a dozen gay bars at their disposal—and yet they were here in this hotel on the edge of the city.
But I never had the sort of experiences with men that transgender advocates like Laverne Cox or Janet Mock have written about because I was exclusively interested in women.
Actress and star Jen Richards, for example, recalls spending a long, flirtatious flight with a man named Jim that ended in an invitation to have dinner.“One hour before we’re to meet at the restaurant, I get an email from Jim,” Richards wrote in an essay.
“It read, in its entirety: ‘I just Googled your name. I have no interest in that.’”The next time Richards met a man, she didn’t disclose, writing that it was “incredibly stupid and dangerous and, most of all, self-destructive” to not do so, but that she pushed forward anyway out of pain and anger—because the rejection from Jim had pushed her to a place where she “really didn’t care in that moment.”That is exactly the kind of raw, painful experience that transgender people can’t share publicly without feeding into the stereotype of the “deceptive transsexual”—or being accused of trying to shame those who would reject us based on our gender history.
In every state but two, it is still legal for those murderers to claim that they “panicked” after discovering that their sexual partner was transgender. And while too many of us internalize that message, most of us know it’s bullshit.