Thursday, May 24, 2012

What a Difference a Decade can Make

Cheetah Club
When I first came truly “out” in 2000, many transsexual women were still living in stealth; hordes of cross-dressers were still in the closet, and those that were out had mostly confined there occasional Girl’s Night Out(s) to cross-dressing parties.  
The drag-queens had already gone through a metamorphosis of their own a decade before, but that merely consisted of a shift in who they impersonated, the height of their wigs and the glitz of their outfits. For all the cross-dressing and transsexual communities bitching about the “queens,” they are perhaps the least complicated, and least affected during the past 10-15 years.  But the questioning individuals were suddenly being overwhelmed trying to sort out the entire new vernacular being bantered about.

The explosion of the Internet, with the information and communication that it provided, educated, connected and empowered transgender people -- and those around them – like never before.  In fact when I founded the Girls Club, I took my little retinue on various nightly adventures throughout the city – to gay, straight and transgender events, parties and bars -- and then posted photos online, as did other groups like ours around the country.
Countless closeted cross-dressers were now suddenly aware that they weren’t alone in the world.  Years later Genifer Teal said that “I was closeted, but then saw photos of your group out and about having so much fun, that it inspired me to get out and attend your party.”  These days there isn’t a trans-event within 4oo miles of New York City that Genifer doesn’t attend: the girls everywhere! and in turn is bringing others out of hiding.This coming out of the shadows and the showing of their numbers, in part, has given strength and momentum to a fragmented community’s march towards equal rights that only this decade has begun to take root.  Transgender people on the front lines of that battle started to lead their own movement, rather than remain the step-children of the gay rights movement -- as they had been since the Stonewall Riots of 1969.  It July 4th in the summer of 2003 on Fire Island Bianca Leigh noted, “Transgirls started a riot, and you all [gay people] got rights.  How did that happen?”

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