(Mirror) I think I’m in a relatively unique position when it comes to noticing and experiencing the way gender plays out in our society. I’ve been in both female and male public restrooms.
I played sports on female teams. I’ve listened in on all-male conversations about the women in their lives. I’ve straightened my curly hair and put on mascara yet I’ve also shaved my ginger beard. When you’ve experienced both sides of this gender spectrum, you notice more than the average person.
When I started being seen as a male there were a few societal differences I didn’t expect. I found that as a male, I seemed to be perceived as a threatening figure and as less trustworthy. For example, when I would see a baby out in public, I would say hi or tell the parents that their baby was cute. The first time I interacted with a baby in public after transitioning, the mother looked at me really strangely and escorted the baby away. Now I can interact with babies but only if I’m with my wife. Having her presence makes me seem like more of a “father-figure” type rather than a creepy guy talking to random babies.
I’ve also changed the way I interact with women. As a female and a lesbian, I could hug my female friends or even flirt with them and it was seen as being playful or all in good fun. When I tried to interact with my female friends in the same way, even with the same friends who knew me before transitioning, it was not perceived as playful or fun, but as threatening.
When I flirted with women as a woman, even if I knew they were straight, women would usually flirt back or simply brush me off. When I tried to flirt the same way, I literally had one woman give me a disgusted face and walk away from me. I once hugged a female friend in what I thought was the same way I always did and she said, “You can’t hug me like that. I don’t let my guy friends hug me that way.” I quickly realized that I was being perceived quite differently in the world and I was genuinely thrown off by it.
Since then, I’ve changed the way I interacted with the world and the world has changed the way it interacted with me. The fact that I couldn’t interact with babies or women in the same way, even though I was the same person, says a lot about what our society thinks of men. The only way I could see to change the threatening nature and mistrust I felt I was getting was to be a different type of guy. I thought that if I could be the type of guy who women would feel safe around and who could be trusted with children, then maybe it would help change the perception of all male-presenting people, even if just a little bit.