“That which we call a rose, by any other name would smell as sweet.”


leslie-mcmurrayThis oft-quoted line from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet came to mind this week at work.

My co-worker, a lovely African-American woman, is often asked for on the phone or up front in the lobby as “the black woman.” While technically that’s accurate, she does actually have a name. And it would surely be a lot more polite to simply ask for her by name.

But too many of us are, frankly, too lazy to remember names. So instead we refer to people in ways that can be borderline offensive — though no offense is intended.

I get an occasional taste of that as well. Just this week, I was asked to come up front because a woman was there to see me. They said I’d know her as soon as I saw her.

I walked up front and — nope. I’d never seen her before.

She looked at me and said, “That’s not her. She used to work in the food pantry.”

I then asked her if she was looking for the woman who worked in the food pantry, referring to that woman — who also happened to be transgender — by name. She perked up and said “Yes, her. Do you know where she went?”

I didn’t, and we ended our conversation.

I walked back to my desk knowing — not for the first time — that they had called me to come up front because someone had come in and asked for “that transgender woman.”

While it is true that I am a transgender woman, I also have a name. I’m proud of who I am, but there is a lot more to me than just being a transgender woman.

Hell, I’d settle for “the tall girl.” Except, where I work, they’d say, “Oh, you mean Cece Cox.”

I did it again — something I’ve done too many times. Each time I do it, I instantly regret it. But then next year, I do it again.

I’m referring to stopping at the grocery store on the day before Thanksgiving. If that’s not the busiest day of the year for grocery stores, it has to be right up there.

It was around 5 p.m., and there were no parking spots, no shopping carts available (I had to swipe one near a check stand) and getting through the aisles was like merging from I-35 onto Woodall Rogers at 7:30 a.m. on a Monday. Good luck!

I escaped with my life — vowing never to do that again, until next year.

I was planning a trip to Atlanta to see my kids and I needed a dog-sitter. I called my friend Peter, who has done this for me in the past (as I have for him). He said he’d love to, but he’s moving to Cincinnati.

That sucked the breath out of me. I’ve known Peter for “only” five years, but he has become such a dear friend and important person in my life.

Peter and I worked together at CBS Radio. I programmed Jack-FM and Peter was the program director at KLUV (maybe you’ve heard it it?) He and I became fast friends and would occasionally have lunch together.

Peter is a wonderful man, about my age, and we both spent most of our lives on the radio, so we could relate. He has a wicked sense of humor, exceeded only by his compassion and sense of humanity.

Peter is also an out Gay man.

Peter left CBS in the fall of 2012, but we kept in touch and would still have lunch occasionally. Keep in mind that in I was still deep in the closet about the whole transgender thing. I was still married and living in Flower Mound, about as far from the gayborhood as one could get — Denton County, for Pete’s sake!

At that point, I didn’t even know there was a gayborhood in Dallas.

We would usually eat at Lucky’s, or Black Eye’s Pea, Hunky’s or Snookie’s (a favorite of Peter’s). When I came out to Peter, he — of course — was a rock for me and was thrilled for me.

When I was escorted from the CBS building in 2013, Peter was one of the first calls I made. He said, “We are going to drink! Meet me at the Round-Up at 6:30.”

I had never heard of The Round-Up and didn’t even know it was a gay bar. I figured it was a redneck country bar and thought it odd that a gay guy and a trans girl would meet at such a place. But I trusted him.

That day — April 11, 2013 — was the day I decided I would live my life 100 percent as my authentic self and never look back. Peter was holding court in the back bar with our bartender, Harold, who made me feel so special and so welcome.

It was a night I will never forget.

It was Peter’s kindness, acceptance and friendship that helped give me the confidence I take with me every day now. He is such a good friend and such an important person in my life. So when he texted me about having lunch on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving at JR.’s I had to accept.

We shared laughter and some really good burgers, but all too soon, I had to get back to work. I hugged him close and kissed his cheek and tried to tell him how important he is to me before the tears made it impossible to speak.

He told me, “This isn’t goodbye.”

I sure hope not. Friends like him, I can count on one hand.

Leslie McMurray, a transgender woman, is a former radio DJ who lives and works in Dallas. Read more of her blogs at lesliemichelle44.wordpress.com.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 16, 2016.