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The Road Not Taken – Finale and Wrap Up

| Mar 5, 2018
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Looking Back at Road Not Taken

It was the 1960s. I was a young man, a very young man, torn between spending the summer on his expected path of taking accelerated post-graduate studies at the university or diverting toward testing life as a young transgender woman. In those days, unfortunately, continuing my studies and being a transgender woman was not an option.

The only options for the TGs of the day seemed to be careers such as hairdressing where I had no training or skill at all or as a ‘working girl’ which I was at least able to try. I earned a few dollars which helped ease the guilt of being in the sex-trade but it took great discipline to save any money and there was certainly no pension plan. Then came the Toronto sex-trade’s version of the Yukon gold rush -– Thursday night on the streets. The drag scene’s mother lode was Maitland Street and I was about to get my first nugget. A man had motioned me to join him. As I approached he slid over to open the passenger side door and I slipped in to the car. We sat and chatted for a while. He had two $20 bills sitting in the car’s ash tray. Linda had told me that would be his signal what he would be paying for my services. No words would be exchanged about selling or buying sex. Rightly or wrongly we believed that would mean we could not be charged with solicitation. But hey, this was Toronto on a Thursday night, right? What could happen?

As my new ‘friend’ re-started his car one of the girls called out, “we’ve got your license number!” That was an extra security the girls used that had not occurred to me. If I had turned up missing they were prepared to report that number to the police. They were their own ‘human security cameras’.

From that moment on it was indeed like shooting fish in a barrel. Oral sex was the menu item of choice but there was one man who just wanted me to masturbate him with my stocking feet. My favorite tricks were the men who wanted a little more privacy. Each came to my room. One time I could hear Linda next door in her room moaning with apparent delight. Heck, she never did that with me but I quickly learned that my guys liked to hear me moan, too. I could do that.

Eventually the action died down. Linda and I walked back to the motel, hearing the occasional whistle from passing cars as the club crowd headed home to the ‘burbs.’

Ms. Jensen when she was “Honey.”

After a sexy cuddle we slept well, knowing that a good thing was about to come to an end. I had until the end of the weekend to move out of the apartment and into a frat house that was renting out rooms for the summer. On Monday my classes would start and the next weekend I was to introduce a group of teachers to the pleasures of paddling a canoe.

I tried for a week or so to keep my job at the restaurant but I was wearing myself too thin. I gave notice and turned my attention completely to my studies and my teaching. Living in a frat house, my ‘Honey’ outfits would have to stay in a suitcase.

There was one other thing that helped me decide to go the education route. I had heard from my wife that she was indeed pregnant. After missing her second period she had sought to be tested and found she was ‘with child.’ Any idea of leaving her was abandoned.

My six weeks of college and weekends of summer camp passed quickly, so quickly that I never had a chance to visit Linda and my other friends at the St. Charles. However, one weekend in mid-August with the courses finished I had a brief opportunity to drop by the club. It was a Saturday night. I was ‘in drab.’ I wondered if any of the girls would recognize me. I expected that I would see Linda. She would recognize me, for sure.

As I climbed the stairs it was strangely quiet above. Laura sat at the door, ready to take the admission fee from customers that were not coming. Laura shared door duties with her alter ego, Thomas. Sometimes you would see Laura; sometimes Thomas. You never saw both together.

I asked Laura why it was so quiet, where were the girls. I expected her to say there was a special drag show at another club but her answer said a lot about Toronto and other North American cities in that pre-Stonewall era.

Laura told me that the night before two of ‘Toronto’s finest’ -– police officers — on foot patrol had decided to pay a visit to the St. Charles and to the night club. According to Laura they were there for nothing more than to look around and see what was happening. Perhaps their intention had been to show that the police were not necessarily a threat but this was 1968. The girls were used to harassment and bullying. On seeing the two police officers someone panicked and that started a stampede toward the back door and the fire escape. Within minutes the club was virtually empty. The girls had not returned the next night.

Needless to say I was disappointed that I would not see my friends and particularly Linda. Weeks earlier when I gave up the lease on the apartment it seems Linda had officially broken up with her old boyfriend and moved. Neither of us had the other’s address or phone number. In those days we did not carry our smart phones, cell phones or even have an email address. That would come 30 years later! I had wanted to see her at the club. I don’t know if she ever thought of seeing me again. Perhaps not.

It is too bad that we did not connect because I had mapped out a major change in direction for my life. I saw myself taking a road in life where I would move back to Toronto with my wife and young family, keep working in my professional field but gradually aim toward gender transformation just as Linda was doing. I knew that would eventually mean the end of my marriage and the end of contact with my children but I had convinced myself that I could do it. I knew I would need to save and spend a lot of money. I knew I would have to submit to a lot of counseling and hormone therapy but after that magical month it seemed the logical road for me to take. However I was sure I needed Linda’s support and at that crucial moment she was nowhere to be found.

The next day, after spending part of the night in Lara/Thomas’ bed, I took the train back east to re-unite with my pregnant wife and our daughter but not before visiting a Salvation Army clothing drop-off center. I kept the wig and a few other items as souvenirs and for emergency sexual relief but most of my femme clothes were ‘purged.’

The further I got from Toronto the further my double life slipped from my mind. The new job and moments playing with a delightful two-year-old filled my time. I also qualified as a ski instructor which helped keep my weekends busy and our family income supplemented. It was not as lucrative as sex dating but it helped pay the bills and helped keep me from thinking about Toronto.

As time went on my life in Toronto drifted further and further from my mind. I seemed firmly set on a road through life that would not involve crossdressing or any other form of transgender activity. Out of the blue I once did get sounded out by an apparent homosexual about having sex with him but I declined. It seems that having sex with men was okay for the femme me but not interesting for me, the man.

My wife and I eventually split up and split the children, one each. I guess at that moment I could have resumed my femme life. I took some exploratory trips down that road. However I became absorbed in the dating world of single parents and soon was in to another relationship. It would be almost ten years before my femme life would come back. When it came back, it came back strongly. But that is another story.

However there are a few important postscripts. First, about two years after leaving Toronto I read a story in a newspaper of how someone identified as ‘Linda’ had become the first person in Canada to have a sex change operation. I didn’t know but I hoped that it was my Linda. (Later I learned that there was a woman named Diane that claimed to be Canada’s first post-op TS. I don’t know the truth but from photos I have seen I know that Diane was not my Linda.)

Then, several years later, on a visit to Toronto I had a chance to visit the St. Charles. The two downstairs bars were going strong, their bar stools and the space around them, filled with mustache-wearing men. There was definitely a more macho look to the homosexual men of the 1970s than those of the 1960s. Think the Village People vs the Jewel Box Revue. Incredibly, a man who worked there and had been there for many years, denied any knowledge of a drag club upstairs. He expressed to having no knowledge of where the ‘queens’ might be. Who knows; perhaps he had been one of them?

Finally, many years later came a very sobering revelation, one that made me extremely thankful I’d taken the road I did. By this time I had re-embraced my femme identity. I had chosen a name to honor my old friend, Linda. I was splitting my weekend gal-play time between Toronto and Montreal and longer holidays between Los Angeles, New York and Vancouver.

On one visit to Toronto’s now vibrant gay village, I met someone who called herself Toronto’s oldest queen. She was a delight and as we talked we discovered that we had been regulars at the St. Charles at the same time back in 1968. We did not remember each other but she did remember my Linda. “Oh, she’s still around but she does not come around here. She married and married well. Her husband knows about her past but they do not dwell on it. Apparently they spend their summers at a cottage.”

Then I started to name some others. “Gone.” “Gone.” “Gone,” was all she could say. It seems that with the exception of ourselves, Linda and perhaps a few others, the gals from the St. Charles ‘class of ‘68 had been swept up by the first wave of the AIDS epidemic hitting Toronto. When I had time to reflect back on that information I realized that if at the end of the summer of ’68 I had met up with Linda and if I had chosen to move to Toronto to embrace my feminine identity I could very likely have ended up as one of those early AIDS victims. They didn’t know what was hitting them until it was too late! I mourn for my old friends but am very glad that was a road I had not taken.

So there you have it. Robert Frost states in his poem:

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

However my choice was the road more traveled and yes that did make all the difference.\

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Category: Transgender Body & Soul

Linda Jensen

About the Author ()

Canadian writer Linda Jensen is a long time contributor to TGForum. Before the days of the Internet Linda started her writing with the Transvestian newspaper. Her writing ranges from factual accounts of her adventures to fiction although frankly sometimes her real life adventures are stranger than the fiction. Linda is married to a loving partner who upon learning about Linda said, "she was part of you before I met you. Although I didn't know it she was part of the package I fell in love with. I don't want to mess up that package." "Does it get any better than that?" asks Linda.

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