I could live in DC.
I never thought I’d feel that way, but walking around on my first warm spring night, I was overwhelmed by this feeling. Perhaps it was the the way the air tasted like home, and the brick buildings and leafless trees. Maybe it was how much space there is, from the expansive lawns to the pubs that seat more than a few at the bar. I walked around anonymously, surrounded by newness, and remembered what it felt like to feel just like me. In this place, I could just be myself with no explanation; only a handful of people knew me from the past.
I was in DC for the national FameLab competition, and spent a week working on science communication with talented folks from all over the country at National Geographic headquarters. I thought a lot about coming out. I worried a lot about how I was being read. I weighed the consequences of wait-and-see vs unnecessarily outing myself. The morning I went to meet the group, I sipped hot hotel coffee and sleepily gave myself an injection of testosterone. I buttoned my checked shirt and walked into the cool morning air. I was feeling good. I sat down in one of the padded chairs in the semi-circle of us, and the instructor explained our first activity…Turn to the person next to you, ask these questions, and then introduce them to the group. My heart sank. As the words came out of his mouth, I thought, you’ve got to be kidding me (see blog post from March 17), this again? My hands began to sweat, I started mumbling some things about myself to my partner, until I finally said, look, I’m freaking out because I’m transgender and I don’t know how you’re reading me, but I need to check in with you about pronouns… Everything turned out fine, but throughout the week, I was constantly reading how other people read me. I had a few conversations with some of the other participants, but by and large, just left it alone. I know some of them knew I was transgender and some of them didn’t. What was empowering, was not feeling obligated to talk about it. This might be why I’m drawn to new places.