Gender Spectrum: Reflections on being Transgendered in the Isles

This column appeared in Da Kine magazine, November 2001 and reappeared in Transgender Tapestry #099, Fall 2002.

by Li Anne W. Taft

Make No Excuses

Whatever others may think or say about their appearance and lifestyles, transgendered men and women can feel secure in who they really are . . .

Early in my journey between genders, I learned an important lesson. One morning, after I had boarded a Honolulu bus, the driver leaned back and gave me big stinkeye, as if to communicate his disapproval of my transgendered appearance. Feeling uncomfortable, I grimaced back and looked for a seat in the back of the bus.
Sitting among people from many different backgrounds and ethnic groups, my anger grew as I wondered why the bus driver had acted so rudely. Perhaps, I thought, my strong hands and broad shoulders caused him to wonder whether I was a man or woman. Perhaps he thought I was a drag queen. I felt like crying.

Eventually, I moved to the front of the bus. I wanted to tell the driver I didn?t appreciate his stinkeye and that I was a woman?a transgendered woman. Sitting near him, I got out only, ?Excuse me...? before more riders entered, grabbing his attention. It was then I noticed the driver was giving each of the new passengers?an elderly woman, a banker-type guy, and a mother with her baby?the same stinkeye he had given me.

I sat back, feeling relieved and embarrassed. It wasn?t me, I realized?it was the bus driver. He had an attitude, The stinkeye was his problem?not mine.

Weeks later, on my third day as a YWCA summer youth leader, I was caught off balance by an enthusiastic inquiry from an innocent 5-year-old boy. ?Are you REALLY a woman??

Reflecting on the lesson I learned that day on the bus, I searched for a lighthearted, non-defensive response. In an instant I had it. ?Of course I am,? I replied with a gentle smile. ?Are you REALLY a little boy??

Raphael?s blue eyes fluttered as he gave a firm ?Yea,? and we rejoined the others in play.

Li Anne Taft, a resident of Hawaii since 1993, lives in Honolulu, where she is employed as an administrative assistant. She is a member of a women?s outrigger canoe club and has served as an elected City Neighborhood board member. She lectures on transgender issues at area colleges.