Canasta, Anyone?

A sense of community is important. As animals, we need interaction with others of our species, not only to satisfy our most fundamental physical needs, but also our social and emotional needs. Even an introvert like me wants to get out and party once in a while.

Before I moved to Lawrence, I didn’t participate in my local LGBTQ+ community much. I simply existed. I did what I wanted to do, with whom I wanted. I never specifically sought out queer community. That might have been an artifact of having spent a large amount of time with the Deaf Community, which tends to be very accepting of people of all types; if you can sign and you’re not a total jerk, you’re welcome.

My first several years in Lawrence, I was with a partner who happened to be Deaf. Naturally, we spent a lot of time with Deaf people and in the Deaf community. Lawrence has, at any one time, five or six folks who are Deaf (most of the Deaf community are about thirty miles to the east, in Olathe, which is also home to our state’s school for the Deaf). That means she and I spent a lot of time in Olathe, instead of Lawrence. That means that I didn’t make many new connections in my new hometown. Okay, I didn’t make any new connections in my new hometown.

And then, we broke up. I’ll spare you the details. All right, I’ll spare myself you knowing the details. It was fairly smooth and amicable, as break-ups go. What matters is that my decisions were now not driven by consideration of or for anyone other than me.

Fast forward a year. I’m in a new relationship. My friends are getting to know my partner, and I am getting to know my partner’s friends. Oh, and, yeah, trying to figure out the raising someone else’s children thing, and the co-parenting thing, was going on, too.

Stacy already had an amazing group of friends, and they welcomed me with open arms. Although I’ve never considered myself a lesbian (I will talk about the reasons why another day), that was the label Stacy felt most accurately described him for twenty years. Lawrence has a lovely group of like-minded women, and we socialized with them. We went to potlucks, framily dinners, and game nights. Inside, I reveled at being in the company of these intelligent, accomplished women.

Our favorite activity is playing Canasta. Each month, we choose a date, and meet at one of our houses. Whoever’s hosting provides the main meal, and the rest of us bring sides, desserts, snacks, and libations. The points don’t matter much, and there is always a lot of laughter.

But then, it happened: Stacy made the decision to go forward with transitioning. For short time, there were more questions than answers. How would our chosen family react? How would he/we be perceived in the community, in general? Would he/we be welcome at events we were accustomed to attending? If not, how and where would we find new friends and a sense of place?

It turns out that any worries we had were mostly unnecessary. Like me, our Canasta group had known all along that Stacy is a shiny boy. They love who he is on the inside, and accept him. Oh, there are jokes from time to time, but that goes with the territory when you’ve been friends for a decade or two.

There have been some changes. Some events are meant specifically for women only. And while you can argue semantics, Stacy no longer walks through this world as a woman. He is no longer seen as a woman by most people. Because of that, he is afforded privileges that those of us who are perceived as feminine/women are not automatically afforded. Being sensitive to that, he/we choose to not attend events intended solely for women.

I am personally thankful for our group of friends. I greatly enjoy our time together. We dish; we laugh over politics (to keep from crying); and we share our lives. In a world that sometimes doesn’t seem to have enough positives, Canasta night lifts our spirits and buoys them until next we meet.

Do you have a friend or group of friends that help you make it through life? I’d love to read about them.

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