On a Saturday in early May Elizabeth had a lunch date with Katz at the Green Elephant, loosely connected to the fact that they had both recently had birthdays. Elizabeth would be going on later to help run the fashion show fundraiser, so she wore clothes with color and texture beyond her usual muted palette, particularly a deep pink floor-length hippie-skirt which swirled pleasantly around her boots. It had a tiny jingle-bell on the waist-tie. On top she had chosen the form-fitting soft grey sweater she wore when she wanted to feel at least a little sexy, and she had picked out jewelry from the more ornate end of her available spectrum.
Lunch was organic and tasty, but incidental to the gushing out of a couple weeks’ worth of pent-up girl talk. Given the opportunity, Elizabeth realized she needed to detail the minutiae of an attraction. There had been promisingly awkward moments, but there were complicating factors...Katz listened patiently and offered encouraging remarks. Then Katz had a fascinating story to tell about family history, and before they knew it an hour and a half had gone by.
Katz treated, which was sweet of her, and Elizabeth invited her to come along on an errand to get some jewelry repaired. She had found out about a place on one of the many secret side-streets of Portland. It turned out to be a charming one-woman shop with display cases full of an impressive array, for one artisan, of styles, materials, and colors, as well as sea shells and art glass on commission. Remembering the ocean motif of Katz’s camp, where she had stayed one night the winter before when her power was out, Elizabeth bought a pretty strawberry periwinkle and then handed the bag to Katz outside the shop with a “Happy birthday.” They hugged.
A little further along they bumped into acquaintance X, a young trans man walking the other way with a friend. There was a minute of friendly banter, and then they parted ways. Around the corner, flushed with the success of present-giving and wanting to impress her friend, Elizabeth forgot her trans-etiquette and outed acquaintance X: “Would you ever guess he was born female?” Then she blushed and, as they walked on, squirmed about this foolish indiscretion.
They had a little more time and stepped into a high-end second-hand store. While Katz took a picture with her phone of a western shirt she thought her daughter might like, Elizabeth tried on a little black dress, made of soft stretchy fabric (good for a snug slimming fit over her big male ribcage) with a sleeve style she didn’t know the name for: two overlapping semi-circles of fabric parting over the shoulder. The skirt had the same style, which meant a helpful double layer of fabric in front camouflaging the unsightly bulge. The skirt stopped at mid thigh; between boot-tops and hem there was a fair stretch of naked leg, pleasingly smooth and rounded with the hormones. “I wouldn’t want to go to the pool hall in this,” she said, and Katz made a cautionary mom face. “No, you wouldn’t.”
Elizabeth bought the dress but did not put it on. Outside they said goodbye and Elizabeth continued on to Asylum, where preparations were under way for the fashion show. Workstudies Cat and Chelsea were there, whom Elizabeth loved for the unabashed pleasure they both took in girlhood. Both had dressed for the occasion - their own versions of the little black dress meme - and shyly she mentioned the contents of her bag, saying she might put the dress on later, for the dancing. The workstudies ordered her to put it on now. Elizabeth went to the women’s room, and with beating heart put on the dress in one of the stalls.
As with so many of the babysteps of transition, it turned out to be no big deal. She received a few compliments (always nice), and otherwise, no reaction. As the evening went on she checked her reflection often, unable to believe each time that the woman-body she was seeing was hers. Perhaps, it turned out, the slowest step of transition was the invisible internal one of really believing that it was actually working, that the world saw and accepted her as not just a woman, but a natural, even attractive woman. So hard to believe after so long in the dark.
The afterparty was a bust - no one showed up - but Elizabeth still enjoyed dancing in the disco lights, watching her shadow on the wall, continuing the long slow work of daring to begin to believe.