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Tuesday, January 11, 2005

A man of impeccably conservative stripe

An old friend, who had been a big supporter of my poetry in my guy days, happened to spot me at the service desk as he was preparing to exit the Library. He'd been pretty quiet since I came out to him, which I had kind of expected, he being a man of impeccably conservative stripe.

But not mean, as in the new fascists, just -- conservative -- like they used to have. A thinking man. So I had some hopes there.

He came over, and stood across the cherrywood countertop from me. About four seconds of silence, then he shifted his weight, and we went through about four more. Hmm. Another four might be fatal.

I must have looked very different from most of his memories of me. I had once weighed 215 pounds, walked with a heavy shuffle, showed considerable male pattern baldness, and had a penchant for wearing ties, even when no one else in the library did, with medieval or Renaissance themes on them.

Today I was wearing two-pocket jeans, size 13, by Bill Blass, a grey ribbed turtleneck from Chadwick's, garnet ear-studs, matching nails and lipstick from Mary Kay, jingling silver bangles, and weighing in at about 175 (gained a little over the break: hey, be nice). It was still early enough in the day for me to be at my best, with shoulder-length hair, even with all the waves in it.

I figured he would swallow his tongue, so I had better break the ice.

I leaned across the counter, cupped my chin in my hand, and came as close to batting my eyelashes at him as I dared. "Any and all questions are o.k." I smiled.

He cleared his throat, and, bless his heart, was able to ask kind things, especially about how it was going for the Hard Working Lady, who's been married to me for 28.5 years. After all, he's read all the love poems I wrote her ... as the conversation proceeded, he seemed to realize this was a friend he hadn't lost, and began to move on from my situation to topics of mutual interest in the most gracious manner imaginable.

My replacement arrived, so I offered to walk him back to his building, and we got caught up a bit on literature and the status of his parents' lovely place on the coast -- still for sale, sadly. He'd love to buy it. (We'd love to visit him and his wife there, too!)

As we got there, he took that little half-step that men do, and held the big glass door for me.

"Thank you! It's getting easier for me to accept that."

"Good thing, too."

I mentioned that recently another man friend had taken me to lunch ...

and taken my coat ...

and held my chair ...

and that I'd caught him ogling, but I think I was meant to!


"Just letting you know how it's going to be out there. Heh, heh."

"Well, as you know, I'm taken."

"So am I, my dear, so am I."


I have discovered that I like working the front counter of our department again. No, actually, I love it. It's not my responsibility as I'm not a Librarian, merely a Supervisor, but I do train all the work-study students who staff the desk, and the department seems happy for me to fill in all around the edges.

I'm extremely hearing-impaired, which turns out to be a plus. I know how to train patrons to adjust to my differences:

(patron whispers)

"I'm sorry, I'm quite hearing impaired. This is a research library and actually you may speak in normal tones here." [BIG SMILE]

With some, especially those with accents, I may actually resort to my pocket talker to understand. I put on my headphone, point the mike at them, explain the device a bit, and we go on from there.

Every transperson should have such a cool disability, especially if they work with the public. It seems to disarm those who might otherwise choose to be disdainful, and gives us time to discover each other's humanity. Then I help them with their inquiry, or find them someone who can. Always try to leave 'em grateful!

As a result I get to try out my woman's voice, mannerisms and walk in the most supportive and nonthreatening environment possible.

And I'm the grateful one when I think about that.

-- risa b


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