A few weeks ago, at a posh chess club in downtown San Francisco (I look for the local club when I travel), someone called me "it." I had stopped in during their afternoon open access time and was playing a series of casual games with a pleasant young man named Sammy. The first two games had gone to me and I was doing well in the third, when the guy who was playing at the next board glanced over at our position and said, "Oh, is it winning again?"
I felt like I had been punched in the stomach. Two or three fragmentary ideas for responses flitted through my mind, but all I did was say "she" under my breath, too quietly to hear. Then I sat there numbly hurting and wondering what to do. Should I walk out? Confront him? Lodge a complaint? Burst into tears? What?
Then I remembered something I had heard a few weeks before on the program Democracy Now!. Host Amy Goodman was interviewing a woman who had done something to rile her local right-wingers, and as a result she was receiving a lot of abuse - e-mails, phone calls, even death threats. At the end of the interview Amy asked the woman, "Do you have anything you want to say to your adversaries?" and she answered calmly, "I wish them well."
I admired that response. So what I did at the chess club was, I waited until it-man had just finished a game, and then I held out my hand to him and said, "Hi, I'm Lisa." What else could he do? He shook my hand and said his name. Then I went back to playing chess with Sammy, and that was that.
Another time I might confront, might express my hurt and anger, might try to educate. In the meantime I am glad that I have found a way that seems to work, at least for now, to hold myself together when subjected to random unexpected nastiness.
My word-geek brain has come up with the following:
Letter-Ladder Poem for a Trans Woman
When you are T
They will call you IT
And you will be HIT
With all sorts of other SHIT
But though it hurts when a person IS HIT
You don't have to accept the hate unless you WISH IT
So, fuck 'em, and honey, whatever you've got to swish, SWISH IT!