February 26, 2014

A Second Chance to Make a First Impression

After going a month without a group meeting, Erica convinced me to venture out to the general trans support group that took place on the U of M campus. This was different than Cecelia’s small meeting; it wasn’t therapist-run, and it was a mixed meeting — not just MtF, but also FtM and anyone in the spectrum between. Honestly, I had mixed feelings about it, but as long as I wasn’t going alone I figured it would be worthwhile to try the group once.

At the last minute, we also invited Natalie, another woman early in her transition whom Erica had met recently. I had never met Natalie before, but I was always happy to meet more transwomen, In this case, I was glad that she came along; she was easy to talk to and she shared interests with Erica and me (like Dungeons & Dragons). So the drive out to Ann Arbor was perfectly pleasant.

The group itself was held in a small meeting room on the third floor of the U of M Student Center. We ended up getting there with time to spare and so we were able to grab seats and people-watch as folks came in. Early on, one woman walked into the room who immediately struck me as familiar, but for the life of me I couldn’t remember where. Did she attend Cecelia’s group before? No, that wasn’t it. Did she attend my school? No, I’d probably know if there were out trans students on campus. Where had I seen her before?

A few minutes later, a second woman came in who struck me the same way. Did I know her? I didn’t think so. More importantly, neither of them gave me a second glance, which suggested that they didn’t recognize me at all. So why did I recognize them?

When it happened a third time, I began to get really irritated with my brain. Damnit, brain, piece it together! Where in the Hell do you know these women from? 

Pretty soon the room was more or less full and the meeting began to stutter to a start. I started to put the nagging question out of mind, when the door opened once more and, for a fourth time, a woman came in that triggered a flash of recognition. And then I realized why they were familiar.

These women had been at the meeting, the one that I attended nearly a year ago. The one in a different city, but close enough to share attendees. The one that had triggered the worst of my dysphoric spirals. The one that had sparked thoughts of suicide, which I attempted a mere two days later. THAT MEETINGIt’s still strong in my memory, and so now, nearly a year later, I was still certain: these women had been there.

My memories of that day rushed into my mind and I had a momentary panic over how I might react. Was this going to trigger something? Was I about to freak out? Was I about to run out?

But even as I performed this little self-assessment, I already had my answer. I wasn’t freaking out. I wasn’t about to run out. The only thing it was triggering was my worry that it was going to trigger something. 

I am not the person — the man — who attended that meeting last year. And so this time I did not judge these women, these fellow transfolk. Instead, I listened. Listened to one of them fret over the impending loss of her apartment; listened to another talk about her struggles at work; listened to a third beam proudly that she was now a B-cup, but that she still hated her broad shoulders. 

“This was my future. These were my people now.” That’s what I wrote last year, and a year ago that thought had depressed me. Now, it heartened me. These women I had labeled a “freakshow” in my darkest moments were nothing of the sort. They were human beings just trying to live their life as authentically they could. And I was one of them, and I was happy to be among them.

These women will never know how I slighted them last year, and they have no idea that I regret my words. Monday night I was lucky enough to be given an opportunity to correct a mistake I made in my heart. It’s not a mistake I ever hope to make again, with my fellow transfolk or with any human being just trying to make their way in the world.

[Incidentally, at the meeting I also met another Alison. “How many ‘L’s?” she asked me; “Just one,” I replied, and we both nodded knowingly to one another. So there’s at least one other woman out there with the same good taste as me.]


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