Welcome, friends, and thank you for joining me for yet another thrilling edition of Random Queer Storytime, that all-too-frequent occasion when I launch into a random tale of my past that exemplifies both my queer/trans-ness and the fact that I was impressively oblivious as a young person.
In today’s episode, we learn about a dance, an ex, and an ill-fitting suit that finally cracked the closet door open — before I slammed it shut again and shoved myself in deep enough to get a glimpse of Narnia. But that’s another story for another day.
The year was **REDACTED**, and I was in my first year of college in the (comparatively) big, (comparatively) flashy city of Pittsburgh, PA after a sheltered childhood in a town made up of trees, farms, and folksy homophobia. I’d recently had my mind blown by a Freshman English course that introduced me to the concept of feminism, and when my emotionally abusive high school ex (with whom I was on friendly terms, having not realized the emotionally abusive part yet) invited me to accompany him to my old high school’s Winter Formal, I accepted — on one condition.
I would be wearing a suit.
At the time, I considered it a feminist statement (plus a convenient way to communicate to my ex that my body was a definite “hands off” area), but it ended up being a great deal more than that. My college days saw me inching closer to recognizing my trans-ness than any other time in my life, and the day I donned an ill-fitting suit and ventured back into my homophobic high school, I took a pretty important step toward figuring out who I really was.
This event was not without trauma, as my mother was staunchly against this endeavor for fear of my safety — which, let’s be real, was not an outlandish fear, though thankfully did not end up being an issue when the night of the Formal finally rolled around.
I walked into the dance not on the arm of my ex, but striding next to him in my borrowed, oversized blazer, black tie, white shirt, and black dress pants and shoes. I was nervous but felt strangely tall and confident, and more comfortable in my body and myself than I had been in any recent memory.
The chaperone, our peppy and much-loved band teacher, did a double-take upon seeing me but then laughed and seemed not to be too thrown, and the reaction of my friends (including the cool drummer girl I very much admired) was a unanimous, “You look awesome.” There were more than a few stares, but oddly my ex was the only one who got teased that night, his guy friends peppering him with the standard high school assortment of gay jokes upon seeing him escorting a suit-clad individual with recently-shorn hair and a strange new level of confidence.
Looking back on it, it’s perhaps a bit strange that I didn’t get a single word of disapproval from anyone at the dance, though I’m sure there were whispers and wonderings that didn’t meet my ears. Still, I left the evening triumphant and feeling pretty great overall, and I was able to share the news with my fearful mother that I had been the victim of zero hate crimes during the evening and, in fact, the general mood had been one of approval and/or bemusement rather than homophobic violence.
I should mention, incidentally, that at this point I didn’t even have any idea that I was queer, let alone trans, though I had been dabbling in more LGBTQ+ media and discovering that I felt a strange affinity toward queer and trans characters and storylines. But that was just me being a super awesome ally, right?
Realization was still years ahead of me, but at least I’d taken my first step into a larger world.