09 August 2010
Public or Private?
Here’s a dilemma that’s become familiar to me: The one of “going stealth” vs. being more public about my identity.
Ironically, taking a long bike ride has made me think about that question. I think taking that ride alone and feeling good about it further complicated the situation, albeit in a good way.
When I first started my transition, I wondered whether I’d be able to take solo rides like the ones I used to take. Don’t get me wrong: Sometimes I enjoy company when I’m in the saddle. But you don’t lose your taste for riding alone if you’ve spent weeks or months on your bike in countries other than your own. Part of it has to do with having the freedom to follow my own whims, which is something cycling has always meant to me. I’ve purchased a plane ticket the day before my flight and packed that evening before going off to France with my bike.
Given the increased levels of so-called security, I don’t know whether I will ever again be able to take off with so little advance planning. And, I don’t know how I’d bring my bike. The last time I brought a bike on a plane was just before 11 September in 2001.
But, even more important were my concerns about safety. I wondered whether that was the reason why I still don’t see very many women riding bikes by themselves. I also wondered whether I would be self-conscious, as I sometimes am when I eat alone in a restaurant.
Well, so far things have worked out well. Not only have I not had any problems, so far, with would-be harassers, I have been treated well, and with great courtesy. People, especially men of a certain age, go out of their way to hold doors open for me and to be helpful in all sorts of ways. And, of course, a couple have flirted with me.
Maybe I’m seen as someone’s eccentric aunt or grandmother. Whatever the case, no one seems to suspect or care about my past and, of course, I have no desire to talk about it with most people I meet.
This is a really nice position to be in. Would I have to compromise it if I continue to advocacy about LGBT issues, or work with organizations that work with the community? I think now of the panel discussion in which I participated last week. I enjoyed it, but I was glad to be able to go back to being a “civilian” when it was over. Even though I know I am “of transgendered experience,” to use the politically correct parlance, I underwent my therapy, hormone treatment and surgery so I could live as the woman I am. That seems to be working well for me. It’s nice not to have to explain myself.
Still, I wonder whether, or how much, I am responsible to educate other people about us and to what degree I am obligated, or want, to advocate for us.