We had just moved to a new state, and a new city. Haley had been officially living as herself and presenting as female full-time for only a few days. We made the chilly trek with the kids out to the store to pick out cell phones and sign up for a plan.
The person helping us was polite and sweet. He had long dark hair and a delicate face, after we clarified who was Melissa and who was Haley, he put out his hand and said brightly “So nice to meet you! My name is..” and then stuttered and seemed to glance down at the nametag attached to his shirt, finishing quietly “… John.” We got our phones, and left the shop, but both Haley and I had noticed the weird slip around the name, and wondered if there was more to the story.
Months later I was on the closing shift at work. A tall woman with long dark hair and a delicate face came in. She didn’t recognize me, but I knew her instantly. She seemed more confident than the last time I had seen her, and later as I walked past her table where she was sitting with her friends, I heard one of them call her “Jane”. I wondered if she still worked at the cell phone store. I wanted to give her a hug and tell her I was happy to see her. But I didn’t want to be weird.
He comes in to the shop with his small daughter on a fairly regular basis. He is short, wears a cap, and has a scruffy red beard. She shrieks with laughter when he makes silly faces for her, sings her ABCs loudly, and picks all the blueberries out of her muffin and eats them, leaving a plate full of crumbs. I wouldn’t know there is anything different about them, except the little girl still calls her daddy mom sometimes. And I remember those days where our kids still called Haley Daddy, and people would stare.
Her hair is still short, but her gray dress and polka dotted tights are impeccable. A smile comes to my face as soon as I see her, she gives me an odd nervous look, and I look away, hoping that she didn’t think I was laughing at her, because sometimes people do that.
I want to tell her I remember those early days, Haley messing with her hair again and again. Asking if her outfit looks okay, stressing about going out in public and being so vulnerable. Hearing the store clerk call her “sir” and seeing her face fall. Having to listen to her wonder what it was that gave her away as being new to living as a girl.
And there were days I was tired of hearing it, and told her to stop worrying about how she looked. And there were other days that I would hug her and say “I see you Haley, and you are beautiful.”
So now when I see them, sometimes alone, sometimes surrounded by friends, I want to tell them, “Some days it takes incredible bravery just to get dressed and leave the house. Just know, that some people see you, are proud of you, and know you are beautiful.”
But I don’t always know how to say it.
So I say it here.
You are beautiful.