I lived next door to a transgendered woman once.
Suuuuper nice lady.
I was 13, 14 maybe. Terry was almost old enough to be my grandma. I stayed the night at her house once with a couple of my girlfriends. I remember giggling a lot and her having to come downstairs to tell us to be quiet.
Her house had a lot of floral in it. Doiles. Ruffles. Afghans. And it smelled like roses. Not real roses. More like that fake rose smell you can find in candles or Scentsy bars.
She was always cooking. I remember eating more than a few snacks at her house. In the summertime, my mother and I would sit outside with her and talk about things.
Beauty in the world. The magic of music. The flowers she was growing in her flowerbeds.
She had thin, curly brown hair and dressed like Madea from the Tyler Perry movies but, she was no where near as mean. She was actually very kind, compassionate. A good listener. Not physically affectionate. I don't remember her ever hugging me or my mom but, I knew that she enjoyed spending time with us by the way her green eyes sparkled as she laughed and dished out banana pudding on Dessert Rose Franciscan China on Saturday afternoons.
Terry didn't have any family that she spoke of. I don't remember her talking about friends. She lived alone in her two bedroom townhouse and seemed to quite enjoy her life.
My mother and I would ask each other questions about her when we were alone in our own two bedroom townhouse.
'Do you think that's why her hands are so big?'
'Do you think that's really an Adam's Apple?'
'Is that why her shoulders are so broad?'
I'm sure Terry had a story to tell, answers to all of our questions. I'm sure that if we would have asked her, she would have told us. But, we didn't. We didn't ask Terry those questions and she never offered a story.
It took a little bit before my mom let me visit Terry without her. I think that's probably normal. I mean, a parent checks out any adult their child spends time with alone, right? In 1995, if that adult happened to be a person who you were pretty sure was born a man and was now living out their life as a woman, a parent DOUBLE checked.
My mom believed there was perversion in the world and taught me to believe the same.
We didn't think Terry was perverted.
My mom got to know Terry. She checked her mom-gut about Terry. She became friends with Terry and so did I. We found that it mattered very little what her what-ever-it-was orientation happened to be.
Before I grew up, I didn't know Terry had a hard life. I don't remember wondering if it was hard for her to grocery shop, hard for her to buy clothes. I don't think I worried about which bathroom Terry used at a movie theater. I didn't know I was supposed to think about things like that.
She may have been the least different out of all my neighbors. All I cared about was what she made for dessert and what she could teach me about poker.
Terry was just...part of my village.
And I was part of hers.
I wonder if what Terry did was brave, extraordinary. I wonder the same about my mother, myself. Is living a quiet life being yourself, passing out kindness and hospitality to anyone who will allow you to brave?
Is waking up every morning knowing you're going to get stared at, laughed at, and doing life anyway brave?
What about teaching your only daughter that people can be worth getting to know. Is that brave? Telling your child that, while you might not always meet good people, most of the time you will and the gamble is worth it.
Is it brave to be a 14 year old who looks past an outer appearance and becomes friends with a old lady who was probably really a man?
I guess it depends who you ask.
I missed Terry when we moved away. I lost touch with her. I wonder sometimes if she's still alive, if she's lonely. If she got new neighbors who enjoyed her banana pudding.
Who she told her story to.
I'm very grateful to have grown up in a world where Terry existed, a world where my mother existed.
A world where it was okay to make friends with the unlikeliest of people and not think too much about it.
Happy Friday, friends.
go. do. be.