I drove out of the hotel complex with Prospect Hill to my right down Totten Pond Rd and waited to take a left onto Lexington St. I knew immediately where I was; this was indeed familiar territory. It occurred to me after turning left and traveling north that the plaza where the TJ Max was located was where we used to bowl and roller skate as kids. A lot has happened since I laced up rental bowling shoes and roller skates as a teenager more than thirty years ago at the Wal-lex: colleges, degrees, fights, girlfriends, boyfriends, suicide attempts, love, marriage, trips to Europe, teaching jobs, moves, art shows, coming out, marathons, divorce, unemployment, and more, much more.
I was really hungry, so before I hit TJ’s, I did the unthinkable; I ordered a Whopper Jr. and fries from the Burger King drive through and ate in the parking lot listening to Kiss108 on the radio. For me it was a true guilty pleasure. With some nourishment, I did a little shopping and found a few outfit options for the dinner and fashion show later that night. With my presentation behind me, I spent the remainder of the conference focused on learning more about resources and support for the trans community, including for myself. I also reconnected with old friends from previous conferences, but also tried more actively to meet new people. It’s something I’ve been struggling with in my new life as single trans woman. This is a reoccurring theme with my therapist, and as I tried to explain my goals for the conference to her, she said, so you’re going to make yourself more “available”. I'll try, I replied, but made no promises.
I finished my turkey wrap and chips and tried hard not to notice the couple sitting in front of me. They sat across from each other with the large hotel window behind them and cars crawling along Rt 128 below. It was tense and I felt like an intruder sitting so close. If I were to guess, they were married and the trans partner had encouraged her wife to attend the conference. It was clear she wasn’t having a good time and let her trans partner know. I tried to distract myself my filling out the surgeon’s information sheet, but couldn’t stop listening. It was like there was accident on the other side of the highway, where you slow and have to look. It reminded me of a recent piece on NPR about a study on ants, and why they don’t have traffic jams like us humans; they just keep marching. The couple talked and argued for what seemed like an eternity. In my notebook, I had written, “I don’t care!” These words came from the wife’s mouth before she stormed off across the hotel lobby and out into the cold January air. It was crushing. The exchange triggered my own feelings of guilt and unrest, bringing me back to conversations my partner and I had before I decided to transition and as we separated. With my eyes red and swollen, from both crying and staying up too late, I walked over to meet with the plastic surgeon.
I’ve only been out as a trans woman for about four years, and this was my third First Event. I know that sounds confusing, sorry. Over the four days I met so many wonderful and beautiful people. I don’t know how many aren’t out and may never be out. There was a young hopeful athlete struggling with whether to come out and transition versus not to and getting the opportunity to compete in the Rio Summer Olympics in 2016. There was a very articulate 22 year-old trans man from Framingham, who looked like he was 16. I first noticed him in one of the workshops on law, he asked some great questions. I saw him later that night sitting alone in the bar drawing a lotus in his sketchbook. Apparently it was a sketch for a tattoo. I struck up conversations with Amy and Nicole first separately, then together; they were about my age, I surmised, and easy to talk with. This was their first conference and they seemed so thrilled to finally be girls in public, even if it was just for a few days. Amy shared with me that she didn’t want to ever leave. I understood what she meant. I tried to get them to join me on the dance floor, but they both declined. I could tell they were happy just being there.
The dance floor on the last night of the conference is a joyous celebration of freedom removed from the prejudice and hate beyond the glass windows of the hotel. Old and young, and those of us in the middle, mix with first timers, part-timers, and other full-timers like myself. We embrace, hug, sweat, and dance to into the morning. I had changed out of my long gown and high heels after dinner into something more comfortable, a punk-goth-rockish look, very different than the rest of the crowd. At one point near the end of the night I found myself with a woman I had encountered that morning in the hotel fitness center. We had introduced ourselves over cocktails before dinner and shared a laughed as she hadn't recognized me from the gym now all dolled up. We held each other’s hands as we danced together and for a brief moment the world and our pasts melted away into the night.