In an uninspiring story out of Chicago, 28-year-old Shelly Deichman would actually rather be safe than lauded as brave for simply existing as a trans woman.
“Cis people really like to call me brave, which I know they think is a compliment, but it’s actually pretty weird,” Shelly says. “Especially because I’m not brave at all. People who know me find it endearing, actually.”
“When I walk home from the train at night, or need to use the bathroom in public, or have to use an ID with my dead name on it, or a million other tiny situations that a cis person would never even have to think about but could derail my entire day and possibly endanger me, what I actually feel is scared,” Shelly adds. “And my ideal situation is to be sort of not scared or imperiled. The opposite, even.”
While Shelly’s identity has been weaponized, fetishized, degraded, celebrated, discussed, commodified, ridiculed, dissected, and debated in every corner of American public life, the unwanted and unwieldy mass of people calling her brave has done little to improve her life.
“Yes life is hard for trans people, and especially for trans femmes of color, and trans sex workers, and for those who don’t have access to or desire for the type of transition our culture values,” Shelly says. “But I don’t really want to rattle off heartbreaking statistics that everyone already knows and about which nothing ever changes because I’m making myself some tea right now.”
Calling trans people brave for enduring the hostile society cis people created and upkeep is, Shelly estimates, one degree less helpful than just getting out of the way.
“Running into a burning building to save a puppy is brave because you choose to do that,” Shelly adds. “I love being trans and I love trans people, but I don’t choose to battle any of the obstacles in my life, I just have to. And actually, I’d really rather fucking not.”