“You now realize you can no longer legally marry another woman,” she said.
What she said hit me all of a sudden. She was right, on account that Proposition 8 was still in effect, and the moment my legal gender marker on my documents was changed to “F,” I could no longer marry another woman.
“That sucks!” I said with sudden realization of the ramifications. “As of yesterday, I still could have married a woman.”
“Shows how bullshit it all is,”” she said.
“We instead focused the rest of our afternoon on the bright side: that I had legally changed my name and gender, and that we were here to celebrate that important milestone.
We got seated at a table that was actually two tables joined together, and sat on the right side of the pair. As we ordered, the restaurant filled up rather quickly.
All of a sudden, a couple sat to our left, and moved the table about a foot over to create separation. The waitress followed suit and divided up the condiments for the now two separate parties.
I casually glanced over at the commotion as the couple sat down, literally a few feet away from me.
I jumped back in my seat, in shock that it was Chris and his girlfriend sitting next to me!
Both of them had attended my brother’s wedding reception in 2010, and Chris and I shared countless childhood memories and activities together. Our families were very close, and we grew up together playing basketball, camping, and attending Chinese school together.
Strangers we certainly were not.
“What?!?” Susan asked perceptively, noticing I was quiet. “You look pale, like you’re freaking out!”
I couldn’t even talk, I was so nervous all of a sudden.
A plethora of thoughts ran through my head: Would speaking in my newfound voice give me away? Was my pitch convincing enough? Could they clock me through all the makeup and clothes I was wearing? Surely, they must have made me already! Who did I think I was fooling?!?
Instead of noting that they glanced right at me and kept on eating without skipping a beat; instead of cherishing that I clearly passed as the woman I was inside and out; instead of prolonging my celebration of my legal name and gender marker change, I chose instead to momentarily focus on my fear of being clocked by an old childhood friend sitting two feet from me.
When our families had gone to China in 2000, Chris, my brother, and I were all hitting on girls in our tour groups. Each time we arrived in a new province, the group members would change with respect to each family and their travel itinerary.
Upon arriving in Xian to see the Terra Cotta Warriors at the tomb of Emperor Qin, the 3 of us 20-year olds were more interested in the two new Vietnamese girls that were new additions to our tour group.
I kept noting the beauty of one of the Vietnamese sisters, and my brother acknowledged I had great taste. Chris, however, disagreed.
“I guess I have really high standards,” he said nonchalantly. “No one has piqued my interest on this trip yet.”
And here we were, sitting next to each other at a restaurant, where he had made eye contact with me but retained his attention on his girlfriend.
I passed. I passed as myself, a woman, in his eyes. He didn’t recognize me, despite knowing my old presentation for the better of 20 years. With “high standards” regarding beautiful women, I looked like one in his eyes.
“Well?” Susan implored.
“See that couple there?” I pointed out to Susan.
“Yeah, not the first one I’ve seen, so what?” she said sarcastically, easing the mood for us.
“I’ve known him for 20 years. Our families are very close. I’m freaking out!” I whispered.
“No way!” she said with a smile. “You know what? We can have some fun!”
She then hunched over the table and playfully whispered back: “So you want me to tell him for you? I’m sure you have his cell phone, you should text him and say you can’t believe you are sitting next to him at this restaurant, and watch him look around for you, all confused.”
“No! Just let them leave, I don’t want to do this now,” I said.
She jokingly reached over and leaned towards their table a few times, but eventually, they left and I filled Susan in on all the back-story.
She laughed, and was in disbelief. She also promptly congratulated and shared her elation with me on how far I had come, physically and emotionally to pass with feminine appearance and energy.
“Now will you believe it when all of us tell you that you pass and have nothing to worry about? You have proof now.”
My feminine appearance withstood the scrutiny of a friend who spent his childhood and adolescent years growing up with me, and I had passed.