Family of Me

by Daphne
Updates Mondays and Fridays

Scene 104: The Female Gaze

(Libra walks slowly through the campus Quad, all manner of people wandering through on their own errands. As she walks, Libra steals glances at several other girls as she passes by them.)

Libra (The Friend): Gosh they’re cute.

(She casts a sweeping gaze around the quad as she walks, taking care not to stare at anyone in particular. Her gaze lingers for a moment too long on a girl walking past, and the girl looks up just in time to catch Libra’s eye. The unknown girl smiles as she passes, and Libra flinches away, deeply embarrassed.)

Mom (Me): Hello Libra… Are you okay?

Libra (surprised): Oh! Hi Mom, I was just… I mean…

Mom (sympathetic): Thinking about how your worldview was upended again?

Libra: No, it’s not that. I was just… Sightseeing.

Mom: I always enjoyed hanging out on the Quad…

(Libra’s eyes stop to rest on a particularly attractive college girl sitting under a tree, and she stops for a moment to take a longer look. A moment later Libra realizes I’m watching her, and she tears her gaze away from the other girl in shame.)

Libra (embarrassed): I’m sorry, I know I shouldn’t be staring, it’s just…

Mom: Girls are pretty?

Libra: Oh gosh, Mom. They’re all *so* pretty.

Mom: It’s okay to look, you know. This is a memory; you can’t offend anyone by staring.

Libra: I guess, but it still feels wrong. Like I’m violating their privacy by imagining them interested in me. They didn’t consent to being objectified.

Mom (deflated): Oh. That feels familiar.

Libra: I mean, they probably have to deflect unwanted attention all the time — I don’t want to add to that.

Mom: First of all, let me reiterate that this is in our head, and you’re not hurting them by imagining their interest. Second of all, how do you know it’s unwanted?

Libra: I mean, what woman would want attention from some man?

(Libra stops in shock, realizing what she just said.)

Libra (stunned): I… I didn’t mean… I thought I was over this kind of dysphoria.

Mom (sympathetic): Honestly, I think you are. Do you feel dysphoric?

(Libra pauses for a moment to consider.)

Libra: Huh… I don’t, actually.

Mom: I don’t think you feel like a man at all, but this seems to be a train of thought that’s gone unchallenged for a long time. I think we’re just very used to believing that our attention is unwanted.

Libra (hesitant): Well? Isn’t it?

Mom: I don’t think so, no. Our attention is automatically a gift either, but before transition we were always fighting against the cultural concept of the male gaze, and the related idea that any interest we had in a woman’s body was inherently dehumanizing. Now that we know we *are* women, I think we’ve both realized that receiving attention can feel really nice under the right circumstances.

Libra: “Right circumstances” is doing an awful lot of work there, isn’t it? Women have to be so careful! Some men feel entitled to women’s attention and women’s bodies, and they get belligerent or even violent when they we don’t give them they erroneously believe they’re entitled to. Women *have* to be cautious.

Mom: They do, yes. As I said though, under other circumstances, attention can be very desirable. We see this in other women quite often — especially among other trans women, reveling in the attention they get *as women*. Clearly they want much of the attention they’re getting.

Libra: I know you’re right, I’ve seen it with you as you browse social media… I guess I just can’t imagine someone actually desiring me.

Mom (reserved): Yeah… Yeah. I think that’s a big part of this feeling — *you* feel undesirable.

Libra: I mean, why would anyone be interested in me? There are much cuter girls walking around this campus.

Mom: Gosh that feels familiar. Looks aren’t everything though — among other women, looks honestly aren’t even that important; other factors play a much larger role. Besides, do you honestly think you’re so unattractive?

(Libra’s gaze comes to rest on a cute girl sitting on the grass with a book. She lingers a bit too long again, but this time, the girl looks up at her and catches her eye. I watch as the girl flushes red and smiles at Libra, giving her a gentle wave as she turns her attention on my daughter.)

Libra (upset): Mom, stop! Stop making her want me!

Mom: Is it really so unbelievable that another girl would be interested in you?

Libra (tearful): I can’t… I…

Ivy (The Companion): Mom!

Libra (relieved): Oh thank goodness.

(I turn to see Ivy crossing the Quad towards us, walking with big, purposeful strides. I glance at the other college girl to find that she’s gone back to her book.)

Ivy: Hey Mom. Hey Libra… Wait, I’m interrupting, aren’t I?

Libra: It’s fine, honest… Wait, it’s perfect!

Ivy: What do you mean?

Libra: We were taking about being desired by other women, but you’re married. You *know* your partner is interested in you, right?

Ivy: Kind of? I think we talked about this — I handled her interest really poorly in the beginning of our relationship, and I wasn’t really the kind of partner she was looking for in bed. I think she found me attractive physically, but it’s not like I could really internalize that feeling pre-transition. Life was great in so many other areas of our relationship that I didn’t really think that much about it. Besides, it’s not like I could do any better; I’d been single for years before meeting our partner.

Libra (crestfallen): Oh. So we just kind of… Settled?

Ivy: No, not at all! Our partner is wonderful and makes our life wonderful, and we enrich her life too. It’s just that feeling desired has always been tricky for us — I don’t think we ever saw ourselves as desirable, so we were never able to really believe it when others did. I’m sure things have changed since transition though.

Mom (evasive): Oh… I guess things have changed somewhat.

Ivy: I haven’t come across any memories of really receiving that sort of desire… But I’m sure it’s just a matter of time, right? And since we’re married, we don’t have to worry about being interested in other girls anymore.

Mom (worried): Ivy… The next time we gather, we need to have a chat about desire.