Condoms and Thrush Cream
Well, if you find the words “thrush cream” uncomfortable, then this article probably isn’t for you. I’ve got a dry sense of humour as you’ll soon discover.
It’s odd being mid-transition. For those of you who are new to the terminology, trans guy means I was assigned female at birth but I am a guy. Not probably a guy, or sometimes when I walk the dog or when I’m shouting James Brown’s ‘It’s a Man’s World’ at the tops of my lungs into my afro comb. Nope. I’m a guy all day, every day. Because I am yet to change my appearance aside from my choice of clothes, hairstyle and stance, I look very gender-neutral, meaning you probably couldn’t tell which one I was, a stage a lot of the community quite happily remains in.
My strong Jamaican jawline and natural beast of curly hair are suddenly turning into an advantage. It’s funny actually: the teenage me who had to walk to the poolside with the waves of thick curls on their legs was embarrassed from beginning to end of that hourly ordeal. Passing comments from friends and curious stares from teachers left me incredibly self-conscious. Now, however, I walk around with my legs out proudly announcing that they are all-natural. It’s curious how societal gender norms can change something from a source of embarrassment to pure joy. Being trans actually gives you an interesting overview of gender because you live and breathe different presentations for years at a time. How many people do you know that would walk out the front door as a different gender for the day, just to give it a go? If the simple thought scares you a little… it’s because the world is transphobic so if you see someone doing it please recognise their courage. But if you ignored the fear for a minute, you may conclude that it could be quite fun and who knows what you might discover.
I presented as a woman until at the age of twenty-five I quite simply had had enough of it, so here is one of my observations: as a woman, you are always seen. Men of all ages think they have the entitlement to gawp at you. It is almost always incorrectly assumed that if an effort was made that morning, it was solely to receive attention from complete strangers and therefore an invitation for anyone to run their eyes along you. Heels being the ultimate invitation. Yes, I used to wear heels, I can hardly believe it myself now. When I switched to a male presentation I was delighted to discover that men rarely get that much attention. In contrast, you’re bordering on invisible from a day-to-day basis. If a man looks at you for too long, if you make eye contact back he looks away pretty darn quickly. I’m yet to decide if prolonged direct eye contact between two men is an invitation for a confrontation or if I can be presumptuous enough to say they find the remnants of my feminine features attractive. Maybe I’ve kicked off the fear of being queer in them. ‘Why do I fancy the effeminate man?’, I imagine them saying. I’m yet to decide and my conclusion on the day does tend to depend on how well I cut the fade in my hair that week. I fancy women so it hardly matters which is occurring, both are annoying.
It’s worth reflecting that homophobia is so rife in society that even staring at another man for too long is perceived as gay and therefore shameful. Unfortunately, this homophobia within society means if the onlooker was to realise they were, in fact, flirting with a trans woman the shame of it could turn violent, even in broad daylight. A Black trans woman in the US has a life expectancy of thirty-five, let that sink in. Iyanna Dior was attacked in daylight in a convenience store by dozens of Black men and, to top it all off, the event occurred during a Black Lives Matter (BLM) protest. For some reason, protestors forgot that none of us are free until all of us are free. The BLM movement was actually started by three Black women – Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors and Opal Tometi – two of whom identify as queer. Alicia is in fact married to a transgender man – Malachi Garza – who is also an activist.
Race relations are heavily intertwined with the LGBTQI+ community, but is the story told differently depending on your gender? For Black trans men, the daily transphobic reality is the same but not as severe as that of Black trans women, but having said that Tony McDade, a Black trans man, was shot dead by the police two days before George Floyd and his murderers are still yet to be held accountable. So, in short, we face the same racism as the rest of the Black community but are also attacked by our own. A demographic within a demographic is a tough intersectionality pill to swallow. Anyway, I digress. Either way, for men, eye contact in public is a big no-no and unfortunately for our trans community, it can cost a higher price than we are willing to pay.
At first, I found the attention of men bordering on insulting. Here I was making the personal decision about my gender and this nitwit at the bar has decided I’m worthy of his affections. I have coined and used the phrase “Dude, I’m a dude”, and I’ve used it more than I like to fight off creepy straight men. For the straight readers, it’s worth saying at this point that gender and sexuality are different. Let me explain: I am a straight man – gender male, sexuality is women only. However, I have friends who are transmen that are bisexual, pansexual etc.. Being trans is an acknowledgement of gender, it does not automatically dictate your sexuality. Interestingly, I find I get a lot of attention from gay men since I started male presenting. Gender and sexuality are both spectrums, we like who we like and we love who we love. Some things really are just that simple.
The first day of male presentation could be compared to your first day of school. Proud of your uniform but still tugging at that brittle starch collar. In those moments, it’s your chosen family and friends who turn that awkward adolescent’s phase of transition into a confident man. A few life drawings, Black trans lives matter protests, and group hugs enveloped in my flag does the trick. As we all know confidence and self-love makes all the difference. Attempting to flirt with a woman as a guy for the first time at the age of twenty-five can definitely makes you relive those gangly teenage years, but that’s a story for a different day.
So now, a fully-fledged confident male, acutely aware of my male presentational giveaways, DDs being one of them – no sports bra in the world will make those discrete so, might as well have some fun. I seriously wish someone would tell retail staff that mentioning gender when serving customers is wholly unnecessary. Personally, I feel a bit sorry for them, paid minimum wage and overworked with an outdated training script to follow. It’s completely fine to stop at good morning or good evening. Fumbling around sir and madam on rotation for a couple of minutes is uncomfortable for you and occasionally amusing for me. But as I mentioned at the beginning of this article, I’m a playful person so nothing makes an awkward situation more manageable than a good laugh. So, a funpass-time of mine is to make the last two items on the conveyor belt condoms and thrush cream, distinctly male and female. Like the moon and sun, distant lovers who were never meant to be seen together in a supermarket. As they scan the items over the till we exchange glances – like a Mexican standoff as they decide which gender pistol to draw.“Cash or card, …” Either way, I smile.
– Rico Jacob Chace
- Name: Rico Jacob Chace
- Age: 28
- Location: London, UK
- Industry: Producer, Videography & Activism
- Heritage: Black British Caribbean
- What does being Black mean to you? To be black is to be a born fighter and not having a choice in the matter. I’m proud of the strength of my ancestors and how they endured because it means whatever I encounter I can survive. But the time for merely surviving has ended, now is our time to thrive.