Thursday, March 15, 2012

Operation Beautiful

I did want to say hello to everyone checking in from Operation Beautiful and also thank you to Caitlin for sharing my story. I had long felt the positive sticky notes had a wonderful effect on so many beyond the intended audience. That is why I felt so moved to take a leap of faith and write in. I never know the response I'm going to get when I “out” myself. It is usually pretty good as the world at large is becoming more aware of transgender people. I have been fortunate to meet people like Caitlin who see people and look at what they can be with just a little encouragement.

Many of the past stories in this blog are about reaching out and talking about my story. It is always a scary move, but I learn and grow so much each time. I make new friends and create connections that others may not have tried. I am often pursuing the “path less taken” whether it be Civil War reenacting, contra dancing, or the Ghost Walk. I love having friends in the mainstream who know me as Stephanie above and beyond my gender identity. I feel very lucky to live in a time and place where it's possible. Not easy, mind you... but possible.

Let me give a little extra background about the story of being asked for a dance and then dropped. This has happened twice. The time I shared was relatively easy to bounce back from. My friend Rima was right there to help me. I was in a supportive group where most everyone knew me. It was an obvious case of one bad apple. And of course, Diane's “beautiful” words so made my night.

The second time was a bit more disheartening as it occurred in Knoxville. It was the furthest I had traveled away from my home dance in Charlotte. I was already in line when the guy read me and left me standing on my own. I looked around, but I didn't see anyone I knew. I slinked to the chair on the sidelines and sat out the next three dances. No one asked me to dance. I almost went straight home that night, but I'm glad I stayed. I met some nice people, and Rima found some leftover Valentine candy with one that said “You go, girl.” That made my weekend!

I am glad that I have never been outed during a dance as that could be a potentially dangerous situation. It is hurtful, and yet I think of the people who have made it all worthwhile. I don't consider myself my activist in the traditional sense. I am fairly introverted and certainly not “in your face.” There are dance friends who I have never discussed my gender life with. I respect those boundaries as I am at a dance, reenactment, or another event to enjoy those activities, not to talk about me. Of course, conversations do start up, and I'm always happy to discuss those issues with those who are genuinely interested. I don't force it... much!

So welcome again to my sporadic blog. I hope to update every week with stories of history, dancing, gender stuff, and other musings. I rarely get political although I will pass along stories from other blogs. Feel free to write with questions. The email address is in the profile link. Let me leave you with a quote from George Eliot and often shared from my late friend, Pamela Jones: “It is never too late to be what you might have been.” I think I may put that on a sticky note!

Sunday, March 4, 2012

A Kind Word

“I love your dress.”

“You look really nice tonight.”

“You're wearing the dangly earrings!”

“Hello, gorgeous!”

“You are really beautiful.”

I've had all of the above said to me as Stephanie, some in the past couple of weeks. A genuine compliment is so powerful particularly in an otherwise harsh world. For me, many of the compliments are to my female presentation which makes me feel more feminine, and that is a very special gift. That is part of the beauty of the kind words because my close friends know my struggles in showing the real me with a body that doesn't match.

A few years ago at one of my first formal mainstream outings, I was wearing my favorite strapless floor length dress and had already gotten many compliments. It made me feel very good, and I wanted a way to return a bit of the positive karma... a sort of nice pay it back. I got the crazy idea that I would pick five women who were wearing dresses I thought were nice and tell them how much I liked their outfit. I wasn't sure how it would go particularly coming from a transgender woman. Would they think of me as a guy hitting on them? Each time, I made it very quick in passing, and every time, it brought a smile to their face. They seemed to accept me as a woman giving another woman a compliment. That was as empowering to me as the kind word was to them.

Much of what I've experienced is learning to be accepted as a woman. Even if my appearance is not perfect, I hope my actions and demeanor show my true feminine self. I could go into a long dissertation about how men are competitive when meeting other men or women are more nurturing. While not always true, I have found women more willing to help build each other up. This is especially true with many of my dance girlfriends, but I have had beautiful interactions as well with complete strangers just passing by. It is another confirmation that I fit better in a woman's world.

One of my favorite daily websites the last few months is Operation Beautiful. Caitlin, the owner, started posting positive sticky notes in the women's room and other places. It has become a bit of a phenomena encouraging girls and young women to help bring out the inner beauty in each of us. What often brings me joy is they are not just empty inspirational phrases. The notes simply help us see what is already inside of us. Sometime it's hard to see our uniqueness and yes, even our flaws as gifts. It took me a long time to embrace my gender gift. It is difficult in a world that demands perfection and conformity. Yet how dull life would be if we didn't pursue our special talents and abilities.

A kind word... it's ok to say and write. We need more of them even for the men in our lives! Do it in a genuine way. Lift someone up and help them see how much they have within them. In the meantime, I think I need to buy some sticky notes!