I am drawn to the quietness and vastness of West Texas for a variety of reasons. That big western sky lights up red, orange, pink, and purple as the sun drops below the horizon each sundown, proving, quiet conclusively, that no human painter (even one who considers herself a fauvist) is as audaciously creative as nature itself.
I don’t get out there as often as I used to. My mom still resides out west, so my wife and I drove out to those parts this past Thanksgiving. The woman who carried me in her womb and then delivered me to this world currently makes her home in a little town called Eldorado (population 2,257).
Eldorado is the governmental seat of Schleicher County, a part of Texas that is as pro-Trump as any area in the country. The citizens of that town and county drive enormous pickups, wear cowboy hats, attend church on Sundays, and don’t cotton to any sort of “liberal” thinking.
My mom is an oddity in those parts because she is somewhat unconventional and getting more that way as she ages. She decided she wanted us to have our Thanksgiving meal at Eldorado’s little community center, an old hospital that had been converted to that purpose. Because she is civic-minded, she decreed that we had to give a nice monetary donation to the center after we’d eaten. So that’s exactly what we did.
We were nearing the end of our meal when some of the food servers joined us at our table, sitting close enough for us to strike up a conversation. One of those we talked to was clearly a trans person who’d been assigned “male” at birth. (While preparing to write this blog, I had to do a bit of research to make sure that I was using appropriate language. I discovered lots of helpful educational websites, including this one.)
By the way, anyone with even a little awareness, understands that either/or thinking is crude and fallacious because its aim is to dismiss nuance. The older I get, the more I realize that almost nothing in this world can be well understood without employing at least a little intellectual subtlety.
I found the trans person incredibly charming. Quite surprisingly, while we were talking, the server told us that she—I’m using “she” because several of those with her used female pronouns while referring to her—spoke Portuguese, Italian, and Spanish fluently. (Of course, we were using English to communicate.) When I asked her how she learned all these languages, she told me that she was born with a talent for acquiring them and was self-taught. My wife chimed in and said that Arabic was her mother tongue. Hearing this, the server turned to her and said, “Salaam alaykum” to which my wife answered “Alaykum salaam.” She followed that up with several other Arabic words and phrases but then confessed she was only a beginner. Honestly, I was flabbergasted.
The moral of this story is this: Don’t jump to conclusions about places and people. I never would have expected to meet such a person in such a place as Eldorado. (Those who shared a meal with us at the community center were likely as conservative as they come and yet no one seemed to notice—or care—that there was a trans person among us.) Plus, how in the world did Eldorado produce—she told us she was born and raised in the little village—a person who was interested in foreign languages and had taught herself several, including Arabic?
Meeting the food server—I’m sorry we didn’t tell each other our names—made me feel a little better about Eldorado and those who live there. I like to think of myself as open-minded and such, but I found that I was as guilty as sin about prejudging the place and those who live there. I clearly need to check myself about my propensity to jump to conclusions.
Have you had a similar eye-opening experience recently? If so, I’d love to hear about it. Thanks for reading!
Troy Headrick’s personal blog can be found here.
If you’d like to see some of Troy’s art, have a look.