The meeting fell silent. What had she said, this time?
“No fricking way we’re accepting money from some TERF club. Not on my watch. Not selling out on my frigging watch.”
They stared at her, with their little goatees, their hippie glasses, their pierced faces, their pure, innocent shock.
Then they looked down, or looked away, or took a slow, concentrated sip of organic Indian tea, free-trade of course.
“Aubrey,” said Sasha, after she set her teacup down, “we’re in no position to refuse funding, from anyone. We can’t afford to.”
“No. What we can’t afford is to do any damn thing that puts us in partnership–in league–with a group that’s trans-exclusive. What kind of message does that give? How does that support any of the people we serve? We’re inclusive! Either Wmyn Now changes their stance, publicly, openly, and loudly, or we have nothing to do with them. It’s that fucking simple.”
The Wing City board meeting ended after that. They’d finish the budget and explore other funding sources at the next meeting, after they’d had a chance to research other options, reconsider Aubrey’s points-or resign.
Aubrey had moved to this West Coast university town a few months ago to take the directorship of Wing City, a nonprofit LGBTQQIAAP community resource and support group. On paper, it was a great fit: her advanced degrees in gender studies, social work, and community activism, combined with her professional experience as a community activist over-qualified her for the job, but the position was important enough that an overqualified director was a plus. At any rate, in this university town, everyone, except perhaps the university president, was over-qualified.
The thing was, in so many way, Aubrey felt she was a terrible fit–not just for this position, but for the community. Sure, her mission of inclusion expanded the center’s reach, and the number of people participating in their programs had trebled since her arrival.
The misfit came in her style. She spoke loudly, fast, and over the other person, the more so, the more impassioned she was. As she grew louder, the others grew softer, and she spoke quicker and brasher to fill the space.
She was direct, too. She never came in from the side. She never hedged; “in my perspective,” “from another side,” “one might consider” never left her lips.
But surely, her directness was a strength. You knew where you stood with her, and you knew where she stood, and when there were differences, they were right out there in the open, to be tackled together.
Only, it takes two to tackle.
Most meetings ended like this one: They all knew where she stood, but damned if she knew their stance!
Darwin, the office manager, liked her at least. “They’ll come around,” he said. “And in the meantime, maybe you could just give them some space?”
So not her style.
She liked a lot of things about the town: progressive politics (Wmyn Now TERFS, notwithstanding), to-die-for organic produce in every store, the oh-so-out queer folk, the music festivals and public art, and the ocean and sky that stopped her heart. But she didn’t want to have to change herself to fit in. Diversity means more than accommodation: it means acceptance. And she wanted to be accepted for who she was, even if her linguistic style was different from the cultural norm.
Sure, she could code-switch with the best of them–and she would tone down when delivering public addresses or in individual conferences. But when she was wrangling policy with her team, she needed the freedom to speak as directly, as freely, as she wanted–and she extended that freedom to them, too.
She had one place where she always felt she could be herself: a hip, urban-style café around the corner from Wing City. Owned by a New Jersey transplant, there, she could be as brash as she wanted.
This little café became her refuge at the end of long days filled with meetings gone silent.
Waiting for her cold brew coffee after the shut-down funding meeting, she noticed an older, attractive woman approach the espresso bar. She’d seen this woman in the neighborhood a few times. She was a professor, most likely. She liked her smile.
“Hey,” said the woman. “I was just about to grab my pour-over and sit down. Care to join me?”
Even someone from the East Coast can handle small talk. They chatted for a while, the conversation growing louder, the jokes coming faster, Aubrey’s tone growing brasher.
The woman smiled, and then she said, “I like your style.”
Prompt for May 14: “Pick a dominant thread for your story today, based on the MICE [Milieu, Intrigue/Idea, Character, Event] categories. Work towards the ending that fits the story type you chose,” from StoryADay.org. I chose milieu. Take a look at the prompt for more information and to see how you might want to use this or any of the other categories!