Dear Patrick: I am a drag queen sissy faggot. These are words that have been thrown at me my whole life, so now I just make them part of my name. By making a joke out of it, I have taken control and feel more powerful. I perform regularly at a local gay bar, we do two shows on Saturday and one apiece on Friday night and Sunday afternoon. The rest of the week, I work at a vintage clothing store where my love of fashion and girly style has won over many loyal customers. My family never talks to me, but despite their grim predictions, I have made a sassy and sexy life for myself here in Neo-Sodom and Gomorrah.
A few months ago, while on stage, I noticed that there was the cutest boy in the front row. His eyes were just glued to me. When you get a customer who has a little crush on you, why not play up to it? I ended my number sitting on his lap, and when it was over, he kissed me. It was such a gentle kiss. He had put his hand on the small of my back while I was singing to him. You can tell a lot about a person by their touch. Some guys have clumsy hands and you know they won’t be very sensitive in bed. I just felt warm and aroused wherever he touched me.
When I got back stage, the other queens were their usual mean and jealous selves. “You’re going to have to be the daddy, and I don’t think you have that in you,” one of them announced while “fixing” her eye shadow. “Does looking in the mirror make you feel ugly?” I replied. Who says I can’t be the daddy? Not her!
By the time I got my make up off and went out front to have a night cap, he was gone. But he came back to see my show again. And again. I was walking up and down the aisle and said to everybody, “This boy is such a big tease. He’s been undressing me with his eyeballs, but I bet he won’t even buy me a drink later.”
He is a shy guy, but he said quite loudly, “Oh yes I will,” and everybody laughed. So we finally had a drink together after the show and I asked him to come back to my place.
We made out like crazy. But when we got to a certain point, he just stopped and froze up. “What’s the matter?” I said. “Don’t you like me if I’m not in drag?” Because I have run into that before with guys. They like you as long as they can have a fantasy of you as a woman. (Unlike the gay boys, who can’t tolerate a drag queen even though they spend all year planning their Halloween female extravaganza. My advice is to get your dresses out more often than once a year. That way you won’t smell like mothballs.)
That is when he told me he was transgendered, just in the other direction. It froze me up. There was so much to process! “I have to think about this,” I said. “I just don’t know anything about that.” He tried to leave, but I asked him to stay and tell me his story. We started making out again and I guess desire just took its course. We figured out what we could do that we both enjoyed, and it was one of the best nights of my life.
The problem is that in the gay community, just like in the rest of the world, there are certain people who can’t stand to see somebody else be happy. So some catty jerk started spreading rumors that my boyfriend was trans, and the other performers had a field day tearing me apart. “I don’t even know what to call you,” one of them said. “You aren’t much of a lesbian, but you can’t call yourself a gay man if you mess around with pussy.” It got really evil. I went home in tears.
I like this little man of mine. He is just the kindest person. And handsome too. You know how you see certain short men out in public with these gorgeous tall women, and they always have a little twinkle in their eye? He is like that. He just loves to have a gorgeous lady on his arm. When we make love, sometimes I am the man and sometimes I am the girl, and he just follows whatever space I am in and makes it be okay. If I thought that drag queens could ever fall in love and live happily ever after, I would want to fall in love with him and be the princess in his castle.
But I don’t know if I can take all the persecution. It is getting harder and harder to do my show. Knowing what I will face backstage is very intimidating. Most of the queens imagine they can take off the girl in them by taking off their makeup, and then they will just go to the bar and pick up a hot, well-built, young guy just like any other gay man. They don’t exactly embrace the fact that there is something different or special or transgendered about a drag queen. Can’t any of these bitches get a little more postmodern and update themselves? Gender is just all in your head anyway, it’s a social construct, girl. If people like us can’t understand that, I don’t think anybody will.
You say you wish you could fall in love and live happily ever after. The first ship has already sailed, darlin’, and what we want to do is see if we can get you on the second ship WITH your boyfriend so you can cruise around the world or go diving for sea-cucumbers.
It is pretty awful when the people you expect to support you instead go after you with the knives out. It is very difficult for somebody who is queer to have any self-esteem left if their biofamily has rejected them. Many of us cobble our souls together and keep going because we find a chosen family in the gay ghetto. (Unfortunately, there is no bi or trans ghetto; we flourish on the edges of other people’s territory.) This means that the norms of our minority communities have enormous power. If we violate them and get kicked out of the ghetto, where the hell are we going to go?
You are in the same situation as a bunch of 1950s dykes who see a bunch of belligerent straight men sashay into their bar. Are you going to leave quietly, let yourself get beaten up because you know the police won’t protect you, or are you going to roll up your sleeves, break a pool cue or a bottle in half, and at least try to throw those bastards out of there?
I’m not suggesting that you be violent. You have better weapons to hand—your intelligence and your sharp tongue. If another T-girl tries to cut you down to size because she is single, horny, and envious, call her out. If it’s scripture, it isn’t shade. Don’t let people see that they have hurt you. But if they do hurt you, make them pay. Try to keep a sense of humor about it so things don’t degenerate into a hair-pulling match that destroys the scenery. Queens admire wit and balls-out courage. Eventually they will learn to adapt to the new status quo, and some other scandal will catch their attention. Then the cats can go climb up that tree.
Now is the time to call on your friends and ask them to be there for you. Tell them that they may not understand, but you are very happy, and you need them to figure this out and get on your side. It’s sad that so few drag queens know anything about female-to-male transgendered people. But that’s the situation. Minority members tend to educate themselves only about their own situation. We usually don’t have the time or energy to go a little further and find out about our neighbors on the sexual fringe. I personally have always thought that outlaws should stick together, if only to stay out of jail, so I wanted to understand what other queer people’s lives were like. Can you awaken that curiosity in any of your friends, at least far enough to get them to see that some new knowledge is required? “If you care about me, you will try to understand this, even if it means you have to get some education about a new topic that is really challenging.”
I expect that the primary obstacle you will encounter is misogyny, even though your boyfriend is not a woman. Folks who identify as gay men (male-bodied people who want to have sex with other male-bodied people), can be terribly phobic about what they see as female genitals. Many of them have no sexual experience with these body parts, or if they did, it was under duress and left them unable to perform. If your boyfriend had gotten genital surgery, he might enjoy more acceptance. But this is not a reasonable expectation for non-trans people to have of transmen. For one thing, other people don’t get to decide what we do with our genitals. There are many kinds of gender dysphoria. If some of us can have healthy relationships or good sex lives without surgical modification, we should be left alone to make that choice. Surgery to enlarge the clitoris or create a larger phallus is very expensive, and the results are mixed, to say the least. Many of us decide we would rather have small penises that work than no feeling in our genitals and a bunch of scar tissue. Some FTM genital surgeries are successful, but I don’t know one transman in 1,000 who has been able to afford that level of medical assistance.
The best way to confront a fear and hatred of pussy is to ridicule it. “Oh, please, I have seen you tuck. You use a roll and a half of duct tape to torture your penis so you can look like you have a vagina. I think you’re just jealous.” I’m sure you can come up with shorter and more sarcastic lines.
Educating others doesn’t mean that you have to answer explicit questions about your boyfriend’s anatomy. You can say, “Maybe I AM a little bit bisexual. So what?” or “I’m not going to talk about a part of his body that he doesn’t like, because that is not respectful of him. He is changing as much of his body as he can, and I can reassure you that he is a man in every way that I need him to be a man.”
You also don’t have to answer any crude questions about your sex life. “I don’t answer questions that are mean” is one way to set a boundary. “Why on earth would you ever ask me a question like that?” can be said with a great deal of grandeur. “Why are you asking about how we get it on? Are you looking for a threeway?” And so forth.
I think it would be really sad if you had to quit performing just because you have broken some new ground. People didn’t want to learn that the world was round, either. But, as Galileo whispered to the Inquisition before he went into house arrest, “It is, Blanche, it MFing is.”
I hope you and your boyfriend can find other people who understand and support your relationship. It isn’t good for any couple to be isolated. But if you can’t connect with friends, you can still be each other’s allies. Don’t let ignorant bullshit make you fight with each other. It is hard, so hard, for couples who are different to survive all the taunting and hostility that is thrown at them. I guess my primary identity is as a romantic because I so much want this story for you two to end up a happy one.
Even if you wind up not being together in the long term, you can still make each day as good as it can possibly be. And in my opinion, that is how healthy LTRs are made. One day at a time. Just like you put on your drag, honey, one spike at a time.