Some people categorize me as male, see that I am wearing a skirt, and express surprise. “Dude, you’re wearing a skirt”. (Yes. Yes, I am.)
Others express confusion, usually in the form of a question. “Do you want to be a woman?” (Not in the way you are probably asking.) “Is that a kilt?” (No.) “Are you trying to make a statement?” (I am not choosing my clothing predominantly to shock you; I am choosing it to feel comfortable.)
Once in a while, I get respect. “You’re brave”. (Thank you.) “I wish I could do that.” (I wish you could, too.)
Mercifully rarely, bullies come along. “I will not answer your question while you are wearing a skirt.”
All of those things I can deal with. This wasn’t always the case; I cannot overstate how grateful I am for all the support I have received over the years. It is because of my dear friends and cheerleaders that today I can express my gender with comfort and ease and spend more time worrying about where I can get leggings in my size than about whether I am going to be laughed out of a room.
Each snappy retort, thoughtful answer, or act of standing up to a bully comes with a price: each one is a reminder that I live in a culture in which it is remarkable to witness a penis covered by a skirt, and that I speak a language in which “less male” and “less worthwhile” can be synonymous.
From time to time, though, I would prefer to go about my life without those reminders. They are tiring.
So when you come to me and say something as simple as “Fabulous colors” or “Where’d you get that skirt?”, know this: by acting as if my skirt is remarkable, but my act of wearing it is not, you have brought me hope and joy.
I am feeling them, but I will not thank you; the moment I thank you, I depart from the safe harbor they offer me and remind myself where I started.