About a dozen years ago I was living in Phoenix, Arizona. I was there for about 2 years and look back on it now with a wondrous eye. I learned a lot when I was living in the desert. For instance I like having water around me;lakes, ponds, oceans, whatever I can find. I like the burble and consistency of it all. I also like heat which may be why I hung out where there was no water for as long as I did. I’m a huge fan of wearing shorts at Christmas.
I had a tight knit couple of co-workers that I spent most of my time with. A girl we’ll call R was gay and I’m not sure what her religious affiliation was. Another girl we’ll call C was Mormon, had children and was married. The man she was married to, we’ll call him T to make it easier, was technically transgender. In skirts we had a name that started with T, in pants it was J.
As I was preparing to move back to MI my friends threw me a going away bash. It was our last chance to get all of us together and it was freaking awesome. R picked me up and had a strange grin on her face the whole way. She said they had a surprise for me. I figured they had gotten their hands on some pretty special booze or something else that could intoxicate. I asked no questions and enjoyed the ride once I realized R wasn’t going to spill the beans. Man, she was excited as all get out.
We arrived at C and J’s apartment and R hung back and let me knock on the door. I was greeted, let in and then I met T, J’s alter ego. Reeling slightly I kept a goofy grin on my face and we hung out for the night. I want to say my reaction went along the lines of, “Right on, right on. What are we drinking tonight?” but one never knows for sure.
I grew up in a pretty straight laced town. There were 13 churches surrounding us (yes, sometimes it felt like you were under siege, especially Sundays when every bell rang over and over and over and over… ) and there were a lot of things that just weren’t talked about. For example, one of my uncles is gay. I believe I read somewhere that 75% of the world’s population has an uncle who happens to be gay. We never talked about it in the family, it was one of those understood things. When I got married in 2002 that uncle brought his partner and officially came out. I thought it was beautiful and awesome and I still call his partner my new uncle so and so.
A conservative town but a family who essentially taught me to accept people regardless of who or what they are. T was my first actual experience with someone who was transgender. Don’t get me wrong, I’d hung out with male hippie guys who liked to wear skirts but that’s a whole other kettle of fish (a phrase I adore but have never understood).
We all hung out that night, everything was as normal. I cried when I left and, to this day, I think of that group of friends and our insanity several times a year.
It’s more than a dozen years later. C and J are now divorced. I received a message through Facebook from T. It was under J’s name but the note was from T (who may deserve her own Facebook page hint hint sweetheart). The message was T sharing that she has her first boyfriend. Yay! I’m very happy for her and I gave her the same advice I give everyone: Make sure they treat you right otherwise you can go left out the door.
Like I said, I think of them several times a year but it’s in passing. T made it clear that my reaction the night we officially met has helped her make the transition, so to speak. Something I considered small, easy and natural (the acceptance of an LGBT person) made an impact in someone’s life that I couldn’t have imagined and it was in a positive way.
Which had me thinking about the small influences that made giant changes in my own life. In high school I had this ephemeral dream of traveling the world and writing books (I’m getting there, I swear to God) but no vision for it. My entire family lives in Michigan and the idea of leaving them behind never actually occurred to me. Until several of my friends graduated, threw all their stuff into a car and took off for Colorado. That opened my eyes. “You can do that? Holy Crap!” and I was off and running.
My wanderlust has found satisfaction through inspiration others provided by living their lives as they saw fit. Now I’m doing the same. It was a minor epiphany but even the small ones count.
Please remember, transactions we have with other people may seem inconsequential but can have lasting ramifications. It’s up to you to decide if you want the light you shine on others to be bright or dark and live accordingly. I’m very happy for T and I wish her the best in her new relationship. Everyone deserves a nugget of happiness. Grab on to that sumbitch and don’t let go!
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Freedom’s Treasure by A.K. Lawrence
Extremity by A.K. Lawrence