The Many Hues of the Transgender Rainbow
The rainbow is the well-known symbol of the LGBTQ+ community/movement. It is meant to symbolize the amazing, beautiful diversity of sexual orientation and gender identity among human beings. However, we need to keep in mind that there is great diversity with each LGBTQ+ “group.” Lesbian, gay, transgender, intersex, and others each have their own rainbow of people and personalities.
My personal conflict
I am most familiar with the transgender rainbow. Although I usually think of myself as an occasional fetish crossdresser, rather than a “true” transgender, the fact is that I am often conflicted over this matter. I have been conflicted ever since I was a child, and now, at age 58, I am still somewhat conflicted. I go through periods when I intensely believe that I really do want to be female, and I contemplate living more often as a woman or even starting hormones or other medical/surgical transition procedures. But, although I know that people older than me go through transition, I usually end up concluding that I am too old to start that now. Plus, I know that the time will always come again when I am perfectly happy being a man… and I’ll grow out my ZZ Top beard again! (If I were to ever get SRS, I know I would be among those who later regret it.)
So that is my individual stripe in the transgender rainbow—what can I call it?—perhaps “alternating fetish crossdresser/wanna-be transsexual/just regular guy”? Or, in the modern terminology, probably “gender flexible/fluid”? The one thing I know for sure is that it is complicated—much more complicated than the simplistic media coverage would lead the uneducated public to believe. And I know that there are many other people who are also chronically conflicted over their gender identity.
I also know that there are many people who are not conflicted at all over their gender identity. They have known for certain since childhood that their body did not match the identity they had in their mind. And they have spent their lives trying to correct that mismatch. Those are the people I tend to think of as true transgender. But even within that “category,” there is much diversity.
I have had the pleasure of meeting many stripes of different hues in the transgender rainbow. I started visiting Maneuvers (gay bar in Joliet) in 2007 as a crossdresser, and that is where I encountered the first transgender person I ever knew in my generally conservative, traditional life. I still recall meeting the lovely Hispanic bartender, Janni, and asking her if I, dressed as I was, would be welcomed there. She replied, “Of course!” She was so beautiful and feminine that I had no idea that she was transgender. I didn’t realize that until she started telling me about some of the transition procedures that she was going through. I was in awe.
And I will always remember Annie! Anyone who met Annie will always remember her. Whenever I visited Maneuvers around that time, she was often the only other transgender customer there (as far as I could tell). But her personality was the opposite of mine. I’m usually rather quiet and introverted, keeping to myself unless someone starts a conversation with me. Annie, by contrast, was always the loudest, most social person in the bar. It seemed like she was close friends with everyone there. She was African-American, a few years younger than me, and lived full-time as a woman. She used to drink orange juice and make her own clothes. I always enjoyed chatting with her, though I had trouble understanding what she was saying because of her unfamiliar accent, added to the general background noise.
In my experience, there have always been more transgender people at Maneuvers on the nights of the drag shows. I’ve met and talked with a number of the performers—including Ritch (Phoenix) of course. I first met Cee-Cee at the 2010 New Year’s Eve party, along with her boyfriend at the time, Twila. Twila was a guy who did drag just for fun, but Cee-Cee was, and is, a well-known and busy performer, as well as a fashion designer. I came to know her much better in 2017, when I did an interview with her for the CAAN Intersections newsletter. She told me that she lives as a man every day, and “Cee-Cee” is a character she created. She added that she hates labels, remarking, “I think if we do away with labels, we will then see we have more things in common and we can become a better society.”
Krave and other contacts
Club Krave has also been an interesting meeting place for me. About a month ago, I spent much of the night sitting at the bar talking to a transgender woman named Michelle. She was in her forties and had recently gotten breast implants, which she was showing off pretty well in a low-cut v-neck top. She was wearing a Cubs jacket over the top and drinking a pitcher of beer. She had a very deep voice and rather typically male identified facial features. I must admit that if it wasn’t for the boobs, I would have thought I was talking to a guy. I don’t mean to be insulting with that remark. It is simply an honest observation. She seemed very nice, and we had a pleasant, friendly conversation about baseball and LGBTQ issues.
Some of the most physically beautiful transgender women I have known have been escorts. One of them, named Cassandra, takes my breath away anytime I see her. We’ve been friends for about eight years. She is Puerto Rican, with long, full blonde hair and a feminine figure that any woman would kill for. She started transitioning and living full-time as a female when she was 16, and she is now in her thirties. When I have gone out with her, a few people have commented that she looks like Lady Gaga. However, she still has her male parts, which she says many of her clients like. She told me that whenever she decides to get out of the “business,” she might undergo full SRS—or she might not.
Sarah is another transgender escort I have known. She is an attractive, slightly overweight blonde about 30 years old. She underwent full SRS several years ago. One night, we had a long conversation about transgender issues. She described the surgical and hormonal procedures she has gone through. She said she felt she never had a choice. She had been a very feminine-acting boy who often got pushed around and made fun of. Today, nobody would guess that she had ever been male. She has been legally female for years, and she was married to a man and divorced. She is a woman. Yet, she told me that she has never felt like a “real” woman (her words). In her opinion, no transgender woman can ever be a real woman; they will always be transwomen. That is because, in her opinion, they will never have the experiences that cis women have had, such as growing up as a girl, going through puberty in their teens, dealing with pregnancy and/or the possibility of pregnancy, and other things that come with growing up as a cis female. I know that some or many transwomen would disagree with those views, but those were Sarah’s views as expressed to me.
I wanted to share these little vignettes of people I have known as a way of illuminating the broad, bright, colorful rainbow of transgender people. I’m sure that you, the reader, could add many of your own observations to the mix. Sexuality is the most fascinating part of being human—of being alive! And I believe that gender identity is the most fascinating aspect of sexuality. My contacts with each of these individuals has enriched my life, even as I continue to strive to better understand my own sexuality.