Incident at Crystal Lake

| Jul 1, 2019
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Leah MacLean

By Leah MacLean

Sunday afternoon. Thirty four degrees. Intermittent snow showers. A thoroughly gray day had hunkered down on the bare cornfields of southern Minnesota. The only color visible around me it seemed was my new purple and lavender jacket, a souvenir of a shopping trip while attending the just concluded Fall Harvest in Minneapolis. Despite the subdued light, it seemed to shimmer against the black interior of the SHO. 

I was on my way back home to Nebraska, easing southward through the gloom, feeling relaxed and sexy at the same time with my elegantly long acrylic nails. After four days I had finally gotten used to them reaching their destination a full five minutes before my fingers did.

I was wearing my favorite black tank top unitard and red hair. The new purple jacket had made this a “killer” outfit in my opinion. Not exactly what the local girls were apt to be wearing but I had long ago given up on the idea of “passing”. As long as I feel that it’s tasteful, it’s a “good look.”

I kicked off my flats and curled one leg up under me and basked in the ample heat put out by the SHO’s heater. The Vikes were on the radio and playing well. Not that I’m a big Vikings fan or a big fan of football for that matter, it just seemed appropriate for the conditions. 

That morning we had a farewell brunch at the Sheraton. We stood in line with the Vikings fans in town to see the game. They were in purple. We were in dresses. Well, except for me anyway. I just had to wear that unitard. Surely I looked like just another fan on her way to the game with her purple jacket and gold jewelry.

Small towns came and passed as I made for the Iowa line. The weather changed little, but I stayed warm and reveled in the “cozy” feeling that had enveloped me, safe and secure, wrapped in the rush of summery air from the dash. The cold gray outside could not reach me. I drummed my finger tips on the stick shift knob in time with nothing in particular. Soon these gorgeous nails would be gone and I wanted to drink in the delicious “click” they made while I could.

Inevitably I needed to make a pit stop and refuel. A sign ahead said, “Crystal Lake.” 

“Good as any,” I thought and pulled into the first gas station. 

I wanted to use the bathroom first and get that out of the way. The doors were on the outside of the tiny building so I went in for the key. A young twenty something man was on his knees inside, reloading the cooler with Cokes. He glanced up at me and his eyes narrowed in an all-too familiar manner. Making no pretense as to who I was, I asked for the key to the bathroom in my very male voice. He obliged by handing me the key to the boy’s room. 

“Ah… what the heck. Makes no difference,” I said and headed back out the door. 

Soon I returned from the cold bathroom and handed him back the key. 

“I’m going to fill up the car now,” I stated, again in an all too male voice. 


I fueled up the SHO, standing against the gray in my bright purple jacket. I was delighted to find that it was as warm as it was pretty. I couldn’t help but wonder though what the young man inside was thinking about his most recent customer. 

Soon the tank was full and it was time to go inside and pay. 

I dug out the money out of my clutch, feeling proud of how well I was maneuvering the long blackberry colored nails. He took the money and gave me my change. 

Then he asked, “So… how do people react when they see you like this?” 

I stood silent for just a moment, shocked that this youngster actually had the nerve to speak to me. 

What do I tell you, young man with the bright blue eyes? Do I tell you of the anger, curiosity, or just plain amusement on other’s faces? Do I tell you of hushed laughter? Of veiled smiles? Do I tell you how much it hurts to be looked upon as a “thing,” a curiosity, rather than a person? To forever be held at arm’s length? Should I tell you that I do this to fight back against those things?

An instant later, I blurted out, “Open mouthed amazement mostly.” Without pausing I added, “I am on my way home to Nebraska. I just spent the weekend in Minneapolis with one hundred others like me at a convention. We had a great time. We were treated well. It’s a great city. It’s something that you can be proud of.” 

He stood silent for a moment. Other customers were filtering in. Then he smiled and simply said, “Good.”

“Good,” I thought and turned to go. “Good.”

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Category: Transgender Body & Soul


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  1. Graham Graham says:

    “Do I tell you of the anger, curiosity, or just plain amusement on other’s faces? Do I tell you of hushed laughter? Of veiled smiles? Do I tell you how much it hurts to be looked upon as a ‘thing’, a curiosity, rather than a person? To forever be held at arm’s length?”

    I confess that I don’t recognise any of this. And if someone did treat me with disdain, or laugh at me, or hurl an insult, I guarantee they’d regret it. On the other hand, I always welcome genuine questions as an opportunity for education, and while I can’t tell from the tone of your piece whether the young man was being sarcastic or not, I assume from his final response that he wasn’t.

    It’s always worth trying to put oneself in the position of someone who might never before have encountered a crossdresser in the flesh; indeed, I’ve often wondered how I’d react if I saw myself in the street. I’d probably be curious, I might stare inadvertently … and if I had cause to talk to this unusually-dressed person, I might ask them something similar to what this young man asked you. But above all, I hope I’d be sincere and polite.

    While it’s not always a poplar sentiment in crossdresser circles, I’ve always maintained that we should be brutally honest with ourselves and with those we encounter … it’s the reason why I’ve adopted a gender-nonconforming persona instead of a full-femme crossdresser. I wear dresses and skirts, tights and heels, and I have a long purple pony-tail, and yet – as I said earlier – I rarely get any grief, and I think that’s because I don’t hide what I am. (In fact, most people don’t even seem to notice me … go figure!!) Your approach to this situation portrayed both confidence and honesty, and your response to the young man’s question (regardless of what you may have been thinking) was perfect … as was his response to you. You probably dispelled a few myths and broadened his mind in the process.

    Thanks for sharing a great story. 🙂

    • angela_g angela_g says:

      Hi Graham, the Retro Rerun was from 1998 in the rural midwest so the reactions she talks were more common then and the clerk at the gas station was more progressive than you might expect.