“What I really resent most about people sticking labels on you is that it cuts off all the other elements of what you are because it [the label] can only deal with black and white; the cartoon.”
~ Siouxsie Sioux
A non-binary, straight male-to-female crossdresser and a Christian, conservative, Republican, pro-Trump woman walk into a Starbucks… Good jokes have begun with less. My pre-amble to this story didn’t happen exactly that way, as I’m sure you know. In this case—as it is still fresh in my short-term memory—I walked into the lobby of a mostly-empty Starbucks. I drove out of my way from my closest-to-home coffee house to visit with my good friend and Starbucks manager, Rose. I hadn’t seen her since we rallied at the Greenville Drag Queen Story Hour the previous year.
After an hour of working on my book edits, I spoke to Rose about the discipline and drive it takes to complete projects outside normal working life. We also touched on the fact that my Living with Crossdressing Facebook group had been disabled due to a violation of Community Standards (still trying to figure out what happened). Another patron, a woman sitting two tables over, told me I should follow up because the same happened to the evangelist Franklin Graham’s Facebook page (the evangelist Billy Graham’s son, read more on that topic). The three of us discussed the merits of social media and the double standard for free speech in America. Eventually, Rose was forced to drift away for her caffeine-related duties.
The other patron introduced herself as a Christian, Conservative, Republican, Trump-supporting woman. After a few more minutes of discussing the art of the hustle (as it related to my writing) and social media, she asked, “Can I ask you something personal?”
As I am (Savannah is) always willing to respond to any questions concerning my life, I told her, “Sure. You can ask me anything.”
“Why do you do it… the crossdressing?”
I took a deep breath. The answer to that question is as fully-loaded, and as unique, as all the stars in the heavens. I chose my words carefully, and so began a wonderful two-hour discourse about me as a crossdresser. We chatted about my sexual preferences, my fears, and her opinion about how the more “flamboyant” characters in the community cannot be taken seriously. We touched on Trump and the policy of trans-persons in the U.S. Armed Forces came up—as one would expect—plus, the legitimacy of late-term abortions. For the religious portion of the chat, we wondered how alternative sexuality and trans-people fit into the matrix where a Christian Lord never makes mistakes with his creations and where the Bible lacks details about them. Even Caitlyn Jenner got a plug, seen as a so-so community advocate. As she was so focused on her labels, I didn’t even catch her actual name (Karen) until almost twenty minutes into our conversation when I introduced myself to her!
I found it interesting that Karen’s cavalcade of titles seemed to be more important descriptors than her first name. I understand we all love labels—the LGBTQ+ community is notorious for using them. It makes life easier and gives each of us a quick reference guide for what to expect from the other person in terms of religious beliefs, political worldviews, and general principles. Conversely, titles also can limit our engagement with people because we so instinctually add our own perceptions to what we think those labels represent. I quickly corrected her that I was a crossdresser—not a drag queen—specifying the nuances of each. When she asked about the “why”, I gave her my own story as a dual-gender individual. I added in that each crossdressing experience was different and dependent on their own unique drivers and motivations—whether as a fetishist, a person on the path to transition, or as a part-time feminine expression.
She mentioned often how much of a Trump supporter she was. I told her of my dislike for political topics, in general. So, instead, we focused on the political events that were currently shaping our locale or nation… not the people in political power. I was even able to give my own perspective on why we thought that the Drag Queen Story Hour in Greenville was a positive experience for the kids (and, not an LGBTQ agenda to indoctrinate young impressionable minds into becoming garishly gay or flamboyantly fashionable). I can only hope that my words left some impression.
One note to add… Karen had made a comment about how she couldn’t take seriously the more “outlandish” individuals in the community. They were all too loud and proud. I countered with the fact that everyone should have the ability and the right to express themselves. She agreed… up to the point where their actions affected her personally as she tried to enjoy her coffee or watch a clip on her iPad in peace. So, there was a matter of encroachment to consider. Then, Karen told me about how easily-offended “they” got when you rolled your eyes at them or made a scoffing sound—how “up in arms” they got because people were reacting to their antics. So… there is an issue of action and reaction. Karen tended to react strongly to how strongly people act. When they “invade” her space, she reacts. Whether with a stare, an eye roll, or a tsk of the tongue off the teeth, Karen would be up front about what she thought about how her environment had changed.
Conversely, she said she could tell that I was serious about who I was, and, as a result, could be taken seriously. Those were big words basically affirming that she wouldn’t be lured in by the grandeur of a Pride event. She was, however, very open to a personal one-on-one conversation where she could ask questions and offer her own perspectives. For Karen, “loud and proud” wasn’t nearly as inviting as was a quiet crossdresser drinking an iced espresso and working on a laptop.
Once we were in the throes of our discussion, Karen seemed excited to introduce me to another patron (and friend) that came in as often as her. She also laughed at how one male repeat-patron—when she greeted him by name—gave me a double-take (maybe, a triple-take). Karen was very tickled by that. When another young man, waiting for his drink, continued to look over at me—remember, I was dressed as Savannah, but still using a male-timbered voice—she made sure to point him out to me.
We all live in a world where love and compassion should be far greater assets than the easier-to-emote hate and cynicism. The path to the Dark Side of the Force is tempting and easy. I continue to believe that having a lively discourse is the start to dispelling discord. Karen has very specific and strong personal and political views. My aim was definitely not to dissuade her from her opinions or change her way of thinking. What I did enjoy was a couple of hours where I could engage with someone about how we saw the world, challenge our assumptions, and hone my debating skills on my political opinions and religious beliefs.
So… a non-binary, straight male-to-female crossdresser and a Christian, conservative, Republican, pro-Trump woman walk into a Starbucks. That is how we entered the coffee house… with our labels and pedigrees and opinions… but, maybe, we both parted ways after our caffeine intake a little more enlightened and with a better appreciation of our fellow human being.
Will we take on the new label of friends? I am open to any possibility.