For those of you who don’t already know, I am pansexual and polyamorous. I have a husband and two girlfriends, and one of my girlfriends is trans like me. As I’d already been invited to Utah Pride by another podcast, and seeing as she’s from there, I invited her to come spend the time with me before we move in together with my family in St. Paul.
When you live in the East, you often hear combinations of cliches about flyover states, but Utah in particular is associated with the Mormons; people who have a reputation for being overly friendly, but also holding some incredibly bigoted and backward views. I’ve had to live-read the book with Molly Un-Mormon, I’ve read this shit!
But there’s always the promise that in a metropolitan city that hosts a huge Pride festival, it won’t be as bad as, say, having it in a rural area with a bad reputation. The cities are always safer for people like us, right?
The crassness, arrogance, ugliness, and deliberateness of the people in this area surprised me, and I’ve spent the last four years in Philadelphia, the city known to respond to its reputation for being assholes with “At least we’re not as bad as New York!” This was a different beast though.
We weren’t sure where the festival was being held, and we ended up taking an unintentional several mile hike around the city. As people who love each other tend to do when they’re doing something together, we held hands… something you can only find gross or inappropriate if you hold queer people to a different standard than you would anyone else. Apparently, this was the latter.
Slurs were shouted at us from car windows. People passing by made remarks. From all types, from all directions, we were shouted at endlessly for having the nerve to walk on a sidewalk while being trans. And of course we were holding hands, which is like third base in Mormon, so there was also that.
In Philly, someone might shout something at you, but it won’t be an epithet. They’ll tell you to go fuck yourself, but it’ll be for taking a parking space, not for existing. They’ll punch you in the face, but it’ll be for wearing a Cowboys jersey, not for being a minority. That’s the difference I’ve noticed in all my traveling: People are assholes everywhere, but it’s why they choose to be assholes that marks the difference for me.
Even when I was in Lexington, Kentucky, the South, people stared and made remarks under their breath. But to be this verbose and deliberate about it was something different for me, and I held up a little better than she did by returning it with my signature snark, but I can only hold up for so long. We’re human, after all.
It takes a lot of energy to wear armor. It takes the emotional battery to try to shield others from hatred, and no matter how strong you are, sometimes you have to put the shield on the charger and close your eyes and cry. After that, being called “sir” after four times of saying “I’m not a sir,” after being treated like shit in the Staples, and after some of the worst hotel service I’ve ever experienced, I felt drained, apathetic, and just needed to be held in my girlfriend’s arms. The world got too loud.
But as I calmed down, I had to reflect on some other things. Our time that we spent together here was magical, whether it was alone or with friends. Daily messages of admiration and appreciation for what it is that I do keep me going, and I’ll take one of those for every hundred bigots that call me a slur. The memory of those will remain long after the pain from being catcalled has faded.
To spend a night with friends who are genuinely curious about your story and share theirs with you… To learn from new friends, meet their families, and divulge experiences that we may have explained a thousand times, but ears and faces are willing to receive them, that was magical. And even though I had to leave the room several times because the noise got to be too much, the love and support from the friends far outweighs the multitudes of assholes.
Plus I got to meet Misty K. Snow, the first transperson to run for Senate. Or, as Felicia put it, “she wants to meet you.” I still haven’t reached that level of dissonance where I understand that, especially when it’s someone who has done far more in this world than I could ever hope to. I feel like a phony, a fraud, when I stand next to someone like that and people regard us in the same sentence. But they do. I don’t get it, but they do.
Then, as I awoke this morning, I recalled the Wells Fargo teller who responded to me correcting her use of my name with a compliment. I remembered the affirmative messages that a dozen people sent this weekend. And I saw the look in my girlfriend’s eyes as she woke up next to me and we were still here, still strong, still together, and still ready to fight, even as much as it hurts. I wrote a poem about that moment that I’ll put at the bottom of the page. It was a transcendental moment, no pun intended, and even with all that’s happened, I’m truly grateful for this experience.
I may not have spent a second at Pride, but I still have reasons to celebrate. Sunday, I’ll have my first event as a featured speaker in Allentown, Pennsylvania, and I just got booked at another in Flint, Michigan. I repeat that I don’t know why people want to hear what I have to say, but the best I can do is try not to let them down, especially in these times.
I got a tattoo of the Against Me! lyric/motto/attitude: “True Trans Soul Rebel.” It means that even in the worst of times, when everyone wants us gone or dead, we defy them by continuing to live our lives outside of the closet. We will be loud, we will be defiant, we will express our love without apology, and we will continue to fight against this ugliness and bigotry so that others don’t have to. People like Misty, who ran as a transperson in freaking Utah, help me remember that. If we can take heat off those who are coming out now or in a few years, it’s all worth it.
And this has all been worth it.
I’ll leave you with the aforementioned poem I wrote this morning. Hope to see some of you in Allentown, Flint, and at my live show in July. Thank you.
SMALL MOMENTS BLUES
By Marissa Alexa McCool
The sun peers in from the bay window. The curtains gently unfold ever so slightly, allowing the light of a new day to envelop the darkness. Short breaths, signs of the unseen and subconscious haunting reality slowly dissipate among the new morning rising.
The stacks of books make way for trains of thought, chugging through the heavy slog of the weight of minor sorrows. To compare the slurs and hatred against the affirmations and encouragement, it brings us all to an examination of the balance.
The hatefulness pricks harder, but the love remains long after the sharp stings of ignorance penetrate our armor. Your hand, my hand, united and defiant against what we’re supposed to be, committing revolution by knowing what we’ll face from the public, and choosing to be visible anyway.
Not all life needs to be a fight, this is true. But in finding happiness in simplicity, peacefulness in serenity, we defy the wishes of those who would harm us by smiling to ourselves and each other.
You can call us dykes. You can call us trannies. You can call us queers. You can fight to eliminate us from public life. But every time that we smile at each other and kiss despite you, we’re winning the war.