As I’m sure most people can relate, I’ve done some dumb things in my life. Sometimes these moments are laughed off, sometimes they go down in the record books (see my umbrella story) and other times they just haunt me forever.
This particular story haunts me because I am ashamed to have been the bigoted person I was back then. I guess I can be glad that I’ve changed since then, and that I would never behave this way now. But still… I shudder when I think of it.
The scene: Provincetown, Ma. Summer 2002.
The backstory: Still teetering on the edge of my decision whether to leave Christadelphia or not, one of my siblings and I decided to spend a few days on Cape Cod with a Christadelphian couple who we were close to at the time.
One afternoon, we went up to Provincetown or “Sodom and Gomorrah”, as my friends referred to it. If you are not familiar with Provincetown, or P-town, it has long been a destination and safe haven for people in the LGBTQ+ community.
At the time, I was unaware of my dear sibling’s queerness. I mean, I had my suspicions, but because of how I’d been brought up, and the people I hung around with, it wasn’t something I thought about much.
As we were walking down the sidewalk in P-town, a tall, broad-shouldered individual walked toward us wearing makeup, heels and a sundress.
I side-eyed them as they passed, and as soon as they were behind us I began jabbing my elbow into my sibling and going “that was a man, baby!” in my best Austin Powers voice. I felt excited about it, like I had just spotted a rare specimen that I’d heard so much about but had never seen with my own eyes.
My sibling did not react as I had expected. Instead, he shoved off my elbow, scowled and told me to shut up. I was used to his surly attitude in those days, no doubt caused in part by my idiotic bigotry being on display at random moments. In my excitement, I don’t think it really dawned on me how utterly rude I was being.
Maybe it was a small turning point in my awareness. I didn’t know it then, but my sibling would come out as trans just a few years later. Of course I would never want anyone elbowing their friends and trying to discern my sibling’s gender based on their body size or shape, or any other physical feature.
In the years since that gross display of cishet privilege, I have pivoted completely. I do my best to be an ally to anyone in the LGBTQ+ community. Of course I would still notice someone who was presenting in a non-binary fashion, but rather than freak out and make a big deal, I would just treat them as kindly as I’d like to be treated myself.