Charlotte's Web Thoughts
Charlotte's Web Thoughts
I'm Trying My Best to Focus on the Good
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I'm Trying My Best to Focus on the Good

Sometimes, that's all we can do.
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(image credit: VichoT // Getty Images)

[This blog will always be free to read, but it’s also how I pay my bills. If you have suggestions or feedback on how I can earn your paid subscription, shoot me an email: cmclymer@gmail.com. And if this is too big of a commitment, I’m always thankful for a simple cup of coffee.]


It’s Pride Month, and I’m trying to remember that.

Yesterday afternoon, I was walking through downtown D.C. on a few errands when the sky burst open, and I took shelter under a nearby awning with a number of folks, waiting for the rain to pass along.

I don’t know how true this is scientifically, but my gut feeling has always been that rain tends to calm us down. I have no actual evidence to back that up that claim, but I think there are fewer disputes, less interpersonal drama, and whatnot.

And so, it came as quite a shock when a man joined us under the awning, noticed my presence, and then began harassing me with vile, transphobic remarks — at first, with a slightly raised voice and then full-on yelling. Screaming. Spit coming out of his mouth as he berated me from less than 10 feet away.

I’m not gonna mention here what all he yelled, but it was pretty bad. It was disgusting and hurtful and cruel. It went on for several minutes.

I decided to completely ignore him. I didn’t want to give him the satisfaction of a response. The people around us said nothing as the tirade went on and on. Maybe they didn’t want to give him the satisfaction, either. I suppose that’s a kind and diplomatic read on bystanders, right?

I thought about taking out my phone and recording him, but would that escalate things? Would I be risking assault? I decided not to film, and to be honest, I regret that.

It became too much, and so, I walked away, in the rain, hoping he’d stop. But he didn’t. He followed me for several moments, still shouting, both of us walking past more people, who, I guess, were also choosing to stay out of it.

Maybe he got bored. Maybe he got tired of hearing his own voice. The shouting eventually stopped, and I just kept walking, as calmly as I could. I went home, and for the rest of the day, even as I tried my best to contextualize things, I was shaken and I was embarrassed to feel shaken.

This is not the first time something like this has happened. Like most women, I’ve been street-harassed on a fairly regular basis, although it’s typically no more than a few seconds. Sometimes, it’s worse than that. Like a few months back, as I was walking to my office, when a guy pulled up in his car and said some not-so-nice things and followed me for two blocks. That was scary.

I can only speak for myself, but I do think a broad challenge for trans people is that if we talked about every time we encounter public hostility and discrimination, it’s all we’d ever talk about. So, we have to pick our battles.

Even as I write this, I worry that it’ll somehow be read as self-absorbed. Maybe that’s irrational, but in my experience, a lot of non-trans folks tend to get uncomfortable when a trans person talks about the harassment they encounter.

And yet, with a platform like mine, don’t I have an obligation to raise awareness about this? If I’m not, is that a failure of leadership on my part?

Ultimately, it feels like constantly being between a rock and a hard place. I want to be an interesting writer who happens to be a trans woman, not a trans woman who happens to be an interesting writer. And that’s really tough.

So, if you’ll indulge me, I’d like to focus on the good for a moment. You see, when I have days like yesterday, I try to remember all the kindness and generosity I’ve experienced from non-trans people who go out of their way to make trans folks feel welcome.

Like a few years ago, when a TSA agent saw I got erroneously flagged by the full body scanner at airport security—a very common occurrence for trans people, believe it or not—and she rushed over to tell her colleague that she would handle the search.

Even as it was an incredibly busy day for her, with a lot of travelers, and I’m certain she was stressed, she still made time to make the process as quick and professional and dignified for me as possible. She asked about my day, kept saying “Ma’am" and complimented my earrings and took no more than a few moments to clear me.

I’ve had pretty bad experiences with TSA. I was once sexually assaulted by an agent and knew, deep down, nothing would be done about it, so I didn’t report it. On another occasion, an agent made completely inappropriate remarks to me that his supervisor overheard and removed him from duty.

I got the overwhelming feeling that this TSA agent knew about the long history of how trans folks are treated at airport security, and she made the immediate decision to be a proactive ally in that moment. I think about that all the time and wonder if I’m being as good an ally to others as she was to me that day.

I think about the time the nicest woman at an Ann Taylor shop in D.C. spent an hour advising me on great professional outfits that would look fantastic on my body shape, always encouraging and empowering in her feedback. She went above and beyond, way more than a typical employee, and she made me feel right at home. I think that was intentional on her part, too.

I think about Kenny Blakeney, the Head Coach of Howard Men’s Basketball, who gave me a ride home one night after an event and opened the car door for me, which was completely unnecessary and very sweet. He wasn’t showy about it, either. It was just something he clearly felt a gentleman does for a lady. We then talked sports the entire drive home.

Maybe the funniest interaction happened just last week. I was at Shelley’s Back Room, a cigar bar in downtown D.C., which has become a favorite haunt of journalists, politicos, writers of all backgrounds. Despite the mostly-male patrons, all the bathrooms are single-occupancy (so, gender-neutral).

While hanging out with some friends, I went to use the restroom, which was occupied. A moment later, a gentleman opened the door, looked up, saw me, had a sudden look of embarrassment on his face, and I watched him quickly walk back into the tiny restroom to put down the toilet seat. He muttered “sorry about that, Ma’am” before walking back to his table.

It was such a randomly sweet and kind gesture, and how hilarious is that, to boot?

I think about all the emails I get from non-trans people I don’t know, offering support and encouragement. I think about non-trans strangers who come up to me in public to let me know they enjoyed something I wrote and that I always have an ally in them.

I could go on and on. The truth is that for every instance like yesterday, there are several dozen positive instances of non-trans people making sure I know that they support the trans community.

So, yeah, yesterday was pretty hard, and I think it’s okay for me to say that. I’m sure there will be more like it in the future.

But I also know that trans folks have allies everywhere we go, that there is so much good in people, far too much good to ignore, and if I can focus on that, I’ll be alright.

I’m trying to do exactly that. I’m trying to focus on the good. I’m trying to follow the example myself that I’ve seen in so many non-trans people who lead with their hearts.

I’m trying to remember that most folks understand what it’s like to be out in the rain and need some shelter, and they’d gladly offer me space beside them.

That feels like a worthy reminder.


yes, please buy me coffee


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Charlotte's Web Thoughts
Charlotte's Web Thoughts
Charlotte Clymer is a writer and LGBTQ advocate. You've probably seen her on Twitter (@cmclymer). This is the podcast version of her blog "Charlotte's Web Thoughts", which you can subscribe to here: charlotteclymer.substack.com