When I was a freshman at Texas A&M at Galveston, I scarcely ate for the first day or two because I was too scared to find the student union on my own. I just hung out in my dorm room, eating snacks from a vending machine. I've always been a little bit fearful about meeting new people and encountering new situations, and I'm not what you'd call a great conversationalist. To this day, if I'm not sure how to keep a conversation going (or how to end it gracefully), I sometimes just look down at the floor, wander away, and hope the other person is not offended.
Today, 26 years later, I'm slightly less introverted than I was then. Having a career that requires me to work directly with clients has helped a lot. Plus, now that I'm middle-aged, I simply care less about what other people think. If you dropped me off on that college campus today, I would loudly proclaim my hunger and then ask for directions to the cafeteria. No one would hear the end of it until I had food in mah belly. These days, I do try to step outside my comfort zone as opportunities arise. I'm fairly involved with my church and facilitate many of the services. This role requires me to stand up in front of everyone and use a microphone, which can be pretty daunting.
As you may recall, for the past few years I've been coordinating an annual Pride-themed service at my church each summer. Last year, I invited a woman who runs a local Gay Straight Alliance for adults. Her son is a prominent activist for LGBT rights and as his mom, I think she just wanted to do her part as well. Anyway, every month she invites me to the group's monthly meeting via Facebook. It's always on a Tuesday and I go to yoga on Tuesdays. However, last night I decided to skip yoga since I had been to the gym the night before and my back was really angry about something. I figured I'd go and check out the meeting, which was held at a local church.
I'd been to this church before because I'd done some web work for them at one time. So, I knew it was pretty big. I parked my car and headed into the building. A man was coming up the walkway behind me. "Do you know where the community council meeting is?" he asked me.
"No, sorry," I replied. This told me that there were multiple meetings going on inside the church. Crud. How would I find mine without looking like a doofus? And why is spell check telling me that doofus is not a word?
As I entered the building and walked up the stairs, I was about to look for a body to ask about the meeting location. However, just as I turned the corner, I spotted a beautifully dressed woman who, in all likelihood, had been born with boy parts. "Okay, found my peeps!" I thought. I walked in and re-introduced myself to the group leader (and reminded her of how/why she knew me).
There were a dozen or so people at the meeting. Some were longtime members of the group and several attended the church in which the meeting was held. There were two couples (women) and the rest, as far as I could tell, were there on their own. I found a seat and waited. It was an interesting, diverse sort of group. The conversation flowed in a few different directions. We talked about Leelah Alcorn, the transgender girl who killed herself a couple weeks ago. Now, I have to say that senior citizens don't always get proper credit for being open-minded and current. There was an elderly woman (cane and all) at the meeting who said she cried when she read about Leelah's death. If you were a gay or transgender kid, you'd want this lady to be your grandma, hands down. Another woman shared that she is a retired English teacher who told her students that once she retired, she would fight for LGBT rights. And she does.
I felt like there were a few vaguely awkward moments. The term "gay marriage" was used multiple times and I think the preferred term is "marriage equality" - or even, simply, "marriage." The same-sex couples who were there were asked if they are married.
All in all, it was a nice group and well worth the journey on a cold night. I may go again sometime. I'm hoping to recruit a couple of speakers for the Pride service this summer and this meeting would be a good place to find them. I am just so glad that those who identify as gay or transgender have somewhere to go. I'm so impressed with the programs in high schools these days, too. When I was in school, there were no clubs for LGBT kids. Of course, with the good news comes the bad - like Leelah Alcorn's story.
When the meeting was over, I loitered at the treat table and had some water and mini Oreos. I realized I'd better get home because there was laundry to be done, as always. Here's where the social awkwardness part comes in again. I didn't really know anyone there, so I threw my paper cup away and then simply walked out, waving to the attendee who was closest to the door. I mean, I figured my departure didn't really require any fanfare. ("Hey everyone, the straight lady is leaving now!") I might still be a bit inept in social situations but I figure . .. there are worse ways to be.