I actually think that the most efficacious way of making a difference is to lead by example, and doing random acts of kindness is setting a very good example of how to behave in the world.
Recently, I was graced with two random acts of kindness—maybe, more like acceptance—as I plugged through a normal thrifting Saturday with my girlfriend. Thrifting takes us around the Spartanburg and Greenville areas, each stop a new address and a new adventure of treasure hunting. At this particular address during a not-so-productive outing thus far, our luck changed. First, we were able to pet a beautiful Rottweiler dog standing behind a chain-link fence.
“Her name is Pickles,” the homeowner mentioned. “She’s a mush.”
We love dogs so much that we don’t usually worry about—or shy away from—the breed of canine we are encountering and wanting to engage with.
But… back to the thrifting. My girlfriend and I walked around the yard, looking for anything we could buy to resell. She suddenly called out that she found something. It was a sparkly pair of gold strappy wedged heels. And, they were in my size! I asked the homeowner—a woman with a sweatshirt, cut-off denim shorts, and a wash of rainbow colors through her hair—how much the shoes were. She wanted $35… a value way outside the price point expectations of a yard sale.
She stepped up to my girlfriend and asked, “You wear a size 11?”
I replied, “No. But, I do.”
The woman processed what I said and suddenly brightened. “Well,” she countered, “I do have all sorts of shoes in my closet that might fit you.”
She literally ran inside the house while we continued to look through the rest of the yard sale items, quickly coming back with three pairs of shoes of various styles and heel heights. While I passed on one due to their condition and the second due to the style, I did peel off my right shoe and sock as I tried on the last pair. It was much too large for my foot, but it didn’t matter.
What counted was her happiness to engage with me as a man who liked to wear high heels. She was celebrating the fact that I was owning my own truth. This episode was certainly enough to make my entire day happy, both for meeting a woman who quickly accepted me and for the realization that I did not bother—or, even think—to deflect the reason why we were looking at size 11 heels. But, it would not be the only positive encounter of the day.
Thrifting is hungry work, so a trip to Chipotle was in order. Afterward, as we headed home, my girlfriend reminded me that I had told her that I needed Clinique foundation. Ulta was on the way and we pulled in to get what needed. Now, when I was in New York for the NewYorkComingOut Transgender Conference, my friend took me to Ulta to get the same foundation. Since I couldn’t find what I had bought in New York, here I was at another Ulta… again. I informed the Clinique beauty technician that I needed foundation, but couldn’t remember the color name of what I had purchased. She didn’t seem all that interested or amused at my request. I hopped up on the consultation chair and reiterated that I couldn’t remember the color name of the foundation and needed to be color-matched. This time, her reaction was, “oh, you were serious.”
I laughed. And, I asked why she thought I wasn’t serious. She told me that she had been told by many men before me that they needed help with their makeup, only to reveal they were pranking her. I was actually her first actual male client who wanted to truly have a cosmetic consultation. She smiled warmly and started pulling out samples to dot my cheeks with. I showed her a pic of Savannah from my phone, so she could see who she was working with. I looked like a makeup warrior with several lines of feminine war paint. Four stripes were narrowed to two. Two stripes were narrowed to the final choice. She asked me about what being a crossdresser was like. Was it like being a drag queen? I spoke a little about myself and my development, also explaining the difference between the performance art of drag queens and the gender expression/presentation of a crossdresser.
After a wonderful several minutes of conversation, I asked her if she had any other questions. I assumed she would ask me about me, but, instead, she asked for advice about a situation in her own life. I won’t go into specifics about what she asked advice about. What I will say is she felt a strong enough connection with me (and my girlfriend who had returned from her shopping to join our conversation) to ask us our opinion about a matter much more personal and private than one would expect from a chance meeting at a makeup store to replace foundation I had bought and lost in New York (sidenote: the first purchase was eventually found in a zip-lock bag under the guest bathroom sink).
I was the wonderful recipient of random acts of kindness and acceptance. I was in my male persona, owning the fact that I have a feminine expression. Sure, I will probably never return to the yard sale, even though the homeowner said I could raid her closet anytime. The Ulta Clinique professional is now a friend. We follow each other on social media and chat about our lives once in a while. She does such a fierce job of eyeliner wings that I want her to apply that technique on me!
Not shying away from who you are can result in the most amazing discoveries, if you let it.