Hit the grand slam. The jackpot and the lottery all in one! My anticipation of the event rose as my good friend R, and G and I wound our way down the expressway and crept through the streets of Center City. I was psyched as we got to town a half hour before my introduction to the meeting of the group at the Center.
My hope dashed, however, as we either passed the place or didn’t even come close and time ticked away. I couldn’t tell which because I deliberately sit in the back when I can’t be the driver. I don’t drive to Center City because I am a chicken. So, I am asking someone else to do the deed. And find complete fault when things don’t go as planned.
It was ten minutes before the start of the meeting and we were kind of ‘lost.’ “Stop! Let me out here! I see the place. It’s back there,” I said. I jumped out and G followed. Turns out it wasn’t the Center we were in search of. But I’d seen their logo; we were close. I ran in waving.
“Looking for the group at the Center!” Was met with, “What is the group? Who sponsors it?”
The surprised man pointed me in the right direction and I ‘ran’ the nearly four blocks to Cherry Street. Without a cane. I arrived on time. Alone. Without my sturdy companions. When I entered the building and got out of the elevator on the eighth floor I melted. Not because of the previous mayhem. Because I was home. A lobby overflowed with trans masculine people. I sunk into a chair and exhaled deeply.
One by one we filed into a room and I took a seat. The room was full. SRO. Literally. Preliminaries were given. Newbies raised their hands. Not the term used but I like it for myself. There was a call for check-in’s. My hand shot up. “I’ll go first,” I said. It occurred to me I didn’t even know what a check-in consisted of. Once explained, I began.
Through this high-pitched wailing garble I managed to say, “I am Sam. This is the first time I’ve ever been in the presence of a trans man. I have been suicidal; feeling isolated. I barely got here by car but I swear I would have walked from the town where I live in to be here. I am so glad I am here.”
“Welcome. We’re glad you’re here. Glad you could make it. Come again. Yeah, come again,” were the responses. Tears dripped onto my pants and I couldn’t make eye contact but there I was! It had happened. I’d ultimately made it to my first all-trans masculine support group.
Other peoples’ check-ins were sad; troubling. One was arrested and taken to jail, searched and housed in the men’s section. As transgender, he did not belong there. Another had been punched in the face twice, by the same man, for no apparent reason and the police were unable to do anything.
One man was stopped by the State Police and harassed. He was treated respectfully, as a male, until he was required to produce his license with his birth name and a giant ‘F’, for female, on it. Then, all bets were off. The cop gave him a hard time, deliberately emphasizing female pronouns, ignoring the fact the driver identified himself as transgender.
A young man seated next to me was exhilarated. He was scheduled to receive top surgery by the end of the month. Also, his mom and aunt had addressed him with proper pronouns and his chosen name at a family affair. Another man, seated across from me, was coming out to his church as his chosen name and gender and had been embraced by his entire congregation.
There was laughter, clapping and plenty of smiling. I never noticed the room had no window and barely any air moved in there. Or that the door was shut with a man standing in front of it the entire hour. My anxiety about not having enough air or room to breathe in, my angst over not having a set plan for escape in case of an emergency, didn’t enter my mind. Till now.
Only now I am comfortable knowing I’m going to be in that cramped room on the eighth floor of a building in the middle of a city that scares me due to its size. Because I am welcomed there. I feel love in that space; in a room where the people are just like me. Only next time I’ll be traveling by train.