Note to self: chai means spicy

I’ve got a reading coming up Sunday evening as a local performer in the Tranny Roadshow, and thus I wasn’t terribly surprised when the Union-Bulletin, the local rag here in town, contacted me for an interview. I mean, it would never have happened had I remained in DC, unless one counts the Mirror company as a reputable newspaper. As it is, the “U-B” as people (affectionately) call it, is a bit more than a stone’s throw from being a paper that one retrieves gratis from the brightly colored  bins that litter the sidewalk like plasticized hawkers near a carnival. Apartment Guide! Great Jobs Listing! FREE Yellow Pages!!

It’s not that I have anything against the U-B, it’s that people I like have things against the U-B. Their Web site needs an overhaul, for one, with a one-inch column in the middle for the actual article content, and a thick bar at the right advertising things I will never buy, even if I live for 100 more years. I just can’t get worried enough about my nonexistent prostate, and I am not going to learn some random mom’s secret for white teeth. I suspect malware is part of her solution, see. But really, my indifference to the U-B is that there doesn’t seem to be any real reason to get a copy. I hear everything I need to from word of mouth or my news feeds. I know when the WW Balloon Stampede is coming, and I’ll be there. The rodeo happens the same Labor Day weekend every summer. If a resident of Walla Walla knows more than 5 people in town, then she probably will hear about every event for the next upcoming weekend that she cares about. If I wanted to know what the Elks Lodge is up to, I need only walk three blocks over and ask them. It’s just not that big a town. And I’m sure they know that’s a stumbling block to keeping revenue up.

So maybe I’ve been missing out by not procuring the U-B regularly, and now that one can’t read their articles online anymore without subscribing (even the New York Times is cheaper), perhaps I’m too cut off from the goings-on in my own city. After all, Walla Walla is light years away from having any interest in a Wallist-type blog.

The other thing that concerned me when I got the reporter’s email was that my bleeding heart liberal friends tell me the U-B is unflinchingly conservative. Now, I don’t care what they do in their own home, but I don’t want that stuff shoved in my face, know what I mean? Just what kinds of questions were they going to put to me regarding something called the Tranny Roadshow? On the other hand, I’m the one peddling my sex change memoir to every agent I can Google, so I’m not exactly hiding in a cave.

I thought about her offer, and talked to a few people, and said okay, let’s meet up. We agreed to meet at Cafe Perk, in the middle of downtown, which granted, is two blocks wide by six blocks long, but it has a heart, damn it. I tend to go to this place only when I’m having a meet up with someone, because the Patisserie has too many people I know in it, and I don’t want to blow the feeling of just rightness that I have when I’m trying to bang out another chapter or short story with memories of invasive questions and avoidant answers, the kind of repartee that Sarah Palin wishes she had with Katie Couric.

I got there a little early on Monday morning, and ordered a nonfat chai. I forgot to specify a vanilla chai, since out here in the Pacific Northwest, “chai” means “burn your mouth out” and true to form, I felt the tastebuds on my tongue sizzle and die. For some reason this made it a little difficult to speak, like I’d experienced when I’d gotten my tongue pierced at 28 and the thing had blown up to twice its normal size. Three days later I was fine, I swear, but in the meantime I sounded like I was wearing vampire teeth. Great. Maybe my mouth would settle down in the next 8 minutes.

It did not.

She seemed extremely young, like 4, so maybe she was a prodigy or maybe she would just ask softball questions, not wanting to get into the nitty gritty of What It Means To Be Transgendererer. I smiled. She looked like she was from Minnesota. Very Nordic. I guessed her father’s name was Thor.

Gosh, she was just so excited to write this article, to run in Thursday’s edition. Usually she got to write about things she knew. I could picture the small and worn-out newsroom: buzzing fluorescent lights in the ceiling, desk calendars filled with notes (buy ham) and doodles (Obama with horns on his head) dotting the desks, a ripped section of carpet fixed unceremoniously with duct tape, and one very tired entertainment editor contemplating retirement as he reads the press release that just came over the fax machine. Trans what? Give it to the pre-schooler, I’m not handling this.

I decided to give her a break. If I was the first trans person she’d ever met, maybe I shouldn’t be a total card.

We talked about how I’d come to know the Roadshow even existed. It’s not a very interesting story, and hopefully it will be revealed in tomorrow’s paper. It’s true that I met my future wife there, but it wasn’t our first date. I was still in the wake of a crappy breakup with a crappy person who’d spent two plus years being crappy to me, but I noticed that there was a cute, smart woman at the show. So what if our first date wasn’t until 10 months later? When she asked me why I thought people should go to the show, I had regular, plain, somewhat accurate things to say, but I did flippantly include the “you never know, you could meet your future partner there” line. I’m curious to see if that made it in there.

She didn’t ask either of the two worst questions to ask a trans person, which, for everyone’s edification, are:

1. What was your name before?

2. Can you come to the ladies room and drop your pants so I can see your hee haw?

Both of these have been asked of me, one on many occasions. I won’t say which.

She did ask, however, how I identified, and I didn’t want to answer that one, mostly because I didn’t think it was relevant to the article—it would be like asking the bronco riders how they identified as rodeo participants—but also because I didn’t want to be pinned down for all of my fellow residents to read, at least, not until they all jump on some list that gets hung on Main Street listing their most embarrassing moment, because that seems about equal to me. But her manner of asking was nice, almost apologetic. So I said that these terms are in contestation within the trans community and that they have different meaning in mainstream culture, and I didn’t want to take all of that on in this one article as my personal legacy.

See? I should go be a politician. We moved on to the show and I said it would be a lot of fun, tickets aren’t usually free, and people should check it out. She asked why I’d pointed the show organizers to the local liberal arts college. The smart ass in me wanted to reply that I thought it better than sending them to the local Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints church. But honestly, I don’t know about venues in town outside of the college. The Fairgrounds seem a skosh too big.

The reporter was nice, nodded a lot, didn’t seem to want to make me out to be a laughing stock—which we all know I do quite well enough on my own—and I felt pretty good after it was over. Now we’ll see, tomorrow, what the editors have done to the story. And come Sunday night, I’ll know how much of a success it was. For all of the LGBT folks in town who don’t get a lot of open air gay time, I think this will be a good thing.

And yes, I’ll pick up a copy of the U-B tomorrow. It’ll be the first one I’ve bought.

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Categories: coffee, ponderings, transplanted

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2 Comments on “Note to self: chai means spicy”

  1. Shara
    April 14, 2010 at 6:28 pm #

    I think it is great that you are doing the show, and I look forward to attending Sunday. I think I would have been uncomfortable asking the questions- so props to little-miss-4yr-old, and props to you for doing it. I have been around male-to-female, and many drag queens, but you are only the 2nd female to male (my first ex- from 20 yrs ago, found out at his mom’s funeral) that I’ve ever known. Knowing how to relate, knowing how to correctly use the pronouns, being careful not to say the wrong things/ask the wrong thing… it is hard to break the paradigms… even for one as open minded and accepting as myself… and allow myself to find common ground, acceptance, and even friendship. I hope that the show, and the article, will open eyes and push people to expand their minds, as you have already started to do with mine. Oh- and for the record… you’re “just Everett” to me, and I am glad to have you as a friend/bowling buddy!

    • evmaroon
      April 14, 2010 at 7:01 pm #

      Thanks, Shara, and it’s been great bowling with you, too! While I’m pointing out my trepidation of conversing with the media, I haven’t for the most part thought that individuals I’ve met have asked these questions with anything other than curiosity or a desire to know me better personally. So please don’t take my hesitation about the U-B as reflective of how I feel about my friendships, because I do think context makes a big difference.

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