Annie and James Rushden were man and wife, until James revealed he was transsexual. Annie writes about the experience of falling in love all over again with her partner Claire. Same soul, different gift wrap.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Atlanta Pride

We were very excited about Pride. This was to be the first time that either one of us had ever attended a Pride celebration, although we wanted to attend the one last year where we lived. Unfortunately, security for the one where we lived was being handled by Claire's off-duty coworkers, so attending would definitely have been bad for not getting discovered.

All week we planned our weekend. I saw an ad on the corporate TV channel that we were having a float, booth and raffle during the parade. I emailed our liaison and asked what time we should be at the parade if we wanted to be on the float. The parade was on Sunday, so we figured we would see how Saturday went and play it by ear.

Saturday morning rolled around, finally, and we got ready to go. Now Claire is still pretty new about being out fully as Claire. Before we moved, she had just started to really feel comfortable going out in androgynous dress. Now she's working on going out totally en femme, using DermaBlend to cover the shadow of facial hair that she is working on removing.

We drove over to Piedmont Park and passed by OutWrite bookstore. Much to our chagrin, amongst the city sponsored banners hung from the lightposts and the masses of people obviously on their way to the park, were people with signs damning us all to hell. When we finally arrived at the 12th street entrance to Piedmont Park, there were people screaming in bullhorns preaching that we were all sinners. As people were stopped at the light at the corner, they would blow the horn in their car nonstop to drown them out. Although it wasn't fun for our ears to be caught in the noise crossfire, it sure was funny as hell.

We entered the park and looked around. People holding hands without shame or worrying about being observed, just relaxing and being comfortable in their own relationships. It was fantastic. Hot as could be, but fantastic. We had a pretty good time walking around looking at the booths. Finally, I saw the booth for my employer. Claire and I had discussed not disclosing our situation yet because I'm in a contract to hire position right now. I kind of want to get the feel for my coworkers and make sure there isn't a problem. So we had pretty much decided against participating in the parade this year.

So, we approach the booth and I decide I will at least speak to the liaison, since he knew my name and asked me to stop by. He works in a different part of the company, so I wanted to meet him. Imagine my surprise when one of the people there said, "Hey, I know you! You work in my department!" Yup. I was now officially out at work. Didn't get to meet the liaison, but I did discover that someone that sits about 5 rows away from me in my cubicle farm was part of the volunteer team for Pride. For the record, he's a super nice guy. Claire and I had a giggle about it and went to find some lunch.

We ordered some food and Claire went to find a shady spot while I went in search of some soda. As I'm walking the rows of vendors trying to find something to drink, I hear my name being called. I dismissed it at first, thinking surely nobody knows me here. But it got more insistent, so I turned around and saw another coworker, my next door neighbor in the cubicle farm. "B" was someone I had actually worked with already at the new job, and I had thought he was really nice. Just the day before, he had commented on my wedding ring - the soulmate ring we bought from the HRC site for our anniversary. Now I understood why it caught his eye. What didn't make sense for a moment was that he was sitting next to his wife, then I noticed they both had matching LAMBDA Legal shirts on.

I walked over and said hello, and he remarked that he definitely didn't expect to see me at the festival. I figured the game was up, so I just told him the truth. His wife explained their reason for being there: both of their children are gay. He told me to go grab Claire and come eat with them on the steps, which they assured me were the coolest spot around. I did so, and as we came back over, "B" laughed and said it must be meant to be, because the head of the transgender veteran's group was talking to them. He introduced us to her and we talked for a few minutes before she had to leave.

We sat for a bit and discussed different groups to volunteer with in Atlanta, and I really felt great about the good fortune of meeting up with them at the park. After lunch, we went our separate ways and we walked around some more. I'd love to say the rest of the day was great, but there were a couple of surprises in store for us.

First, we had seen a booth for Piedmont Hospital, touting the physicians that were comfortable with LGBT patients. They had told us to stop by after lunch and actually meet the doctors. When we caught the one doctor there, a woman, we explained our search for a general practitioner that would be comfortable with a patient on hormones going through transition. Her reaction surprised us. Not only did she express that she knew nothing about it, but when she called her fellow doctor (who's life partner was helping to man the booth), he told her that he wouldn't be good for us either. She told us that actually, what we needed was to go to an AIDs clinic for our everyday physician needs. When we said we didn't need an AIDs clinic, we just wanted a regular doctor, she again told us that the AIDs clinic was our best bet. So, needless to say that neither Piedmont Hospital nor its family physicians will ever be seeing us.

So, we pick ourselves up from that encounter and press on, having a fairly good time, when we get to the Macy's booth. I walk up to see what they have and the girl hands me a perfume strip to try out and asks me to hold on for a moment. So, we stand there for a minute and she comes back and in a loud voice says "Here's one for HIM," trying to hand one to Claire. She did this to someone that had taken a lot of care to try to present as feminine as she could, was wearing a purse across her chest that definitely accentuated the fact that she had breasts, and was definitely in full out girl mode. I intercepted her hand and said something like "What do you think you're DOING?" Claire and I walked away, determined to never shop at Macy's if that's how they treat transgendered people at a Pride festival.

As we were leaving the festival, we were talking about it, and wondering why the girl from Macy's would do such a thing, when we passed someone (MtF) talking about undergoing transition and taking hormones, dressed in female clothes, but looked like they hadn't shaved in a couple of days. It was hard to grasp that even though Claire went to great pains to look as feminine as she could right now--cute girly top, girl jeans, girly tennis shoes, jewelry, makeup, the whole 9 yards--she was still treated with less respect at the Macy's booth than the person who made no effort was being treated.

All in all though, it was a great experience. Unfortunately, Claire's blood pressure tanked a bit from all the heat and dehydration (despite drinking water) and hadn't recovered enough to risk the 98 degree heat for the parade. We made a lot of good connections, met some great people, and realized that we made the right choice moving here for now.

But yeah, I don't shop at Macy's anymore. :)

Peace, Love and Happiness,


Monday, July 2, 2007

So much to catch up on

It's been a whirlwind here. I find myself exhausted right now, and it's hard to sit down and write when there are so many things in chaos still. We still have so many boxes to unpack, and weekend activities have pretty much kept me wiped out and busy. I'll attempt to catch up on what we've been doing over the next couple of nights.

First, we finally made our way to Charis Bookstore while they were open the weekend of the 16th. What a lovely little shop. It's quite different from OutWrite, although they both have their charms. Charis is a nice little bookstore that caters to the feminist. We found some great books there and took one home with us. It's quiet and relaxing, and they have a nice single person bathroom--which is very comfortable for Claire right now. The two shopkeepers were so gracious and helpful and gave us lots of advice about the area. They had a busy week planned for the Atlanta Pride festival.

We were starving when we left Charis, and Claire wasn't feeling up to heading across the street to Little 5 Points yet. It was quite busy with some sort of arts festival. So we hopped in the car and headed over to Edgewood Shopping Center and had some lunch at a little Italian place. I have to giggle at the thought that Claire can be so funny about what makes her nervous. Walking around in a notoriously gay-friendly little village (Little 5 Points) causes anxiety, yet going into Home Depot or a mainstream restaurant in broad daylight in a "normal" shopping center is okay. The day I figure her out, I'll let you know. Until then, I remain mystified.

Over the next few days, we went several mainstream places together: Target, Lowes, Home Depot, and Publix. Claire doesn't go out as "CJ" anymore, now it's out as "Claire" or nothing. It's very cool, because I know she needs to get comfortable as her true self. I haven't had to utter the "other" name for almost four weeks, and I finally feel like my split personality is fading *grin*.

Our Amityville Horror house has been chilling out a little. We don't have as many bug issues now, down to a manageable 2-3 bugs a day that have to be terminated, and the house now has more insulation in the roof (oh, what a story I have about that process) . I'll stop here for the night and pick up with our experience at Pride tomorrow night. I'll also tell you why I'm now boycotting Macy's and Piedmont Hospital.

Oh, and by the way - Atlanta has a phone book called the Gay Yellow Pages. Every business in the book is either gay owned/operated or gay friendly. We also have a gay and lesbian chamber of commerce. How cool is that?

Peace, Love and Happiness,