Internal Discrimination

I find it ironic and sad that there exists blatant discrimination within my own community.

I attended First Event 2012.  The conference is designed for people of the LGBTIQ community to come together and share thoughts, experiences and learn about resources available to them.
I had my usual vendor table at the conference and networked with a lot of new businesses and people.  There was one particular lady that stood out to me.  On my way to the ladies room I noticed a tall woman with facial hair.  I mean, you see everything at First Event, but it’s normal.  When I got back to my vendor table, I didn’t see her in the room.
After the raffle I sponsored, I decided to clean up early and get ready for the evening banquet.  While I was in the ladies room getting changed and refreshing my makeup, she happened to walk in.  We greeted each other as is the custom at an event like this.  She went on to tell me she had spoken with my associate working my vendor table, asking her a lot of questions.  My associate said to her to come find me and I would be able to explain and answer her questions more easily.
We spoke for a brief minute and I told her I was preparing for the banquet.  I asked her if she was attending and she said yes she was.  I then told her to look for me and we could sit together.  She said thank you and left the ladies room.
When they opened the doors to let the guests enter the banquet room, I sat near the DJ and Stage where the entertainment would be for the evening.  People were filing in all the banquet room entryways. (4) I spotted my newly found friend and waved her over.  She was dressed casual and looked a little embarrassed as everyone in the room were dressed for the banquet.  I told her she looked great and she sat down next to me.
We began talking and the DJ sat down on my other side for dinner.

We talked and joked during dinner.  I did notice the rest of the people at the table staring frequently at my friend.  I think she noticed also but said nothing for fear of embarrassment to herself.  I chose at that time not to say anything to them.  As dinner progressed, my friend told me her story.  She explained that her spouse insist that she keep the facial hair to prevent her from coming out in the community.  I responded by saying “The important thing is that you are out sitting here now.”  She thanked me for my encouragement.  Half way through dinner she excused her self and said she would be right back in a few minutes.
While my friend was away from the table the chatter started.  I couldn’t believe what I was listening to.  The other people at the table were saying things like, “What gives HIM the right to attend the conference.”, “He’s embarrassing to the conference.”, and “He should be banned from attending.  What a slap in the face.”.  I chose to still keep quiet.
My friend was gone such a long time, I thought that maybe she decided not to return.  All of a sudden, she returned wearing the most beautiful black, sleeveless dinner gown.  I was so amazed, I complimented her on her dress.  She said thank you and we finished dinner.  I glanced around the table subtly and noticed the glaring stares from the other people at the table.
The entertainment for the evening started and we watched and talked about each other’s lives and experiences.  She told me she was so glad she attended and next year the facial hair wouldn’t be there.  I asked her if that was a Wise decision, knowing her circumstances.  She then conveyed “Absolutely, it is my decision and I will live with it.”.
We talked a while longer and I started to get fatigued.  I told her I was going to call it a night and go home.  We exchanged our pleasure in each other’s company for the evening.  At that time, I decided to give her my black wrap I was wearing.  I explained that I got it at MACYS and she asked me if I was sure about giving it to her.  I said, it looks better with her gown than mine.  She said she was so pleased and she wanted to repay me by offering me a gift card.  I told her that this is my gift to her and to remember out of all her experiences at First Event 2012, she met someone who cares about her for who she is unconditionally.
I hugged her and  I left and went home.