Known But Not

Posted by – November 25, 2005

I’m not sure if anyone knows how weird it is being a public person, if you’re not. I know there are people on the boards and in the larger trans community who are known in their fields, so I’m sure they have a little bit better of an idea of it.

But Betty and I regularly deal with people feeling they know us better than they do. I don’t mind being out or visible or public. But it is an interesting experience, one that requires you to learn new things about how people relate and to notice when people are communicating in a way that has ‘crossed a line.’ The problem is that writing requires a writer to wear her skin as thin as she can, to bleed on the page, as some authors have put it. Some days it can be a little tricky to be thick-skinned (as a public figure) and completely open (in my writing) – simultaneously.

Having been a devoted fan of more than one band when I was a teenager – and currently being a fan of Rufus Wainwright – I understand how people have a sense of “me.” I also know now that anything I think I “know” about someone public is probably mostly wrong, or a part of the truth.

Anyone who knows me personally knows that I hate having my looks discussed. It’s not because I don’t think I’m pretty or any self-esteem issue like that; it’s just that I don’t think it’s worth discussing. I look like what I look like: nothing more, nothing less. Some people find me attractive, others don’t, but mostly I’m pretty content with my lot in that department. But at the same time it just seems odd for people who don’t know me to talk about what I look like. Talk about my ideas, my writing, my lectures and workshops – of course. Those are things I work on, that I care about, that I actually like feedback about. But my looks? Pah.

But who am I kidding? In a community where both passability and prettiness count for something, I’d be fooling myself to think I’d be left out of the self- and other- scrutiny in the looks department.

And yet – and yet: I would rather be left out, please.

2 Comments on Known But Not

  1. jadecath says:

    I’m trying to think of a famous woman whose looks aren’t considered a “topic” … a public woman from any field… I’m trying… I’m still trying to think of one… I failed. Not in several decades, anyway. I can’t think of any discussion of Marie Curie’s looks, but that’s about it.

    I guess that sounds like it’s an attempt to excuse the superficiality endemic in the trans community (“the larger community does it, too”), but it’s meant more as a tongue-in-cheek comfort. Total strangers think your appearance is their business; hey, you’ve arrived!

    Come to think of it, though, people make comments on anonymous strangers’ looks, too. Being famous just means there are more people doing it to you at once. Escaping that eye would mean staying inside with the blinds closed. Wow, that could really get to a person…

  2. helenboyd says:

    catherine, that would be far more my style. i’m a writer, after all. indoors, in pajamas, with cats. ;)

    thanks for the thought, & the effort. you’re entirely right: women’s looks are especially considered public domain, whether it’s hillary clinton’s or an anonymous woman walking to the grocery store.

    i suppose this was just my little request to those who, ahem, like me.

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