Thursday, September 10, 2009

Fall Dancing

While the fall season technically does not begin for another two weeks, the cooler air has me thinking of October and November instead of the last days of summer. I speak often of the playfulness of the hot temperatures and late sunsets giving way to the seriousness of the changing leaves and shorter days. I feel it once again as my focus shifts to the important work at hand. Specifically for me, that means a continuous search for free lance video production jobs (which has been going better as of late). It also involves planning for many events such as a Southern Comfort Conference presentation and the Transgender Day of Remembrance on November 20th. There are many other exciting endeavors, some of which I hope to share with you.

Labor day weekend was very nice with a Charlotte Gender Alliance meeting on Saturday and then three straight nights of contra dancing. Talking with my friend Pamela Jones after the meeting Saturday, I was very excited about going out. I think some of my transgender friends believe I'm a bit off my rocker for going out into the mainstream as an open T-gal. As I mentioned in my last post, I am in a somewhat vulnerable position. There is no hiding who I am especially after a few dances with sweat pouring down my face. I do open myself to rude comments, strange looks, and even outright rejection. Maybe I am getting a thicker skin, but it doesn't bother me as much.

What also helps is that most of the contra dance community is quite accepting. I made a point of thanking a couple of people the last week for going above and beyond in welcoming me. I wanted them to know how much it meant to me. As I have become a regular at many of the dances, the feeling of community has become apparent. The dance Sunday was a 12 hour contrathon (of which I only did six hours!) at Glendale Springs in the beautiful North Carolina mountains. The cool and wet weather was a relief from the Charlotte region. Many of us went out to the local seafood restaurant at the dinner break. I don't know if anyone realized the significance of me as a transgender woman being with an otherwise mainstream crowd in a public restaurant. The waitress called me “ma'am” when asking for my order. No kids screamed. There were no hysterics about a man in a dress. Conversation flowed as our tired bodies allowed. All was as it should have been.

Racking my brain remembering my experiences over the last 11 years of going out en femme, I believe the above is a first for me. I have of course gone out to restaurants with transgender or mixed company and also on my own. I don't think I have ever been out in public with a group as the only transgender person. And you know what? It wasn't that big of a deal. I say that completely in a positive way as no one seemed bothered by me eating with them. I also went out Tuesday night following the Winston-Salem dance with similar results. It was nice to relax and not worry so much about being who you are. That barrier has been torn down, and we could talk about normal things like jobs, hometowns, and even dancing.

One friend relayed a story about a post-dance gathering at a bar following one of my earlier dances. My transgender identity was a huge stumbling block even with a fairly accepting group. They didn't know how to approach me. What do you say to her? I was something completely new, but we have all figured out that friendships develop the same regardless of gender identity. We're all human. We all have baggage of some kind, but we all also need others to love us and accept us as we are. She told me the story to encourage me about how much I've grown. The same person even said I was breaking new ground. I don't see myself as an activist, but I do love being out as the real me. By being vulnerable, the positives far outweigh the negatives. I have friendships that I never would have had otherwise. I am experiencing life in ways I never would have dreamed about. I am truly blessed.

One note on my SCC presentation in Atlanta, Transgender Adventures in History. It was rescheduled for Friday, September 25th from the 9am slot to 10:35am. I hope to have a short preview soon, but women in the Civil War will be a prominent theme. Hopefully the later time will let more of the late risers attend. I hope to see many folks there. It's also an honor and a pleasure to speak to people I consider family even if we have never met. So more to come... until then, I have to plan my next dance!

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