Before she leaves her house in a dress or skirt, or anything else perceived as feminine, Willow Fields braces for a hard day.
At best, she expects to be gawked at and misgendered by cashiers and ride-hailing drivers. At worst, she fears becoming the target of violence in a country where at least 28 transgender people were killed in 2017.
But when the 24-year-old Ph.D. student wears something flashy to Cuties Coffee in East Hollywood, that fear is displaced by excitement. The cafe offers her a rare opportunity to show off an outfit without anxiety and to let her guard down.
“In so many ways, Cuties is absolutely the reason why I’ve been able to survive in L.A.,” said Fields, who moved here from Chicago three years ago.