Next Saturday, when you are reading this, I will be preparing to go on stage.
On the way to the theatre I am going to wear clothes that make me look like a man. On stage I am going to wear clothes that make me look like a woman. At the end of my show I am going to set fire to the clothes that make me look like a man.
I walk on and face the audience. Every time I break someone’s gaze, another pair of eyes rises up to meet me. All those eyes. In that moment I’m convinced no one was meant to do this.
Every time I go on stage it feels like the biggest thing I’ve ever done. I don’t know if that ever wears off.
Many mammals take extended eye contact as a threat. I wonder if humans are the same and we suppress it to make society work. If I suddenly looked you in the eye, without saying a word… would you be scared? If you asked me what was up and I just carried on staring, would you get angry?
Wouldn’t you, if I continued long enough, have to make me stop?
You enter a bar and everyone stops and stares at you. You make a funny comment and everyone turns around and looks at you silently. The collective stare brings with it the threat of humiliation, of exile, of public execution.
But if you can take that risk…
I am terrified of violence. From the violent stare to the violent thud on my the back of my skull. My upbringing taught me that my femininity means violence.
But I haven’t tested my fears since I was a teenager. I don’t really know how likely these things are, any more than I know the likelihood of getting run over crossing the road without looking or dancing myself to death. I don’t know because I don’t take those risks.
Is being trans more or less dangerous than taking up smoking? Bare-knuckle boxing? Circumnavigating the world in a hot-air balloon?
Tonight is my next step in learning that dismal science. By burning those clothes I’ll force myself to go outside; get the subway; walk through my apartment building looking at the very least like I’m trying to be a woman.
I’m not going to be a matador. I’m not going to take the pill that guy gave me. But I am going to do this.