Tara is perched half-stool, one black high heel to the floor, ready to get up and go as far as her small stage allows when the Stonewall spirit moves. She’s on about history like I’ve never seen even the most enthused civics professor get, and we can feel the vibration in our hearts if not in our media center chairs, because this story of drag queens and broken bottles and fuck the police is personal for Tara. They were her friends, and this is the story of her people; and she means it.
She has a thick, 63-year-old face, delicately made up, reading glasses tipped down at the end of her broad nose; she’s got ample breasts, but not much in the way of hips, but then, hell, neither do I, and ain’t I a woman. Her voice is Jersey baritone and it is all passion, words cut off only when age forces her to go retrieve them, and then it’s back to the story, to the dozen tangents she seems to need to follow out loud because we are listening. And if you don’t tell your stories, they die with you, gone. And Tara needs telling.
She was a little boy who loved dolls, and a boxer who preferred panties, and a married man who craved the closeness of men. And when she realized how she looked wasn’t who she felt, she knew she needed change; she needed to be Tara. But people, we look from the outside, and the world didn’t see a woman trying to be herself; they saw a man trying to be a woman. So Tara lost her friends, her family, her spouse. She got herself– but she still pays dearly for the trade.
Tara is off her stool now, beginning her Pride march across the wood floor, bringing it right to us. Her eyes light, triumphant and wistful, as she tells us how trans* people were honored in ancient faith traditions, “before the Judeo-Christian religions,” and this phrase comes with deep tremor of anger, and beneath that, deeper hurt.
She tells us of the Native American man who recognized her as a Two-Spirit person, who engaged her with warm acceptance, who held her hand as he spoke. She is all about the conference the tribes hold every year and how much she’d love to go, but it’s too expensive to get out west, and she’s already spent so much just to get her body right; her two spirits will have to wait.
Tara has a lifetime of hard, aching story to tell, and the tangents get out of control. I can see her mind is whirring, trying to keep up the pace of her heart, but it’s beating so hard to be known, she just can’t catch it.
She’s back on about the Abrahamic religions’ oppression of her people, and I consider, then reconsider, gently touching the black cross at my neck. I am not ashamed of my cross, of my Jesus; I am a little ashamed of my people. But mostly I am sad, sad that my cross does not speak to her of my Jesus, sad that she does not know His story. Because I know what happens to stories that don’t get told. And Tara needs telling.
So it’s time for Q&A and my organ-heart is so loud I’m afraid I won’t be able to get words out above it, but my soul-heart is louder, and I guess Tara has two spirits and I have two hearts, and I open my soft lips and speak in a soprano. I know only a small-tiny-something of the marginalization she has lived, but it’s enough that I can speak her language, connect, and I ask what can be done.
The intensity she’s worn on her face this last hour flashes in surprise; then it goes soft.
The whole room turns to look at me but I am fixed on Tara. I have jumped both feet alongside her on a hard and aching path, and I am asking for real answers, for Tara and her people; this is Jesus’ story. And I mean it.