Saturday, February 6, 2010

I Love My Friends!

Those who are friends with me on Facebook have already seen part of this story. I have had conversations with transgender people over the years whether it is worth the effort to be out in the world as a TG woman. This is my response. One disclaimer and caveat is that your mileage may vary. What works for me may not work for you. That's just life.

For the longest time, I had been looking for another social outlet as Stephanie. I had a desire to make friends and be around people who knew me as the real me. I have been very blessed in the past 10 months to have found this outlet in contra dancing. While it hasn't always been easy, it has been rewarding in a way that I could have never imagined before. One of my TG friends, Paige, said it very well that you will of course meet people who reject you out of hand. That's life. The opposite is also true. I have many new lifelong friends.

One of my dance friends, Holley, told me around the holidays how much the Charlotte dance community thought about me. I had been struggling with feeling accepted completely there, and she wanted to make me feel better about the situation. I didn't believe her totally until an incident Monday night.

Monday night is the regular Charlotte dance. After the dance, many of us went to our usual hangout, Jackalope Jacks. Another TG gal, Jenna, joined us there, and we all had a wonderful time eating, sharing stories, texting each other, trading food, writing new dances, laughing, taking pictures, and enjoying each others company. It was hugs all around as I left on my own around 11:30pm.

I walked outside (a bit too fast I might add) and was immediately read by two half drunk twenty something men. One immediately said, "What the f*** is that?" I kept on walking as I always do in that situation. Turning on the iced over wooden walkway, I slipped and almost fell twice. Knowing their eyes were boring right into me, I regained my composure, looked over my shoulder, and then walked slowly to my car. As I turned the corner of the building, I heard a few guffaws and grunts.

I've reached the point where I honestly do not care what people like that think. It is meaningless to me. My main concern was for my safety. Most of us who have been out in public know that adults in general are usually too polite to say anything to us even if they are offended or taken back. These two crossed that line with little effort. I was concerned they would cross other lines. Fortunately they didn't. Still it is a lesson that I should have had someone with me that late at night.

Returning home, I posted a quick Facebook status: "Not the most graceful exit from Jackalopes... otherwise a fun night!" My friend Julie asked what had happened, and I gave her the quick version. I had so many responses of support the next two days. I was really moved that what could have been a depressing incident turned into something so heartwarming. I received notes from people in the TG, contra dance, church, gay, and straight communities. Pastor Nancy said it best: "I sincerely doubt that those who made hateful remarks are as loved by as many as you are Steph. One reaps what one sows. A hateful heart only attracts hateful people."

I rarely toot my own horn, but this is why I am out there. All the labels in the world didn't matter. I have friends who know the real me which goes beyond being transgender. I like to think I got there by being gracious and genuine. If people are interested, I am glad to talk about my transgender life. I don't force it down people's throat. I may be the first transgender person they knowingly meet and interact with. Now they have a positive impression of our community which I hope makes it easier for those who follow. I take that responsibility seriously.

So Holley was right more than either of us knew. So many stood up for me, and I do the same for them. It's not about the labels. It is about the friendships which come from unlikely places and develop in surprising and beautiful ways. Those are the blessings I count daily.