Friars Hill Traffic Report By Sarah Mansheim Managing Editor • Mountain Messenger

On gay alliances, Christian newspapers, and that one time I met a transgender lady in the bathroom

When I was six, my mom and I lived in Seebert with three male roommates, David, Jim and Jeff. David was blonde and gorgeous, tan and gregarious. Jim wore his brown hair short, and while I didn’t take to him like I did to David, he was kind and gentle. Jeff was tall and skinny, birdlike and aloof.

One day, I got into some makeup I’d found in a drawer of our house and piled bright pink rouge thick onto my cheeks and coated my eyelashes with mascara. Then, later, I started crying about something or another.

“Don’t cry,” Jeff said. “Diana Ross wouldn’t cry. It would ruin her mascara.”

I found out that Mom and David were pretending to be a couple. Mom said, “It’s just easier that way.”

I heard from my neighbor’s dad that my roommates were gay.

“You’re gay,” I told David. He was jitterbugging with my mother in the living room and taking up all her attention, and I knew, instinctively, how to hurt him.

When I said it, all the air went out of the room.

• • •

When my sister, Avery, was 16, she came out as gay. My stepmom grounded her.

“Don’t worry,” I told my parents. “She’ll outgrow it.”

• • •

My junior high best friend, Christopher, came out in high school. Suddenly, I realized why he never wanted to kiss his eighth grade girlfriend.

• • •

In 2008, Avery married a man. My parents were thrilled. They bought them a house. The marriage lasted less than two years.

Last summer, she married a woman, Danika. They dressed up like woodland fairies and both of them wore the most beautiful white gowns I’ve ever seen. After they cut the cake, Danika went upstairs to read, and Avery danced till dawn.

• • •

Last October, I went to the bathroom at an area restaurant. When I was washing my hands, a woman came up to the adjacent sink and began washing hers. She was the most beautiful woman I’d ever seen in Lewisburg: Black with long black hair, eyelashes out to there, she wore leggings and a black T-shirt knotted at the waist.

She leaned into the mirror, checking her makeup. I looked at her furtively. She had the arms and hands of a man.

I wanted to keep looking at her, she was so beautiful and different, but I didn’t want to make her uncomfortable, so I dried my hands and left quietly.

When I got back to the table, my eight-year-old daughter announced she needed to use the bathroom.

“Go ahead,” I said. “Don’t run, and watch out for the waitresses.”

She took a while in the bathroom – it’s got a full length mirror and she likes to twirl.

• • •

On Monday night, Lewisburg City Council passed Ordinance 254, which extends equal rights protections to the LGBTQ community at home, at work and in public facilities.

I read Facebook posts from my friends, gay and straight alike, who were exuberant in their praise of council for bravely passing the ordinance. I read posts from other friends who were appalled at the ordinance’s passage, and were devastated at what they considered to be a miscarriage of government.

I read the comments on the City of Lewisburg’s Facebook page, where opponents of the ordinance vowed to never shop or dine in the city again. I read that these are the Last Days, that Satan’s Army is taking over town. And, I read just as many positive posts on the city’s page from business owners and residents who lauded council for their progressive and inclusive stance.

I read it all. And when I was finished, I refreshed the page and read it all again.

• • •

Two weeks ago, a woman called me at work and asked me if the Mountain Messenger is a Christian newspaper. She was a Christian, and a subscriber, she said, and she wanted to make sure she was doing business with other Christians.

“We have people of all stripes here,” I said.

“Do you support the Gay Ordinance?” she asked. “Because, I heard you do.”

“I believe in equal rights,” I hedged. I didn’t want to lose a subscriber.

• • •

On Wednesday, The Register Herald editorial staff published an op-ed in support of Lewisburg City Council’s passage of Ordinance 254. I haven’t been granted permission to do the same here. But, then again, I haven’t asked.

This newspaper, its owner and its staff are like an extended family. We are Christians, atheists, agnostics and Jews. We are Baptists, Catholics and Methodists and who knows what else. We are Democrats and Republicans. Some of us like Bernie, some of us hate Obama.

We’ve had members of our staff attend the city council’s equality ordinance readings on both sides of the issue.

Our beliefs have been informed by our parents, our siblings, our churches, our friends and our experiences. We don’t want to hurt each other’s feelings, so we tread lightly and talk quietly. Or, we have lively debates in the middle of the room, but let’s be honest – we seldom change each other’s mind.

We want to do good work and make money. We feel the push and pull of commerce versus integrity.

But, I feel like I need to say this to the lady who called and asked if I support Ordinance 254: Yes. Absolutely. Without a doubt.

And, as for whether or not we are a Christian newspaper, I say this: yes we are, and so much more.


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