In the two years since I moved here from upstate New York, I always worried that I’d be pulled over by the police. What might happen to a ‘girl’ like me?
One night after a reception for the board of the National Center for Transgender Equality, I drive off toward Lipstick Lounge. I run through a flashing red light and suddenly there are more flashing lights -- from the police car behind me.
My license still has my male name, but the officer seems non-plussed, asking me to perform the standard sobriety tests. “It’s not easy doing this in heels,” I say. The arrest report will read: “He was not able to perform the walk and turn or stand, due to his shoes.”
He handcuffs me, apologizing for the discomfort, and as I get in the backseat of the police car he apologizes again: “Sorry, but it’s not very comfortable back there.” He offers a Breathalyzer, but since I’m burping like Shrek at a barbeque, he adds to his report: “was not able to complete the observation period without belching.”
As he types his report, he reads me my rights and engages me in polite conversation. I learn about his family, his life history, why he become a policeman. Then he asks if I will agree to a blood test and I say yes. I’m so nervous I would even agree to a high colonic.
At the hospital a nurse draws blood and the officer again apologizes, saying “It’s the only option other than the Breathalyzer.” Then he takes me down to be booked, and I must remove my breast forms, all of my jewelry, and my wig. A female officer pats me down and checks my shoes. “Nice” she says with what might be a tinge of envy.
After getting my mug shot, I’m led into a large room with two sections of benches. I sit down across from a man who smiles and says “Nice shoes.”
After about an hour, I’m called to a bank-teller style window and asked for a contact for a character reference, but without my phone I can’t provide it. A short while later, I’m told that I can leave under my own recognizance if there’s someone who can pick me up. But unable to contact anyone, I have to stay until eight a.m.
I want to nap, but a heavy metal door slams every time officers and staff come and go, so there’s no chance. Around four a.m., I’ve dozed off, but I’m awakened by a familiar voice.
I blink and look up.
“Hey,” the voice repeats. There’s my son, sitting beside me. “Hi,” he says.
I’m incredibly relieved. “You came to take me home,” I say.
He shakes his head. “I’m in here too.”
“Arrested?” I ask, stunned. “What for?”
“She called the police,” he said. “They charged me with assault.”
Every father wants to bond with his son, though this was not the scenario I envisioned. My son is accepting of me, though, and when he was brought in, he is not at all surprised at how I look.
“Hey…” The guy who admired my shoes calls out. “Are you two related?”
My son nods. “She’s my Dad.”
The man shakes his head. “If that don’t beat all.”
When eight a.m. arrives and my name is called, I tell my son goodbye and follow an officer through the slamming door. In the elevator, the officer asks, “Do you mind if I ask you a question?” Then he points to my shoes. “How do you walk in those?”
I walk away smiling. My biggest fear has been resolved, and I realize how fortunate I am to be in Nashville.
Dr. Bobbi Williams is an author, teacher, and consultant focusing on LGBT health. Two books of her work have been published: Me & Bobbi & the Gyrls (a short story collection) and TransFixed, a novel. Before moving to Nashville, she was the director of Rainbow Access Initiative, a New York State funded LGBT Health program. She is considering having her shoes bronzed.