Choosing a Focus
Someone near and dear to me has a father who dispenses wisdom that she would mention to me with mixed feelings, as in “my dad is annoying but it’s hard to argue with his logic.”
One example was when there was a complex mix of things going on in her life, and she was very much focused on the negatives. Her father observed this, then asked her to imagine a lovely sunset yet nearby there was also a pile of doggie-doo. Both were part of the picture, in this mental exercise. She could choose to focus on either, or both. His point was that it might be more in her interest to focus on the positive: the pretty sunset. She and I both found it hard to argue with that premise.
You can’t help how you feel, but you can help what you choose to focus on.
Choosing to Tune Out
I have exceptionally good hearing. I’ve picked up barely-audible comments or conversations that others, much closer to the dialog, didn’t figure I could hear. Later, when I repeated what was said, these people were amazed that I was able to hear so well. It’s true; when I focus on things, I hear uncannily well.
Part of what I focus on involves things of potential danger to me or to whomever I’m with. As to negative comments from guys, I no doubt hear those too, as in: the sounds are audible, but it’s become my habit to tune them out psychologically. It’s a very useful habit.
When I was a trans girl in stealth mode, and looked officially like a guy, guys as a rule were very nice to me. But, after I came out as a trans girl, much negativity started to be focused on me. I initially figured that it’s because I looked freakish at the time, too androgynous and bitter by my standards. By implication, I also figured that, once I look more feminine, happier and prettier, things would improve.
In significant ways, they got worse instead. There’s a certain mindset of guy who responds to me more and more negatively, the better I look. This used to puzzle me until someone wise and wonderful explained to me some wisdom that her grandma had shared with her when a boy in elementary school was being mean: little boys are rarely pointedly mean for no reason. Oftentimes it’s because the little boy secretly has a crush on the girl and is excruciatingly embarrassed and tries to hide it from the girl, and also from his friends, his family and in a peculiar sort of self-denial, from himself too.
I read some more about that phenomenon, and I learned that oftentimes, the guys who are most negative to gay guys eventually show themselves as being gay themselves. For them, being mean to gay people is basically a defense mechanism intended to hide that they’re attracted. For an intense dramatization of this sort of mindset, I recommend watching the movie American Beauty.
By contrast, guys who live their lives confidently and aren’t bothered by gay guys any more than by anything else that’s value-neutral in their lives … odds are that those are probably guys who don’t feel the need for a defense mechanism, either because they’re straight or because they’re simply confident in who they are.
The word “homophobia” describes this mindset; it’s not the fear of gay people but the internal terror triggered in a person when faced with a gay person — internal terror because he realizes he’s feeling attraction and that’s anathema based on his peculiar value structure, and so he feels a tidal wave of self-disgust, which he then projects onto the gay person.
I’ve been told by someone with a Master’s in Counseling that disgust is the emotion that hate-crime violent people tend to feel right before they initiate the violence, so homophobia can be the prelude to a very dangerous situation.
The situation is exacerbated when the psychologically fragile person is among peers, and it’s worst when the prevailing culture is macho, which is a mindset that celebrates superficial symbols of masculinity — the biggest truck, the most expensive car, the biggest engine, the loudest car exhaust, the most expensive rifle, the loudest sound system.
The courting behavior of this mindset is so lacking in heterosexual persuasiveness that sometimes the macho guy’s best notion as to wooing a girl is to make his car’s tires squeal loudly and his engine to rev loudly. By what stretch of his imagination this is attractive to the typical female, I can’t imagine.
There’s often a huge culture gap between macho guys and the girls that they’re supposed to be so obsessed with … as yet another element of macho culture. Ironically, though, spending social time with a girl tends to be alien and bewildering to macho-culture guys, who actually feel much more at ease spending social time with their buddies, in spite of their loudly proclaimed obsession with girls.
As to macho guys who are mean to trans girls, the situation is more complex, yet still similar to homophobia. I’m a trans girl, and the body part I can use to write my name in the snow is the least interesting part of my physique, in my opinion. Not so, as to the vast majority of the guys who hit on me. Often they approach me in great secrecy, deeply ashamed of their obsession with my frontal plumbing. If I’d made that available in a pay-to-play arrangement, then by now I’d own a different-colored Bentley for every day of the week.
Then again, my announcement that a great many guys are obsessed as such is hardly newsworthy to anyone tabulating the statistics as to the sort of porn that, no surprise, guys watch the most, by far: trans girl porn.
This sets the stage for transphobia, which is parallel to homophobia but typically aimed at trans girls instead. The hotter the girl looks, the more intense the effect. So, as I’ve gradually started looking better over the years, I’ve gotten to experience more and more transphobia aimed at me – -and the less secure the guy feels, the more blatantly transphobic he is, and the more dramatic a public demonstration he makes of it. He’s even willing to behave in a way that’s utterly ridiculous, even in public as long as it soothes the excruciating discomfort he feels psychologically.
I’m no psychologist, so quite possibly, I am mistaken. Maybe I trigger this intense negativity for other reasons. Maybe I remind the guy of his most-hated niece, or most-hated movie character. Maybe he just behaves in a goofy way, at random. But, I don’t think so. Human behavior tends to look a lot less random once the principles of scientifically validated psychology are applied.
Do transphobic comments and the antics of insecure macho guys bother me? No … because unless they’re a danger to me, I tune them out. They don’t register.
Transphobia at the Rib Cook-Off
Macho-culture events are the ones where I observe the most transphobic behavior.
An example of a macho northern Nevada event is the annual rib cook-off held every late summer in the area by the Sparks Nugget hotel-casino. I tend to avoid the festival because BBQ pork isn’t my thing — but if it were, I’d go buy it at a local restaurant instead of going to that festival, since it’s Macho Guy Central for that week.
Guys from the American South tow their pork-BBQing contraptions and special sauces in trailers for thousands of miles behind their shiny, high-lift pickup trucks just to compete in this festival. As such, there’s a large contingent of macho guys around, with many of them coming from east of the Mississippi and south of the Mason-Dixon line.
I don’t keep track of when such macho festivals occur; they’re basically noise in the background as far as I’m concerned.
So, a few years ago, when a not-yet-out British trans girl friend came to visit me, and I wanted to show her a pretty place with lots of white marble and elegant decor, I took her to the Sparks Nugget, even though on that particular weekend, the place was overflowing with macho guys. Reason: her arrival coincided with the annual event of the pork-BBQing macho-guy crowd.
I didn’t care. As I walked cheerfully through the lobby of the hotel-casino, I enjoyed seeing all the happy people around, and I seeing the pretty decor. My friend didn’t seem all too happy, though. Once we were back in my car, she confessed to barely not slugging some of the macho guys who had been saying some very rude things about me.
I expressed surprise at the rude comments because I’d totally tuned them out. I had been enjoying myself, and rude comments hadn’t registered. She was surprised that I could do this, and I assured her that it’s a very handy skill.
Transphobia at a Classic American Muscle Car Show
Classic American muscle car shows tend to be another macho-guy event. Problem is, I really like these cars. I like 1960s culture, and that isn’t limited to me playing Simon & Garfunkel music on my guitar and watching 1960s TV shows.
My fascination includes 1960s car culture, including 1960s American cars, to the point where I can tell you the difference between a 1965 Ford Mustang and the 1966 model. I can discuss cubic inches as to the various engines used, and I could probably tell you a 10-minute story about almost every model of American muscle car made in the 1960s. I personally enjoyed owning a high-performance Plymouth Barracuda at some point. Part of the reason why I like my Ford E-150 van so much is that it has a Windsor 302 V8. I could go on and on …
So, today, when there was a classic car show in the small town where I live, just east of Reno … of course I went. I enjoyed it very much.
Were there macho guys there? I don’t doubt it, but I didn’t notice any. I chatted with a nice lady who came up to me and said hello — and apart from that, my focus was on enjoying the pretty cars.
If I inspired any macho-guy insecurity and thus goofy behavior, I didn’t notice any– neither by seeing nor hearing anything.
I’d just bought a nice new dress today, and I was feeling especially elegant, and so I set up my camera and took a few selfies. When I came home later, I processed these pictures, as in: cropped out irrelevant things around the periphery, and straightened skewed shots.
To my surprise, in the picture that I placed at the top of today’s article, in the lower left corner, is a guy behaving in a rather undignified way, with his focus clearly on me, and with his macho buddies nearby. Here are the enlarged views:
I have no idea who this guy is. Perhaps he just randomly behaves like that sometimes, or perhaps it’s a photo-bomb mindset. The latter had to be explained to me since I didn’t grow up in US culture. I gather that part of the macho mindset is malice reserved for someone taking a general picture, and the agenda is simply to ruin the ambiance of the picture. So, could be that this guy is just generally being rude, not targeting trans girls. Who knows …
If it’s transphobic behavior perhaps he’s just outed himself … in which case: thank you, Sir. I appreciate the compliment. I did indeed look quite nice today.
Either way, it was nice to not even be aware of this person until much later, and then only by coincidence..