For the better part of the summer, I have been researching a story about the transgender community in Northeast Ohio. The experience has been amazing. Writing the article was one of the most difficult things I've ever done. It is the cover story for this week's Cleveland Free Times.
Read it here.
According to Wikipedia on August 1, 2006, "Transgender identity includes many overlapping sub-categories. These include transsexual; cross-dresser; transvestite; consciously androgynous people; genderqueer; people who live cross-gender; drag kings; and drag queens."
I spent hours and hours with members of the T community, particularly the heterosexual male cross dressers. I went to a drag queen bar, attended get-togethers, and conducted extensive interviews. I went to a fancy dinner event with ten men in dresses, as well as one of their wives. After that, I accompanied a half dozen of them on a trip to a lesbian bar.
Inside the bar, it was hot and smoky as hell. Music blared. Chicks of all shapes and sizes were walking around in their bras and shorts. There was a striking queen with long blond curls and five-inch heels. There was me looking like me in a black skirt and heels. There were guys looking at chicks who looked like guys.
Everyone had squirt guns. Everyone was drinking beer. My white shirt took more than a couple of water hits.
"Longneck Bud," I said to the bartender. Yeah, yeah.
I found the queens to be funny and smart and interesting. Some were quite beautiful, a couple made passes at me. Most endearing were the fiftysomething guys in polyester floral blouses and slides.
People sometimes stared and snickered and pointed at the men in dresses, which irritated the hell out of me. I wanted to call out the assholes who snarked at the queens. But this is a vulnerable group of people who don't like any more attention than they already get. I kept my mouth shut.
I met genetic men who were in the process of turning themselves into women and some that had completed the process.
Wonder how they do it? Find out how here. WARNING graphic sexual image on launch.
One thing I did not expect was how hugely disconcerting it was to be in a large group of T people, where gender and sexual orientation is anybody's guess. Flirting, my biggest social crutch, was not appropriate. I didn't know who was a he and who was a she, how they wished to be acknowledged, or if they preferred men or women as partners. Hence, the standard sexual scripts upon which I rely were yanked from my hands. The result was that I learned how elemental my sexuality is, whether I'm dishing with the girls at the local gym or sighing over some marvelous creature as he explains why my brakes need to be repaired.
Whether or not you will glean anything from the article, I couldn't say. Instead, how about you tell me?