Letter to a Houseguest
I’d never met you before last night. But I welcomed you and your family into our home because I like your wife and I wanted to see your kids in their adorable Halloween costumes
You misgendered the living hell out of me in front of a roomful of people. Repeatedly.
And the thing is, fine. It happens a lot. Usually I just take the apology, cope with the sudden embarrassed awkwardness that envelops the whole room, move on, and do my crying and processing on my own.
I was prepared to do that this time, too.
I wasn’t prepared for you to force me into a scary, awkward goodbye hug where you whispered a tearful apology while everyone watched. I said something bland about moving on and tore myself away. Your wife, wisely and gracefully, swept you and the kids out.
I got up to clean a few dishes. I needed to get away from the other people for a sec and get my head straight enough to continue being a fun hostess.
That’s when you chose to barge back in and attempt to literally grab me and force your apology on me in front of everyone. My boyfriend ushered you out, and I was grateful he did. At this point you’d humiliated me in front of my friends not once but three times.
And Void help me I felt sorry for you.
See, as much as I hate being misgendered there are things I hate even more.
Being a spectacle. Being a conversational landmine. Knowing that anyone who hangs out with me is afraid of screwing up and feeling like a bad person.
I don’t love watching the panic in folks eyes when they realize they said something wrong. I hate the way the conversation slows while everyone looks at me for a clue about how to proceed.
I resent knowing that my presence puts well-meaning, good-hearted folks on edge.
My instinct is to brush it off and smile and coo and loudly forgive. But, of course, over time I’ve learned that no amount of cooing is enough for people. That if I give them even a little sugar to get through it, they take the whole bowl.
They’ll prolong this agony until eventually I just have to be mean to get them to shut up about it. They’ll make me listen to endless explanations and excuses. All their collected evidence that they are nice people. Which all too often lead by winding ways to even more intrusive, inappropriate, or embarrassing subjects. And they aren’t ever able to stop themselves.
So now I stop them.
I don’t hate you. You seem nice. Kind even. Legitimately concerned. But you needed to let me help you, help us, through that interaction. And you couldn’t. And that’s why my boyfriend had to ask you to leave. That’s why today I’m stuck feeling that special mix of dysphoria, guilt, and humiliation that always accompanies these moments.
There’s no way to hug that away.
Next time, just trust me.