Uniquely Normal, The Stories and Reflections of a Transitioning Transgender Girl: The Girl with the French Horn and Some Dating Advice for Men

My whole life, I’ve been plagued by this ever-present question: “Am I entirely unique and alone in this world, or am I really just like everyone else?” At various points in my life, I have believed one and at others, I believed the other. Now, I know that many people reading this have probably asked themselves this exact question, and that fact alone supports the conclusion that you and I are probably just another variation on the human theme. On the other hand, as you’ll soon read, I’m a bit different and off from the typical person. Unfortunately, I can’t answer this question for anyone else, but my answer is a resounding “Both.” I am both entirely unique, a snowflake, and a freak, but I also am just like everyone. I feel love, pain, happiness and sadness, anxiety, comfort, and nostalgia, just like everyone else. I am human(ish).

My name is Eloise. I won’t tell you everything about me, because knowing my real name and identity is entirely irrelevant to this discussion. In fact, I argue that knowing exact who I am (name-wise) will hinder you ability to know who I am (personality, intelligence, beliefs, feelings, whatever). So even if someone figures out who I am and tries to tell you, I encourage you to ignore them. It doesn’t matter.

Here is what I will tell you about myself: I am 25. I am white (and full of white privilege). I was assigned male at birth (and no matter what will still carry some male privilege). I grew up in an upper-middle class family who still loves and cares about me (I think that privilege is pretty self-explanatory). I went to a very good private university in the Southeastern US and got a double major. For the past few years, I have been attending grad school for a social science on the west coast. I am also transgender. I wish I could explain exactly what I am, but it’s kind of a moving target. But in the past months, I have at least once embraced the following identities: Transgender, Trans(sexual) Girl (not “woman”), Girl, Bigender, Genderfluid, Genderqueer, Queer, Bisexual, Pansexual, (Trans?)Lesbian, and Demisexual. Being transgender doesn’t carry too much privilege in our world, but I always feel like I am one of the most privileged trans people in the world, because I have (and have had for 24 years) all of those other things going for me.

In this blog, I am going to tell you stories. Some are pretty mundane and some are bat-shit crazy. I ask you to do your best to relate to these stories, but you can obviously only do so much. In fact, unless you are a pretty atypical trans person, I wouldn’t not expect you to be able to relate to more than half of these stories (though which ones will differ from person to person).

I want to hook people in, so I desperately want to start with a bat-shit crazy story, but I am afraid one of those might color your perceptions of me and how you will read my mundane stories. So I promise that my next post will be a bat-shit story (and a good one), but this one might be a bit more relatable to many of you:

The Girl With the French Horn, pt. 1

February 2007. I am 17, a devout Catholic (and am still an altar server), tall, chubby, and participating in an All-District Honors Band for the district where I live. I still think I am a normal guy. I play clarinet and of the 40-50 people who tried out for the band, I got 17! Which isn’t awful, but it means that I am chair 17 out of 20 in the band. I am in a herd of 10-12 third-part clarinets. No one gives a shit about me. Which is kinda ok. I get to be here, but there is little chance of embarrassment…Well, if I wasn’t me.

About 30 minutes into the band’s first rehearsal, I begin people watching. I always do that. Why not check out who is in this band with me? Pretty quickly, I notice this french horn player. The most beautiful french horn player. The most beautiful girl. The most beautiful person. She wears glasses, has long brown hair clipped to the side, and the most amazing set of facial features I have ever seen. In hindsight, I am pretty ashamed to admit this, but I must have stared at her every single second I wasn’t playing…plus a few times when I was. In between breaks, as I can still do nothing but think and talk about this girl, all of my friends encourage me to go ask her out. I am a wimp (/not a “normal” confident, cisgender guy) and it takes me forever to ask her out, but finally, right before the final concert, as we all awkwardly wait in a high school cafeteria, I get up the nerve to do it…

I walk over, introduce myself, and sit down next to her. It turns out that she lives one town over (about a 45 minute drive), which happens to be near where I work in the summers, so I have some good small-talk fuel. After a few minutes of pretty awkward chatting, here’s what I get up the nerve to say “Ok I know this is going to sound really weird…but you are the most beautiful girl I have ever seen in my life. Would you by chance want to go out sometime?” (Ironically, now that I identify as a girl, I actually hate that type of pick-up line [see discussion below], but it seemed as innocent/honest as possible at the time.)

A little taken aback, it takes her a second, but she eventually responds “Well, I actually have a boyfriend.” Suddenly, the band director makes an announcement of some sort. (At this point, my memory cuts out…I think the recording got a little to over-exposed [to embarrassment].) But I say something or other and awkwardly and quickly retreat to my friends.

During the whole time we perform, I can still see her out of the corner of my eye. Ugh. Why did I do that? She probably just said that to get rid of me! I’m not even sure how much air I actually put through the instrument. I can’t even think about anything else.

As a stroke of luck, I get to drive my car (my grandparents old Toyota Camry) home, without any parents or grandparents distracting me from my utter embarrassment. On the way home, I blast this Live Ani Difranco album and sing along to what I can, slowly trying to rebuild my self-confidence. At this point in my life, despite owning at least a dozen of her albums (actual CD’s), I am totally unaware of Ani Difranco’s popularity among queer women. I just like her…and she makes me think…and feel like it is ok to be whoever I am.

Of course, news of my failed attempt at courtship quickly spread throughout my school, but everyone who actually spoke with me actually just wanted to hear the story and applaud me for my confidence, so overall, it wasn’t the end of the world. Plus, this girl doesn’t even go to my school so any and all embarrassment ends with the story, which will be forgotten by the end of the week.

January 2009. Two years later, at about 2 AM, I am sitting next to the girl with the French Horn. We are both trying to stop ourselves and recover from crying. It isn’t going great, but eventually we pull out of it. We get up from the cold and lonely bench and continue wandering around the campus of her tiny, Christian, private university. Very soon, I need to do the two hour drive back to my parent’s house (because of our [her] Christian values, there is no way I could stay over, even if I sleep on a chair in the common area). In the morning, I will need to leave at about 7 AM for the airport so I can go back to my (much larger and liberal-er) private university. We continue talking, hoping something we say will somehow soften the blow of separating and the difficulties of a long-distance relationship. Eventually, we passionately make-out, I walk her back to her dorm, we talk a little more, whisper romantic nothings, make-out a little more, and I leave. I cry almost the entire drive back.

If you couldn’t tell from the title and ending of this story, there are bits and pieces more to come in this story.

Dating Tip For Men – How to Complement a Girl you Just Met

Hey y’all. One of my favorite things from seeing gender from multiple points of view is actually understanding so many silly mistakes that a lot of people make when dealing with the opposite gender, particularly in cisgender, heterosexual relationships (presumably the most common kind).

Ok guys, you are at a bar. You see a supper hot/cute/pretty/gorgeous/ok/do-able/real girl. You think “Damn, she has a great [insert whatever particularly attracts you to her].” You decide to go over to chat her up/ask her out. At this point, the only reason you are walking over is because you find her attractive. But you need some reason to actually go talk to her…very few guys can actually pull off just saying “I thought you were hot and I’d like to sleep with you.” And honestly, you’d probably be a huge douche if you tried. You get up to her and don’t really have a good pick-up line nor a good conversation starter in mind. So you decide to be nice and simultaneously endear yourself to her by giving her a compliment. She’ll feel good. She’ll like you. Good all around. You don’t know her yet, but she was very attractive and you had to try, so all you really have to compliment is her looks. You want to be honest and say how you feel, because it really is quite innocent and flattering. You want to tell her that she is “beautiful” or “smokin'” or whatever term you think will endear you the most with her.

No. Don’t do that.

First, consider whether whether this girl is actually here to meet new people…or just hang out with her friends. If the latter, don’t be an ass,

Now, if you are pretty sure she is there to actually meet people, consider this…Women (particularly young women) are complemented on their looks all the fucking time. By this point, I am sure you know that I am trans. Well, because I don’t feel like explaining the ins-and-outs of being non-binary, I tend to just make online profiles that have pictures of me presenting in one type of way or another. So I have a few just trans-girl profiles. I have an okcupid account like this with just a couple of pictures. From the last week alone, I have at least 20 messages in my inbox from men complementing my looks. Some are more subtle. Some are frank, dirty, and rude. But I am a trans girl and most guys tend not to find me as attractive as a cis-girl…which I totally get. So if I get 20 messages like this a week, how much does a cis-girl get? How often has she been told that she is pretty or has a nice [insert feature] in person? How many times has her looks been a go-to point of conversation throughout her life? Probably a fuck-ton. I,  the trans person who has only been out for 8 months or so, have been so overwhelmed with complements about my looks that now when I hear one, it is pretty meaningless in and of itself. Instead, when I get a complement now, I immediately get a little anxious about whatever guy says it, because the odds are decent that if I turn him down politely (or don’t respond online), I will end up being harassed in one way or another. So I don’t really appreciate those types of complements anymore. Plus, and while this is not true in the bar situation, when a guy just messages me about my looks online, he very clearly says to me “The reason I am messaging you is because I want to date[/fuck] you because I find you attractive, but I couldn’t really give a shit about your personality or intelligence.” I mean, I have this well-written profile that talks about who I am, what I like, and what I am looking for, and all these guys have to say is “Wow, you look so hot. I’d love to hang out some time.” Ugh.

If you don’t believe that she gets the same “compliments” from guys all the time, I promise that you are wrong. Y’know how I know? Because you find her attractive. If you do, trust me, other guys have. No matter what you believe, you are not the only man who has found this girl attractive. Many men have even lower (or no) standards for women, and those men hit on everyone. If you want to hit on a girl, many other guys have too.

So…if you are at a bar and don’t want to fall into this trap and be like every other guy who wants to fuck this girl because she is hot, try something else. Don’t be fake and act like you know her when you don’t, but don’t go straight to telling her she is pretty. There is another reason why calling a girl “pretty” isn’t quite the compliment you might think. Much of a girl’s physical attractiveness comes straight from here genes. Sure, she could be thinner or fatter or have a different style, but generally, most people can’t choose whether they get the short end of the ugly stick or not. So if you just call her pretty, why should she feel special? Because she won the lottery on good genes? Oh great. I am sure she is really proud of that. I am sure that she is way more proud of her genes than the things she actually has chosen in life.

So what do you do? Simple. Compliment something she did choose! For example…”Hey, I just wanted to say that I really like your [hair, glasses, earrings, purse, necklace, shirt/top, dress, outfit, shoes, etc.]. It/They look(s) really great!” I promise you that it will go way better than just pretty, beautiful, hot, whatever. Plus, it is rare (or at least seems rare to me so far) that men actually will do this! Particularly if you choose something like her purse or earrings. And no, if you compliment her purse, she will not assume you are gay. In fact, stop worrying about that all together. One of the most harmful parts of masculinity and misogyny is the fear of being feminine. Women do not have the same fear about being masculine, and by being afraid to be feminine, you devalue it, you devalue women, and you devalue the person you are trying to talk to. Trust me, 9 times out of 10, if you compliment a girl in this way, it will go over well. Even if they aren’t interested in you, you can totally play it off as though you were just paying her an innocent compliment (which is much harder when you call a girl “hot”). Ever since I came out, I’ve had zero qualms about complimenting people (often women) like this, no matter how I am presenting. And guess what? Without even trying, I have ended up chatting up girls (even getting a number or two), just because I liked someone’s outfit and complimented it. Just do it (but don’t abuse it). It is totally worth it 🙂