I read somewhere once that first phase of identity formation is figuring out who you are, but the next one — the one we rarely talk about, especially in stories about trans people — is finding your place in the world. To be seen for the man I was felt glorious, sure, but also jarring.
There were the “Hey, brother”s from gas station employees, the oddly subservient “Sir”s from salesmen who wanted something from me and the presumption of camaraderie from men at the gym, on the train, at work.
Sometimes this friendliness led to vulnerability, like the time a beefy guy I sat next to on a plane gulped down two gin and tonics and then told me, tearily, that his wife was leaving him. But there were also more sobering moments, like the time I found myself on a dark street with a woman who quickly crossed to the other side.
Growing up, my mother taught my sister and me to speak up, to be assertive and to take up space. She was a physicist from humble beginnings who went on to be an executive at General Electric, where she faced skepticism, hostility and the loneliness of often being the only woman in the room.
When she died suddenly, at 69, four years after my transition, I dealt with the hole in my chest by trying to honor her legacy: flying higher, achieving more and charging through the glass ceiling that had ultimately caged her potential.
But that glass ceiling didn’t apply to me so cleanly anymore.
The evidence was everywhere. Joining a group of women engaged in excited banter at lunch, for instance, I noticed that my own enthusiastic interruptions halted entire conversations. In fact, my voice hijacked rooms all the time.