Pridefest 2014

So, as I was going along quietly on my own personal journey, I realized rather late in the game that June was LGBT Pride month. I don’t recall exactly, but I discovered only days before the event that we had our own Pridefest on the square in downtown Springfield on June 21st.

Well, I just had to go! For some reason, I HAD TO. I didn’t understand why, but there was this driving urge inside me.

Now, I’ve only ridden the city bus maybe once or twice on my own before. I begged and pleaded on my Facebook for anyone who might be able to give me a ride, but alas I don’t have many local friends. An unfortunate product of being about 90% housebound due to whatever disability this is that I have – though that is a rant for another day.

So I figured very carefully, do I have the $2.50 required to take the bus there and back? No, I did not. However, I had saved back $1.25 in quarters for emergency laundry. That would get me there. It would have to be enough. So I was going.

The entire night before I fussed and fretted about what to wear. Should I use my binder? No, my binder is actually just a weight loss sweat belt and wearing that in June heat would surely kill me. Better to wear a sports bra. Nowhere near the presentation I want. Damn boobs. The least I could do was wear my jeans and my belt buckle. I love my belt buckle, you have no idea.

I still didn’t feel like I was presenting as manly enough, but what more could I do? I’ve been shaving my face for a good twenty or so years already and I had a few days of stubble, but nothing that would outweigh the chest mountains making my shirt hang all funny.

Still, I was compelled. I had to go. No idea why, and it isn’t my place to figure out the mysteries of the universe. Everything happens for a reason.

Even before I arrived, I believe it was on the bus when I was struggling to get up to the slightly upper ‘deck’ in the back, I was called a woman. You see, I’m not visibly disabled, but I can’t always walk properly, so the stairs were a problem. The fit young people on the lower deck seats are supposed to clear a space for anyone disabled or elderly. It didn’t bother me that they didn’t, as I said, my illness isn’t readily visible and people mistake me for able bodied all the time. Somehow, being called a woman hurt more than not being considered disabled ‘enough’ to not make a fool of myself trying to get up two damn steps.

I had tried, really tried, to look as masculine as possible. My day hadn’t even started and my confidence was shattered. But I made it to the square.

As we were sitting around in the grass, in the shade, enjoying the lovely breeze and starting to make friends talking to one another, a group of religious protesters marched through the square. They were carrying a cross and signs, shouting through a speaker system.

I had heard their rhetoric so many times before. I graduated from a Christian high school, it was the Mormon church who encouraged me to marry the man who had raped me and be a proper woman. I sat in tears, trying not to lose my fucking mind. The festival music was turned up, the religious people turned up their volume. It was an ear-splitting battle that meant we could not be comfortable and talk to one another.

During the speeches, the protesters would not even give a moment of silence to remember those we have lost. Not even that. It was heartbreaking. Yet we had three churches there supporting us; obvious examples of good Christians.

Kristin Beck was there. I stood close to her, let other people talk and take pictures with her, but I felt inferior. I was not enough to even speak to her. She would mistake me as a woman.

It’s easier though, right, for FtM? That’s what I keep getting told. Just grow some stubble, take some T, and wear guy clothes. I’ve been wearing guy clothes for years, men’s jeans are all I wear, the only things that are comfortable. My shoes are men’s.

But it’s easy. Right?

Why do I feel like a failure?

Why couldn’t I just speak up and talk to this amazing soldier and tell her how much she inspired me?

Why did the people at the Glo tent ignore me? Three times I approached and no one ever spoke to me. Why couldn’t I speak up first?

I instinctively sought out the comfort of people more familiar to me: a writer. I hid from the heat in her tent and probably annoyed the shit out of her and her lovely rainbow mohawk wearing husband.

Then came the process of getting home. There was no way I could stay out very late, the buses are strange enough on the weekends, getting home alone after dark was not an option. Sitting at the bus stop I had my first trans* confrontation with a cis woman. Even though I likely had heat stroke, was sunburned and dehydrated, I took a walk around the block to just cry. The police officers there for security just gave me strange looks and I was too scared to ask them for help. I nearly fainted and stumbled my way into a little hole in the wall burger joint. They gave me water and let me sit down.

Somehow I made it home. I’m not even really sure how. I’m pretty sure I fell down on the bus at one point. Some lovely guy helped me up. Seeing him offer me his hand… I will never forget that image. Laying there on the ground, seeing a hand thrust toward me. It was all I could see. His hand.