I didn't know what to expect. It's the first time I've traveled back to Wyoming since my transition, and many people here know me by my former name; none as Seda. And this is the heart of Bush country. (Okay, maybe not the heart, but the last time a Democrat won in Wyoming was probably before FDR.)
The first surprise came in the process of getting there. I took the train to Portland, then the bus to the airport, then a stop in Denver until finally renting a car in Rapid City. I met and spoke with a lot of people, and I only got "sir'd" once during travel, at security on the way home – and then the TSA employee right behind him immediately and pointedly called me "ma'am." And only once did I get the repeated double take that means someone wasn't sure and was trying to figure out if he was talking to a genetic male. That's not to say I was passing almost flawlessly – I don't know how many people clocked me and just didn't care.
At ten o'clock that evening I arrived at the ranch to warm embraces. I sat down at the kitchen table in the old ranchhouse with my family; my mom, my brother and sister-in-law, my nephew, my niece. I ate leftovers from their dinner while we shared laughter and tears, catching up on the events of recent days and months. It wasn't even awkward. My gender wasn't an issue.
The next day, last before the memorial service, I met my nephew who was adopted by a fundamentalist Christian family following Jenny's accident. His embrace was tentative, but I opened to him, and he soon warmed up. His girlfriend embraced me warmly. My niece and I drove to town to do some shopping, and, again, no one blinked an eye. It was "you ladies" and "ma'am," and everything felt natural. At home, the whole bunch of us younger folks worked to help put my mom's yard in order.
On the day of the memorial, my cousins arrived from the Bay Area. It's a pattern that developed with my brother's death in 2001: since then, seems like we only meet at funerals. Frank's, then my uncle's, then my dad's, and now Jenny's. Nevertheless, it's always good to see them – and there's never enough time. And the Nelson's, close family friends for 40 years, whom I haven't seen for ages, also arrived, bringing our gathering to considerable size.
There was so much warmth, so much love, in the gathering of extended family and friends. I am rich and richly blessed.
Soon, I'll write about the memorial service, where I encountered all the old neighbors and friends of my sister and family.