Beraud au cafe

Last night I attended a dinner at an Irish pub—we rented a large, mercifully heated and enclosed patio at the back of the restaurant—for the staff and volunteers at an organization for the transgender community in the state where I live and do some volunteer work. Some of us drove in from other towns in the region. We were encouraged to each bring a guest. As my date, I brought a transgender man who is a good—strictly platonic—friend of mine with whom I sometimes attend concerts and such.

Most of us femme types showed up dressed to kill. I certainly did my best! Except sometimes for church and classical music concerts at night, I don’t often have an excuse to wear my fancy skirts, tops, and heels. In heels, I am exactly the same height as the current and immediately prior First Ladies in their bare feet. I love the tapping sound my heels make on hard surfaces!

(Film noir: the echo of high heels on the wet pavement of a darkened, empty street . . .)

At the height of the evening we must have made up close to a third of the people in the crowded, Friday-night restaurant. To get to the patio in the back, you had to walk through the main dining area. The diners there gave no sign of noticing anything unusual. There is no reason they should. We looked like a perfectly ordinary large holiday office party.

Surveys have shown that most cisgender folks think they have never encountered a transgender person.

We think this is hilarious!

A few members of our party were cisgender folks, some of them married to transgender people, at least one mother of a pretty and articulate transgender teen daughter—they were seated a couple of places down from me—and the cisgender male spouses of a couple of straight women who are employed by our non-profit as social workers.

I was introduced to those men. They looked terrified to be walking into a crowded room where 90% of the people were transgender. One of them, when we were introduced, got all wide-eyed and stared at me with his mouth open.

Just stared.

I don’t think I was what he was expecting.

I am a gentle, physically slight, well-read, soft-spoken woman, a classical music enthusiast, who lives with her cat and sometimes gets asked whether she is a high-school English teacher. I have had polite and well-educated straight men ask me out, one as recently as last weekend.

Not exactly the fiendish serial killer in Silence of the Lambs. The mass media where most cisgender people get what little they think they know about transgender folks mostly portrays us as dangerous freaks or as the butts of hateful “jokes.”

What was our dinner conversation? Mostly we talked about what we have been doing over the holidays, how our kids—yes, some of us are raising children—are doing, plumbing problems, the weather, recipes, health issues we are coping with, difficult relatives, where we bought that great top or dress we were wearing, and, for the unattached, whom we are dating.

We’re just people, not monsters, whatever the religious right tells you, and mostly you don’t notice us even when we fill several tables in your favorite restaurant.

The image is a painting by Jean Béraud entitled Au Café.

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