Adventures in Retail

I have this list of restaurants, corner stores, and coffee shops I’m no longer willing to walk into. It goes like this: some days my depression is a cold sweat I can’t shower off. Some days I don’t feel like putting in the effort, so during last finals week, every day I would walk into a little tea shop in sweats and a t-shirt, no makeup, order my tea and go home. I did this every day until the cashier knew my name, asked how I was doing, and knew my order without me saying a word. Then, at the beginning of the new quarter, I come in like a new season, makeup done, hair brushed, in a brand new dress. She makes eye contact. Looks down. Doesn’t say a word.

Some days my gender feels like a betrayal of everyone around me. By this I mean, my gender is most often an inconvenience, my pronouns are unwieldy in a stranger’s mouth, the womxn of my body is all too “man” for them to see anything else. I think the thing my disability has most in common with my gender is how they both make people so uncomfortable. Or maybe that there are still people in my life who remember me before both were visible. I sometimes think about how hard it must be, for the ones who don’t tell me how hard it is for them, that I am like this.

I sometimes feel like I roll over the beginning of conversations, I’ve always had a tendency of jumping into the bloodiest part of any exchange. I often forget to introduce myself. So here it is, my name is torrin. My pronouns are they/them/theirs or she/her/hers (maybe, if I like you enough). I’m a queer polyamorous cripple. I have bipolar, social anxiety, and PTSD. Most of the time I’m a poet. Sometimes I am just trying really hard to get my bachelor’s degree. Then there’s the elephant in every room. My gender. I remember trying to explain to my mum what any of this means. I’m not a boy or a girl, and I’m not your son or your daughter. Trying to explain that I could be something else entirely. She’s still learning. Calls me kid, babe. But she calls me, and in that sense I’m a lot luckier than most. So what is my gender? Something like a womxn, but not. Womxnish? There’s this incredible genderfluid poet Justice Ameer, and in the intro to one of xyr poems online (Gender or Desperation) xe say “people think just because you’re genderfluid they can deny your gender, like, I’m still a trans womxn regardless of what I look like today, bitch.” Hearing that was a big moment for me, and made me realize that I could be and not be something as big as a womxn. All of this is to say, I am a disabled, mentally ill, genderqueer trans womxn. Which means I have a lot to complain about.

For example, the three kinds of people you will meet while taking part in a capitalist society as a trans person:

    1. Tired Retail Workers. They probably don’t care that you’re trans. They probably didn’t notice that you’re trans. They are probably counting minutes until their 30/end of shift/inevitable death [it is at this point that I should probably mention that I have one or two minor qualms with late capitalism].
    2.  

    3. Liberals. These people will be very excited that you, a “transgendered” person, have decided to patronize their establishment and might actually tell you that in almost the same exact phrasing. They will also probably tell you about their “transgendered” friend/child/friend’s child. They will probably misgender you/the aforementioned “transgendered” person/Caitlyn Jenner for some fucking reason, in the course of your conversation.
    4.  

    5. Transphobes. These can probably be divided into three major categories.

3.1) The “Friendly” Transphobe. Armed with passive aggressive flirting or compliments, they are fully prepared to make your transness into a bullseye to remind you how inconsiderate it is for you to exist in public.

3.2) The Well-meaning Transphobe. (See: Liberal)

3.3) The Blatant Transphobe. The scary part about them is that they look just like everyone else when they aren’t wearing their Breitbart t-shirts.

The thing about it is, up until that visit the cashier was friendly, noticed when I didn’t come for a few days, gave me extra stamps on my stamp card, acted surprised whenever I ordered something new. But the first time I walked in, visibly trans it was like I disappeared from the room. Being trans will always make me the most or least visible person in any room. And when it comes right down to it, walking out my front door is tough enough knowing what the statistics for violent crimes against trans people look like. Going and getting a cup of tea shouldn’t have to be so damn hard.


torrin a. greathouse (they/them or she/her) is a genderqueer, cripple-punk from Southern California. They are the Editor-in-Chief of Black Napkin Press. Their poetry is published/forthcoming in Duende, Apogee, Frontier, Lunch Ticket, & Assaracus. She is a 2016 Best New Poets, Bettering American Poetry, and Pushcart Prize nominee, and semifinalist for the Adroit Poetry Prize. torrin’s first chapbook, Therǝ is a Case That I Ɐm, is forthcoming from Damaged Goods Press in 2017.

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