Pride Month — Wadaya do with a middle-aged woman’s hips and caboose?

Author’s note: In the original version of this story, I referred to Toni as “a staunch conservative Republican.” That is not accurate. I don’t know that she was a member of the Republican Party, and upon reflection, she held some liberal views as well. So I removed that reference.

I’m guessing Toni, leaning pretty far into the butch camp, may have always dressed like a man — even before her surgery. She tried her hardest to pull it off when I knew her, that’s for sure.

She wore her hair like Ronald Reagan, preferred men’s shirts and blue blazers, especially those with some kind of emblem on the pocket, what my wife calls “old man pants” and she had this crazy obsession for shoes with tassels. Unable to work and living on government assistance due to her disability, she was a thrift store junkie. She found this stuff there.

She smoked one cigarette after another 24/7, so a Marlboro Red with a long, white ash always dangled from her lips. She had a loud, rough voice, and if one were not so attentive, one might easily think one was speaking with a man.

Just one piece of reality foiled her hopes and plans to pass through this world as a man … she had a middle-aged woman’s hips and caboose. Now that’s some pretty solid anatomical evidence to cover up or hide away, no matter how hard you try.

We’d be out in public somewhere — in line at the grocery store or at a movie, waiting to pay our bill at a restaurant — and soon after we stopped moving, we could feel the confused stares of people around us. I believe women have more of that kind of someone’s-looking-at-me radar than men, but even I could feel it. All because of the way her jacket broke and hung below her waist.

This attention from strangers didn’t feel mean to me. It felt confused like I said, but Toni hated it and took both offense and exception. She felt she had the certain and indisputable right to be her own person, however she saw fit to be at any given moment. She didn’t want or need anyone’s approval. She was a proud ex-con lesbian who contracted cancer and had her breasts removed, and she wasn’t gonna take any guff from the curious, confused bystanders who happened upon her.

Nope, Toni didn’t suffer judgment, categorizing, classifying, etc. Not for a second. She was what she was and you could take her or leave her and she didn’t seem to much care which choice you made.

When she’d finally had enough, she’d turn, raise her arms like a southern preacher dancing on the Sabbath, cast the wide-eyed onlookers a big smile and blurt out, “Guess!”