A pointless exercise in awkwardness and social anxiety
by ARIA SALVATRICE
The therapist thought I should at least pay a visit to the closest local trans meetup. Closest meant a 80 Km drive away from home.
The organization had no website. A sporadically-updated facebook page where they repost random LGBT articles, that’s all. A post said they have a weekly meetup, open to everyone. I tracked down an e-mail address to confirm the details, since I had no Facebook account.
This is the most common characteristic of every damn thing about being trans in France: you won’t find the info simply by looking it up on the public Internet. Searching for trans keywords in French is more likely to return info pertaining to Québec than to France.
I have no clue how I found the courage to enter the LGBT center. It was tiny and spartan. Some shelves with flyers and booklets, a few tables, a few chairs, a few couches, and a computer with big speakers.
I immediately tried to figure out who looked like they were in charge. I picked the person the closest to some sort of counter and told her: “Hi hello hey so, uh, I have come for the meetup and I, I sent a mail last week, yes, uh, well, my name, my name, that I used in the mail that is, is Manny McBro Boydude, uh, for now, I mean it’s the one I still go by as, if maybe, uh, the mail I sent to introduce myself was, oh, it wasn’t you? Oh, all right. Anyway, I mostly showed up today, I guess, uh, probably, to, huh, just a first contact, I guess.”
She introduced herself, and invited me to sit down.
I sat down on a couch. People slowly showed up. Some introduced themselves to me, most didn’t. Someone sat at the computer, and started playing music - loudly.
An older woman introduced herself, talked a bit about her story. She eventually went, “You… you don’t have to answer if you’re uncomfortable, but do you, well, alone, do you dress up?” and I did the thing where I’m uncomfortable as every kind of hell but feel forced to reply, “well, uh, it’s not, uh, something particularly, well, I know what I am and I don’t exactly feel the need to, but, uh also technically what I’m wearing right now are women’s clothes according to the label even if, well-”
Someone else entered the room. I’m introduced by the first woman I met: “oh, that’s Manny McBro Boydude, and he, or maybe she I’m not sure which you use, well she was the one who sent you the mail”
“Oh! Hi! Nice to meet you. It was me who replied to your mail.”
She sat down next to me and we started talking a little. The music was so loud, I had to move very close to hear her at all. The louder she spoke, the less her voice passed. I mentioned how I had decided to go through with transition, even if it’s so scary.
“I didn’t think you’d actually show up. You know, even if I’m now the secretary of the association, I haven’t been a member for long, only two years. The first time I planned to show up to a meetup, it was so damn nerve-wrecking, I just… I just stood across the street and didn’t dare to go inside, then, I just went back home.”
Someone else introduced themselves to me, told me their name and that they’re bigender. They went to the computer and stopped the iTunes playlist, to start playing music off Youtube instead. We have no ‘they’ pronoun in French. I didn’t care to find out what they used instead.
The music was so loud you could only hope to talk to the person to your left and the person to your right, and nobody else. For the four hours the meetup lasted, the person to my left and the person to my right were mostly concerned with their cell phones.
A new person showed up. Someone mentioned: “Oh yeah, -inaudible- is American and visiting us because -inaudible-, so if any of you speaks English, it would be great if you could -inaudible-”.
“Hey there, my name is -undiscernable mumble-”, they holler at me in English from the other side of the couch. “Hi! I’m Manny McBro Boydude. Nice to meet you, uh, Undiscernable Mumble, was it? Couldn’t catch your name over the music, sorry”, I reply in English.
Luckily, the music was so loud, nobody busted me as a potential interpreter.
Nobody cared to talk about being trans. I generally couldn’t tell if someone was cisgender or transgender, pre-transition or post-transition, none of the above or all of the above. It’d be rude to be a killjoy and talk health in this room full of people talking about music, careers, computers, food, talking about everything except what they have in common with me.
So, after four hours, I excused myself, mentioned I’d stay in touch through e-mail, and drove back home. I posted on Twitter about my visit being a pointless exercise in awkwardness and social anxiety. I think it got two favs.