About a year ago, I re-united with an old, close friend I then hadn’t spoken to in six years (Maybe she’s reading this—hi friend! Feel free to dispute if I fuck this story up.) Over a short time we gradually caught each other up with the many things that had happened to us in the interim.
As we were talking, she brought up this one time we were in Portland on the MAX together (this would’ve been ~2007-2009) and some guys started giving me shit for wearing a skirt. Pointing and laughing and jeering etc. I just stood up and quietly said something like “let’s go over here” and moved to the other end of the car. She told me, years later, that she’d always felt bad about this, that she didn’t say something, that she didn’t stand up for me.
The funny thing is: I don’t remember this happening. It doesn’t even, like, jog a memory or anything. Of course, I completely believe my friend—this would’ve been such a common experience for me back then, (including the “pals saying nothing” part) that it doesn’t surprise me individual moments have blended together. Obviously, when that kind of thing happens now, and it happens much less, it really eats at me.
I’ve thought about that a lot in the last year. I realized, among other things, that for a long time, my prime fear when I went out in girl’s clothing was that I was going to get hurt. Every time it didn’t happen (and though there were some scary moments, thanks to luck and privilege it never did/has yet, knock on wood) I counted it as a win, no matter what guys on the MAX or wherever was saying. For a long time, that stuff just didn’t have the effect on me necessary for an entry into the long-term memory. (Whereas I can tell you every shitty thing my parents said to me from that period, for example.) So it’s strange to think about, and go like: “Oh YEAH that was a constant experience for like a WHILE. Gee, that probably had an effect on me I don’t understand, eh?”
Why am I bringing this all up? For one, because I can’t help wonder what else it is that I don’t remember. What used to be so commonplace that I don’t recall, both the things I braved and the things I whined about and needed a shitty hand-hold all the way through. But beyond that, what unnerves me is thinking how this might work on a larger human scale, which traumas and gifts for which we might sustain mass amnesia and by default can’t name.