Skirting the Issues – Traveling While Trans
For the longest time, I believed there was an imaginary Tupperware-tight line that separated the Twin Cities LGBTQ bubble from the rest of Minnesota.
Thus, if you headed west on Interstate 94, you would find that line midway between Maple Grove and Monticello—on one side, queer folks were relatively safe, inhabiting a world where two dads pushing a baby carriage on the Stone Arch Bridge was a reason to pause and coo.
On the other side of that line things at best were inhospitable, with intolerant humans who might visibly react to anyone who doesn’t pass as straight or cisgender. Worst case, things could go sideways quickly with soul-crushing stares, verbal assaults, and maybe even the physical kind.
For years, when I traveled to greater Minnesota, I steeled myself. After all, for someone like me, a transwoman with a way-too-masculine voice, heading beyond the Twin Cities metro meant a certain degree of anxiety and the need for far more situational awareness. If I was pumping gas in Albany and someone pulled up to the pump opposite me, you could be certain that I’d refrain from saying hello or chiming in about the Twins and their miserable pitching.
There’s too much risk out here, I would think. It’s darn easy for anyone to figure out that I’m trans, and god knows what that will bring.
Yep, I told myself—and others—all of that.
And then I moved to greater Minnesota, beyond the bubble. A little more than a year ago, I bought a house in Victoria, an enclave of 12,000 that is literally at the edge of the prairie. I can see a farm (and past that, there are gravel roads with many farms) from my bedroom window. The thirty-five miles it takes to get to Victoria from downtown Minneapolis is like traveling from one civilization to another.
If you’re not familiar with Victoria, it’s 96 percent white, with a whole lot of well off and ostensibly (we queer people understand that word oh so well, don’t we?) straight, cisgender humans. In fact, the town’s logo—to the consternation of some, including me—includes the image of a church, St. Victoria’s, from which the town took its name.
My larger neighborhood consists of two-story family homes, and much to my delight—because the sound of laughter and giggles so warms my heart—on sun-draped summer days, I can see and hear children running from yard-to-yard, playing games and just being kids.
That stuff is humanity at its very best, filled with promise and hope, innocence abounding.
My street, which ends in a dead-end circle, is comprised of smaller one-story “villa” homes with the owner’s bedroom on the main floor. Most of my neighbors are retirees—many are in their seventies—seeking to make the best out of what time is left.
I had some angst about moving here, but I so loved the area, with its miles of bike trails and woods and lakes, and I steeled myself to be brave. It turns out that the fretting was for naught—without exception, my neighbors are charming and kind, and they appear to not only accept me, but they seem to even like me. At least it would appear that way with me being elected HOA board president. (Although, some readers familiar with HOAs might view that as a form of punishment…)
I’ve experienced acceptance in other ways, too. I’ve been volunteering in the community, getting to know people, where I’m the only out transgender person for miles around. Time and again, people are friendly and welcoming and not once have I been made to feel uncomfortable. Yes, sometimes I get “the look” that reflexively occurs when people react to my voice/appearance incongruity, but really, that happens within the Bubble too.
My experience out here has gotten me thinking that it’s all too easy to draw lines between “us” and “them,” between where we “belong” or don’t., and that certainly we ought to be working to erase lines altogether. I’m thinking that “traveling while trans” is too much of an isolating phrase, something that I should discard entirely.
The kicker came as I was walking my golden retriever Jack (a whole other story). I had driven by the two-story family home around the corner a hundred times and not noticed, but on my dog walk, I spotted it: a sign in the front yard of one of those family houses that said, “All are Welcome.” The very next line: “Love is Love,” with an attendant rainbow. Oh my god. In fricking Victoria.
A couple weeks ago, Jack and I were out on another walk. The man of that house was shoveling snow, and as I pointed to the sign, I yelled to him, “Thank you!”
He paused and yelled back, “Of course!”
As I said, oh my god. We humans are far better than anyone thinks.
I am committed to helping the world understand this.
Ellen (Ellie) Krug, the author of Getting to Ellen: A Memoir about Love, Honesty and Gender Change, speaks and trains on diversity and inclusion topics; visit www.elliekrug.com where you can also sign-up for her monthly 9000+ recipient e-newsletter, The Ripple. She welcomes your comments at [email protected].