15 November 2010

Jay and Janine

Perhaps it's not a coincidence--at least for me, anyway--that Janine died during the workshop I co-led at the Graduate Center on Friday.  

Jay Toole co-led that workship with me.  She was really the first person to whom I "came out", when she was an intake counselor at Center Care.  She was also the first friend I made in the LGBT community in what was, in essence, my new life.  Actually, I sometimes think that my new life started with my "coming out," with her.  

Janine had absolutely nothing in common with Jay save for a determination that can border on, or become, stubborness.  Not much could get between either of them and anything they wanted to accomplish.  But, in her own way, Janine had a role in my entering the life I am now living.  

Just as I was starting to live full-time as Justine, Janine came to town with Marie-Jeanne and Michelle.  They, Diana and I went to Brighton Beach--on a collective whim-- on a bright, breezy late August day.  The night before, they saw me for the first time as Justine when we went, with Diana's husband, to a performance of Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo.  She later confessed, "That night, as we were waiting for you, I said to Janine, 'I hope she's pretty.'  And she said, 'Ne t'inquietes pas, ella sera ca.'  And you were, even more than I expected!"

Now, coming from someone who looks as she does and hangs around with women who are at least equally attractive (In my next life, I'm going to have Marie-Jeanne's legs!), that was very generous!

Anyway, we took the train to the beach and, as it turned out, they were all wearing bathing suits under their clothes.  I wasn't:  I didn't even own a women's bathing suit.  Michelle just happened to have a one-piece suit that, with more than a little stretching, fit me. The only problem was that we weren't in France, I reminded them, so there was no way I could change clothes on the beach.  

What followed was a bit of inventiveness that only women could come up with.  They'd brought a blanket with them and surrounded me with it.  They stood, holding it, as I pulled down my long Indian print skirt, pulled off my jewel-neck T-shirt and bra, and pulled on the bathing suit.  For the rest of that afternoon, I was one of a bunch of middle-aged women who were having fun.

Afterward, we went shopping along Brighton Beach Avenue, underneath the elevated train, where many of the stores have signs only in Russian.  It was my first time there as Justine, and men were noticing us.  Janine and Marie-Jeanne pointed out that the men were looking at me.  "Oh no," I thought, "They know about me!"  But, as I would learn on later trips there, I am often taken for a Russian or East European woman.  That was confirmed when one came up to me and asked me if "the beautiful Russian lady"--meaning me--wanted "to have a good time."

Some would argue that it wasn't a real "girl's outing," because none of them were jealous of me.  At least, they didn't seem to be.  Later, Diana would say, "You go, girl"  And Janine gave me one of the best hugs I ever got.

Now she's gone.  I suppose that means I am, whether I want to or not, entering another stage in my life.  I also had that feeling after that workshop I co-led with Jay.  Somehow I believe that my role in the LGBT community (if I indeed had a discernible one) is changing, and so is my relationship to the female world.  Soon I'm going to find out how, I think.