Last night I went back in history. Just as last week I reurned to the clubhouse “on the third floor of a two story building” where local trannys have been meeting since the 1980s, I went to the club where I first came out.
It was built as one of the last closeted gay bars, a secret haven hidden on a sidestreet with a bar downstairs and a big room upstairs with a stage and a lighting balcony. Ah, the shows it saw in it’s time, a time that went away with the AIDS crisis of the 1980s and the forcing of gay culture into the light. The last gay owner died of that plague, and his big barmaid just couldn’t keep the place going. A retiree opened the place as a jazz club, but it’s been for sale the last two years.
But the local gender club has their parties there still, and I chose to go this one night. I saw Sandy, his hair thin but still sandy, snoozing at a table, no longer really having the energy to get dressed up for a night out. I pulled Helen over and we talked about the old days, remembering names and places, and being amazed that 2006 is the 50th anniversary of the trans community here. I’ve only been active for the last 20 years, thank you very much.
It wasn’t the old times that got me, though. One person, the current organizer of the local e-mail list (I started the first one around 1995), wondered if I had ever read poetry at the Unitarian church in Saratoga Springs. I had — in 2004, I read “How Old” there on the Transgender Day Of Rememberance. They were there, in boy clothes, and were moved by my performance, which they remembered got a standing ovation. I suspect they knew that ovation was partly for them, too.
Another person asked if I ever used crutches. They had remembered me from a brief encounter at the MAC counter, where I offered some encouragement & empowerment.
It’s spooky (as that old dear, Dame Edna would say) to think that even though you consider yourself pretty closeted you have touched people who you never met, and offered even a tiny bit of encouragement for them to explore & express their own heart.
I called TBB to talk about this, and she understood. “You are an inspiring person, honey. I mean, I saw that the first moment I spoke to you, and that’s why I was drawn to you.”
I went to a retreat that was bad for me. Like anyplace, the limits of the community were the edges of the organizers fears, and I was outside their comfort zone. But one person there was open and caring. I talked about my life.
“I’ve read my Bible, and I know that God put his prophets though some awful tough stuff. May your life have blessings in it too.”
I always wanted to be a pro, to be right there, on the ball, responding with smarts and grace.
But being a prophet? It’s a hard life. And then people tell you they remember you, that you made an impact.
And your heart warms, and it’s still a hard life.