Posted by: Shula Asher Silberstein | 2 June 2010

Thoughts After Eating Chinese Food

Tonight Gavri’el and I bought Chinese food for supper. We do this pretty often, probably at least once a week. The Chinese lady who takes our order is one of the most accepting people we have met here. She met Gavri’el before she had begun wearing women’s clothes in public. A few weeks later, I was no longer calling Gavri’el my brother, but my sister. She was wearing a padded bra underneath her tank top, a pair of women’s jeans I’d given her, and a pair of heeled women’s boots. We walked into the restaurant, both of us slightly unnerved by customers turning their heads to look at us. The woman behind the counter treated us just the same as she had the last time we walked in.

I wish more people were like that Chinese woman. People who work in customer service seem to be fairly accepting, or at least tolerant, and quite a few times we’ve been pleasantly surprised by people talking to us as if we were “normal people”. But still, things shouldn’t be the way they are. Neither of us should have to be surprised that a stranger in Walmart is friendly to us as we browse the toy aisles or that a store clerk takes the time to get to know us. We are human beings. Gavri’el is a transgender woman and I am gender-neutral leaning towards being more masculine than feminine. She wears makeup and heels while I wear men’s dress shirts and trousers. That shouldn’t make a difference to anybody.

When Gavri’el first began wearing women’s clothes in public, I admired her courage. I’m on several LGBT rights groups, and they often post news stories about transgender people–especially transgender women–who are attacked, beaten, or killed because of their gender identity. Reading all these stories makes it seem like being openly transgender is extremely dangerous. I knew that Gavri’el needed to express herself, and I was proud of her for refusing to be anyone other than who she really is, but a simple act such as walking into a restaurant seemed as courageous as moving through a mine field in Iraq.

It’s been about two months now, and the worst thing that has happened is that occasionally someone will howl or whistle out their window. Most of the people who do that don’t even bother to stop their cars.  (Of course, it’s always important to be aware of your surroundings, but that’s important safety advice for anyone, not just transgender people.)

And again, I’m glad that safety isn’t as much of a concern as the media seems to think it is, but it shouldn’t even be an issue. Nobody should have to think twice about walking down the block or into a restaurant.

Part of the reason it has been so difficult for both of us to find romantic partners is because only 1-2% of people identify as transgender, depending upon which studies you read. But I wonder how accurate those statistics are. How many people are afraid to say they are transgender, even on an anonymous survey, because they’ve read too many news stories about how transgender = murder victim or think that somehow other people will find out who they are?

In a way, it comes out the same. I’m at home writing a blog about transgenderism instead of out on a date with an openly transgender woman because there just aren’t very many openly transgender women out there, and the few I know I have firmly established platonic relationships with for a variety of reasons. The point is, being openly transgender is scary for some and awkward for others, and it shouldn’t be that way.

I hate to write blogs of this nature. I am not an overwhelmingly political person; I don’t like to discuss issues as much as I like to talk personally. I had hoped to write about my own burgeoning exploration of how to dress more like the opposite gender, but my mind and spirit had other plans tonight.

I am not writing this blog just to complain, though. My main mission in life is to encourage people to be themselves. If there is anyone reading this who is in the closet–transgender or otherwise–I encourage you to come out to just one person or to go out in public to just one place, dressed exactly how you want to dress or with who you want to be with.

It’s time to crack the closet doors open as a first step to eliminating fear that should not have to exist.


  1. You both are very cool people. I also wish people were more accepting of people as people… Sometimes my family don’t like the idea that I am in an interracial relationship, even though there is no real issue with the guy I’m with except that he’s Black/ Latino and I’m White. Why should how a person or a couple looks matter? They still need to be treated respectfully as people, esp if they gave no reason to be disrespected. Gavri’el is very cool that she chose to be who she is, how she wants to be. And you for all your activism, and being who you are, are another person that I like very much 🙂

  2. “…My main mission in life is to encourage people to be themselves…” – that is an amazing mission and I wish you the best. Unfortunately, in some states or even in some countries it is the most difficult thing to do. Prejudice, lack of knowledge, plain narrow minded existence is hard to overcome but not impossible.
    You have to find harmony inside your heart and everything will be okay…

    • THanks Dace. 🙂 We (my roommate and I) both try to be ourselves no matter what…. it’s not always easy but it feels sooo much better than attempting to be what other people want us to be.

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