I was at a cookout with my kids, when I looked up and spotted Mike, my childhood role-model.
Only back then Mike was called Pam.
Back when she was my dad’s roommate, Pam was a full-figured, confident queer pagan, with long brown hair and a penchant for wearing purple. She was really one of my first role models of what a strong confident Pagan woman could be like.
As I grew up I often thought of her as the epitome of womanliness–not that fragile femininity that the magazines tout–but real, down-to-earth femaleness.
Now Pam is Mike. Thinner, with short hair and male pronouns. He still has the same great cheekbones and smile. There’s something a bit fragile about him, though. Maybe it’s age–I see a faint quake to his hands.
He’s with his girlfriend, a loud gothic femme with eight earrings in her left lobe. She keeps the male pronouns going–which is good, because Mike still doesn’t “read” as female to me. After knowing him almost my entire life as Pam, it’s hard for me to make that switch.
He seems somehow vulnerable to me now. Still strong, but I don’t know, it seems like transitioning has taken a toll on him. His eyes beg me to help maintain his new identity. With my knowledge of his past, I can unman him with a pronoun.
But I don’t. I’m mindful and maintain his trust. We talk for hours and hug goodbye.
I don’t know what it means that the woman I admired so greatly as a child now considers herself as a man (did she always want to be male? Or did those desires come on gradually?) but, as I hugged him goodbye, it occurred to me that it didn’t matter. That was a different person in a different time. I can hold the memory of Pam sacred as I perceived her, and still honor and get to know this new person, Mike.
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