Hello from the Istanbul airport where I am in transit! (I am always in transit. Get it? Because I am trans? okay I will stop now) Am travelling; this blog may soon temporarily be a travel blog. But first, two Singapore stories.
1. The other day I went to a gay bar for the first time. I had been wanting to go, and kept waiting for friends to bring me, but it didn’t seem to be happening, so I went by myself.
It was amazing. The bartender was super nice. I walked in and obviously looked like I had no idea what I was doing. He gently directed me to sit at the bar, and did such things as explained the concept of a tab, gave me space, then slowly drew me into small talk with a gay couple who were also sitting at the bar until we all got comfortable.
And then the couple were ridiculously nice to me. They bought me a drink and we talked a lot. They told me to worry less, and that everything will turn out okay. And they were concerned about how I was going to get home, made sure I left in time to take the last train, and walked me to the MRT station. AND they got my number and texted me a while later to see if I got back alright.
Like, I don’t know how it is everywhere else but my experience of straight bars so far has been that you go and you talk to your friends, or awkwardly sit by yourself while people, especially the bartender, judge you for not knowing how to pronounce names of drinks. I don’t know if it’s a queer community thing or because I was early that day and the bartender had time. I have not been back because I’m uncomfortable and awkward around people who are nice to me and hence tend to avoid them.
The gay bars in Singapore seem pretty exclusively frequented by gay men. I had been trying to be read as a gay guy, which never works and everyone used she pronouns at first. I don’t know if they thought I was straight or lesbian, but either way all parties involved didn’t seem to question my being there at all (I had expected further judginess about this) and were nice regardless. Eventually I clarified my pronouns and of course they were all cool with it.
2. I just finished my final exams for the semester. Had 4 exams and my gender was only questioned 3 times. Not a bad ratio /s.
The first invigilator did that thing where she jokingly pointed out that I don’t look like my photo ID. Which is a thing that cis people do because they don’t realise how often that happens to us and how it can be scary when people in positions of authority can just decide that your ID isn’t good enough. Like, I don’t know how else I can prove that I am really me?? That made me slightly anxious the next three times people checked my ID, but those were uneventful.
The other two times I needed to pee, and both times caused widespread alarm by heading for the long-hair toilet. (I have a theory that instead of gender, toilets are actually policed by hair length. If your hair length doesn’t match the expected, you will have trouble peeing.) It was actually pretty funny. It’s a large exam hall with different bathrooms at two ends. There are invigilators assigned to each block of students who will helpfully point the way as you walk pass them. So I casually head towards one, and three different people start quietly panicking and waving me towards the other one. They are all varying distances away, and can’t yell because an exam is going on. I guess as testament to my recent good mental health that was funny and affirming of my gender presentation rather than soul-crushing. Exams put me in a good mood. I’m weird that way 😛