Dina’s Diner 11/19/18

| Nov 19, 2018
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“SUPERGIRL” AND REGULAR GIRLS

Nicole Maines (left) in a scene from Supergirl.

The New York Times Arts section had a long feature interview with trans woman Nicole Maines. The article appeared on October 15, 2018. TGForum’s TWIT feature mentioned it also in our October 15 edition. The “news” was that Nicole was going to portray a trans superhero on the CW network television series Supergirl.

Nicole became famous as a teen who battled against bathroom discrimination at her high school — and won. Actually, her transgender identification brought controversy as far back as grade school. Now 21 years old, Nicole is a veteran of media coverage having been the subject of articles, a book and a reality show. But the role on Supergirl is a first for Nicole and also is the first trans superhero on television.

Reading about Nicole in yet another public role (I’ve mentioned her in the Diner a couple of times previously) makes me both happy and a little melancholy. I don’t know what her dreams were in the fifth grade when she was already being told not to use the girls’ restroom. I don’t know if her dreams evolved when she publicly fought her high school’s gender discrimination years later. I have a feeling it was not to become an “activist” or even an actor. You can’t feel sorry for a 21 year old getting a big break on a network show but events conspired against her being able to live a “normal” life with a regular set of career choices.

I suppose the trans community needed — and still needs — publicly visible figures to advance the cause. Maybe because I’m always on the lookout for news about the trans world but sometimes it seems like the community is top-heavy with performers, artists, and activists who are the ones making news. I’ve done Diner items about trans fashion models, talk show hosts, politicians, gender-precocious school-age kids, actors, performance artists, and the ladyboy who appeared briefly in The Hangover 2. I have an item about a trans academic (Samantha Allen) in this Diner and I remember there was a trans woman who ran a temp agency a few years ago. I know there must be trans office workers (I know one personally), retail workers, and perhaps even tradespeople who are transgender — but you rarely hear about them.

Well, who’s going to write about or do a reality show about a trans plumber or candlestick maker? It’s a shame because it doesn’t give young trans people enough choices to aspire to. Everyone can’t be (or doesn’t want to be) a fashion model, talk show host, or an actor. It also gives the impression to the haters that transgender people are “everywhere” and it magnifies their resentment.

I hope Nicole Maines is successful on Supergirl. Perhaps her normal human persona (when not transformed into The Dreamer superhero character) will be ordinary enough to show young trans people that they can have a normal life too. And maybe seeing more “normal” trans people on television and elsewhere will help soften some of the haters’ reactions.

GET OUTTA THE HOUSE

Samantha Allen in Iceland.

The Daily Beast website had an article by contributor Samantha Allen titled “The Freedom – and Fear – of Traveling While Transgender.” The article appeared on November 10, 2018. Ms. Allen’s first-person reflections on travel took on larger issues than an advice column for “safe” places to go.

She begins her essay: “One of the many ironies of being transgender is that, after coming out, “in” becomes the safest place to be: In your bedroom. In your apartment. Stick to your comfort zone and you avoid potential annoyance, harassment — even physical violence —  but you end up seeing the paint on your own four walls and not much else. Maybe that’s why traveling as a transgender person feels so incredible, despite all the hassles: Not only are you out as yourself, you are truly “out” in the fullest sense of the word, refusing to hide from a world that would often rather you stay out of sight.”

She mentions later that after coming out as transgender, she would only dare small, safe road trips, needing to be ever-mindful of local sentiments, bathroom accommodations, etc. on the road. Once she dared to become more adventurous, she needed to navigate through the airport security checkpoints. At first she refused to go through the body scanners. “At the time, all I knew was that I had a choice between the body scanner, which would display my genitals as an “anomaly,” and a pat-down, with all the discomfort that entailed. I chose the pat-down every time, because it lowered my risk of being outed.”

Samantha also addresses her personal advantages — which do not apply sadly, to everyone. “I am enormously conscious of the fact that however mildly restricted I am in where I choose to travel, I am privileged to even be able to walk out my front door. Because of my race and class, I am not at high risk for assault or murder. Because I found full-time work after graduate school, I have enough money to go somewhere unique most years.” She mentions that fifteen percent of transgender people are unemployed and twenty-nine percent live in poverty (according to a recent survey).

Ms. Allen sees the bathroom bills (even if not successful) and President Trump’s wish to ban transgender persons from military service (apparently the military is the largest employer of U.S. trans persons) as wanting “to stop us from existing in public space altogether.” Restricting the freedom to work and be mobile in society is a push to eradicate transgenderism from public view. As Samantha says, “and there is perhaps no act that requires one to inhabit space more publicly than does travel.”

LA VIE EN ROSE

Nana in Paris 1959.

The online version of The New York Times had an article about a photographer who made a series of prints of Parisian trans women in the late 1950s though the later 1960s. It appeared online October 26, 2018. The sub-headline of the article read, “Christer Stromholm’s photos of the women he lived with make up an intimate and sensitive portrayal of transgender women decades before such depictions were widely seen.”

The Times reports that Stromholm was a Swedish expatriate living in Paris where “he fell in with a group of outcasts — transgender women living at Place Blanche — that quickly became an adopted clan. “This was his family, these girls,” said his son Joakim Stromholm.” The article went on to say, “Many of the women in the book were sex workers or performers at cabarets (and occasionally freak shows). Though eventually some became high-society women, life on Place Blanche was precarious. Mr. Stromholm’s work does not shy away from these realities, but as a whole his body of work centers on his subjects’ dignity.”

Some twenty years later, the photos were published in a book titled Les Amies de Place Blanche (The Friends of Place Blanche) in 1983. The book was reissued in 2011 and I remember seeing an article about it at that time. I may have even written about it at that time because I have a recollection of some of the photos.

Parisian trans women 1959.

Those photos are haunting. Some of the women look like haute couture models, others like ordinary but pretty Parisian women, and some look like rougher-edged drag bar girls. In the “Comments” section one reader called out a subject identified as “Nana” in the Stromholm photos as the person who later became avant-garde celebrity-model-performer Amanda Lear, a one-time protégé of artist Salvador Dali. A Wikipedia entry for Ms. Lear acknowledges her as a likely transgender person although Amanda herself was cagey about much of her early life (including her real year of birth).

I have always found the period of the late 1950s and very early 1960s to be the most interesting for women’s beauty and fashion. It coincided with my earliest years on earth and formed (consciously and subconsciously) my ideal of feminine beauty. The hairdo’s and cosmetics were very artificial and the fashions were sleek, fitted rather than skin-tight, hiding stiff girdles and sturdy brassieres. The pumps were pointy-toed and stiletto-heeled. Artifice and hidden sexiness. Now what boy wouldn’t want to try all that on sometime?

PULL YOUR SOCKS UP

I was watching a Ladies Professional Golf Tournament event this past weekend. One of the under-par leaders was wearing a pair of above-the-knee socks paired with a short golf skirt. Having watched a fair amount of women’s golf on television over the past few years, this is a look that is not uncommon. The Asian players (of which there are many on tour) seem particularly fond of high socks — sometimes ending knee high and all-too-rarely above the knee. As with above-the-knee boots, there is something that seems to suggest naughtiness. Or maybe that’s my weirdness revealing itself.

LPGA Socks.

When I was in Catholic high school, the female students could only wear knee socks or pantyhose/tights under their uniform skirts. For a budding crossdresser, this posed a bit of a conundrum as to which was sexier. The pantyhose/tights option was more adult looking and the textural sheerness appealed to my nascent crossdressing urge. The knee socks meant that the girls’ thighs were bare and in the early 1970s, with short skirt lengths, that was a lot of exposed thigh with only a thin barrier of cotton panty protecting the great gift of womanhood.

Add to this teenage stew of fetishism and pent-up urges a six-page pictorial spread in the vintage gentlemen’s magazine Club. The photo layout involved a young woman with quite large breasts covered only by a thin cotton tank shirt, cotton panties, and (you guessed it) white knee socks. You could barely discern the cuteness of her toes beneath the stretched athletic hosiery.

So, yes, I was scarred as a young man with scandalous knee sock imagery. Don’t blame the victim. And if while I am watching a Ladies Professional Golf tournament and some lithe beauty rips a beautiful drive that cleaves the fairway, and all I am thinking about is how her socks manage to bend, twist and still cling above her knees, well, this was my story.


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dina

About the Author ()

I started crossdressing and going out publicly in 1988. I joined the Renaissance group in the Philadelphia area that year and later became chapter leader for two years in the '90s. I always enjoyed writing and wrote for the Renaissance newsletter and magazine throughout my membership years. I've been writing for TGForum for several years now. I also contributed items to LadyLike magazine and other TG publications before the advent of the internet. My hobby-within-a-hobby is singing live as my alter-ego Dina Sinatra and I have had the opportunity to do that with several accommodating performers and in a number of venues over the years since the mid-1990s. In the Diner column items here, I try to relate crossdressing or transgender themes (and my own pet peeves and fetishes) to the larger world -- and vice versa.

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