Monday, June 29, 2015

6-29-2015 Entry: My First PRIDE Festival as Emma

Hello my darlings! I hope this past weekend was as good for the rest of you as it was for me. It started out with the aforementioned get together at my friends house (you know, the one with the mother who wasn’t sure how to explain my situation), which went really well. It was quite fun and we drank quite a bit, which is always fun, until the next morning, of course. I got to see my lesbian friends for the first time since they moved out of state, which was just lovely. I miss them so much, especially the one I worked with. It was her first time seeing me all dressed up as Emma and she had so many nice things to say. I’m quite sad I won’t get to see her again for who knows how long. We have tentative plans to go to the renaissance festival in a few months but we’ll see how that goes.

As for my friend’s family and friends I didn’t know, none of them seemed at all bothered by me, my presence, or my appearance. Her stepdad, who she’d warned me about, was actually completely nice and genial to me and my wife, which just proved why the “need” to explain my situation to the guests of the party was completely misguided. People, more often than not, just roll with things when you assert them as acceptable. Had I went into the party and felt the need to explain who I was, why I was the way I was, and what I expected from everyone else it would have just been awkward and opened the door for potential disaster. I cannot say this approach will always work; I’d never go into a, say, fundamentalist southern Baptist church and just assert my presence there and expect everyone to just be cool with it. That wouldn’t work, and I don’t even think trying to explain myself would bridge the gap either. If anything, it might just pit them further against me because they’d think I was unwilling to see their point of view (which I’m not, I totally do; I just happen to reject it as antiquated mysticism, but that’s my prerogative as a free citizen)

Anyways, the point is, asserting your social acceptance and social power rather than asking for it or trying to explain why you deserve it, seems to be the better route to travel in civilized company. Instead of trying to validate yourself or ask others to validate you, just go in, head held high, and pronounce with body language and confidence (artificial or not) that this is who you are and it’s up to them to figure out how to handle it. The longer I go living as Emma, the more and more I respond to cisgender responses with an attitude of “Deal with it!” /sunglasses drop in front of my eyes.

The next day, of course, was quite the contrary experience. Sunday was the twin cities PRIDE parade and festival, which both my wife and I attended (pictures below). What a world of difference being at PRIDE was compared to being at a cisgender-hosted small gathering. It’s truly hard to explain how I felt at this festival of an estimated 400,000 people celebrating the diversity of human love, sexuality, and gender. Rather than feeling like others were judging me or that I might require explanation in their eyes, I felt… at home. I felt at peace. I felt, for the first time since transitioning to full time as Emma, completely safe in public (minus the fear of being trampled to death by the surging crowds, of course).

When I walked down the street holding my wife’s hand, we received looks of approval and affection rather than confusion and/or judgement. How surreal it felt to actually be able to participate in the festival simply by being present, open, and unafraid of who I was and who I loved. This was the second time I’d been to the twin cities PRIDE festival, and the first time I’d actually seen the parade. The last time I went, my wife and I (I think we’d just gotten married a few weeks earlier) attended so that we could volunteer at a booth promoting Marriage Equality (I’m changing my description from the previous Same-sex to try to be more inclusive). This was before Minnesota had legalized Marriage equality and the booth was set up to take pictures of people holding little chalkboards explaining what marriage meant to them. The idea was to show just how diverse the interpretation of marriage could be compared to the narrow-minded religiously conservative viewpoint. This previous experience was so different than what I experienced yesterday.

The last time we were at pride, it felt like we were tourists or spectators; like we’d gone to a very gay, rainbow colored baseball game and were only participating by watching the action rather than being part of it. We were allegedly cisgender, heterosexuals who tended to be rather reserved. In so many ways, we were out of place at this festival. We absolutely supported the idea of marriage equality and we knew how important it was for our lesbian friend who’d asked us to volunteer, but there wasn’t anything for us to really feel proud about. On the surface we were little more than the epitome of cisgender, heterosexual, Caucasian privilege. We were educated, white people carrying on a standard definition heterosexual marriage we neither had to fight for nor worry about being invalidated.

This time around, however, there was a distinct difference in the emotions I felt and that I believe my wife felt. This time we were participating! This time we were allowed to fit in with this crowd because we too were living a more non-traditional life. We were a transwoman and a woman in love with each other and unafraid to show our affections to one another. I, by definition, was contributing to the collective PRIDE by not only being a transwoman, but also a lesbian. I could, should I care to, adopt both the transgender flag and the rainbow flag as my representation. No longer was I forced to sit on the sidelines and vicariously experience the pride that comes with living a life true to yourself. This time I got to say that I WAS living a life true to myself.

I think it must also be noted that around the time of my first festival I was already in a pretty significant state of denial about my gender. One of the people who’d invited us to volunteer for the marriage equality booth was transgender and had, whether they were aware of it or not, shaken the very foundations of my gender identity with their presence in my life. Becoming friends with someone embarking on transition held profound and long-lasting effects on my psyche. Their presence in my life, along with another trans man I worked with at Best Buy, opened up a door of possibility I’d scarcely knew existed before and had never really considered: gender transition.

Imagine my discomfort and confusion upon being exposed to these individuals who knew, much in the same way that I knew, that their assigned gender at birth didn’t really fit them. Imagine my anxiety upon seeing them go through HRT transition to become increasingly male right before my very eyes, knowing to some degree that the same thing might be possible for me. Take that cocktail of discomfort, anxiety, and eventual hard denial about my gender identity (and ultimate sexuality) into consideration and you might begin to see why my first PRIDE festival experience had been less than exciting. Imagine my discomfort as I sat at a booth watching such a vast myriad of people expressing an almost limitless array of sexualities and gender presentations without reservation or shame, all while understanding on some fundamental and possibly sub-conscious level that I, too, was like them. My “outsider” or “spectator” status took on a new level of distress for me.

Contrast that to yesterday and the change is almost indescribable. Rather than feeling distressed about being perceived as an outsider when really I was just hiding from the truth, I felt proud that I was living my truth. I no longer had to feel afraid, worried, or ashamed of my presence at this event. I could engage with the bustling masses of every kind of sexuality, gender, and relationship you can imagine without the guilt of denial hanging over me like a little black cloud. I could proudly hold my wife’s hand and visibly take selfies of us kissing in the park, all while knowing that if any place on earth existed where I wouldn’t be judged, it was there.

My experience of PRIDE was the essential experience of freedom. Freedom from labels, from social status, from gender expectations, from public scrutiny, and from self-inflicted doubt/denial. I was free to be whoever I wanted to be when I was there. I could love as I wanted to love, I could dress as I wanted to dress, I could talk as I wanted to talk, and I could walk as I wanted to walk. There were no limitations, no pressures to conform, no fear of reprisal, and no worry of consequence. I didn’t have to wonder if I was sticking out. I didn’t have to worry that someone might treat me as less than human because I contradicted gender norms. I wasn’t stared at. I wasn’t gawked at. I wasn’t scowled at. I wasn’t visibly judged. I was, once again, just another person in the sea of people. Any attention I managed to draw to myself was almost always met with a smile or the silent but kind acceptance of strangers sharing mutual respect and admiration. I got to be proud of who I was and what I stood for, and to be socially accepted for that pride. That experience cannot be dismissed, for it was a first since going fulltime as Emma.
So, my lovelies, I don’t want to leave you out in the cold in case you didn’t get to experience the gay revelry of a local PRIDE festival, so below are a handful of pictures I took while watching the Parade. It was truly a fun experience, and I highly advise anyone who has never gone to one, to try to go to one next PRIDE season. It will be worth it, I promise.

My Trans Pride fingernail colors 

Yep, that's my state Senator Al Franken, being a LGBT rock star!

Soooo many people

Ooooh, pretty colors!

Me and mi esposa

IDK what it was supposed to be, but it was definitely eye catching!

And evidently filled with sexy!

Not to mention leather!

The Trans Lives Matter crowd!

Thor and Princess Leia

A very gay Dalek ;)

And another!

Well, my darlings, that’s all I have for today. Fear not, though, there is still time to discuss the future plans and necessary efforts of LGBTQ community. Don’t think I’ve forgotten in the celebratory haze of marriage equality that so much work still needs to be done. Together, if we work hard, we can overcome the tyranny of the gender binary and the transgender mystique to usher in a new dawn of freedom for human expression.

With love, and PRIDE!!!


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