It wasn't too long following my coming out of my gender closet when I began to try to go to gay venues to express my authentic self in a relatively safe space. There were several I began to frequent quite a bit. Then there were others I was made to feel quite uncomfortable in. In other words, if it wasn't drag night with a show, what was I doing there anyhow. Back in those days there was very little recognition in those places of what a transgender person even was. Not even a drag queen. The whole atmosphere of the music and discrimination led me to try out the big sports venues I was comfortable in. What did I have to lose?
|From the Jessie Hart|
Archives. The wig I wore that night.
Even though, with a lot of persistence and a lot of luck I was able to establish myself as a regular in several establishments where I could go in peace, watch sports on a big screen television and drink big cold draft beers. Actually it wasn't too difficult to establish myself because I was a one of a kind addition to their clientele. There were not many single women and/or transgender women who came in to enjoy a drink. I found out fairly quickly which venues leaned to the redneck side and hated me and the ones who didn't. Of course I made it easy by minding my own business and tipping well. My visits to gay venues became rarer and rarer and mostly were going to a couple small lesbian bars. One of which hated me and the other I found I was accepted for the most part or just ignored.
Even though I nearly exclusively stayed out of the male dominated gay venues, there was one big one in downtown Dayton, Ohio I did go to on occasion to socialize with friends. By doing so I managed to have a couple memorable evenings. One of which occurred when I went to meet up with a transgender man friend of mine (who I had my first dinner out with a guy previously) and a lesbian friend of his. I remember now how long I labored over what I was going to wear and finding the prep time to get ready. I finally decided on going all black with a sleeveless black tank top, long black flowing skirt with a cut which extended up to my thigh, my black sandals topped off with my long straight black wig. Unlike several of my other outfits I had to make sure my legs were freshly shaved and my makeup was properly done. So time was of the essence. Once I finished dressing, the mirror was really singing my praises and out the door I went, savoring the feel of the summer night air on my legs and arms. For once I thought I had nailed the right outfit for where I was going.
Once I arrived before I found my friends, I found the ladies room to make sure my wig was adjusted properly and make any last minute makeup adjustments. In the slightly dimmer light and soft surroundings the mirror was really singing my praises as I made my way out to meet my friends. During a time of experiencing mostly errors in the way I presented my feminine self, I felt very successful in this attempt. So successful I asked my friends to accompany me to my car after we partied so I had a bit of safety in numbers. The venue was in the same vicinity where I was accosted slightly when I was alone one night walking to my car. I learned the hard way, the safety part of my former male privilege was gone forever. I wasn't going to risk it again. I made it safely to my car and the evening was almost over following one more stop.
Ironically, the big gay venue was destined to play another major role in my life as a transgender woman interacting with lesbian cis women. One of the two lesbian friends I partied with liked to attend local mixers with other lesbians in rotating venues. One month the mixer would be held at a regular venue and the next a gay spot. It just so happened I was back at the place I mentioned before surrounded by approximately twenty members of the lesbian group. As it turned out, one of my friends was trying very hard to attract the attention of another one of the attendees. However she was too shy to approach the other woman and finally asked me to do it. I was bold enough to do it and told her sure. Cautiously I approached and told her I had a friend who wanted to meet her. She basically ignored me but did take the opportunity to tell me no. As I took the bad news back to my friend, vaguely I thought this was a major moment in my life when I had been asked essentially to be a wing person for another woman.
To my knowledge the big gay bar is still open but I have moved a distance away. Maybe my wife Liz and I can make it back up there someday to relive the experiences I had there. Unfortunately the LGBTQ venue just down the street has closed. It was where Liz was with me when I took my first hormone replacement therapy dosage. Material for another blog post.