Recently, I wrote a short post here in Cyrsti’s Condo concerning a few of my influences growing up transgender. Since that time, both Michelle and Connie have commented. Coincidentally. both mentioned Flip Wilson’s cross dressing Geraldine, who I missed most of since the television show was on when I was serving in the Army.
As I wrote, my list was short and Connie added to it here:
” I had no transgender role models, growing up. Even in adulthood, I looked to cis women for my inspiration – if not aspiration. Cross dressing as a means for comedic entertainment may have interested me, but I usually found it to be disappointingly not funny. Flip Wilson’s Geraldine might be the only exception. Movies such as “Some Like it Hot,” “Tootsie,” and “Mrs. Doubtfire” were about men who cross dressed for the purpose of deception, as was the TV show “Bosom Buddies.” I always thought that it was ridiculous that any of those characters were actually fooling all of the people around them, and, although I had a deep desire to be able to pass for many years, I did not want to pass with any ulterior motive; I wanted only to be seen as the woman I felt myself to be.
I remember so well the first time I saw a cross dresser in real life. I was fifteen, and had been expressing my femininity in private for about four years. I was waiting at a busy crosswalk in downtown Portland, and I was curious of the well-dressed young woman standing in front of me. I was asking myself, “Is she or isn’t she?” until the light changed and she walked on ahead of me. It was then that I noticed her matted leg hair beneath nylon stockings. To me, that was a total gross out. It was internalized transphobia decades before the term ever existed.
*The side story here is that I was downtown that day with a band mate, who was purchasing a wig to wear on stage when we performed (no long hair was allowed for boys in our high school in those days). The whole time I was in the wig shop, I was trying to figure out how I could use the excuse to get my own wig, too. I was looking at the feminine styles, though. Anyway, I commandeered his wig about a year later, and I fashioned it to fit my own style. At least I no longer had to “borrow” my mother’s wig.
I was vaguely aware of Christine Jorgensen in my youth. I was too young when she initially made headlines, and then had moved into a deep suppression before she began making the circuit as an entertainer. I had admiration for what she did, but I had no desire to become a novelty act. I can only imagine how she might have cried herself to sleep, having been forced to make a living by conducting what many must have thought to be a freak show. As a musician and singer, myself, I could see how it might have been a way to make lemonade from a lemon, but one has to find the sugar with which to sweeten it.
Remember the Maury Povich episodes of “He or She,” in which he had about a dozen people on stage, half of whom where cis and the other half some iteration from beneath the trans umbrella? Whether they were female impersonators, drag queens, cross dressers, or transitioned trans women, they all looked good enough to compete with the cis women on the stage. I used to record those shows on a VCR that I had hidden in a closet and had rigged up so as not to be discovered (the hidden cable wire is still there to this day). I was always so turned off by the concept of the show, but I would study it, when alone, just to see how I might accomplish what they had.
Throughout most of my life, I think that I can sum up my exposure to media influence by borrowing the Bugs Bunny line, “What’s up, Doc?” It always left me with more questions of myself than answers. As far as cartoon characters go, I relate more to Betty Boop…….or maybe Jessica Rabbit. :-)”
Thanks for the help!