My date with Mr. Question.
The volume of people was overwhelming with two parallel conferences sharing the same hotel. A casual observer could easily identify who belonged to which event.It was the first day of our event and I was standing in the flow of people moving with focused intent to their workshop rooms or the bathrooms. It was hard to tell which. I found myself gazing into a mirror on the far wall lost in thought. In the reflection I saw a tall woman in her mid 30’s, dressed in a brown skirt suit with her hair in a bun and wondered privately “does she look like the registrar of an international conference.”
Eased out of my reverie by a series of taps on my shoulder I turned on my heels to find myself eye level with a man’s chest. My gaze drifted up to find a very tall, dark skinned man with a shaggy mop of black hair. As our eyes met, he as I have seen so many men do, did a head to heel scan and blurted out “can I ask you a question?” He explained that he had noticed me over the past day and continued, “no, not here, in my hotel room.” Frowning, “absolutely not!” I replied and walked to my next conference crisis.
The leadership team worked together over the next day doing our best to offer the attendees a meaningful experience and that afternoon the man approached me again asking the same question. By the third day and the third attempt to lure me to his room I admit my curiosity began to rise. I asked the tall aboriginal man why we could not talk in the hallway or go to the bar to chat. His reply did not assuage my discomfort. “I don’t want my friends to see us talking.”
Souring my face I left upset. How could I have allowed someone I didn’t know offend me? What was so wrong with me that he could not talk to me in public? A city girl knows exactly what a man wants when he invites her to his hotel room. However, as I walked away his face showed a look of surprise, not the look a man gets when a woman turns him down. Several hours later, the man approached and agreed to meet me in the hotel bar. If I was curious before, my imagination was running wild. What was this all about? His question really gave no information of his intentions.
I walked into the bar and spotted Mr. Question sitting with two other men. I noticed the sizes of the men as they rose to greet me; broad shoulders, droopy jeans, black unkempt hair and very tentative smiles. I took a seat, ordered a drink and endured a few minutes of superficial banter. Finally I asked, “what is this all about?” He dropped his eyes and his demeanor took on the image of someone who carried an enormous weight. He sheepishly stated, “I don’t believe you were born a woman.” “OK” I replied. “But you are now.” Again I offered an ok, having no idea where the conversation was going or even if I should react to his statements.
He realized I was on the verge of leaving, offered a few more observations and shared a story: “I saw you the first day of our First Nations event and watched you from a distance. I noticed you were different from many of the attendees of your conference. I saw a confident, determined woman who treated people with such compassion and love. I guessed that working with a transgender conference you had not been born a woman but I saw you as one. The question I wanted to ask was how did you acquire the confidence you seem to embrace? What process did you go thru to become the woman sitting here today? I cannot imagine how difficult it must have been to alter your self, not only physically but also spiritually.” Dropping his eyes, his vulnerability exposed he shared, “my daughter, she is confined to a wheelchair and cannot speak. We live up north on a reservation and the other children treat her horribly, calling her names and treating her as a monster. I asked to speak with you because the confident, self assured woman I see to day must have at one point felt alone, fragile and scared. Maybe by sharing how you came to be who you are might somehow help my daughter and her path. “
My tears welled as I felt pain in my heart for the man before me and the daughter he was so desperate to protect. The risk he took to share her challenges with a complete stranger touched me deeply.
I shared some of my history: I was born in a male body, however over time I came to understand who I truly was at a core level. That somehow I found the courage to, not only accept my differences but to nurture them, allowing the world to see the real me. Similar to his daughter, I was treated terribly at times. Not for who I was, but for what people saw on the outside. I felt his daughter and I shared a common experience, that people would judge quickly and in many instances never take the time to see the beauty inside.
We talked about where confidence comes from. How does one nurture it and allow it to grow. I shared my life lessons and really struggled to come to a concrete pathway for her to follow. I thought about how I had dealt with my gender issues and the lessons I had acquired along the way. The only concrete piece of the puzzle that seemed to fit for his daughter’s situation revolved around self acceptance. I related how when first dealing with my gender issues I was trying to be someone that in my heart I knew I was not. It was only after I fully accepted myself as a transsexual woman did the world begin to change. By accepting who I was at a core level, I noticed the world started to react differently to me. In fact not only was I accepted, people started to become attracted to me. I have found so few people in this world live authentically inside their own skin. It shines and in some instances comes across appearing as confidence.
We chatted over several drinks and I left the bar, never seeing the man again.
The tall man’s daughter and I share a common bond. We have both been born with challenges different than many people deal with. Over the years I have often wondered about the man with the questions and his daughter and how their lives unfurled. Also, how special it made me feel that communities so vastly different can merge to learn from one another.
(Editor: Pam – Lynnie is a long time URNA member, since 1997)