|Inside Out : Going Home|
A couple of months ago, something unexpected arrived in the mail: a wedding invitation from a Cedar Rapids lawyer friend and his wife. Their daughter was getting married.
Why was the invite a surprise?
Barely two years ago, I shocked—that would be the right word—much of the Cedar Rapids legal community by revealing I was transgender. Many people expressed support—including my dear lawyer friend and his wife--but not everyone. Some might think I could be a distracting sideshow, so I viewed the invitation as both generous and courageous.
Thus, in late August, I would return to Cedar Rapids for the wedding at a well-known church, followed by an upscale reception at an even better known country club. Many of my old friends would be encountering Ellen for the first time and I worried about what they’d think.
I had to look nice, and reached out to the one person who is always on track with fashion—my ex-wife, Lydia.
I emailed, “Can I wear black to a wedding? Do I need to wear hose? Are flats alright, or should I wear heels?”
Lydia quickly answered: “Yes, no, your choice.”
I went through my closet and found a couple of black dress options. Since I have a million shoes, I was set.
I had time to kill on the morning of the wedding day, so I stopped to see an artist friend and her husband. When I walked into their gallery, Julia asked, “May I help you?” Once I flashed my smile, she gasped, “Oh, Ellen!” After a few minutes, she showed me her most recent a project. It was a series of 4x6 plastic blocks on which she had laminated various items—pictures, parts of letters, a bus ticket—from her life, representing things she considered important. There were maybe 50 blocks altogether. As we talked, I scanned the edges of the blocks, and to my amazement, I saw, “Ellen Krug, Inside Out.”
“Julia, what’s this?”
She had taken one of my columns—one entitled “Taking Risks”—and laminated it to a block. It was a piece about someone reading me in public and asking “Are you a dude?” She had folded the column, accordion style, so that you could pull it out to read.
“I was touched by your column,” she said earnestly.
In an instant, I was humbled. Julia is a fantastic artist who knows hundreds of people. That she would pick my writing as something important enough to preserve was so unexpected. And moving.
Later, on my way out of the gallery, I ran into an artist who had created a painting of my daughters when they were little girls. The painting depicts them drawing in chalk on the driveway at my beautiful old house, the one that I had to leave when I became Ellen. My daughters were chalking the words, “Welcome Home.” When I told the artist the picture is central to the book that I’m finishing, she started to tear up. “You don’t know how important it is that I’m hearing this,” she said as she hugged me. It was impossible not to be touched.
I still had four hours before the wedding and I was already an emotional wreck. But I pulled myself together.