Zot and I met in college, when Zot’s pronoun was still “he.” Zot was different from anyone I had ever experienced – a deep thinker, an explorer of religions and spiritual traditions, yet a reader of Ayn Rand. Zot was also highly creative, an artist in both pictures and words. Possessed with an incredibly quick mind and a wicked sense of humor, Zot delighted in surprising people. There would be an unexpected knock on my door and off we would go for hours-long discussions about anything and everything. I loved these times, this quicksilver mind travel, and I cherished our friendship.
Within a short time I learned that Zot was struggling with gender identity. The word Transgender hadn’t yet come into common use, and it was an entirely new, somewhat-unclear concept for me. I hated watching Zot suffer from bullying in the dorm because it was obvious that Zot was not “like the other guys.” This was conservative Indianapolis in a time when many of my gay friends were daring to put a toe outside the closet, with mixed results. The AIDS epidemic was beginning. It was a challenging time and place to be anything other than cisgender and heterosexual. Eventually Zot transferred to a larger school but continued to experience depression, sometimes suicidal. I worried but had no ways to help other than to be encouraging through the mail.
Oh, the letters. We wrote and wrote. Poetry, prose, utter nonsense, Buddhism, book suggestions, questions about love and life – this kept up for years. Zot would occasionally appear on my doorstep as I moved about the country, unannounced but always welcomed. Zot came to my first wedding in a suit and danced at the reception in a dress, thereby blowing my extended family’s minds back in 1984.
Throughout her life, Zot was highly invested in Social Justice. Zot walked the walk while I only talked the talk. In the 70s, she didn’t pay the phone tax because it funded the defense department. In the 80s, she traveled with migrant workers and dumpster dove for food to bring light to their plight. In the 90s Zot completed her transition and got a degree in electrical engineering, working in the solar energy field to bring clean electric to poverty-stricken communities. Recently Zot was a local leader of the Occupy Movement in Gainesville, FL, and a role model for young people in the Trans community.
In the fall of 2016 Zot was working in South Georgia on a new solar field. We made plans to get together in Atlanta. It would be our first visit in about 20 years and we were both looking forward to it. Zot was driving home from work and was fatally T-boned by a tractor trailer that ran a stop sign. While it happened, I was flying to NY to visit my daughter. Out the window of the airplane, there was a curious round rainbow, just behind the wing. It was there for most of my flight – so unusual that I took photos of it. I now believe that was Zot, saying goodbye.