An Open Letter To An Older White Trans Woman At Fred Meyer

Dear OWTWaFM:

This past evening, I had the distinct displeasure of meeting with your angry stare. I’m not precisely sure why, perhaps because like a solid 10% of the grocery store at 10pm on a Saturday, I was in my pajamas, admittedly with a jacket over my top.  I went to pick up a bomber of beer, a box of hair dye, a box of Fiber One bars (don’t get old, kids), a microwaveable “chimichanga”, and Whatever Energy Drink Was On Sale. For the record, this week, that’s Monster. I got two, because 1.48 each is cheap for Happy Erica In A Can. I was pretty happy, as I’d run into a friend on my way into the store and made a date to catch up over tea…and shopping needs fulfilled, humming some classic Alice In Chains, I scooted my butt into the Express lane, grabbed my reusable bag out of my trusty backpack, and looked up.

You know that stare they show robots as having in bad 70s sci-fi?  You, ma’am, were a three-dimensional living version of that robot in female form. The coldest, iciest stare on earth. So bad that I wanted to mutter something about how I had well fewer than “15 items or less” as Kroger so grammatically incorrectly puts it, but I was pretty much paralyzed. To paraphrase Liz Phair, I didn’t feel five feet ten, more like…small, really small, even though I think I was taller than you… And, of course, now I was stuck in this lane behind the person in front of us both taking forever. See, this was terrifying because the one time in my life a stranger has assaulted me for being trans, it was another trans woman, and she caused me some pretty greivous bodily harm, but you, OWTWaFM, you really couldn’t know that.

What you could know is that hissing at me when I’m making (quiet, appropriate) conversation with the cashier was pretty nasty. What you could know is that staring at someone is generally considered pretty rude in Western society. What you could know is that asking a very confused cashier very loudly “what was HIS problem?” was deeply inappropriate and endangering me through your actions….fortunately, she had no idea what or who the hell you were talking about. What you could know was that I was some random person you came upon in the course of your day, and you treated me like shit because you assumed I was a trans woman, and that some quantity of who or what I am entitled you to treat me like shit. What you could know was that I was just trying to buy some damn groceries. What you could know is that your need to lash out was harmful, hurtful, and most of all hateful.

See, it’s not that I don’t sympathize, OWTWaFM. I know that you probably went through hell because there’s a better-than-average chance you transitioned in the Bad Old Days, and that’s why I mention your age, btw, as there are certainly older trans women who don’t share your hate…I’ve encountered a few online, and frankly I’m nearing un certain age myself. Perhaps you’ve been forced to comply with bullshit HBSer expectations to find acceptance within the ‘trans community’ that, at least locally, is ruled with an iron fist by the hateful jerks of Ingersoll as the one permitted entry point into ‘community’ for trans women in Seattle. I remember the Bad Old Days, because I survived transitioning within them, too. I know Ingersoll’s asshaberdashery through trying to access that one permitted point of entry into ‘trans community’. So either way it’s not that I don’t get that you’ve been taught to hate yourself and to hate people like you and that you feel like your only choice is to be harmful to other trans women because this is what you’ve been forced to do. And, well, I imagine you’re the kind of person who would piss and moan if you came upon this blog, complaining that I am somehow a threat to “unity.”

“Unity” is a two-way street, you see. Much like the gay white men of the GGGG (formerly LGBT) Community who backstab trans people, especially trans women, when they can get away with it but expect our “unity” the second they need us or the small but troublesome bunch of white trans men who rule ‘women’s queer community’  spaces with all the privilege of white guys (…what are men doing in women’s community, anyways?) and all the dismissive behavior of the misogynist jerks they are, “unity” is bullshit when it doesn’t apply to all of us. There’s no “unity” when it only pertains to some people, and trying to use it as a defense mechanism to prevent any critique or press for change within the community is basically saying that you support the flawed system working the way it is.

So if the flawed system works, and if you’re privileged enough, rich enough, or willing to sacrifice your dignity enough for it to work for you, why is there a need to do things like pitch an unholy fit in the supermarket that you had to see me? Was it the “chimichanga”? Because they’re tasty and free of nasty ingredients and $1.00 each, pretty much ultimate gamer chow. Was it that I chose too manly of an energy drink or did you decide a bomber of Hale’s Milk Stout was somehow too masculine for a woman to be buying? I think you’d be rolling your eyes and hissing at this line of questioning because that plainly wasn’t it. Was it that I’m visibly disabled? Or, if trying to grant the benefit of the doubt, it may be that you’ve somehow never sighted women in their pajamas in the outside world, but you’d not have looked around in the store, and what’s the real difference between pajama pants and sweats, anyways? But this is a reductio ad absurdum in the name of asking questions where you know the answer as an expository technique. I know why you reacted the way you did before you’d nigh-screamed at the cashier about what my problem was, a strange question to ask when the cashier and I had been chatting and laughing and parted on a cheerful note.

I don’t expect you to see this. I don’t expect you to be sorry, because I know all too well how hatred works. I don’t expect a whole hell of a lot, because the heels of hatred are dug too far in at this point. I don’t know what to do here, because you’ve chosen to hate people and to hurt people to feel better about yourself, a fairly socially repugnant behavior that for some reason we are ordered to tolerate by “trans community.” We’re at this point where change just isn’t happening, and the frameworks we work in insist on excluding. I felt great pain over the summer when I was unwelcome at Trans Pride because my medical needs require sunblock, a substance that doesn’t come in ‘chemical free’ so I was forced to choose between violating a chemical-free policy (and thus being an asshole) or not going, thus forcing me to choose not to go. And then we had a “Trans Ladies’ Picnic” a bit later, but the invitation was extended solely to “femme-of-center trans women and AMAB genderqueers.” Once again, go and be an asshole invading space or stay home…so I had to stay home to not be an asshole. Both the Pride event and the Picnic claim they’ll change next year, but let’s be real here, a year is a long time to wait. When you’re told you have to embrace “unity”, it’s hard to wait a year for another opportunity, and that’s all you get as an outsider. A year is a long time to hope maybe things will change next year, and in neither case do I have anything but promises. Your hostility, OWTWaFM, is hostility toward someone who is told she has to do things for “unity” but who, like most trans women of color and disabled trans women, is held to this standard of “unity” but kept out of ‘trans community’ by gatekeeping based on arbitrary and immutable factors….well, at least while we’re alive.

You’re rigging the game by how you and yours play it, OWTWaFM. I’ll put good money after bad that you went home and bitched your brain out about me that night, and I don’t really understand why you ascribe such importance to a complete stranger and her frozen “chimichanga” when you really could easily have ignored me the same way I wish I’d been given the option to ignore you because that’s what one does with strangers in public when they’re just looking for a couple of Monsters, a beer, some hair dye, some Colon Blow Granola Bars, and the aforementioned “chimichanga.” You want actual unity? Leave me the hell alone. Or make small talk and we can exchange empty compliments. Just because you hate someone doesn’t mean you have to act on it, and frankly the fact that you chose to hate me based on my also being a trans woman speaks volumes about the path you have chosen to follow. You can still change, but you have to lay down your arms and realize that we indeed, as the song says, are on the same side. I’m not your enemy, and I critique your choice of hatred the same way I critique the community in general, because I expect better. You punched down to feel better about yourself, and though it may have worked in the short term, you’re choosing a pattern of destruction that will ultimately harm all of us.

Respectfully Submitted,
Erica, who referred to way too much 90s indie rock in this post and has no shame about it.

p.s.: I drank the beer out of the bottle. Call the girl police, and file a report.

p.p.s: for those of you who aren’t from the Pacific Northwest, Fred Meyer is a mega-mart from before there were mega-marts, owned by Kroger but still pretty independent, union, and locally controlled. There’s even one on Sleater-Kinney Road.

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