Posts Tagged ‘women

17
Nov
12

Santa Monica Boulevard Through Hollwood

As I sit  here in my room in Springfield, MA, typing these words, I have tears running down my face.  It’s the week when we observe the Transgender Day Of Remembrance and I’ve just read another news story about a transgender woman who was murdered.  Honestly, I read a lot of these types of stories.  Not just this week, but all year.  I’m an activist, a speaker on transgender issues and I write a regular column (and this blog) about transgender lives and people.  These stories are always sad to me, but some very specific stories always hit me particularly hard because they bring the horror so very close to home for me.

I wouldn’t say I’m jaded, I’m not.  But you read so many stories of horror and violence and even for someone constantly reminding others that we are human, other people with lives and loves; there is a distance to the stories that necessarily desensitizes them.  An intentional distance that makes it possible sometimes to simply get through the day and do the work that needs doing.

But every so often, like just now, I read a story of violence committed against a transgender woman in Hollywood.  Specifically the strip of Santa Monica from Crescent Heights Boulevard in West Hollywood to Vermont Avenue in East Hollywood.  And it tears my heart out.

Because this was my neighborhood.  90% of my life in Hollywood was lived out against the backdrop of this very strip.

I worked, played, performed and drank at The Improv and The Second City in West Hollywood and lived for several years, first by the intersection of Highland and Santa Monica, a block or so from, what some locals refer to as, “The Tranny Taco Stand” (and the LA Gay and Lesbian Center) where Transgender Sex Workers would often congregate at night.  Then by the intersection of Santa Monica and Normandie, which roughly bracketed the other end of the stroll informally/formally designated by the LAPD as the Trans Sex Worker Strip.

I was not an average Angeleno by a lot of respects.  For one thing, besides my ethnically Irish disdain for the sun, I lived in LA for 8 years without a car.  I walked, biked and took the bus everywhere I needed to go.  I was also very good at “scamming rides”, sometimes with virtual strangers.

I did not, as many Angelenos do, see the city as a blur through the car window.  I knew it from close up, the pavement under my feet.  The people I passed by, aware of me, as I was aware of them.  I closely interacted with the city, I knew it’s smells and patterns and the other denizens.  It is how I prefer to know the world.  I’m a writer and a storyteller, I live for and actively soak up the details.

And it was also during this period that the man I was still trying to be was actively ripping apart at the seams and I finally began my own transition.  It was where I went, in a very short span, from actively repressing my gender issues to occasional cross-dresser to part-time, transitioning transwoman to “Full-Time” Me.

And so very much of that journey was so intimately tied to this strip of geography.

For one thing, I have always been fascinated by the underbelly of The City.  The red-light, sex worker districts, the ghettoes and the decaying downtowns.  The City that lives when all the “good, decent folks” have gone home to their houses in the suburbs.  The City of Night, to borrow a phrase from John Rechy.

I’ve wandered the “Combat Zone” in Boston at the very end of it’s days.  Known the darkened streets of some of Chicago’s more ill-advised neighborhoods.  Lived in a dilapidated Movie Studio at the very boundaries of New Orleans Lower 9th Ward, after Katrina.

So it should be little surprise that I was drawn to Santa Monica Boulevard running through Hollywood, like a moth to a flame.  Even before I found myself living in that area, I would walk the strip from West Hollywood to Highland late at night.  Fascinated, wanting desperately to figure a way to talk to the transwomen I saw there.  To connect with them somehow.  Or as I later discovered, really to connect with myself.

I had the oblivious attitude of a very tall, white skinned person, used to being perceived as male.  And also, a definite disregard/active neglect for my safety.  I carried so much guilt for so very long, I think sometimes I wanted to be punished, to be hurt.  To commit a sort of a “soft-suicide”.

Let me be very clear, I do not/did not actively believe there was/is anything wrong or in need of “punishment” about being trans.  And I am extremely fortunate to have been able to come out the other side of these feelings to a bright new world, physically unhurt, if a little bruised and battered psychologically.  But intellectual belief and subconscious fucked-up-edness can be two totally different things.

As I passed through my own journey, finally accepting myself, deciding to do something about it and then breaking through my own self-imposed barriers of identity, Santa Monica Boulevard in Hollywood was my backdrop.

I went from being a furtive tourist to a part of the landscape.  Though I had little direct interaction with these transwomen who were also living out their lives in this same geography, when I began transitioning myself, I came to greatly value the little nods of recognition.  The eye contact we would make in passing that said, “I know”. 

As I began to recognize specific people, transwomen who lived in my neighborhood, who waited for the same bus with me, those little acknowledgements where the first time I began to feel myself part of a community.  Part of a family.  These were my sisters.

I don’t want to appear to place myself all that far apart from them either.  I was not merely a tourist.  I did my own small share of sex work.  Not much, as I was always skittish of sex work and extremely fortunate to have a network of support and people who took care of me.  I never had to work the street.  I did a little as a dominatrix and mostly as a dominatrix’s assistant.  But don’t let anyone’s semantics fool you, it was sex work nonetheless.

And though I had to work through a lot of repressively puritan issues myself (I am a Yankee Girl from Cape Cod…), I have neither regret, nor shame.  It was part of my own journey and I have many friends who are proud to be sex workers and own it as their profession of choice.

I also know that, while some actively choose it, sex work is often the last option left between starvation and survival for many women, especially transgender women.  It baffles me when I hear folks in my community expressing disdain for our sex worker sisters.  When I know they know as well as I do, the massively institutional discrimination we face.  How much harder it is for us to find employment, housing and support, just to live our lives.

And I well understand the fetishization of trans bodies .  The cold looks that turn us all into sex objects, that imagines there must be an access price for our sexuality, whether we have done/are doing sex work or not.  I will readily admit, I have been guilty of the same.

But these are our sisters.  These trans women I came to noddingly know, the community of the streets.  The trans women who lived and worked in and around my old neighborhood through Hollywood, on Santa Monica Boulevard were the first to acknowledge me as ME.  They accepted me far more readily and unquestioningly, on the basis of little more than a nod and a glance, than did many more “respectable” members of our community, by whom I often felt judged.

So, this is why, when I read these stories of violence, it is the ones from my old neighborhood, East to West Hollwood; Santa Monica Boulevard; South of Sunset and North of Melrose, that are the stories that tear me apart.

Every murdered trans woman I see on the news from that area, every time I hear about another attack, I look at the picture and I think, “Did I know her?”  “Was she the woman who would smile at me when I would ride the #4 bus home from work late at night?”

These are not just stories.  Not merely news items or statistics.  These are our sisters.

There, but for nothing more than blind good luck, go I.
Here is the post I was reading when I began this piece, from the excellent blog, Planetransgender:  “LAPD Task Force Looking For The Western Transgender Murderer

26
Apr
12

An encounter on the street in Any-City USA

The following exchange just happened.

A voice from behind startles me as I’m walking home from CVS around dusk.  It’s undecipherable, recognizable by tone as being a greeting or compliment of some kind.  I jump slightly, but try to hide my surprise.

“Hey.”  I say, as a youngish man neatly dressed in “urban” styled sportswear and cap, passes me on my right.

Walking in the same direction he falls into step just ahead of me.

I stand up straight.  Head high, proud.  I carefully keep my gait confident and relaxed looking.  Carefully cover up any visible nervousness.  A long-practiced routine.

Looking back at me he says, “You have pretty, long, blonde hair.”

“Thanks.”  I acknowledge cheerfully.

“Are you gay?”

“I’m… Queer.”  Why do I make that distinction?  I speak the language and I know there is no fine distinction in this version of English.

Beat.  Still walking.

“You like to dress up like a woman?”

“Actually, I am a woman.  I’m a transgender woman, I’m just a little butched up today.”

Actually, I’m not really, I’m just not all that ‘femmed’ up.  Jeans, beat-up Chucks and my long, military styled, Activist Coat.

“You like big Puerto Rican dick?”

“I have no idea actually.”

“You have a place of your own?”

“No, I live with roommates.”

Beat.  Still walking.  Still trying to seem as relaxed as possible without breaking stride.  Smiling damnit.

“You want to find a place?  Go out in the woods somewhere and suck my dick?”

I chuckle intentionally, determinedly not sounding nervous or thrown, like it’s somehow terribly amusing and charming.

“No thank you.  I appreciate the offer.  But I’ve got work to get on to.”

We go several awkward steps in silence.  While he pulls ahead slightly; I’m still not breaking my stride or changing my manner, trying to seem completely affable.

Thankfully, as we approach the actual woods, the man stops and enters an apartment building door.  I keep going.  Smiling damnit, smiling.

__________________________________________________________________________________________________

This sort of thing is something that happens to me, unfortunately, fairly regularly when I go out and about in the world.  Especially in the city, though I don’t really believe it’s exclusively a city phenomenon, I just walk more in a city.  There is more opportunity to encounter strangers on the street.

It is worth noting here that I do not feel as if there is anyone to protect me, but me.  Especially when I’m out by myself.  Which is often.

I have never had strangers come to my aid.  And almost every time I’ve contacted the police for help I have either been harassed or much, much worse.

So, it’s the magic number Me and whatever tools I have at my disposal.  Which is mainly my wits and experience with all sorts of different people in all sorts of settings.

It’s a tricky situation on a number of levels.  On one level, it’s very dangerous feeling when it happens.  I’m a transgender woman, alone.  And though my size tends to give me a level of protection, it’s a double-edged sword.  My size can easily make someone feel threatened.

My experience is that the sort of person who would make comments like this on the street, tends to have some dangerous insecurities that can suddenly turn hostile.  I have to be very careful to keep everything on the level of light banter.  As a tall person, I can’t afford to show any hostility.  If I can hold it together, my height alone will make them think twice about starting something.  But hostility on my part can far too easily cause the encounter to spiral out of control into real physical violence.

Which I definitely want to avoid.

So I put on the act.  Easy-going attitude and confident, but unconcerned poise.  I never break my stride though.  And never show a real reaction.  Not a bit of nervousness or unease.  Amused but not laughing at.

Also, on another level, and this is rather a sad one.  More often than not, the only ‘positive’ attention I get from men is of this sort.  The only ones who tell me I’m pretty or who actively flirt with me, follow it up by asking if I’d like to suck their dick.

Online, they send me a picture of it.

It’s not that I think all men are like this.  I’ve met a few who are sweet and charming, and I have to believe there are some who even find me attractive.  Sadly, they have not thus far been especially forthcoming.

So there’s this weirdly mixed feeling.  I’m scared.  I’m deeply offended.  And at the same time, I’m oddly pleased that a man actually finds me pretty.

And that’s usually where I summon the smile from.  The one that keeps things light and keeps me from getting killed or ‘just’ beaten up.

The asshole gets to go home and think it’s perfectly okay to speak to a transwoman (or probably ANY woman) like that.  And I just get to go home.  Alive.

The brain blender flips on to ‘High’.   My guts churn.

02
May
09

I Got My Hair done For The First Time!!!

I got my hair done the other day for the very first time!!!  It was a major milestone for me in my transition.

Now, I know what you’re thinking, “Umm, Lorelei?  How that heck have you managed to avoid ever getting your hair done?!!?!’

I mean, I’ve had haircuts certainly.  And I even had my hair stripped white once so I could dye it bright blue for my wedding.  It’s a long story.  Someday I’ll show you all the video.

Anyhow, like I said, I’ve never had my hair DONE.  All girly at the salon Done.

I’ve been letting my hair grow for a couple of years now, since I decided to go ahead and really, truly, actually transition.  It grows like a weed, I’m really lucky, and it had gotten really long.  Like halfway down my back.  It had actually gotten so long that it was getting caught in my armpits when I sleep and I would often end up cranking my neck when I tried to turn over.

I’ve actually had long hair for most of my life.  My parents were good hippies and in all the pictures of me as a little kid I’ve got longish curly blonde hair and people would always say when they saw the pics, “Oh, what a cute little girl!”  It is little wonder I have gender issues…  At some point though, anatomy got in the way and people started to say, “What a cute boy.  And what nice hair he has!”

I cut it for a minute in Middle School in a desperate attempt to get teased less.  It really didn’t work though so I let it grow back as soon as I got to High School.  The point between short hair and long was soooo wretched and awful and Mullet-esque that I felt greatly compelled not to do anything so foolish as cutting it again!

This caused some problems socially, as I considered myself neither a hippie (my parents were hippies and a girl’s got to rebel somehow!) or a metal-head.  The two main long hair social sets.  I thought of myself as more of a punk.  I preferred the Dead Kennedys and The Sex Pistols to The Greatful Dead or Def Leppard!!!

I was also fascinated by mod/traditional skinhead culture and style.  I was friends with a number of what I thought of as Garden Variety Skins.  Not the Neo-Nazi type mind you.  The ones I knew hated them for giving skinsheads a bad rep.  They weren’t necessarily rascist so much as angry and alienated.

Still, I certainly wasn’t going to cut my hair, so for a while when anyone asked I told them I was “A Skippy”.  A skin-hippie.  I dressed like a skin, but I had long hair and I have never been very angry or violent.  It did help keep all the short kids with a chip on their shoulder from picking on me though.

I also discovered that girls often liked me because of my hair and were not shy about saying so.  Let’s face it, I was a shy Doctor Who fan who liked to get all dressed up like a girl when I was at home alone.  I was going to take every compliment I could get.

Still, my realization of the fact that girls liked my hair gave me good reason to resist all urges to cut it.  Even to get that big Roostertail Mohawk I have always wanted!

After I got off Cape and moved to Northampton (the first time), my friends quickly began to notice that anytime I was hitting on a cute girl, I would take my hair down.  I usually kept it in a ponytail.  I often still do.

I would be talking to a girl and eventually, my hair would come cascading down, long, dark blonde and naturally wavy.   And  surprisingly, it usually worked!!!  I was absolutely incorrigible.  There’s more shameless tactics I used in my adventures trying to meet cute women, but that’s for another time.  Allow me to stay hair-focused here.

Eventually I moved to Boston and my hair stayed with me.  I became a club kid, and a Goth.   Concurrently.  Trust me it’s a much harder balance than you would think.

And I discovered Manic Panic!!!  My long hair entered it’s multi-coloured phase.  It was streaked purple and red and green.  All done at home.  Usually by girlfriends or drunk friends or even drunk girlfriends!!!

I got my hair trimmed every so often.  Every six months to a year usually.  And it was never more than getting rid of the dead ends.

Then, after my hair and I went traveling around Europe for a piece, I came back to Boston to a seriously unstable girlfriend a fair bit of apathy about my life there and decided it was time for a change.  Time to go, go, go!!!

So I moved to Chicago!  The windy city!!  And like I said it was time for a change.  I went and I found a reputable hairdresser and I said, “I want to cut it off.”  At the time of course that had a different connotation than it does when I tell people that same thing nowadays.

I cringed as I heard the scissors near my head.  I practically got my ears lopped off from flinching at the sound.  I got my first “guy haircut” in a little more than a decade.
I usually kept it in what I thought of as the “Superman Style”, short but slightly wavy on top.  This generally rapidly progressed to what I referred to as the “Mad Scientist” style.

My hair has always been very fast growing and thick.  Despite my new attempts at “being a man”, I never got any better about how often I visited the hairdresser’s.  I tried to do it every six months at least, but that meant I often ended up with big, unruly hair.  Styling it for me usually consisted of running a strong brush through it and hoping for the best.  I begged, I pleaded, but more often than not, my hair simply did as it pleased.

I kept my hair short for some years after that.  Through Chicago and a Marriage and all the craziness afterwards leading to my move to LA.

I was desperate that if I kept my hair short, I could pull off this whole being a man thing.  Like I said.  It didn’t work.  And when I did decide to transition I immediately began growing it out, or more specifically, simply not cutting it.  For a fairly frightening minute or two, I looked a little like Kenny G on a bender.

Still, even when my hair was long and girly again, something was never quite right.  For all my bluster, I am as insecure about my appearance as any transwoman.  Any Woman for that matter!!!  My hair was the same basic style it had always been and so I always looked just a little like “Mac” to me.  No matter how girly I am becoming.

I had been putting off getting my hair done for the longest time.  Finding all kinds of excuses not to do it.  Finally though, I had a big show coming up.  I’m hosting Northampton Gay Pride!!!!  Kind of a milestone really.  An out and proud TransWoman hosting Pride!!!

I was going to have to look my absolute best!!  It was time to get my hair done.  But where?!!?  I agonized.  My very patient friends listened to me agonize.  At last, my friend Annie took matters into her own hands and arranged for me to meet with Debbie Droy, “The Foil Queen Of Main Street”!!!  Debbie is the owner of The Underground Day Spa on Main Street in Northampton.  And she is FABULOUS!!!!!!!!

I walked into the Main Street store front with the London Underground inspired sign and down a flight of stairs, it is indeed underground, and came out in a very light and airy and pleasant feeling salon.  It is actually only kind of underground, the widows open up on a nice bright and sunny back entrance.

Debbie asked me what I had in mind.  I should mention here that I know I am a nightmare type of hairdressing customer.  I haven’t been living as a girl very long and I don’t speak “hairdresser’s” at all.  I think I kind of stammered something like, “Kind of a trim maybe and some kind of coloring maybe kinda-sorta-thing.”

But Debbie patiently asked me all the right questions and had a great manner.  Very friendly and professional and sure.  She was fast, but she never rushed.  She washed my hair and trimmed it so it regained all of it’s natural bounce and curl. Then she put in the bleach for the blonde streaks I wanted and worked with my idea to do something fun without going too extreme.  I have a tendency towards doing extreme things.

She put the foils in my hair and talked with me pleasantly about all kinds of things and then I got to sit in the steamer for the first time!!!!  Debbie gave me the latest copy of glamour to read (at my request) and I felt so damned girly!!!!!!  It was great!!

I remember watching women in those steamer/dryer things at the salon as a child with my Mother and it seemed like such a special club!  And I wanted so badly to join!!

Here I was at last.  In the girl’s club at the salon, getting my hair done.

When Debbie took the foils off, I saw a brand new Lorelei emerging.  She had given me these wonderful looking blonde streaks and my hair looked so good!  She blow-dryed my hair so we could get a good look and it looked fantastic!  There was less “Mac” looking back at me from the mirror.  I felt new.

I thanked Debbie, who assured me if there was anything I was unhappy with I should come back and she would tweak it for me (my language here, a little tech-y, I know).

There was absolutely nothing wrong with my hair though.  In fact I couldn’t be happier!!

I thanked Debbie and asked for propaganda so I could tell my friends!  Then I walked out into downtown Northampton.  No makeup.  Sweating with the 98 degree heat.  And I felt Beautiful.  OMG!!!  I felt so confident and happy!  Like I could do anything.  Simply because I had a Great New ‘Do!!

I even got hit on in the street by a pretty young black man!  Very pretty.  Yum.

I never had any idea how marvelous it is to get your hair done!  I could never quite understand why all the women I knew were always doing it.  I mean sure, I understood the desire to be well presented and to want to look pretty.  But I had no idea simply how good it feels!!!

Yaaayyyyy!!!

So thanks Debbie Droy for my first real sexy hairdo!!  Thanks Underground Day Spa!!!

I highly recommend giving them a visit.  It’s well worth it.  They were more than trans-friendly.  They were trans-relaxed.  And they have a whole range of Spa services.  Massage, a steam room, facial treatments, waxing and of course Great Hair styling!!!

I’ll be going back to try them all!

Slainte!

Underground Day Spa
151 Main Street
Northampton, MA 01060
413.586.4050

http://www.theundergrounddayspa.com

Fabulous!!!

Fabulous!!!

03
Apr
09

A Website Recommendation

I’m sure I don’t know exactly who of my expanding readership will want to set up a profile here, but you fine folks are all people I thought might be interested in knowing about this site.  I try to stay a step or two ahead of the social networking curve and this is the latest site to actively catch my attention.

It’s a social networking site aimed at Women and the Queer Community.

I just set up a profile and thus far it seems pretty user friendly.  Pretty much along the lines of MySpace before it became such a clusterfuck.

Enough customization choices to keep things interesting, but not so many as to swamp the average user.

So drop on by, say hello and lezbe friends (sorry, I couldn’t resist…)!!!!!

http://www.thebeavertracker.com/profile/Erisis

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