by Nina Fosati
The Senior Pastor calls me into his office, asks if I would welcome a trans woman to the volunteer staff. I respond, ‘Absolutely,’ and wonder what I’m getting myself into.
The Friday crew is composed of widows who long ago settled into their elder androgyny. They are neither welcoming, nor hostile. I’d call them insular. Deborah is tall, sturdy, and soft spoken; a sweeter version of a factory supervisor I knew back in my twenties. I suspect the trappings of femininity are new to her, still aspirational. There’s an exaggerated precision to Deborah’s diction and movements that makes me smile. She is far more ladylike than the rest of us.
Her breasts are large and heavy; an attribute I’ve rarely appreciated concerning my own figure. It takes exceptional support to immobilize the girls like that. I’m uncomfortable thinking about it. I set my thoughts aside. It’s a topic for future discussion; after we learn to trust each other.
By mid-afternoon, preparations for Sunday Service are done; the phone calls dwindle and Deborah and I are alone in the office. She opens her workbag. It’s filled with colorful crochet projects. I marvel at the perfection of her stitches. Her beefy hands with their carefully manicured nails, expertly work the yarn. No matter how feminine her affect, people will pause and reassess when they notice. I give her hand a squeeze. ‘Your work is beautiful. Will you teach me?’
—Matt says from now on he will only respond to the name Amanda.
—Scary, but not the end of the world.
—He thinks I told him to fuck off. What I said was I won’t change the name on my will. The inheritance goes to Matthew Jr.
—Well, in a way you did. Tell her to fuck off that is.
—There’s no way this is equivalent to having a tomboy daughter who everyone thinks is a dyke. This is horrible!
—Way harsh, Dude. Remember when we were both pregnant? We just wanted healthy babies. Can you find your way back to that feeling?
—You don’t understand. Women love Matt. He has some kind of irresistible male charisma. He can’t possibly be female.
—What you call charisma is part of her essence. She will always have that magnetism whatever gender she claims. Women will still be attracted to her.
—Ewwwww! Why are you so deliberately obtuse?
I stare at the screen. There’s no blinking ellipsis. No sad doodle indicating we’re done. There was a time when the satisfying crash of a receiver slamming down served as a welcome emphasis. Sadly, it’s a sound we exchanged often as our children grew up. I wonder how long the radio silence will last this time.
Assigned female at birth, my oldest son never fit right in their skin. When they were in their teens, I assured them it was okay by me if they were lesbian. They shrugged. ‘Sure Mom, if that was the case.’ Fifteen years out of college, they came out as non-binary. Now they are taking hormones and transitioning to a more masculine presentation. They’ve made the top of the bench press stats at their gym. My tongue stumbles on their new hyphenated male-female name. They live so far away. I worry about their safety.
After two years of pandemic isolation, they plan a Christmas visit. I fret about Covid, about having people in the house, about changes seen and unseen. When they walk into the kitchen their grin and superman stance is brilliant.
I wrap my arms around their unfamiliar bulk. Bury my nose in the L between their shoulder and neck. ‘Hi, hi, hi, hi, hi, hi, hi, hi, hi,’ my snuffled welcome. ‘So happy to finally meet you.’
Nina Fosati lives in semi-isolated retirement in a small western New York village. She shares her home with her husband of 44-years and two floofy senior cats (who shed terribly, claim the warmest spots as their right and, like their owner, are mostly overwhelmed when out in the world.)