Aha! The perfect platform to tell a story I’ve been itching to share. Thanks, Think Kit, for today’s prompt: Strange Encounter. Share a story about a stranger this year. Was it something you overheard? Someone you accidentally met & bonded with? A funny…or strange coincidence?
You’re from where???
I thought I had covered this topic last year with my blog post, “Fancy meeting you here.” If you’ve not read it, it is filled with some pretty crazy ways I have run into folks I know in the least-expected places.
After what happened just before Christmas, those stories now qualify as merely cute.
Living as a transgender person has enough challenges. Telling the world that you suffer from gender dysphoria while still striving to live in the gender you were identified at birth, and then transitioning, is the larger hurdle.
No one appreciates being outed against her or his will. Every when, where, and how of it is a highly personal decision. For this reason, the fun story I have for you is populated with just enough changed names and places to protect privacies. But, the basics of the story are 100 percent true and, this past December, they left four heads spinning.
Each of the three places I have served in the ministry have been in small town America. Even more, each county—two in Iowa and one in Michigan—is the epitome of rural, as in the-total-population-of-any-of-the-three-is-fewer-than-35,000 rural, with the two in Iowa barely scratching 10,000. That, and Indianapolis’s being a generous distance from both of the three places, Julie and I were not expecting to make friends of a couple who hailed from one of them.
And certainly not at IndyGirlz, the Indianapolis transgender group we attend each month.
Every meeting, folks arrive who have never attended one. Often, it is their first time at any event which takes them out of the house to be with kindred spirits. So, when the new couple entered and quietly sat down, it was no surprise.
The first hour elapsed without fanfare. Before the break, it was suggested that the SOFFAs—Significant Others, Family, Friends, and Allies—go off to talk on their own. Often, we trans folks occupy the conversation, yet SOFFAs have plenty of their own concerns and questions for each other. They were pleased for this opportunity.
As the intermission began, my Julie and Mary, the wife of the couple, left the room. Mary’s spouse, Darlene, and I were sitting near each other and chatted as others used restrooms, bought sodas and, of course, checked phones. Darlene, a trans woman just coming into her own, and I hit it off, picking up the chat after the meeting before we met up with our wives.
The gals were busy yakking as they approached, exchanging phone numbers and promises of getting together. We said our good-byes and were on our way.
The next Saturday, Julie and Mary were texting, anxious to get together. That’s when Julie typed just the right thing about me to prompt Mary to ask, “You don’t mean Smithville, Michiowa?”
“The one and only.”
“That can’t possibly be. I grew up in Pasture Town!”
Pasture Town, you surely have guessed, is the next town over from Smithville.
Julie could barely contain herself when jumping to tell me this crazy news, as Mary also leapt to find Darlene to shock and amuse her. Soon, I had my own text from Darlene and we were quickly making new connections to old places.
We made plans to meet for dinner the next weekend. Finishing our meal, we were thankful that the restaurant was not so busy that we could not linger. The only reason we finally part three-and-one-half hours later was so that we would have something left to talk about the next time.
Making friends in a new town is a challenge. For me, it is as basic to making the place a home as gracing a meal with mashed potatoes. When Julie and I can make friends of a couple who are not only going through the transitioning experience, but also so nicely match up with our personalities, why, that’s the tastiest gravy.