One thing you get used to if you're "visibly" trans or gender ambiguous is random people staring at you. People will give you confused, disgusted, annoyed, and/or angry looks when they can't tell if you are a man or a woman. It's part of my daily reality, no matter where I am - home or travelling.
Since entering Serbia I've noticed the looks and staring a lot more, both in Novi Sad and today in Belgrade. None of them have appeared to be malicious, but more so simply curious, which is, for the most part, new. I'd rather have intriguing looks than angry stares, and in someways I want to be a visible display of transness to show the world that trans people are beautiful, strong, and can do amazing things. However, there's no way to tell if they are staring because of my gender, because I look sweaty, gross, and grungy from travelling in extreme heat, or because I'm obviously a foreigner. Or perhaps more likely, these converge, making me more noticeable and therefore subjecting me to stares.
While what makes you vulnerable varies, the feelings of vulnerability are universal. Compounding vulnerability, such as being a foreigner, not knowing the language, being under-dressed, and being trans, makes it more challenging to combat. I've always had a "no fucks given" attitude. But if there's been one thing that this trip has taught me thus far is that such vulnerability does not have to be a sign of weakness, but can rather become a source of strength. I've learned to embrace it and conquer the world head on. Certainly that lesson is ongoing, and one can never fully overcome feeling vulnerable, but I do believe it is possible to harness those feelings and channel them into productivity rather than fear.
Today I joined up with The Monsoon Diaries for two weeks in the Balkans (which, by the way, you should follow Calvin's blog to see our latest happenings because I'll probably chill out a bit with the blogging knowing he's documenting it all). While I know Calvin, the leader of the group, everyone else is new. And that vulnerability has re-occurred in new ways. Prior to this, I've embraced the knowledge that I will never see the people I encounter again. But now I'll be spending the next two weeks with these people and will, in likelihood, become friends with them. So I have a decision to make: let my vulnerability get the best of me or continue to have my "no fucks given" attitude and just enjoy the trip and do my thing.
I'm going to try to just do my thing. I'll let you know how that goes.