He can’t speak for the queer community, but he can speak his mind. Let former Durango resident Shesh Christopher tell you a bit about what he thinks about the abhorrent shooting in Orlando, and how he’s perceived as a transgender man.
What’s your initial reaction to the shooting in Orlando?Fear. It’s one thing to be walking down the street and have people obviously uncomfortable – I don’t really have that problem anymore, I pass pretty good – but when I lived in Durango, my [then] girlfriend and I would walk down the street and people would call us faggots. I mean, people are obviously disgusted by you in general, but it’s a whole ’nother story when somebody wants to kill you.
People would shout at you in the streets of Durango?We were told on countless occasions, “This is a family place,” or “This is a public place,” and that we couldn’t hold hands or kiss or cuddle or whatever. We would get heckled by guys, “Wanna have a threesome?” or “You must be a lesbian because you haven’t been f***ed right!” Just stupid shit.
That’s a difficult pill to swallow.You can tell when someone figures it out. The way that you’re treated is 100 percent different. Men don’t treat me with respect once they find out that I’m trans. Women start talking to me about their periods. They treat me like a girl, which is really frustrating. The way you’re treated once the cat’s out of the bag can be very crushing. Being transgender is something that’s becoming more normalized, but it’s still very taboo. There’s still a lot of people who don’t agree with or understand it, and there’s a lot of silence, too, which is crushing in its own way.
What would you like people to know? Just like every person is different, every transgendered person is different. Everything they want to do, or the ways that they pursue their transition, or the types of people they’re attracted to. Like, I’m in the queer community, but I was completely taken aback when I found out that there’re transgender guys who are with transgender guys, or there’re transgender guys who are with gay men. I’m in the community and there are still things that I don’t know, and the only way to learn or find out is to get to know other people and talk to them their story.
What if people want to ask questions, but are afraid of using the wrong terminology?That’s a great question. When I first moved to Portland, I was telling some people that I had just met that the only gay event that Durango had was Pride Weekend and the Halloween Dance and they asked me what I meant by gay. I said, “Oh you know, gay men, lesbian women.” I didn’t acknowledge non-binary, I didn’t acknowledge transgender people. They told me a more inclusive term is to use “queer.” That’s what I’ve started to use. To me, it’s a broad enough term that it doesn’t pigeonhole anybody. If I don’t feel like I know, or especially when I’m at queer events, I just say, “Hey, what pronouns do you use?” I don’t say, “What are your preferred pronouns?” because preferred insinuates that it’s a preference. It’s less validating. It implies that it’s optional to use interchangeable pronouns.
How have things changed for you in public since transitioning?People see my girlfriend and I as a cisgendered couple. When I identified as a woman, there was a lot more fear. There’s a lot of privilege that comes with being a white man. Nobody harasses us, nobody tells us we can’t kiss, or gives us dirty looks when we’re on a public bench in the park or whatever. I don’t have to deal with any of that now. And no, for the record, I didn’t decide to take hormones so I could mack on my girlfriend. That’s ridiculous.
If you could have asked Omar Mateen anything, what would it have been?I would’ve asked what happened to him to make him so angry toward my community.
Do you think it’s a matter of anger?That, and a lack of understanding. The sensationalized version of queerness that people see in TV and on movies. Queer people are just like everyone else. We put our pants on one leg at a time. Everybody puts their bra on the same way. Everybody puts their boxers on the same way. Some of us stuff our bras, some of us use packers [a prosthetic device to simulate a penis]. We’re all just going to work, spending time with our friends, using the bathroom that we want to so that we can take a shit or to put on makeup. I think it’s a lack of understanding.
Isn’t that just sort of a human problem?Oh absolutely. Because there’re plenty of people in the queer community who are bigots and treat people of color like shit, or just treat people like shit in general. It’s just part of interacting with humans, but there’s a point that it becomes toxic. It’s one thing to cut someone off in traffic, it’s another to ram into them because they’ve got a Pride flag sticker on their bumper.
Cyle Talley thinks that people are people, and love is love. The end. If there’s anything you’d like to Get Smart about, email him at: [email protected]