I used to find it jarring to spend part of my day not disclosing, and then spend the other part of my day around people who knew my medical history, or vice versa. I’ve since become accustomed to this but back then, Fridays were the worse. I spent the day at work where no one knew my medical history, and often spent the evening among queers who knew my medical history, and it left me unsettled. For a while, I stopped going out on Friday evenings, or if I did, it wasn’t with my queer friends.
A year or so after I stopped being assumed a sex worker, I started volunteering at a community kitchen for trans people. It was largely attended by street based sex working women.
I had to interview before I could start. The program coordinator, a trans man, explained that it wasn’t mandatory to be trans to volunteer, the restriction in participation was for service users. I explained my aforementioned jarring feeling, and since the community kitchen happened on a work day, and I didn’t disclose at the job I had at the time, I expressed a preference to not disclose my medical history to the program participants. The coordinator and I had agreed that if someone expressed discomfort at a cis person being present in what was otherwise a trans only space, or something else along this line, I would disclose.
I was good at my day job and made decent money, but found it utterly unfulfilling. Along the lines of that meme about how childhood punishments become adult goals, showing up during the 2nd half of the community kitchen to clear people’s plates, mop the floor and clean the kitchen became one of my favourite ways to spend an evening. I struggled to mop my home floors more than twice a year, but somehow, it felt good to mop that centre’s floor weekly.
Being a regular at the program, I got to know many of its participants. It was a pleasure to catch up with them, and the feeling felt mutual. I don’t recall how long this went on as such, 6 months, maybe a year. One evening, the coordinator went in the middle of the eating area, and without giving any context, said that any and all men wishing to identify themselves as trans should raise a hand right then and there. And so he began to raise his hand. I had a rush of thoughts; it wasn’t mandatory to disclose, but had someone expressed concerned about my presence? Was this about awareness/visibility advocacy for one reason or another? In the absence of context for the request, but figuring there were more potential benefits to disclose than not in that space, I slowly raised my hand, waiting to find out why it mattered.
About a dozen trans women’s jaws dropped. About a dozen seemed peeved. Were they upset I hadn’t disclosed before then? Not exactly. 3 of them came rushing up to me to confirm I wasn’t pulling anyone’s leg. I assured them I was being truthful. They explained that they assumed I was a chaser and a john. I looked at the coordinator, he was laughing. No one minded my “cis” presence in the least. They’d hoped I might pay to spend time with some of them after the meal. And there I was, disappointing them by being a community member.
Part 1 of 3 of being assumed a john