Monday, December 2, 2013

Not-so-queer as folk.

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I see her all the time, actually. That store is literally walking distance from the medical school and all of the places I frequent so on most days walking there is like walking into "Cheers." The only difference is that nobody yells out "Norm!" And it's a neighborhood pharmacy and not a bar.

In addition to being the place for filling my family's prescriptions it's also the place that we can always count on to grab random staples like bread, milk, and coffee. I would say that there are some weeks that I come in there at least six out of the seven days. Some know me by name but even those who don't at least know me by face. And I the same.

Yesterday I needed some milk for the kids, some bleach and some rubbing alcohol. She was the one ringing me up that day and as I completed the transaction, she chatted me up like usual. I couldn't help but study her heavy application of eyebrow pencil, the blackest-black mascara on her lashes and the pinkish blush on her cheeks. She always wore a little bit of eye makeup which wasn't out of the ordinary but today, something seemed different.

"Uh oh," she said as she finished the sale, "your milk. Looks like this gallon expires tomorrow."

"Eek!" I replied.

She promptly jogged over to the cold area to exchange it for another. When she returned she gave her head a little shake and the playful ponytail on her head shook with it. "They all expire tomorrow. Looks like the Thanksgivingers wiped us out."

"I'd say."

"Sorry about that."

"It's not the end of the world."

"It's not." She smiled really bright after she said that. Her lips were stained with remnants of what was probably an old application of some alleged 24 hour lipstick. Without saying more, she started punching the register in preparation to give me a refund for the milk. Her finger nails were painted a dark shade of burgundy that almost appeared black and each of her fingers were adorned with goth appearing rings. She noticed me looking and smiled. "I love rings. Always have."

"Did you have a good holiday?" I asked.

"It was here at work. But that's okay. I was able to get in on the sales here. Bought some good makeup."

And right when she said that, I noticed what was different. Her badge, which usually had a masculine name, had been replaced with one that was decidedly feminine. There had always been a little bit of eyeliner and black fingernails. But honestly, I'd always attributed it to some kind of rocker style, you know? And honestly, I'd always interacted with her as what her outward phenotypic appearance mostly suggested: That she was a he.

"Your name is beautiful." That's what I said. Partly because it was, but also because I wanted her to know that I noticed. It was brave what she was doing and I could tell that she'd made up her mind to be who she is.

"Yeah, doc. I'm . . . well, mostly I always considered myself queer but who I am inside isn't that."

I squinted my eyes. I wasn't sure what she meant. Like I'd heard people tell me of queer as a term that meant just that. Not a boy, not a girl, not an it, just themselves. Queer. "Who, then are you?"

"A woman. But one who is stuck."

I didn't know what to say. So I just continued to make eye contact with her until she said something else.

"I'm about to graduate from college soon. And I'm going to dedicate myself to doing things to helping people like me belong. Like research and stuff like that."

"That's awesome. How much time do you have left?"

"Just this semester."


She handed me my change and smiled wide and genuine. I could tell that she was glad that she'd said all that and I was glad she felt comfortable enough. I waved goodbye and addressed her by the name now on her badge.

"Thank you," she replied with a big sigh.

I started to leave but then paused for a moment. I turned back to her and spoke carefully. "Just. . . . remember that differences can scare some people when they don't understand. Keep being brave and teaching people so that they learn."

"People aren't nice." That's all she said. And I knew what she meant because the lady to my immediate right who was sifting through the gum selections made enough exaggerated expressions to be mistaken for a mime. 

"Mmmm. Some are mean on purpose. But some just don't know any better."

"I know."

I nodded and prepared to leave. "Alright then."

"See you tomorrow when you forget the hamburger buns." We both laughed.

"Or on Tuesday when I need some Splenda."

"Have a great week."

I smiled at her as I headed out of the door. A crowd of people were now waiting to be checked out -- all of whom looked up when I said back to her in the most matter-of-fact way I could, "You, too, ma'am."

Happy Monday. And thank you to every brave person who has been unafraid to teach me about being true to thy own self. Especially this woman who helped me better interact with the one in the pharmacy yesterday.

Now playing. . . .


  1. SO much yes. So, so, so much yes.

  2. You did your part today to make the circle a little more inclusive. She is brave indeed.

  3. I am often struck by the intention with which you live your life. I strive to be like that. Grace comes to mind when I picture this scene. Acknowledging her for the person that she is, I know, made a difference to her and perhaps did a bit to change the hearts of those that witnessed your kindness. Thank you for being an example.


  4. Love! Thank you for being who you are, but mostly for sharing yourself with others. I can only hope others who witnessed this exchange or even read this will be encouraged to act accordingly.

  5. I love not only that you did what you did and said what you said but also told us here, shared it. The experience, your wisdom.


"Tell me something good. . . tell me that you like it, yeah." ~ Chaka Khan

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