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  • Jen Dula

The Next Chapter Begins

“If You Correctly Me Gently, I Promise I Will Learn”

Five years ago, I said those exact words to Paige. It was my deal to her after I had realized, prior to our first date, that she was transgender. Some have asked me if it bothered me that she didn’t disclose to which I always respond with, “it wasn’t my business, yet”. It wasn’t...we barely knew each other. But I liked her. All of our texts and conversations prior to this first date had solidified it for me. She was awesome, and I wanted to get to know her.

I was honest with her. Yes, I was a social worker who prided myself on being “woke” on all social injustices. However, she was the first transgender person I had met (or knew I’d met), so I was pretty sure I didn’t know as much as I thought I did. I admitted that I was probably going to say stupid stuff...ignorant stuff that would highlight my lack of real-world street cred within the gender minority population. But I made a deal with her...I promised her that if she corrected me gently when I put my semi-woke foot in my mouth, I would learn.

She took the deal, and we’ve kept our word ever since. I’ve learned a lot, and as my love for her has grown, my passion to keep her and people like her safe and empowered has flourished. This deal we struck up 5 years ago has been the foundation of our relationship and has informed the philosophical underpinnings of Genderlines. The goal of Genderlines is to meet people where they are and walk with them on their journey to understand gender minorities and their experiences while supporting gender minorities. As I enter this endeavor as a cisgender white female, I want to make the same deal with the gender minority community in Charlotte. I’m new at this. I’m sure I’ll mess up. Talk to me. Open up the dialogue. I promise I will learn.

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