I joined the SoCal social scene in a big way in ’07. But I was going out to fetish events and places like L.A.’s legendary Queen Mary as early as ’01 or so. Back then I only went out maybe once or twice a year. (And if it was twice, the second time was always Halloween. The National Crossdressers’ Night Out.)
So I was hardly a fixture on the scene in the early 00‘s. At that point, most of us weren’t bold enough to venture into mainstream clubs So we hung out in safe, trans-friendly spots. Afraid of being insulted. Afraid of being assaulted. Afraid of being recognized. So we played it safe. Ironic when you consider that, in those days, the simple act of stepping outside your door was an act of great courage. And a bit of a political statement.
|Back in the day. At an L.A. fetish event.|
Not that any of us will ever be famous. No one will ever write books or make movies about us. When the Jackie Robinsons and Rosa Parks and Cesar Chavez’s of the trans movement are remembered, it won’t be us.
We dressed too sexy. Stayed out too late. Drank too much. Partied too much. Took too many drugs. Had too much sex. Concerned ourselves with superficial matters over larger, more important political issues. And, in general, allowed ourselves to get caught up in nothing more than, well, ourselves.
Of course, there were other groups of cross dressers and trans girls out there who lived much different lives. Girls who avoided the party scene as passionately as I embraced it. But the girls I hung with. The girls I admired. The girls I emulated. We hit the clubs. And we hit them hard. Some of those SoCal clubs -- Shine and TGirl Nights -- are still around and still packing in the crowds. Others like the Lodge and Encounters are gone. Syren is on hiatus. (You, of course, can fill in the names of the clubs that existed in your local area. And the memories that go with them.)
We sang, we danced... we posed on the internet as if we were lingerie models. We posted videos as if we were movie stars. We paraded through casinos in Vegas, wore bikinis to hotel pools, and were asked to leave more than a few establishments because we were making too much noise. Or because we were dressed inappropriately. Or... quite simply, because we were men dressed as women.
It was an amazing time. I caught just a small part of it. I lived a small portion of this madness. And I loved every minute of it. There weren’t any rules because no one had written them yet. We had no role models. We were making it up as we went along. In the end, we became each other’s role models. We taught each other how to be trans. We taught each other how to be ourselves.
But we changed the world. I completely believe that. At least, we changed our little corner of it. In our own way. Because when we posted our photos online -- on alt.com or urnotalone or MySpace -- newbies all over the country saw our pix, heard our stories, and were inspired. Young trans girls -- still in their teens -- could now look online and see us and see the possibilities. They could see a glimmer of hope.
We acted like teenagers. (And we often dressed like them too!) But teenagers have the excuse of youth. They’re new to adulthood. They’re new to decision-making. They often don’t have the maturity to see the big picture and behave accordingly.
We were old enough to know better. Most of us were in our 30‘s or 40‘s or ... OMG.. .even older! So why didn’t we behave better? Who knows? Maybe we were just too caught up in that sudden surge of freedom that comes with coming out. That sudden rush -- after a lifetime of denial and repression -- of self-acceptance. Of emerging passions and power. Of a whole new way to approach sexuality and sensuality and gender and life.
Or maybe we were just plain tired of hiding and wanted the whole world to know that we were hitting the streets. Loudly. Boldly. When every societal instinct told us that we shouldn’t. When every societal instinct told us that we were risking our wives, our girlfriends, our families, our children, our homes, and our careers.
That element of danger probably added to the excitement. I know that for me, there were nights when I felt like I was absolutely the very first trans girl to ever walk down a certain street. The first man in heels to strut his stuff on that particular boulevard.
I can assure you I wasn’t. I was usually out in Hollywood, West Hollywood or Las Vegas -- on streets well-walked by many transgirls before. But so rare was the sight of a trans person in public, that it felt that way. It felt new and fresh and exhilarating.
We were rebels. Reluctant rebels as my friend likes to say. And our revolution was underway.
When you stopped for gas or a snack in a convenience store, you could see it in the eyes of the person behind the counter. Or in the eyes of the waitress in the all-night diner. Or in the glance of the tow truck guy that AAA sent. They had never seen a trans girl in public before. They may have seen a drag queen on stage or on TV. But they’d never seen us. We weren’t performers. We weren’t full-time. We weren’t what they expected to see when they looked up from their cash register or their clipboard.
And in those moments, we changed the world. I know we did. Because in those moments a member of mainstream society saw a real-life trans person -- caught in the act of being herself -- for the very first time. And it changed forever that one person’s view. Because what he or she saw wasn’t a freak. Wasn’t a social deviant. Wasn’t a human oddity or moral delinquent. What they saw was a human being. Dressed for a night out. Hungry for a snack. Hoping to get their flat tire fixed and get back on the road.
The cashier, the waitress, and the tow truck driver completed the transaction, watched us walk out or drive away. And that was it. That was the moment of realization. The world didn’t stop spinning because a guy was in heels. Mountains did not crumble because a man was in a mini skirt. The world economy didn’t grind to a halt because a male was in make-up.
Of course, I can’t confirm this. I have no idea what those people thought when me and my friends walked away or drove away. Maybe they did think we were freaks. With our bad wigs and our messy makeup. But any thoughtful, caring, compassionate human being had to see past that. They had to see the nerve. The guts. The courage it took to ignore everything that society told us was proper and conventional and right... just to be our true selves.
That was our activism. Simply living our lives. Stepping out from the closet. Stepping out en femme. Stepping out into the night. A little bit slutty and a little bit rock and roll.
Sometimes there’s nothing more revolutionary than the simple act of being yourself.
I often wonder where the trans movement will be in ten years. Or twenty years. Or fifty. How soon will acceptance come? How soon will trans people become commonplace? I can’t answer that. I can’t see into the future. But I consider myself quite fortunate to say that I can recall a bit of the recent past. And this is what I recall:
We weren’t pretty. But we tried to be.
We weren’t brave. But we had to be.
We weren’t a community. But we came to be.
I’m honored to have been a part of it.
Take care out there.
Be safe. Be smart. Be sexy.