About Savannah Garmon
After graduating from the University of Texas in 2007, I entered one of the most complex periods of my life. Since childhood I had consistently felt more like a woman than a man, but growing up in a small town in rural North Carolina I had always been terrified to express this to anyone. By the time I entered college (still in North Carolina), I had some rough idea that maybe there was something I could do about the situation, but I told myself that obtaining my Ph.D. and getting a start on my career in physics should be my first priority.
However, deep inside what I really feared was that nobody would ever take me seriously as a trans woman in physics. I didn’t know any trans women in my own life— much less trans women successful in science— to whom I could look up as mentors. Not to mention that I had few reliable sources of information about my own situation in general terms; in fact, I wasn’t even familiar with phrases like “gender identity” or “trans woman” at the time I made that decision.
I want to preface the comments I’m about to make by acknowledging that our trans community (communitIES is really what I should say) is reeling from some events over the last couple of months. I think many of us are heartbroken, as we should be, over a series of murders of young trans women of color across the U.S. in the last month followed by the recent development that CeCe McDonald had few better legal options than to plead to 2nd degree manslaughter with a recommended 41-month sentence.
To make matters worse, the aftermath of the murders mentioned above recall the usual patterns of police dismissal and blatant disrespect from the media for the victims of racism and trans-misogyny. It is in this context that I think a lot of us feel, in addition to grief and frustration, plenty of doubt and uncertainty about where to head next. The solutions are not always clear, and I think we must avoid the trap of looking for easy answers.
As a femme trans woman usually attracted to other femme women, I am generally welcomed in spaces designated as ‘women and trans,’ and I have no shortage of queer cis woman friends, with many of whom I share a playful flirtation. But what I usually keep to myself is this: what I experience in these respects sometimes feels closer to tolerance than acceptance.
I am invited to more formal social functions, yet I often find myself outside the conversation, feeling awkward about my presence at the end of the table. My experience as a trans woman is often the most immediate story I have to share; yet as the other women nearby nod politely before changing the subject, I sometimes get the feeling I have only managed to other myself by sharing it. Unsurprisingly, this situation is not so conducive to meeting potential partners. And anyways, I sometimes get the feeling that my body does not have the same type of desirability.
Perhaps worse, there are moments when desire is expressed towards me in a context that I would prefer it not be expressed (more about that in a moment).