OK, I know this sounds like it’s about zombies, but seriously, it’s not. I’m talking about that very first magical time we step out the front door, out get out of the car, in broad daylight just like real people do every day. Yes, I do mean dressed gender appropriate. Those of you in the trans community know what I’m talking about, or at least plan to sometime I would imagine. Since this is kind of a one way forum, I’ll begin by sharing my own tale of terror and how I somehow did not burst into flames of have a mob of spun up villagers chase me with pitch forks. Really, I told you, this is not about zombies!
In earlier, much more confused days, I used to take walks in the wee hours of the morning when no one sane was awake. It was good to get out of the house as myself and found the experience invigorating, even if the chance that I would encounter another human being was next to nil. I was still well in “this is something I feel I need to do for some reason but it doesn’t mean anything” land, and many, many moons from “this is who I am” space. Our awkwardly painful trans adolescences can span decades. At the time I could scarcely imagine making my way though crowds in downtown Buffalo, or nipping into Tops to replace the rutabaga the dog got to first. Had I any inkling those exact things lay ahead, I would have dramatically uttered “the horror, the horror!” and quickly expired.
Last summer my time came around at last. Sure, I had been to a few Belles and Spectrum meetings already, but they started after dark and I was able to park right nearby. In early June Pride rolled around and I had volunteered to ride the Spectrum float in the parade; an event that started at high noon. I didn’t have anyone to go with, my friendships with the other members still in the nascent stages, to whom I was still “that other Michelle or something”. I got in the car, drove downtown and parked on some random side street; something that would haunt me later that day, but not because there are zombies there.
OK, I have to come clean before everyone starts cooing, “Ooooo! You’re so brave!” and all. Dropping myself off in the middle of a Pride fest, I could not have picked a safer location. I was nervous anyway, partially because there was a big empty spot where the Spectrum float was supposed to be. I stood fidgeting amongst the twinks, bears, and hoards of teen dykes, standing out like a sore thumb. I was dressed waaay too conservative in a black dress and pantyhose, plus was still under the impression that shellacking on pounds of Maybelline foundation looked good. A woman came up to me out of nowhere and launched into a conversation about both her recent marriage and the whole history of the Buffalo trans movement, something I was grateful for, even though I had no idea who she was or how she was able to tell (seriously) that I was trans.
It turned out to be an immensely empowering day all things considered. The float and friends showed up soon and I had a dilly of a time whooping it up on the float with my girls. It did occur to me that riding a float right past the Channel 4 news camera covering the event might not be so wise considering I was still out to less than 5 people. It was OK though. I had on shades that the Olsen twins would consider way too big hiding 75% of my face. It felt really, really good to be alive and under the sun.
Trying to get home, well, that was a bit scarier. My finely detailed planning ability didn’t account for the parade taking me miles and miles away from my car, leaving me to wait until the festivities were over to catch a ride back. I probably could have walked, but the people I considered allies were all clustered around the waterfront and would not be there to protect me. Plus, I wore the exact wrong shoes that were already cutting into my instep. Braving the certain gauntlet of roving gay bashers in bad shoes did not seem like something I wanted to do, but did so anyway due to a clerical error. After waiting for my ride, I had myself dropped off over a mile still from my car. Someone misremembered of the side street name.
Oh and what a gauntlet it was! Keeping a brisk pace as my shoes filled with blood, I was assaulted with half disinterested glances and head turns as I blazed down Elmwood, occasionally ducking down one of the plethora of ‘L’ named side streets in case my car was there. Sheer and utter brutality! Somehow, in spite of the callow disinterest in my existence, as well as a dearth of zombies, I made it back to the car. Phew! Turning down my street, however, I encountered the old lady who’s always walking her dog giving me a big dose of the hairy eyeball as I dashed from my car into the garage. So much for months of peering out the front window for the exact right moment to leave so the neighbors didn’t see.
Mild tribulations and all, it was an incredible feeling breaking the seal like that. I have to smile looking back on it now. My long held belief that the world would crumble or trumpets would blast from the heavens just because I let my true self be seen were dashed. It’s proven to be a much friendlier world out there than I anticipated, aside from some occasional mild awkwardness like a waitress cleaning the same table three times just to get a better look at me. And of course, still no zombies.