Brettany Renee Blatchley (Asheville, NC)
“Yes, these women’s hands” she said…
A cisgender woman I befriended at church a few months ago noticed I am unusual, but assumed that I was simply a tall woman of Scandinavian stock (which is largely true).
Sunday, I was driving her home from worship, and she made a comment in broken English saying, “Renee, you did [such-and-such] as little girl?” I looked at her tenderly, shook my head as I gently said, “Olga, I was never a little girl.” Her eyes widened: “What?! You boy then?!” With conviction, I spoke: “Not exactly Olga.” We were close to her house and as we turned the corner, I said, “Remember when I told you about my spouse and said you can ask me anything? Would you like to know more about who I am?”
Olga is a new US citizen, in her mid sixties and from Romania; she is kind-hearted, weather-beaten, deeply spiritual, and does not speak English well.
We stopped in her driveway, and I gently tried to explain, and then said, please let me show you, and I showed her my transitional video on my phone. She had difficulty understanding how this could be. As the different pictures of me changing drew closer to the present, she kept asking, “is that you? Is that you?” and then about two-thirds through she would exclaim, “That’s you! That’s you – I know your smile!”
…Then she took my hands saying…”don’t cry, don’t cry…”
She said, “Renee! You are woman! If God not want you that way, you would not be. You still my sister! But don’t tell others, they no understand, no accept you. I will never say, this is your private life.”
It was a mind and heart changing experience for her. She never imagined that someone could change their sex, and she was grateful (and deeply impressed) that I was honest with her when she asked about my “girlhood.” (When she asked about my husband a month ago, I gently told her that I didn’t have a husband: my spouse is a woman, so she knew I was odd…and honest.) She then said that she had always had trouble understanding and sympathizing with gay and lesbian people, but now she believes God can do anything and it’s okay. She feels better about queer people now that she knows one personally.
Foreboding had held me as I anticipated the moment when it would be “time” to explain this part of myself to Olga. She had so much accepted me as as a sister, as any other woman (and it felt so wonderful to be accepted for myself). Would she reject me when I inevitably revealed myself more deeply to her? Blessedly it was another instance of love and mutual vulnerability sustaining a relationship.
Laughing she said, “Renee! You got good boobies! You keep changing – get bigger hips and get shorter – then nobody even think anything odd about you woman.”
And still we giggle and touch as women do when we share things, and she is teaching me to care for a garden as I help her with English. She has already taught me of her compassionate soul, and we have grown together in faith.
I live “simply open,” which for me means that in casual encounters I am “just” a tall, boyish woman – but when people get to know me more intimately, the fact that I am a transgender woman becomes apparent in relaxed, natural, even winsome ways. Who I was is not dead, but has blossomed into who I am today: my past is my unique past; my present is here, and my future to come: I am a woman, a woman of transgender experience.