Keri Renault

My Pride Party & the White Elephant

Filed By Keri Renault | July 02, 2009 9:30 AM | comments

Filed in: Living, Living, Marriage Equality, Transgender & Intersex

Tuesday night over dinner conversation at a friend's home near Capital Hill, my partner and I recalled the memorable highlights of our Maryland housewarming. Our social event the previous Saturday was more a celebration of newfound friendship than a newcomer's party after 10 months on the Chesapeake Bay.

We chose the "Housewarming" moniker because it made for a catchy Evite. Perhaps a more apt invitation would have read Trans-Lesbian Pride. But I digress.

While none of Saturday's two dozen guests would've confused our "fest" for the events which wrapped up Pride month in SF and NYC, I'll bet each could relate his or her own recollections of LGBTQ pride at a defining moment in their lives.

In observing the congenial interactions of our eclectic group of friends, many complete strangers to each another, my partner and I understood just how far we'd travelled in 45 weeks of life on the Mid-Atlantic coast.

A good friend who'd recently suffered a traumatic breakup found empathy among friends as we greeted him with a hug. A group of Virginia girls found Maryland takers for an upcoming kayak adventure. Greetings among strangers held new meaning as hetero single friends were approached as if they were gay couples. My own partner's boss cocked her head quizzically, bemused by the question, perhaps wondering if the inquirer was soliciting a job offer, unaware he was attempting to identify her LGBTQ status.

Amusing ice breakers like these were followed by laughter. Stories of shared experiences were exchanged among people of divergent paths & far off social spheres. A small group of bisexual and gender variant 20-somethings discussed "The Unlikely Disciple," exposing the contradictions of religious ultra-conservatism. Two of our closest friends - dubbed the Colgate Twins because of their incredible smiles - clung to each other like fly paper, delighted to be reunited after a two week separation due to high-stakes humanitarian business in Baghdad. A doting mother, our next-door-neighbor, viewed the proceedings with her own sense of pride in her daughter's newfound happiness, an emotion she could not have publicly shared a few years earlier.

I was touched by these endearing public displays of affection, but ironically the friend that evoked the most emotion within me was the one who expressed not pride, but humility.

Cori is a captivating, blonde goddess of a woman. Although we only go back 4 years to my days in Wisconsin, over that time we've become absolute fast friends and inseparable spirits.

Like many in the LGBTQ community, our friendship has been forged by the bonds of common experience. For us that's been health scares, coming out crises and personal transition. We've shared the re-dedication of our individuality expressed as it was meant to be, no longer driven by other's expectations. With the shedding of that emotional skin there has emerged in each of us an authenticity so genuine it defies labels.

So it was with ease of spirit that my friend Cori picked up the post-housewarming party, dinner conversation on Tuesday night. When questioned about her "self identification" she offered our four lesbian friends a glimpse into her own unique sense of individualism. Cori spoke softly of an identity without boundaries, a life liberated, free of labels and exclusionary stigmas. It's a world in which she plays with delight.

No longer is she self-consciously transgendered. She neither proclaims her gender variance nor hides in stealth. She owns it. Her fears, like mine, were for many years a never ending litany of paralyzing "what ifs." Today, she looks for opportunities to confront and conquer fear. It's her personal quest of evolution and enlightenment I admire.

Only a year ago, it wouldn't have been "fashionable" for the two of us to be shopping for wood flooring at the hardware store, much less "doing-it-yourself" at my new townhouse. But that's the joy. We've liberated ourselves from the limitations of gender and sex stereotypes. We have no need for "pretty in pink" imagery, or Ken and Barbie gender polarity. All we have, need, and are resides inside. We are women at heart.

In the 10 months since my own transition, I seem to have developed the inner strength to own who I am, much like my friend, Cori. My partner has liberated herself from prejudicial labels, too, and once freed she's never been happier in our relationship. She's a changed woman since our move in mid-2008 and so am I. We're proud to remain the loves of each other's lives. It's been remarkably easy for me - for us - to disappear into the fabric of society as two everyday women in the Free State, but it only happened when we accepted the facts of our lives and began to live by our inner truth.


So what's the truth?

Even though I appear different on the outside today, I remain the same inside. That's the person my partner has always loved. While my biology has been forever altered, we humans are wondrous creatures of change and adaptation. My partner and I have adapted to the changes. Change is good and we're blessed to experience it as it unfolds.

True, we've been a couple for 15 years - partners every step of the way - but today we lay stake to the fact that we are not simply partners, but a privileged married couple. We may be viewed by the outside world as a lesbian couple, but we live by the truth. Civil marriage is a civil right. We work toward equality through volunteerism for all our LGBTQ brothers and sisters who deserve the same.

I am transgendered to those in the community who know me. To many others I am lesbian or trans-lesbian. In the eyes of those who cannot see I am less than human, but the truth remains. I am who I am.

Over there in the corner of the room is a white elephant. Whether one acknowledges that fact or not the truth, is it's here to stay. There's a lesson in all this that my wife and I are learning: To see inside the white elephant is to see to the lonely but cuddly creature with the big heart just waiting to befriend us.

It's something we each must celebrate to move forward.

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