The Places That Matter

There’s a coffee shop in Somerville, known as a queer hangout spot. This coffee shop has become integral and emblematic of my identity, my community. I started going there before I came out as trans and it was the first place, ever, somebody referred to me as a guy.

I came out to my school via mass email one night toward the end of summer break, nervously went to sleep, and the next morning I walked to this coffee shop, ordered a cup of coffee, and maybe the cashier noticed I looked a little different. Saw my haircut was more masculine, my chest looked flatter, saw something. Noticed something. There was /something/. Because I ordered a cup of coffee, somebody else brought it to the counter, and the cashier who had taken my order said, “that’s for him.”

And I was him.

For my friends and I it’s been the site of first dates, tenth dates, birthdays, wedding showers, study sessions, craft nights, campaign celebrations, an alternative to church, a place to cry, a place to take a quick break, a go-to when making other plans just seems too hard.

It’s the single place I have never, once, had to repeat my name. There has never been that moment where they ask my name and, upon hearing me say “Andrew,” question me another time or two, sure I couldn’t have said “Andrew.” I know going in tthere that they have trans people who work there. They have trans customers. I will see myself reflected in others around me.

This coffee shop isn’t THAT close to me. It’s clear at the other end of the subway line I live on but it’s a place I feel so comfortable that I’d much rather travel to get there than go to somewhere more local. It’s the place where I completed undergrad internship paperwork, wrote parts of my final project, where I completed my grad school applications, wrote my first grad school papers, studied for tests, and where I celebrated when my first year was done.

It’s where we held Queer Unitarian Universalist Fiber Arts and Crafts Night and my friends and I jokingly refer to it as a sacred place while realizing, maybe, it’s not as much of a joke as we might pretend. It’s where we’ve played dozens of bad games of pool, where subsets of my friends have come together and where I have sat with no less than 4 trans youth while they cried about their families.

It’s where I wrote my first real sermon.

It’s where I have sat with ministers to discern my call to ministry and where I’ve sat with partners to discern what we’re doing for dinner. It’s a place that needs no explanation among my group of friends.

And tonight I walked in and snagged a table, asking somebody quickly if they’d keep an eye on my stuff while I ordered. I walked to the counter and the barista said “Hey, Andrew. How’s Jesus-school?” and we chatted for a second or two. I sat down, untied the boots I’d been wearing all day, and opened my computer. There was a Queer Polyamorous Womens Meetup happening next to me and the conversation was hilarious and so, so fitting for where I was.

My SO came in a half hour later and I kissed her hello and we eased into the now-comfortable “working” silence, punctuated by frequent laughs and sharing-of-things and maybe not getting as much work done as either of us had hoped and eventually she headed home for the night. I struggled to finish a paper I’d put off too long and finally decided 1891 words was close enough to 2000 words and I hit save.

As I was packing up a friend spotted me and they came over, gave me a hug, and we walked out together with that same barista saying “say hi to Jesus for me!” as I left.

On the train ride home that night I couldn’t help but mull over how much of my life has taken place in that queer coffee shop. How different I am from the person I used to be and how much life I’ve mulled over or participated in there. And how much I love, desperately, the community I am part of.

 
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