I had an appointment at the Sandyford clinic the other week. Itâ€™s where you go to get your official trans membership badge, where you learn the secret trans handshake and where youâ€™re issued with your copy of the sinister transgender agenda. If you go often enough you get a free Richard Littlejohn voodoo doll.
Gallows humour aside, itâ€™s a place many trans people go because itâ€™s the only gender identity clinic in the West of Scotland. The likelihood that youâ€™ll be there at the same time as several other trans women is very high; the likelihood that youâ€™ll be heading there at the same time as other trans women is high too. So it was hardly a huge surprise when I got on the bus and an older trans woman got on after me.
If sheâ€™s reading this, I hope Iâ€™m wrong about you. I hope your life is full of joy and wonder, that the days are just packed and that everything I assumed about you was wrong. Because when I looked at you, I jumped to conclusions, all of them negative.
You looked miserable in a shapeless coat and a dated wig. You avoided making eye contact with anybody, spent the short trip staring at the floor, your body language submissive. Donâ€™t look at me.Â
You looked like somebody whoâ€™s learned that to be noticed is to attract the wrong kind of attention.Â
What I should have done when we got off the bus was to smile in recognition. Not in a â€œyouâ€™re busted!â€ way or to strike up a conversation; nobody feels particularly chatty on the way to a doctorâ€™s appointment. Just an friendly acknowledgement from one marginalised person to another: I see you.
What I actually did was to distance myself.
I distanced myself because there were three young men hanging around the traffic lights and I was scared theyâ€™d notice me; notice you; notice us. Two trans women, ripe for mockery, maybe more. So I walked a little faster, the clip-clop of my heels faster than your footsteps in your flats. I chose self-preservation over solidarity, and of course the danger was entirely imagined. The men looked right through me, and right through you too.Â
I distanced myself because I was scared youâ€™re a mirror. In my head I see two futures. In one, Iâ€™m happy. Still young, ish; fun and funny and fashionable and fulfilled with a loving family and a really hot girlfriend. Thatâ€™s who I was trying to be that day in my skinny jeans, tunic top, Primark boots and take-no-shit swagger.
And in the other Iâ€™m one of the transsexuals I remember from 1980s documentaries, miserable in unflattering florals, mooching round a tatty C&A while security guards stare.Â
I donâ€™t fear much any more, but I fear that.
You looked downtrodden, and God help me I acted like that was contagious.
I distanced myself because like many people of my age and older, I grew up in a culture where trans women (and itâ€™s always the women) were portrayed as pitiful or perverts or both. Some of that stuck. You canâ€™t swim in polluted water and come out clean. Itâ€™s why it took me so long to be proud of who I am, and why I wasnâ€™t proud enough to walk too close to you.
Iâ€™m deeply ashamed of that. Itâ€™s not who I want to be, who I strive to be. Everybody has the voice urging them to throw others under the bus to save their own skin, but I try not to listen to it: I donâ€™t want to be the one with Anne Frank in the attic shouting â€œsheâ€™s in the loft!â€ whenever I hear footsteps on the path outside. And yet all I needed to do was smile, and I didnâ€™t do it.
If youâ€™re reading this, Iâ€™m sorry. You deserve better. We all do.Â