Adventures in Passing at Rest Stop Restaurants

This post is the first in a series On Passing.

“What do you want to order, ma’am?”

I’m wearing a grey woman’s jacket with a purple hat and scarf. I’m not wearing makeup. I’m wearing women’s jeans. I’m not wearing earrings. A purple purse is strung across my shoulders. I’m wearing blue sneakers. I’m carrying my daughter Mercena in my arms.

“Will that be all, hon?”

And so I have passed the first of my rest stop restaurants gendered correctly. My prize: a smoothie for me and a Thai peanut salad for her. She drinks most of my smoothie.

“Sir? Sir, can I help you?”

It’s a different restaurant, same rest stop. I’m wearing the same exact things I was five minutes ago, except my child. Maybe that’s the difference? I pretend not to hear the word “sir.” I don’t need their cheese sandwiches. I’m cutting down on dairy.

We finish our meal but we’re still hungry. I’m at Boston Market, getting a few sides. The person who helps me doesn’t gender me at all. I’m not wearing my jacket or scarf. Now, I’m wearing my lavender short-sleeve shirt, the one that hugs my a-cup breasts. I should make it through unscathed.

But no. The cashier, a teenage boy, sneaks in a “here you go, sir,” as he hands me my receipt.

I return to the table. The rest stop isn’t too busy, which means the stares and curious glances aren’t too bad. I shake off the sirs to be present with my family. I ready my courage to go the bathroom.

Being a non-passing trans person in public is to be always looked at but rarely seen.

Maybe once I’m done with laser. Maybe if I had been wearing makeup. Maybe once my fat distributes. Maybe after I get my eyebrows done. My hair done. Maybe I’ll need facial feminization surgery. Maybe I’ll never pass. Maybe if I wore feminine shoes.

Sometimes I can shake it off. I can focus on the “micro” of the micro-aggression. But there is always the fear of the wrong person clocking me. And there is always the grief of complicated loss. A loss for a life that never was. A life I didn’t really want. Because only the life I had leads me back, carrying mashed potatoes and corn, to the people I love.

The ones who see me. When Mercena misgenders me, which is less frequently now, she shakes it off and corrects herself like it’s not a big deal. Sometimes she’ll smile when she adds the “she” or “her” because she knows how happy it makes me. And then whatever loss or fear I feel are overwhelmed by love.

We finish our meal. Mercena can’t stop talking about the food at the rest stop, how great it was. I don’t correct her. Because it was delicious.

Published by CorinnaSchulenburg

Artist and Activist

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