Marianne Dawson – Silence/Passing

“I’m Marianne.

Which restroom do we use when we’re out in public? Well, I always used the women’s restroom. Always. I didn’t care what anybody said. I wasn’t going to go back in that nasty ol’ men’s room, ever. Now, when I went to Portland . . . I don’t know what it’s like in Portland. I don’t know what the culture is down there. I asked. They said, “Well, however you’re dressed—that’s the restroom you use.” I go, “thank you.” [I never had trouble in a women’s rest room.] It seems like general philosophy or attitude of women [is], “I’m behind a stall door. I have my privacy. As long as you don’t come through that door, I’m okay!” I just went into the stall door. I locked it closed, did my business, washed my hands, and left.

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There’s been times I’ve seen somebody, and then meet them, and I find out later on that they’re a partner of somebody, and I never made them out to be gay, ever. I’ve had my gaydar go off. I even meet some trans people that I don’t even know [that they are trans]. I just see them. It might be a biological woman that has masculine features, and I go, “Are they transgendered?” You know, you just can’t be sure.

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As people would come [into the transgender support group], identified as transsexual and wanted their surgery, we helped them to achieve that. Once they achieved that, they may have been around for a little bit longer, but for the most part they disappeared. That is typical whenever you have a transsexual who actually has the surgery. The phraseology is, “They disappear into the woodwork.”

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My [current] job . . . [laughs]. Oh, you’ll love this one: I’m a school bus driver. I spend most of my time with special needs kids because they ask less questions. But even them sometimes . . . I even had a preschooler [ask]: “Are you a boy or a girl?” Some are pretty perceptive. I’ve had kids ask that question.

They ask me if I’m a boy or a girl, and then I go, “Well, what are you?” Then they’ll sound off , “’I’m a girl!’ ‘I’m a boy!’ ‘I’m a boy!’ ‘I’m a girl.’ ‘I’m a boy.’” Then I said, “Well, that’s really cool. I’m glad that you are all on my bus,” and then just kind of let it drop. I had a one gal; she says, “Are you a boy or a girl?” I said, “Well, I’m just like you.” And that was it.

I had a middle school kid from Shaw [Middle School], an African American. [She] had the African-American accent. I introduced myself as Marianne. And this African-American gal, she says to me, “Are you a man?” And I go, “Yeah. I’m Marianne.” “No. You a man?” “Yeah. I’m Marianne,” you know? She kept saying it, and I kept saying, “Yup. I’m Marianne!” Well, we’ll let that one drop too.

I get inventive on how to re-direct, because I’m not going to just come right out and say, “No, I used to be a guy but I’m a girl now. I’m called transsexual.” [They’d say,] “Okay. You’re fired!” Of course, maybe not now because now we have [anti-discrimination laws] in place. But I’m very careful. All they need to know is that I’m their bus driver. “I transport you safely. I care about you. I’m Marianne.”

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Sources: Interviews with Maureen Nickerson on 18 November 2006 and 9 December 2006, held at the Museum of Arts and Culture; Interview with Laura S. Hodgman on 16 February 2013.