I am unapologetically myself in places where I get glances that I know don’t wish me well. I have to stand assertive in my identity.
This summer, I would stand with the Ladies in Black down on Fourth Street. It was probably the most public that I could be. I would go and stand for an hour, or as much of the hour that I could because I would have work right before and I would race downtown to stand for half that time.
I would hold my sign. I had a reversible sign: one side said “Give Peace a Chance” and the other said “We Stand For Peace”. I would think that “Give Peace a Chance” reminded me too much of the song and felt corny, so I would do the other side. The sign made me a part of the group and that made me feel solidarity, even though I was the only person that openly identified as non-binary or trans. The rest of the group were older afab ladies and one younger person who was the daughter of one of the older people.
And I would see people in their cars as they drove past. I would see people in cars that would affirm me; maybe they would smile, or nod their head up, or honk their horn as one does in support of protests.
But sometimes, I would see people that would get angry at seeing me. Or try to stare me down. What brings me discomfort are the ways these people would look at me. I would know the harm they wanted to do to me. I can still feel their hatred, even though the moment is gone, and like a sin eater, I take it from them and hold it in my body. I eat their sin and digest it, process it. And then would stand defiant in the face of it.
I can happily hold a steady gaze with an angry person. Some of my childhood prepared me for moments like these. I wanted to be seen. It didn’t matter that people were angry about seeing me, the fact was they were seeing me. One of the things we reflect on while standing as part of the Women in Black is peace and so I would wish peace onto the people that would give me evil stares as I would wonder about the harm they would wish upon my body.
I often bring headphones so I can pass the time with music, even though it’s a silent vigil. Sometimes I think about how the headphones may dishonor the idea of it being silent but I need it to get me through the experience. My music brings me comfort. I can hide there when I am in person. People can’t hurt me inside of myself. No matter what people think they can do to me, I exist as an idea that is much stronger than them. And when I’m in my music, I can move my body and dance out all the little sins that I have eaten throughout the day.
When the hour is finished, I would pack up the signs with the others. They were brought by Debbie, one of the older Women in Black. We stand in a circle afterward and chat about peace. I don’t mention the people that made me feel uncomfortable. After circling, we would head our separate ways. A few times, I would head down to the lake to relax a bit on a Friday. Occasionally, I would pick up dinner down the street and walk there in my dress. I would see the same looks while picking up my dinner. Or I would see the glances that locked eyes with me and then quickly looked away.
I drive home knowing I was seen. Knowing I was me.