The alarm didn’t wake her. She was staring at the ceiling, in the dark, waiting for it to buzz. Her arm reached out automatically to slap the snooze button before the first buzz had finished.
“Get out of bed,” her inner motivator told her, “Come on, get up. You know you’ll get up eventually, so you might as well. Get. Up. NOW!”
The woman remained motionless, staring at the ceiling, feeling empty. Seconds passed. Minutes passed. The alarm buzzed again and again she slapped it into silence.
She turned her head to look at the glowing numbers. Ten after the hour. She could hit the sleep button twice more and still have time to get ready for work. She might have to rush a little but she could and had done it before. Forcing herself up, she sat on the edge of her bed and turned off the alarm. With an unladylike grunt she stood up.
“That’s a good girl,” she said softly to herself, slipping into her robe, “Just keep moving.” She walked into the bathroom, turned away from the mirror, hung up her robe, stripped and stepped into the shower.
The woman smiled and greeted her co-workers as she walked towards her desk. Most smiled and returned her wish for a good morning. Some only nodded in return and a few stared at her with hate in their hearts but sealed lips, lest they be fired for harassment or discrimination. She was used to their stares and smiled back while greeting them each morning. It amused her to do so and lately she had been short on amusements.
“Good morning, Michelle,” she said to a woman facing away from her, in her perkiest voice, “How was your weekend?”
Michelle turned a smile on her face, ready to dish on her weekend, until she saw who had asked. Her smile faltered for only a second, “Oh it was nice. I had a good time with Robert.”
“That’s good. I’m glad you’ve got someone you care about in your life.”
“Yeah, I have work to take care of,” Michelle said escaping from the woman’s general area. She chuckled at Michelle’s discomfort. In some ways, it was understandable but still infuriating. The woman was still the same person she had always been. It was only how they saw her that had changed.
“You’re looking chipper this morning,” she heard as she swung into her chair.
The woman turned to her deskmate and closest friend, at work at least, Paula and said, “Hmm, I suppose I am a little ‘chipper’ this morning.”
“So, do you have a hot date lined up for tonight or what?” Paula said.
“Well…” the woman trailed off with a smile on her lips.
“What? I mean that’s great!” Paula said quickly hiding her shock, “Is it with a guy or a girl?”
“A guy. I met him online and no, he’s not a wierdo,” the woman said sitting down at her desk.
Paula leaned over and whispered, “Does he know you are… ah… you know?”
“I’m not sure.”
“How can you not be sure?”
“My profile says I’m a woman of course but I used a real picture of me. So, I don’t know but I’m guessing he knows.”
“Did you list it on your profile?”
“No but I mean he’s got to know right? From the picture?” the woman asked.
“Probably not. Why don’t you just ask him?”
“Cause if I do and he doesn’t know then he probably won’t want to see me again. If he does know then I don’t know if I want to see him.”
“Why wouldn’t you want to see him then?” Paula asked.
“Because he might be a chaser,” the woman said.
“What’s a chaser?”
“Someone interested in trans people because they’re trans. Usually just for sexual reasons.”
“Gross. Not that sex with trans people is gross but gross that some one would want you just because you’re trans. There’s people like that at there?”
“Yeah and they like to think they’re the good guys.”
“Would you like a table or booth?” the greeter asked while leading Paula and the woman to the dinning room.
“Booth please,” Paula said, “The seats are so much comfier.” The woman slid into the booth and accepted a menu from the greeter.
“Your waiter will be with you shortly,” the seater said before walking away.
“So, what’s good here?” the woman asked.
“You’ve never been here before?” Paula asked browsing her menu.
“A couple of times but I just got meals I knew I would like. I want to try something new.”
“Hmm, well I’ve only been here a few times myself,” Paula said.
“Yes but you try new things. I’m not one for change,” the woman replied.
Paula dropped her menu to stare at the woman. “Really you don’t like change? And what would you call the past couple of months?“ she said with a quizzical smirk.
The woman dropped her menu as well. She considered the question for a second before saying, “That wasn’t change for change’s sake. That was… deliberate, planned, analyzed to death, life saving measure.”
“Oh,” Paula said and raised her menu. The woman did as well and they browsed in silence until the waiter arrived.
“Hello, my name is Andy. I’ll be your waiter today. Can I get some you something to drink?” the tall thin but well built man asked. The woman ran her eyes over his face mentally stroking his pencil mustache with her fingers before stroking his cheek. She studied his muscular forearms, imagining what the rest of him might look like. Would he be ripped? Every muscle defined and built for strength. Would he be only toned? Sleek fast but still strong enough to hold her down. Would he be gentle or rough in bed? Would he even consider taking someone like her to bed?
“Ma’am? Would you like something to drink?” Andy asked breaking her out of her daydream.
“Yes, water. Please,” the woman said. Andy nodded with a smile and disappeared to where ever drinks came from.
“I didn’t mean to suggest that what you’ve gone through wasn’t hard,” Paula said.
“I know it seems like I made this decision quickly but it’s taken me years to reach it. Years of uncertainty and self-doubt. Years of knowing something was wrong but not know what it was. Years of self-denial followed by years of gradual self-acceptance before I could even come out to myself.”
“I.. um… the spinach quiche is good,” Paula said softly. The woman looked up and smiled.
“Sorry I didn’t mean to turn lunch into a therapy session.”
“It’s okay. It’s not something I should joke about.”
“No, it’s not- I’ve been feeling a little… I don’t know off.” Their waiter returned with an iced tea and water. He smoothly placed the glasses on the table and handed each woman a paper wrapped straw.
“So have you decided or do you need more time?”
“I’ll have the Spinach Quiche,” the woman said while holding out her menu.
Andy took her menu and turned to Paula, “And for you, ma’am?”
“The mushroom quiche,” Paula said. Andy took her menu as well and disappeared once more.
“Are you okay?” Paula asked.
The woman thought, as she always thought when asked that question, “No I’m not okay. I was raised the opposite gender. I was taught to hate myself. I was taught that I could never be who I feel I am inside. I was taught I would never be loved. I was taught I would lose all my friends if I tried to be who I am. I was taught my family would turn their backs on me. I was taught I should just die.” She said none of this, instead she said, as she always said, “Yeah, I’m fine,” and smiled through the pain.
Paula reached across the table, squeezed her hand and smiled as well knowing that the woman was not fine and there was little she could do.
“Good-bye ladies, have a good afternoon,” the hostess called out as they walked out of the restaurant.
Ladies. That one word shouldn’t have made the woman feel as good as it did but it did. She mentally chided herself for allowing her sense of identity to be influenced by someone’s casual assessment of her appearance. She had fought with herself long enough to not need anyone else’s acceptance or approval. But still, it felt good to the part of her mind that feared rejection.
“Hey, Paula I need a bathroom break,” the woman said getting out of her chair. Paula looked up, nodded and got up as well. The woman stared straight ahead as they walked to the women’s bathroom. She didn’t need to look around to know that some people were staring at her. They always stared when she went to the bathroom and they always knew when she was going to the bathroom because Paula had to go with her.
It was one of the rules she had to follow in return for remaining employed. The woman was allowed to use the women’s bathroom but only if it was empty. Also someone had to stand guard to keep other women from walking in on her. Paula had graciously volunteered to be her chaperon. The woman hated this arrangement and tried to use the bathroom as sparingly as possible.
“Clear,” Paula said after checking the bathroom. She stepped to one side and leaned against the wall.
“Thanks,” the woman said and entered the bathroom.
“Finally!” a woman, Judy the woman recalled, waiting outside the bathroom said as the woman exited.
“Really? I was in there for two, three minutes tops. You can’t wait three minutes? ” she asked.
“No, I shouldn’t have to wait to use the bathroom at all,” Judy said brushing past the woman and into the bathroom.
“Neither should I,” the woman said to the closed door.
“Hi, there you are,” the man at the table said as the woman approached the table.
“Hi, sorry I’m late.”
“It’s okay, I haven’t been here long.”
The waiter asked for their drink orders and walked off to give them time to look over the menu.
“So..” “So..” They said at the same time and laughed.
“You look great,” he said.
“Thank you,” she smiled.
“I would never have know-” he cut himself off and looked back down at his menu.
“Known what?” she asked fearing that she already knew what he was going to say.
The man fumbled with his words, “That you used to be…that you were born…” He trailed off unsure of how to finish the sentence but the woman understood what he was not saying and looked down at her own menu. Both were silent until the waiter returned with their drinks and took their orders and menus.
They sat glancing at each other, between looking down at the table or around the resturant, no longer able to pretend they were just studying their menu. The man broke the silence, “I didn’t mean to find out.”
“How did you find out?”
The man looked down at his water, “I Googled your email and a profile on a web forum came up. It had a man’s name on it. I would have ignored it except the profile’s motto was the same as your email quote signature.”
“I guess I should change that.”
“Maybe,” he said laughing for a second until he saw the woman wasn’t laughing. “Are you okay?“
The woman sighed and shook her head, “So I guess this is going to be our last date.”
“Did I say something wrong?” he asked puzzled.
“I didn’t think you’d want to see me again now that you know. I don’t even know why you showed up tonight.”
“We had a date. What other reason would I need to show up? Why wouldn’t I show up?”
“Most straight men aren’t interested in trans women.”
“I’m not most men,” he said locking his eyes to hers for a second before looking away, “I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have said anything. I wasn’t thinking and… okay I won’t bring it unless you want to talk about it.”
“You’re not a chaser, are you?”
“What’s a chaser?”
“Nevermind. It doesn’t bother you that I’m transsexual?”
“Even though I was born with a…” she couldn’t bring herself to actually say it.
“No. Look I like women; you’re a beautiful woman. What else needs to said?”
“I’m not beautiful.”
“But you are. In the way you smile, in the way your not ashamed to love My Little Pony and Aliens, in being yourself you are beautiful in body, mind and soul.” The silence returned between them but they didn’t avoid each other’s gaze. The woman stared at the man before her trying to fathom his understanding, while the man gazed at the woman drinking in her beauty.
The waiter returned with their food, once more breaking the silence. They conversed while they ate about inconsequential things; books, tv shows, movies.