Something a lot of people don’t know about me is that my transition started the day I failed to parallel park correctly in front of a man standing outside my apartment complex. This is more common than people think! Something like 38% of trans men cite the inciting incident of their transition as being watched while failing to parallel park correctly. There’s no shame in it, and I wish we made more room for that conversation in our community.
I’d parallel parked in front of my apartment complex hundreds of times at that point. It was, in fact, a point of pride with me at the time that I was a pretty reliable parallel parker, and I’d even volunteered to help a friend struggling to parallel park once or twice in the past by hopping behind the wheel and finishing the job for them. “It’s no problem,” I’d say, with neither excessive self-regard nor unnecessary self-deprecation, “I’m pretty good at parallel parking.”
But something happened this particular day. I don’t know if I’d just gotten stuck in my own head, or if the spot I was backing into was a little narrower than usual, or if the curve in the road made the angle more challenging, but I couldn’t make it work – halfway into the spot I’d have to admit I was about to run over the curb, or was far closer to the other car’s bumper to maneuver any further, and I’d spin the wheel back left and have to pull out into the middle of the street to start again. Line up your mirrors – get a little closer first – not so close you’ll scrape their door – wait until your mirror reaches the middle of the other car to start turning the wheel –
So I’d had to start over a few times. What of that? It could have happened to anybody. I wasn’t sweating yet. I merely turned up the air-conditioning prophylactically. Soon I’d be at home with a nice cup of tea, ready to enjoy the rest of my long and happy life as a woman.
Eventually I noticed a man across the street casually taking in my attempts to park. He wasn’t yet watching me, you understand, so even at this late point I still held out hope. He was just out scoping the neighborhood, and I happened to be a part of the neighborhood at that particular moment. He wasn’t really watching me. The Council would understand if my case came up for review.
A fourth attempt failed. Then a fifth. The man began to take a more specific interest in my parking and wandered over. “It’s no problem,” I said to myself. “There’s no need to panic. You can just drive off and park somewhere else.” But I knew, even then, that as soon as he’d seen me, I’d had only two options left to me: park properly, or start transitioning immediately.
When I’d been assigned my particular district as a resident Woman, the local council members had done their best to put me at ease. We’re not looking for reasons to get rid of you, they said, smiling reassuringly during orientation. Everybody has the occasional slip-up. That’s understood around here. But at my most optimistic I couldn’t imagine explaining a nine-time failure in front of a man over the age of fifty to the Meter Maids.
It got worse. The man knocked on my window, and I rolled it down. “It’s a tough spot, huh?” he said cheerfully, and my heart sank in me as I realized he was trying to be non-judgmental and friendly about the whole thing. He didn’t even realize what he was doing.
“Sure is,” I bellowed, hoping to mask the quiver in my voice. “I’m having the darnedest time of it!”
“Anything I can do to help?” he asked.
“No, no, I’m fine, thanks,” I said. Neither of us believed it.
“You might want to swing a little further out and try cutting the wheel over a little later,” he suggested.
“I’ll try that!!” I trilled. And I did. What was there to lose at this point? What on earth would the sisters want with a woman who couldn’t park her own car on her own street on a sunny day with no time constraints?
So I tried again, this time swinging a little further out and cutting the wheel over a little later, as the man stood on the sidewalk and called out friendly encouragement. It hardly felt real – I swung the wheel out, then swung it back, all the while trying to remember everything I’d ever heard about transition. I was going to have to buy a whole new wardrobe, and acquire upper-body strength. While we do think of ourselves as reasonable people, they’d said at orientation, obviously we still have limits. And an image to maintain. What we want, of course, is for all of you to be completely successful, and to have all the support you need in maintaining your presence as women in your districts, but within reason. It’s one thing to need to circle the block and look for an easier place to park – we’ve all been there – but if, say, you were to try and fail to parallel park in a place you’d parked hundreds of times before, and you failed ten times in a row, and a man saw you do it – well.
Has that ever happened? someone asked.
Anything can happen, was the only answer. It’s just an example.
The man got friendlier and more helpful and I got closer and closer to tears. Eventually I turned back out into the middle of the street and then gunned it, driving as fast as I could until he disappeared from my rearview mirror. I ended up parking on an empty street about a mile away and walking home, all the while knowing what was already waiting for me.
By the time I made it upstairs I found a little vial of testosterone cypionate on the bed, along with a few 18- and 22-gauge needles, a pamphlet from a nurse practitioner, a bottle of finasteride, some isopropyl alcohol wipes, and a note that read, simply:
YOU UNDERSTAND, OF COURSE. WE WISH YOU ALL THE BEST IN YOUR FUTURE ENDEAVORS, BUT YOUR SERVICES ARE NO LONGER REQUIRED.
Anyhow, I heard about your trouble parking yesterday and some of the guys sent me over to let you know it happens all the time, and nobody blames you for it. We have a sort of unofficial trans parallel parking club, as it happens, and if you ever want to join us, we meet in the Safeway parking lot down by the Marina most Sunday nights. It’s not such a bad life. Most of us have a little trouble with spatial reasoning and splitting the check if there’s more than three people at the table, but on the plus side we can park anywhere we want.