I am working a summer fellowship 800 miles from home this summer. I moved almost 6 weeks ago to a small town where I knew no one. This town does not have a gay bar. Surprisingly, my trans community found me.
Before coming here I was convinced I would make connections through the kink community, or maybe the local Ingress community. I tried both groups pretty much as soon as I arrived, and for various reasons found both a bad fit. The (very cishet) local kink community didn’t seem thrilled to have another guy around, and Ingress folks don’t meet up in person as much outside of big cities and like to use slurs on their group chat apps.
I barely considered the local skeptic and atheist communities. They are barely present in the area, and what little there is appears to be run by white men… I didn’t even give it a try.
After about 2 weeks I tried the local Unitarian Universalist church. This was by far the most friendly place I have found in the area. The community was incredibly welcoming and nice to me, excited to hear about my environmental work and share their community. However, they have minimal activities during the summer, and the community was largely much older than me. Incredibly sweet, but not likely to be people to hang out over beers or coffee of an evening. Still, I will go back on any Sunday that I’m free and I’m glad they’re here.
I did not think to look for trans folks in the area before I got here. Frankly, I assumed there wouldn’t be many, or that they’d be difficult to find, super busy, or otherwise unlikely to become my new friends. I was completely wrong.
In my first few days here, out looking for my nearest Ingress portals, I discovered a house a half block from mine with a big rainbow flag out front. A week later, looking closer, I realized the small planters in the yard carried four small trans pride flags. A week after that I spotted two people walking out the front door as I walked by, and rushed over to introduce myself.
They were both super friendly – an older trans woman, A, and her cousin, heading out for the day. They greeted me warmly and said we should have coffee sometime soon. I promised to leave a note with my contact information soon…. which I promptly and repeatedly forgot to do.
A few days after that I was in the nearest big city for Pride weekend. During the Dyke March, which I watched from the sidelines* wearing my trans pride flag, a young person called out to me. A few days later I got a note under my apartment door. Apparently that young trans guy, E, lives in my neighborhood and is friends with my downstairs neighbor!
E and I hung out a few days later, sharing drinks and conversation. He’s at the very beginning of his medical transition, and wanted to hear from someone with some experience. I found him to be great company, interesting, smart, and caring. A few days later he had me and 3 other delightful trans guys from the area over for a really great dinner. Who knew there were 5 of us close enough to sit down for a meal?
Then tonight I got a knock on my door in the evening. My downstairs neighbor (are they my fairy godparent‽) was at my door, saying there were people there to see me. Apparently the lovely folks I’d met around the corner wanted me to come over for cupcakes!
So tonight I got to hang out with A. When I got to her house I saw the rainbow flag on her porch had been replaced with a full size trans pride flag. I got to hear her stories about her days as a roadie, see the wardrobe she is clearly deeply proud of, and the old English bicycles she restores, and the stunning art photography in her room. She shared with me an incredible book of photography of trans women and cross dressers from the 1950’s and 1960’s.** We ate cupcakes in celebration of her wife’s birthday, and watched an episode of Pose.
When I moved here I assumed I would be alone. Instead I have found that trans people (of all ages!) are fucking everywhere. These days, we’re not hiding anymore. We’re hanging flags from our porches and windows, wearing them over our shoulders, and making sure we are seen. In our decision not to hide, we are finding each other. Everywhere I look I have siblings as delighted for a connection as I am.
My trans identity is one of the best blessings I have in my life. For a long time I thought of it as a struggle, and it sometimes has been one. But this summer it has been only a delight. Meeting people like me, and discovering the ways in which we are similar and different, has been a joy. I could not have met E or A if I had not come here, and both of them are a reminder that anywhere I go I might find family flying that flag.
* This march asked those who don’t ID as dykes to cheer from the sidewalks in solidarity, rather than participate directly.
**Casa Susanna by Michel Hurst (Editor) and Robert Swope (Editor)