I’ve been doing a ton of hot yoga this week and I’m stoked on it. It’s like this intense workout, along with pretty much a motivational speech about being centered and grounded and authentic for an hour. It turns out that’s something I need in the morning. A beautiful woman telling me how strong and centered I am while sweat pours out of the top of my head.
It’s a real white lady thing to be into, at least in this midwestern context. That was a trippy moment in my transition, when I was like, oh shit I’m not going to be a guy I’m going to be a WHITE GUY. Which like, ok, white guys are also guys. But it’s not like “Guy” exists in people’s heads as an archetype they’ll put on you when you enter the room. “White guy,” “Black guy,” “Filipino guy,” those are actually the symbolic types we plug men into when they enter the room. And it was really that moment at the rich guy club, watching my boss be a crazy asshole with a powerpoint, that I was like, oh shit, this is a heavy symbol to carry, being a white guy. Especially if you’ve been on the other end of judging white guys, considering entering a room and having people put that on you suddenly becomes a tricky thing.
(This is a little mean, but when I worked at the clinic I got a big kick out of the white trans people who picked a name from an ethnicity clearly not their own. It’s so WRONG, but more people think they can get away with it than you’d think.)
Since detransitioning, I’ve been really trying to work out this white lady thing. I didn’t know that was a thing I had to work out before the transition. I really thought of the role I was having so much trouble with The Lady role. But for most people in the world when they see me they don’t see A Lady, they see A White Lady. It’s as loaded a symbol to walk behind as White Guy. But it’s way different. Because White Lady has all these different branches of types extending out, and all those types can depend on your clothes, speech, car, a lot to do with how well your teeth are doing, and SO MUCH to do with the style of makeup you’re rocking. You can get read as a social worker character, a princess character, a soccer mom character, I don’t know, this list is getting dumb, I honestly only started thinking about a taxonomy of white ladies this year, so I don’t think I’m an expert yet.
And then there’s other white ladies! They’re sussing you out as much as anyone else is! They’re trying to place you too! They’ve got all kinds of questions! Why are you drawing on your eyebrows? Why are you driving a Subaru? What’s up with the long necklaces? What’s up with the no jewelry? What’s up with the bare face? What’s up with the heels?
What’s up with your big butt? That’s a question I feel like I’m fielding more than I know from other women. People are not super smart, and I think on some level we think other people choose their butts. Like, oh she thinks she’s so much better than me with that little yoga butt. Oh look who’s walking around here trying to get attention with that huge butt.
Once a friend, who has a pretty exaggeratedly big butt, told me dudes consistently think she’ll be into anal. THAT’S HOW DUMB PEOPLE ARE. That’s the kind of stupidity that lives in our heads and we don’t even know we have those stupid ideas. Since she told me that I’ve been viewing people’s reactions to me through a filter of “They might not have realized I didn’t choose my body.” They might not realize I just wake up with it and magazines tell everyone the possible meanings of who I must be because of it, and I do my best within those possible meanings.
I’m trying to get comfy with other white ladies. In yoga the instructor is always telling us about our struggles, and finding our breath in our struggles, and there’s definitely a big part of me that looks at the other women in the room and thinks “These white women don’t have any struggles.” Which is a judgment of them that on some level makes me feel like a really good, woke white woman. Gosh I’m so enlightened and committed to racial justice I’m not like these other white women. But no. They’re doing yoga because they feel like they need it, I’m doing yoga because I feel like I need it, we’re in the same room, breathing at the same time, we’re as close to being exactly alike as any group of people could be. That judgment feels good but it’s a lie that feels good. You get any group of women in a room, no matter how much whiteness and money you got in there, you’ve got people who have gone through some significant shit. Being a person is an assurance you will go though significant shit. All those crazy rich dudes at that club had significant shit they were running away from with expensive scotch.
I did some standup at a black bar the other week. (My town is super segregated, also comedy is super segregated.) Sometimes you do standup and you’re doing it for 5 drunk people, and that’s what this was. I was the only white woman in the place, and in a situation like that you gotta just own being a white woman, and let everyone else know they can talk out loud about it too without you getting uptight. At some point after my set everyone started referring to me as “Becky.” During the show another comic was talking about light-skinned v. dark-skinned black people, and then a light-skinned lady wanted me to come over to compare my skin to hers. I held my arm up to hers, said something like, “look at all that pink,” and she told me about all the different races she’s read as.
Of course I loved it. That’s a weird thing about white people, how much we love when other people joke with us about race. Wait, is that a universal white person thing?
I feel like I got this really valuable opportunity when my transition wasn’t going to work to internalize the reality that other people don’t choose their bodies or their circumstances, but they’re making the best of it. That’s a realization that’s brought me a lot of happiness. It’s also been weird, especially as my backstory becomes more indiscernible to people, but it’s helped me not judge people as much. Hmmm. I don’t want to suggest I don’t spend my whole day judging the shit out of people. I’m super judgey. But a lot of times if you can push yourself past the judgment other people are a real joy.
Sometimes I feel like the silliest person. But then sometimes I feel like the most important work to do in this world is appreciate the people around you, because that feeds people so much, to feel appreciated. And I don’t need to solve all the world’s problems, because that’s not an individual task, that’s what we’re all going to end up doing together, and you know, make new, weirder problems.
Ooooh I love this positive-ass yoga brain! I’m both stupider and wiser!