The biggest challenge today was navigating the mass transit system in Washington DC. Though Oklahoma City has a metro bus system, it is not as comprehensive and as widely available to the public as it is here in Washington DC. The busses were full of people, a great diversity of ages and races, from working class to young professionals, and lots of interns.
One of the interns struck up a conversation with me when I was on my way back to my room at American University. She told me she was majoring in neurobiology and political science, that she wants to study the brain and how it responds to political behavior. Impressive! She told me she was a freshman in college and that she grew up in Dallas, in the Lakewood neighborhood, that her parents were professors at Southern Methodist University. She had a real sense of pedigree, though not the kind of conceit that comes from someone of unexamined privilege.
Then, she asked me what I was doing in Washington DC. I told her I was an intern at an advocacy organization.
“Which one?” she asked with keen interest. She wore glasses and had long blond hair, a penetrating gaze that told me she was really interested in people.
I realized my telling her I was with the National Center for Transgender Equality would more or less out me. I thought about how often I assume people read me, how they know I’m trans because of the publicity I’ve had back home. It didn’t have to be that way here, I thought, but then, I realized I’m proud of the work I’ve begun here, damn proud, in fact. It is, perhaps, the most pivotal time in the history of the trans movement for equality.
“I’m working with the National Center for Transgender Equality,” I said.
She nodded. “That’s so cool.” I heard the sincerity in her voice, saw the same in her eyes. And I felt good.
An older gentleman sitting nearby had been listening to our conversation. “It sounds like you’re doing good work,” he said. “Timely work. I wish you the best.”
He was a stalwart man, professorial, erudite. He got up from his seat when the bus stopped, wished me good luck, and told me he hoped my time in Washington DC would be a great experience.
Now, I don’t expect everyone in Washington DC to be as friendly and interested in transgender issues as this bright young woman and nice older gentleman. There are some who don’t understand trans people everywhere, and I haven’t forgotten some of the trans women murdered in the United States have been murdered in Washington DC. But it was so refreshing to encounter random strangers who were supportive, open-minded, and even impressed.
I’d say I’ve had a good start on this new adventure with the National Center for Transgender Equality.