There was a smile on my face, and an overwhelming sense of comradery in my voice. It was as if, finally, we could share the secret between us now that we both knew. “Oh, is that all? Darling, you must know you always were my favorite ex-girlfriend.”
I believe those were a pretty close approximation to the words I used when my high school ex-boyfriend nervously told me he had come to the realization that he was transgender. Paul (not his real name) and I had been that sort of couple that parents disapprove of. He was older than myself, a junior to my freshman. You know, a threat to “good girls” everywhere to any parent with a daughter. And yet we were thick as thieves even then. I don’t think even at 14, I had any care to obey typical gender roles, so our mismatched set of them worked perfectly together. And here, some decade and a half after we’d finished with our verbalized coupledome and occasional trysts after the fact, he was sharing with me perhaps some of the toughest words a person can say. And there never was any sense that he was suddenly a different person, or that I somehow never knew the person I’d canoodled with as a young adult. I knew him, and he finally knew herself. And I smiled. Beamed, really. My favorite ex-girlfriend was suddenly even more amazing to me.
We hadn’t been in constant contact over the past few years. I think the last time we saw each other in the flesh was some three or so years ago, over a hurried lunch hour. While Paul seemed hesitant, burdened by the journey ahead, I could tell that the first step of a thousand had begun, even if it was just the first hesitant footsteps. Sure, we talked about what it was like for him, and how life would most certainly change in exciting and sometimes painful ways. But, we also spoke about everyday things; how working from home makes a person miss human interaction, or how the cat won’t stop revenge peeing in the living room. We shared stories, told jokes, and ate over processed deli sandwiches on a Tuesday; lunch between friends.
It must be noted though, even then, that bitch had better looking hair than I ever will. I say that with love m’dear.
Fast forward till 2014. While in town visiting friends and family over the new year, we made some time to grab a cup of coffee. As my tiny car slid into the parking lot, I caught a glimpse of the person I was there to meet. I could see a slender woman walking up to the front door, crimson hair touching the shoulders of her coat.
After as big a hug as could be managed through the arctic outerwear the season required, we found a cozy table to catch up in the key of overcaffeinated chipmunks.
We shared stories about fear, and sticking out like a sore thumb, being in what can feel like a crucible, and what it’s like to hold a secret close to the vest. We talked puberty, and changes, and tests of will, goodwill, and friendship. I offered a shoulder, and experience with what it’s like to really just not giving a fuck what the rest of the world thinks. I suddenly wanted to go shopping, and to bring an incandescent torch to chase away the fluorescent lights in all dressing rooms. The special ones that make us hate ourselves. (There is a ring of hell behind a flaming, velvet rope for people who design the lighting in those self-esteem coffins.) I wanted to have someone who understood what it’s like to not be typical to learn from on how to be a girl. I wanted to learn from her. I wanted to teach the lessons I had learned ahead of time to keep them from having to be so fucking hard for someone else.
In a way, I fell in love again. I fell in love with wonder, giddy laughter, acceptance, friendship, trust, and the desire to leave the world just a little bit better than it started. Susan, I love you. You’ll always be my favorite, strongest, most beautiful ex-girlfriend.