Transgender model Arisce Wanzer walks us through one of her typical days.
Have you ever been out to run errands? How about to brunch with friends? Have you ever been to the mall, a movie, a Broadway show, maybe Trader Joe’s? Of course you have, all you have to do is leave the house. The real question is: Have you ever done these basic human activities while being transgender? That’s where simple can get complicated, irritating and sometimes scary. I’m going to tell you what it’s like to be me, a 27-year-old transgender woman who lives with the same quest as every human being: Just trying to be happy.
I live by the belief “live and let live,” so I’ve never understood disagreement or hostility to anyone or anything that I didn’t immediately understand. One shouldn’t judge but should be driven more by the curiosity of it all. That all being said, my day-to-day life never ceases to amaze me with the reoccurring theme of shame and ignorance aimed at me and my trans people. Why would anybody audibly insult a human being they did not know or understand? Why would anyone bully or ostracize that same type of person? I can’t answer these questions because I don’t think that way. But I would love for you to tell me.
I wake up in the morning and scroll through my Instagram feed, flip through my Facebook, my tumblr and the status of my fan page. I answer texts from the boys I love, and then I brush my teeth. I do my living room cardio before I head to the gym, have a cup of tea, and I’m out the door. I walk down the streets of a now-gentrified Washington Heights ready to work it out to the latest Britney, Kylie, GaGa and Beyoncé. But first I have to get past this crowd of guys I don’t know safely.
My eyes meet the ground, eye contact is an invitation for disaster. I hear them talk. “Daz a dude, my nigga!”, “Awww shit, daz a trannie, yo!”, “Hahaha! Oh SHIT!”, “Fuck that shit, yo, fuck that shit! That shit is NASTY!”, “What the FUCK!?”, is what they say, loud enough for all to hear. And that’s on an “OK” day where they don’t actually accost you and your personal space.
I get through unscathed, physically, and go to work out. My mom calls, and I talk to her through my cardio, never disclosing the previous events as I don’t want her to worry. I am fine. I’m going to be fine.
After the gym, I have to restock on groceries like toilet paper, arugula, frozen vegetables and tilapia. I arrive safely to the local ShopRite grocery and everything seems fine. Maybe I’ll cook shrimp for lunch today? Yeah, that sounds good! But why is that stock boy looking at me funny? Shouldn’t he be putting the rest of those paper towels away? What is he coming over here for? “Hello there,” he says. “Hi,” I say, slightly confused. “I’ve seen you here before,” he continues. “Yeah, I live around the corner, I needed food for my house,” I claimed kind of condescendingly. “You suck dick?” he asks/suggests shamelessly. “Are you kidding me?”, I ask a little outraged. “I’ve been with girls like you before, you’re good at it, I get off work at 10.” “Umm, yeah, NO you have the wrong idea, I love myself, I’m not the kind of person you’re looking for. I don’t do that,” I said with all of the calm and patience I could muster. I hadn’t even gotten to the granola aisle yet, for Christ’s sake. “No it’s OK, I won’t tell anybody, what is your number?” he finished. “Please go away, you’re making me sick to my stomach, and I don’t want to have to tell your manager what you’re saying.” He rolled his eyes and went back to doing his job. I didn’t leave the aisle out of principle because I wasn’t fucking done shopping!
After groceries, I made it back home unharmed. “This was a good day,” I thought to myself as I sautéed my shrimp and veggies. I defended myself at the store and knew when to be quiet on the streets. I wish my friends had been there to protect me, but that’s just the way it is. I have to be able to hold myself in the world.
After the well-deserved afternoon catnap came the multiple happy hour invitations. I’m expected to meet my friends for drinks at 6:30 p.m., and they said to “dress sexy.” They’re clearly trying to pull an all-nighter. I release a sigh of grief in annoyance. Dressing sexy just warrants more unwanted attention to me. Cisgendered/natural-born girls most likely feel the same pressure when asked to “dress up.” America is the land of “rape culture,” harassment and girls “asking for it,” all the while men are almost never really held responsible for their aggression or hostility towards us. “Boys will be boys” is the American way, and is what I’ve come to realize. I put on a dark dress that was cute at best but definitely not sexy. I had been bothered enough today to know that I was very much over the outside world’s opinion of me.
Im only truly happy when I’m with my LGBTQ friends at a gay establishment. Or in the house, which is pretty much the same thing. Booze, good music and the people you love can compare with nothing else in the world, I think. We dance, we drink, we kiss and schmooze, all without judgement on how we live our lives. We make new friends, talk to boys, we get happy, forget our worries. I’m approached by a cute gay guy I don’t know who has a twinkle in his eyes, a pep, a spunk. “You’re such a hot trannie!,” he yells to me over the music. Pretending not to be insulted by such a rude statement I simply say, “Thank you” all the while dancing away from his uncouth ass. Who says these things to people? Are we that desensitized as a society that there is literally no filter in human decency and communication? I feel like I was born and raised in the 1920s sometimes. A time where people minded their own business and only spoke such trash in the privacy of their own homes. I don’t know, maybe I’m the crazy one for wanting to be treated as an equal. But I digress.
After my ride on the A train, I’m alone and back on the streets to walk the two avenues it’ll take to enter the safety of my own home. Instinctively again, my eyes meet the ground. I always check behind me, and I do not make a sound. Yes, that rhymed. Another group of men appear, almost out of nowhere. They catcall and say the terrible anti-trans slurs I’ve come to expect after all of these years. The strong person in me wants to fight back, to say something, to defend myself and call out their ignorance. But the stronger part of me knows that I am loved. I would be a martyr for my pride and actually hurt the friends and family that need me here. A group of big scary guys vs. me. It doesn’t take a genius to know how that’s going to end for a transgender woman of color in these late night city streets. I’d have better luck jumping in front of a bus at full speed. So I walk on and pretend to get on the phone, talking to no one, but feeling as if someone is there. This almost always deflects unwanted attention feel free to steal this tactic if you find yourself in the same scenario.
I’m home now. I made it inside the door, and I’m locked into my safety nest. A sigh of relief and a shower are in order. It’s only 2 a.m., so I can definitely squeeze in a feel-good movie to end off the night. I make myself a nightcap and pop in “Pride & Prejudice” starring Keira Knightley. This was a good day. Yeah, definitely a good day.
Until next time, Ariscestocrats
Arisce Wanzer is a contributing journalist for TheBlot Magazine.