Our family went to the Philly Trans Health Conference this past weekend. There’s a lot to say about the experience, only some of which we will manage to say here, but the short version is: it was awesome. This conference is amazing (and it’s free, and they provide childcare for children 4 and up).
I had arranged to meet with a guy (who we’ll call Z) who I know online and via some limited e-mail correspondence. We ran into each other early in the conference, and both thought we recognized each other, but just chalked it up to coincidence or seeing each other online. But when we met for lunch and I looked at him again, I said, “No. I actually know you.” He said, “Yeah, I know you too, too, let’s figure it out.” After stepping back through our respective schools and cities, we realized that we’d been roommates for about 6 months in Denver in the mid-90s, when I was about 19 and he was in his late 20s. I knew Z when I first came out (as lesbian), well before either of us were anywhere close to transition. We weren’t close friends, but we ran with the same crowd, and each had a room in a house with a somewhat problematic landlord. Both of us were completely stunned to see each other, then happily surprised, and then immediately began to tick through the list of folks we knew back then.
I’m only close with one other friend from that era of my life, and it turns out Z hasn’t really kept up with many folks either, but it was a great trip down memory lane, especially with now having a more adult-eye view. The time in my life when I knew this guy was the time I was closest to putting together that I was trans. The only person (before Gail) that I ever told out loud that I thought I was trans was the landlord/friend who rented me the room in the house that Z and I (and a couple other people) lived in. I remember sitting in her car, telling her about this trans guy I met at a party out of town, and saying I thought maybe I was like that. She didn’t really say anything in response. I tried to forget about it.
I asked Z what it was like from his view in community back then, if he thought it would have been possible to transition there. He told me flat out that no, it wouldn’t have worked. It wasn’t part of the conversation in our community. There weren’t out trans guys (he was shocked to hear I’d met someone at that party). There would have been a lot of hostility. There weren’t resources. I’ve revisited that time in my life so many times, trying to figure out why I missed the boat, why I didn’t put together what I needed back then, when I was close enough to figuring it out to say out loud that I might be trans, a feat I didn’t pull off again for another 15 years. It was a relief to hear Z say that I hadn’t missed something, that back then, in the community we were in, transition wasn’t an available path, at least not without a long hard fight. I’ve chewed so much on this question of “Why now?” and while not a complete answer, it is nice to have external validation of a reason for “why not then.”