This isn’t a gay story, but it’s one victims of anti-gay bullying should be aware of!
To preface this story I should explain that the same way the Anglophone
LGBTQ community has Liza Minelli and Cher, in Spain it’s Isabel Pantoja and Rocío Jurado (or it least it was 10 years ago). They’re not only icons but also the main characters which are/were performed at the gay clubs. One of the few places the transgendered community could find gainful employment for many a decade. It was at one of these bars that I met Javi (pronounced havy). He was a shy waiter/bartender who often stared at me, gave me free shots and awkwardly tried to start conversations that left both of us twiddling our thumbs. After a couple of months of this strange dance Javi disappeared, substituted by a stringy blond boy. I thought nothing of it. he had probably moved to Madrid or Barcelona as many of the locals do. The coast is usually the first stop for LGBT’s leaving small villages and towns and looking for a wider community and a way to make a living. Many months later I’m sitting
at my usual table at this same bar. It’s where I started my going out ritual in the old days. It was owned by a male to female transsexual in her 70′s, one of the pioneers who had early surgery in Morocco and became an LGBTQ icon herself by owning a successful bar/club where she was able to employ other marginalized people like her. The first time I saw her perform she did Lola Flores, fan in one hand, peineta (spanish comb) in her hair. Parkinsons made her hands tremble and it was the one of the most moving performances I’ve ever seen. That was my first night in Spain and growing up on a diet of Almodóvar and Buñuel, I knew I’d chosen the right place to live.
All of us gay men, and the odd token lesbian, would pack ourselves into this bar so tightly, if you didn’t get a table early you’d have to stand up and be crushed by fellow crowd members jumping up and down to see the stage. And that’s when I saw her. She was introduced as Star-Woman. Lo and behold, it wasn’t someone who just had Isabel Pantoja style clothes and make-up, it looked like the younger Isabel Pantoja herself. Movements and mannerisms identical to the original.
That’s Star-Woman in the video, btw, watch it because she’s great! After the show the crowd disperses and Star-Woman goes around greeting the patrons. When she arrived at my table we were all in awe, but I was more so than the others. So many compliments, she blushed. I invited her to go on with us to the next club where I had access to the VIP room. She accepted. Half way through the evening I was still dumbfounded, as if she were the real Pantoja. I probably even poked her with my finger like we do at Madame Tussauds. Sexual attraction has a funny way of playing tricks on us. There I was, a gay man, who suddenly had a crush on a male-to-female transsexual. A transitioned one, as she explained to us.
“So you like the change?”
“What do you mean?”
Yep, it was Javi, little, shy and girlish Javi who I hadn’t given a second glance to while he was a he. Suddenly he was this über-woman, oozing sensuality and with a sort of charisma that just engulfs you. He was finally a whole person, confident, exuberant. Despite my fellow gay-male friend’s protestations, I did go off with Star-Woman that night (and a few other nights). It didn’t work out, but it did teach me that sexual attraction is so much more fluid and complex than heterosexist societal norms. So where do I fall on the Kinsey scale? Well, I’m still primordially a gay man, but that doesn’t mean I can’t take a stroll through the scale and explore. What life would be complete without the Almodóvar moments?
So this past week I’ve been banging on about my recent discovery of Tomas Mournian’s amazing 2011 book, Hidden. The story is about a Gay “Underground Railroad”, kids who escape facilities that “cure” homosexuality. It’s called reparative therapy. What they actually do is torture teens using aversion therapy. For example they’ll show you gay porn and if you have an erection you get an electric shock (yes, down there). Here’s the video that explains it in more detail:
After reading Mr. Mournian’s article, I found myself googling him, writing to him, then reading his blog, then watching the video, then making a donation to his new project, then ordering his book, then writing to him again… Does the pattern sound familiar? Okay, maybe not everyone actually takes the step of writing to someone they don’t know (and I admit I’m
pathologically somewhat obsessive), but the rest has got to sound familiar. From the safety and anonymity of the shadow of our screens we are all budding internet stalkers. Think Tyler Clementi, Ravi knew the guy was interested in aquariums, the violin and was gay in a couple of clicks. We can dig into and scrutinize the lives of people we’ve never met, as never before, and I’m pretty sure most of us do. It makes me wonder if I would have formed the same relationships I have formed throughout my life and I think the answer is no. The internet is suspended reality, we can interact with people all day long without ever having to recognize social cues. We can block and unfriend anyone who missteps. We’re actors in never-ending monologues where we can present ourselves as we choose but risk the most benign aspects of our lives becoming a target for fodder.
Yesterday I wrote about April Ashley, so it wouldn’t be fair to mention that trans legend and omit Coccinelle
She was born Jacques Charles Dufresnoy in 1931. She began her career performing at ”Chez Madame Arthur” then at the “Carrousel” cabaret. Five years later she found Dr Georges Burou a pioneer in sex-reassignment surgery, the same used by April Ashley and Marie Pier Ysser. France was one of the countries that early on accepted sexual reassignment surgery as sufficient to change a person’s gender on their documents. Other countries like the UK only recognized that right in the 1990′s. Coccinelle went on to become a great star, appearing in various movies and founding Devenir Femme (to become woman), an association to help people that are transitioning. I decided to write about transexuals this week because not only are they under represented in the LGBT community, but there’s an outrageous campaign going on in Alaska aimed at ridiculing and marginalizing the T’s in our LGBT. I think we all need to stand up and say NO, we’re not having any of it.
She is one the great pioneers of the LGBTQ community as a representative of the T contingent.
Her name is April Ashley, and she used to look like this
Born to a poor family in Northern England, she went on to become a performer at the Carousel in Paris, after her sex reassignment surgery in Morocco in 1960 (the only place where the procedure was available then) she sky-rocketed to fame as a female model (even in Vogue)- until her secret was exposed.
UPDATE: There’s a newer book for sale HERE
I accidentally happened upon an outstanding Tomas Mournian article on the HuffPost last week which led me to his book published last year. Ordered it on Amazon and it arrived this morning, haven’t been able to put it down since. The writing is as sophisticated as Franzen’s The Corrections, but flows more naturally. I’ll probably be spending the rest of the night awake reading. Meanwhile I can tell you it’s the story of a gay teen sent to a facility that “cures” homosexuality. He escapes…!
UPDATE: Only slept two hours last night, keep going back to the book.