I’ll never forget the first trans person I knowingly met. (I say knowingly because we always have trans people around us, we just aren’t always aware of them.) I had just come out of the closet and was cautiously venturing out into the gay world. Bob, the man I was dating at the time, invited me to meet his friend Tracy for happy hour drinks. On the way there he shared with me the history of their friendship which included accompanying her for the many doctor appointments and surgeries along her transitioning journey.

He was excited to see his friend. I was trying not to show how uncomfortable and nervous I was. I had barely gotten used to calling myself gay and now I was going to meet someone who had transitioned from male to female. I couldn’t begin to wrap my head around that concept. I don’t know what I was afraid of, but it was with great trepidation that I entered the bar that afternoon.

Bob introduced me to Tracy. She pulled me close in a warm hug and planted a kiss on my cheek. I blushed uncomfortably.

I slowly nursed my drink while the two of them happily caught up. Quietly and intently I studied everything about her. My eyes traced every feature. She was a striking black woman with big eyes and prominent features that seemed larger than life. She was wearing comfortable, unassuming, clothing. She smiled broadly, talked openly, and laughed loudly.

A myriad of questions began filling my mind.

What was her name before she was Tracey?

What did she look like before she transitioned?

Is she single? Does she date? If so, does she date men or women?

What surgeries has she had?

Why did she choose to have those surgeries?

How long has she known she was female instead of male?

Is that her hair or a wig?

If she’s trans, why does she do drag?

The questions were still flooding my mind when I was startled awake from my thoughts by the hearty laughter the Bob and Tracy. I laughed along nervously, merely pretending to have been listening. Not wanting to appear rude, I put aside my wandering mind and refocused on the lively conversation, and began to participate.

We talked about our homes. She was working on some renovations and DIY projects at hers. We talked about our jobs, coworkers, and unique challenges. She showed us pictures of her pets and we told stories about the various cats and dogs we owned over the years. We discussed our friends and families. She listened compassionately as I shared snippets of my own colorful story and adventures as a single dad. We laughed. We talked. We drank. The longer we sat there the more I realized this conversation was no different from any other friendly chat with those I love. She was no different than me. She was a woman living her life, working her job, taking care of responsibilities, and loving the people important to her.

Something happened to me during that conversation. I stopped seeing her as something to figure out and understand and instead started seeing her as a lovely human on a path not dissimilar from my own. I stopped studying her looks, thinking about her voice, and wondering about her private life which was none of my business. I realized, she is just like me. I am just like her. She is my sister. I am her brother. We are all in this thing together. This thing called life. Nothing else matters. We all owe each other the respect, acceptance, and dignity that all human beings deserve no matter where we are on our particular journeys.

On this Transgender Day of Visibility 2020, I am very thankful for Tracy Love being visible by just being her beautiful self to me. Little does she know how young and green I was on my own journey as a newly-out gay man. She boldly lived her authentic self and by doing so challenged me to see her and others from my heart instead of my head.