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PHOTO: Anna Ristuccia
It was 10 or 11, and I had already been up since 3:30 a.m. in order to be at work at 4. Why is somebody like me in this position, I kept asking myself? Is it because I fucked around in college and didn’t become a nurse, have no direction, and am clearly fated to end up white trash just like the rest of my family?
I looked up and a pretty transgender walked in, with big arms, long curly red hair and glasses. It was obvious to me from her face that she had been born a man- the brow and the chin size are always the easiest ways to tell. She was full of hesitation, I could tell being in public was something she struggled with her whole life. Unlike most SF trannies, she seemed clean and normal. She didn’t seem to be a sex worker, and as a man I envisioned her being quiet, gentle and mousy- a library tranny, if I had to call her something. I put my smile on, and my eyes told her to come talk to me. I winked at her, to diffuse her nervousness. “Hey girl, how are you? I like your shirt. Can I get you something?”
“Hi there, can I get a small coffee?” She smiled nervously and looked down. She had a large book in her hands, plus a small bag that seemed to have papers in it. See what I said, a library tranny.
“Don’t worry about it,” I said as I handed her a coffee. Yeah right, as if I’m going to charge a tranny for anything, considering they have the HIGHEST rates of unemployment of any minority. The follow up thought then popped in my head. “Hey girl, do you need a job by chance”? I got her to smile again, a real smile, one with confidence.
“How did you know? I have been looking for one. I’m going to SF State right now and I’m taking some art classes. I really do need a job though.” As she was saying that, the store manager walked by. I got her to talk about job options, although I knew a coffee shop on 3rd and Mission was not really the place for her. She didn’t take an application, and I knew she needed something low key, not an analog of Starbucks.
It was slow considering all the corporate people are out by 9:45. I wasn’t going to let this one slip through my fingers. “I want to see what you’ve been working on!” She pulled out her sketchbook, and it was full of images of beautiful women, all femmes, with long hair and entrancing eyes. “Wow, these are amazing!” I exclaimed. “I love all your self portraits. This is really good how you just suggested the hair with lines. Most of these are very graphic as well, it makes them more versatile.”
I could tell I was making her happy. She now felt comfortable with me, the acknowledgement I was giving her was worth its weight in gold. She was now responsive, and eager for connection. “Do you know that if you work for the State of California, they will pay for your Sexual Reassignment Surgery (SRS)?” I started to go down the road I always go down when I’m with trannies. “San Francisco is really leading the world out of the dark ages. Probably the easiest way to get in would be to major in library science, you can even get a degree from a junior college. It seems like the library might be a good place to get a job- it just has to be a government job and eventually they cover the SRS.” I went on the same rant I fed to my girl Cookie a few times, as well as every other transgendered person I meet. Sharing relevant information always makes me feel good, especially if it’s information someone really needs- a way out, a step up, or a new lease on life.
“I would love to work for the library! Thank you so much for telling me that!” Her eyes began the line of schemes that makes them glisten with optimism.
“I’m going on a break,” I announced. I whispered to the manager we need to get a tranny in here, but I think that fell on deaf ears, mostly because not many people know how marginalized transgendered people are in respect to unemployment. I walked outside to have a sit down conversation with her. “What’s your name girl?” I asked.
I knew it was time to get real. “I know you’re a woman. You pass really well! You look great. The only reason I can tell is because I’m studying to be a surgical nurse, and I’ve had to look at many many pictures of SRSs. It’s only your arms that stick out.”
“I know, I guess I’m just a girl with big arms,” she said with a smile. “You know, it wasn’t until I saw The Crying Game that I really knew. All these feelings and thoughts just came to the surface. It was a very intense time in my life. I lost everything, and everyone. I was old, I didn’t start to make it happen until I was older than 30.” The story she was telling me was too familiar, and I knew she would never tell me how old she was, in spite of looking youthful.
“I know what it’s like to loose everything, ” I said with the certainty of a 21-year-old. But I really do know what it’s like to be left with nothing, and I could tell she could tell that I was keeping it real. My honesty made it easy for her to trust me.
“It’s taken me a lifetime to know who I am. But now I finally have everything. And as long as I create, I feel fulfilled.” I thumbed through her illustrations. She had even dabbled in digital art, which made me happy. Some of her collages were as good as Dinaz’s, she had a passion for mixing all things natural together, putting octopuses on the heads of people. Anytime science and art get mixed together, it makes me think of genius, or the Renaissance. I mean, that’s what Leonardo Da Vinci did right? I’m not even talking about cross dressing, or gay relationships either. I went through her stuff, giving encouraging and relevant comments on her works of art.
“You think so far outside the box. The world would be such a better place if everyone was like you.” It kind of struck me how well she could read me in spite of having just met me. Nobody else had ever told me that self-evident fact about myself, it made me feel good.
“Wow thank you so much that really means a lot.” Nobody had ever told me something so nice and genuine. “I really feel for you. I’m studying to be a surgical nurse in the hopes that I can give SRSs for free. It should be against the law to try and charge people for something that they need so much.” She asked me little facts about myself such as my drug history and what I liked to do in my spare time.
“I think you might be an angel,” she then confessed. All the bad names she had been called became quieter in her mind, and all the years of hating herself began to dissipate with my approval and encouragement. Maybe if she had met more people like me when she was young her life would have been different. I fed her my fire, let her feel the heat of burning optimism, in the hopes of inspiring her to be strong.
“All the bad names she had been called became quieter in her mind, and all the years of hating herself began to dissipate with my approval and encouragement.”
“Yeah I’m with a guy now, he’s really great. I never had anything like this before, it’s all I ever wanted. He really loves me, He always tells me he’s going to put me in a high rise.” Her voice held a slight elation, that was subtly overpowered by self doubt. It sucks being able to read people’s minds.
“So why don’t you believe him?” I asked inquisitively. “Trannies have this crazy notion in their heads they don’t deserve love. It doesn’t have to be like that. You deserve someone to love you, just like everyone else. The world would be so much easier if we loved one another. Why is it so hard to believe that you could find a man who really loves you for you, and will keep on loving you forever.”
“You’re right. I’ve struggled with it a lot, but I’m finally starting to see what love can really do.” She smiled a subtle smile, the smile of someone who has got it all.