Dina’s Diner 2/12/18

| Feb 12, 2018

THEY NEVER MET A CROSSDRESSER?

A “garden variety” crossdresser in her native habitat.

In last week’s TGForum, columnist Tasi Zuriack wrote about comments by the outreach director of Tri-Ess, a national crossdresser organization. Those comments were critical of professionals working in the realm of gender identification who claimed to have “never met a crossdresser.” I had to re-read the commentary to see if I saw and understood it correctly. Tasi contributed her thoughts on the devaluation of “crossdressing” as professionals seem to focus on transgender individuals heading for transition or other forms of non-binary gender expression. Tasi also included a video of a therapist who saw crossdressing only in terms of fetishism and sexual gratification in contrast to transgenderism as a permanent life change.

The real surprise, though, were the examples of therapists or counselors (and one trans person) who claimed never to have met a crossdresser which implied they didn’t even understand the concept of crossdressing without desiring gender transition. The Tri-Ess director made the point that modern counselors (who do not recognize the desire to simply crossdress) may be guiding young persons who crossdress (for whatever reason) onto the path of gender transition that they may not really be wanting or understanding. Imagine being a young, confused person and your therapist is already plotting a course for you to change genders from the earliest assessment. If parents are similarly uninformed, the rise in outwardly gender-nonconforming kids may be at least partially explained.

Tasi makes the point that the term “transgenderism” was coined many years ago by the founder of Tri-Ess as a means of explaining the urge to crossdress that isn’t driven by sexual motivations. Now, ironically, it is being used (by some, anyway) to deny that crossdressing for its own enjoyment even exists.

The comments from professionals who only see crossdressing in a fetishistic or sexual context is also disappointing. Do they really think that every time a crossdresser spends all that time preparing, making up, and dressing it is only to get off sexually? There is certainly a sexual element for some crossdressers in some instances. But there are elements of sexual motivations at certain times in everything all people do. To disavow any understanding of crossdressing outside the sexual realm is hard to believe — but they said it out loud.

TALKIN’ ‘BOUT THEIR G-GENERATION

Apropos of Tasi’s column mentioned above, I saw an article on the CBS News website headlined “More U.S. Teens Identify as Transgender.” The article began, “Far more U.S. teens than previously thought are transgender or identify themselves using other nontraditional gender terms, with many rejecting the idea that girl and boy are the only options, new research suggests.” The CBS article appeared on February 5, 2018 and the research findings were being published in Pediatrics magazine this month.

Transgender Teen Brittney Kade.

The new findings are the result of a University of Minnesota research project survey of 81,000 Minnesota teens in ninth and eleventh grades. The article said, “Nearly 2,200 identified as transgender or gender nonconforming.” That is 2.7% of the study population. A previous estimate conducted by UCLA last year concluded only about .7 percent of teens 13-17 years of age were transgender. That study extrapolated the estimate to report there are probably about 1.4 million transgenders in the U.S. The article reported, “Some experts believe rising awareness of transgender issues has led increasing numbers of transgender teens to come out, or to experiment with gender identification. “With growing trans visibility in the United States, some youth might find it safer to come out and talk about gender exploration,” Nic Rider [the Minnesota researcher] said.”

The CBS report said, “The survey asked about the sex the teens were assigned at birth, and if they considered themselves transgender, gender queer, gender fluid or unsure about their gender identity. Kids were not asked if they had undergone surgery or other medical treatment to transition to the opposite sex.” CBS also reported that the federal government’s Centers for Disease Control does not ask about transgender identification on its teen surveys because “it is difficult to find the right question to yield a credible answer.” Dr. Daniel Shumer, a transgender researcher at the University of Michigan, said that the Minnesota study corroborates other studies suggesting that transgender identification is under-estimated “by orders of magnitude.”

Mr. Rider, the Minnesota researcher, hopes that their study will help educators, counselors and therapists to ask the right questions about discrimination, bullying and other forms of victimization transgender teens may face. The survey results support the American Academy of Pediatrics policy that says “pediatricians should use gender-neutral terms and encourage teens to feel comfortable talking about their emerging sexual identities.”

WHERE THE BOYS ARE

Desmond is Amazing

An article I saw recently had this headline: “RuPaul Loves “Drag Kid” Desmond.” This appeared in the February 7, 2018 edition of the online magazine The Daily Beast website. The “drag kid” Desmond turned out to be a 10 year old boy who attended Ru’s “DragCon” event in New York City back in September, 2017.

The Daily Beast article did a full profile of the boy who demonstrated an interest in drag at a very early age and has adopted the name “Desmond is Amazing” for his “Club Kid” drag persona. His family, who live in Brooklyn, are supportive. “I mean we accepted it because we would rather he feel comfortable with himself,” his mother Wendylou explained in the article. “If someone has such a deep interest, you’re just going to indulge them in it. Like if your kid was so crazy about football, you’d take them to the game.” Desmond told the reporter, “My parents are not forcing me at all. This is what I wanted to do, and this is what I always want to do for the rest of my life. I just love their support, it’s fabulous.”

According to the article, Desmond “came out” at age 5 — and again at age 9. He does all the normal things a grade schooler does at school and has a large interest in toy trains as well. [Editor’s Note: There seems to be a connection between train fans and crossdressing.] His classmates know about the drag persona but when he isn’t being “amazing” he seems to be a quiet kid who doesn’t particularly like school. Desmond makes personal appearances and has an agent but can’t perform in clubs because of age restrictions in alcohol establishments.

Suzan Bee Anthony

The same article also mentioned two other grade school age drag queens. One of them is Suzan Bee Anthony, a 10 year old from Springfield, Missouri. The article said, “According to Victoria Bailey-Kerr, her son, Jason, has worn “his sister’s hand-me-down Halloween costumes, wigs, and makeup” since the age of 2. In 2016, Jason’s parents took him to the Greater Ozarks Pridefest in Missouri, where another queen, Ruby Diamond, brought him on stage and introduced him to the crowd. The next year, Suzan Bee made her first appearance and performed Material Girl by Madonna for the crowd.”

Lactatia

The other grade school queen,”Lactatia” is a 9 year old who is into the cosmeticized glamour look (rather than Desmond’s club kid androgyny). Lactatia got her start appearing in her hometown Montreal at another drag convention when she was just 8 years old. The House of Mann fashion company featured Lactatia modeling some of their tamer designs (apparently they also make burlesque and fetish clothing) and received a torrent of outrage. Although the outfits Lactatia modeled were modest, she was heavily made-up and photographed in coquettish, come-hither poses and expressions. The name “Lactatia” also came into question by some who found it jarring applied to a pre-pubescent boy. The kid makes a pretty girl but I have to agree with some of the concerns.

I never know what to think about these stories of young children like Desmond, Suzan, and Lactatia. Where do you go after you’ve achieved fame as a drag queen in the fifth grade? Having grown up in the age when crossdressing and many other forms of self-expression were kept under wraps as the default position for most people, maybe I’m just old-fashioned at heart. In the best of all possible worlds, drag would just be another hobby. But this is hardly the best of all possible worlds we live in.

IT’S HARD OUT HERE FOR A QUEEN

The New York Times had a long article headlined “A Golden Age for Drag?” in the Arts and Leisure section on January 21, 2018. It was an interesting look into the business of being a drag queen in the current culture. The article gave props to RuPaul’s Drag Race television shows and the traveling troupes of Drag Race contestants who barnstorm the country doing shows and making personal appearances. The reporter and some of the veteran New York queens interviewed said this was a golden age of drag performance on a par or even exceeding previous high points in the 1980s and 1990s.

The article and most of the drag artists said, however, that it is tough to make a living except for the few who managed to break through on RuPaul’s shows and beyond on their own. On the tour bus the queens are cramped while traveling and do their shows and sell personalized merchandise in local clubs in the heartland of America. For those who try to make it on their own, there are stories of low pay and inexperienced or dishonest local promoters. Well known drag queens like Varla Jean Merman and Sherry Vine went through a brief rough patch competing with the stars of the television shows who drew all the audiences for awhile. The Times quoted Sherry Vine: “The clubs only wanted ‘Drag Race’ girls. And we were like: ‘Oh my God, what are we supposed to do?”

Former Lips queen Gemma Stone.

For the drag queen trying to make it on their own, the pay per show (even in Manhattan) tops out at $250. Smaller venues and clubs in smaller towns can be as low as $50 per show. So most queens are working regular jobs and doing drag mostly because they love performing. The article quoted Sasha Velour, “It has to be around $100 or you’re getting ripped off. It should be minimum wage for drag, but there are no standards. And people would do it for free. It’s a passion.” Another performer Kelsey Dagger said, “It’s freelancing. You’re constantly reappraising your worth and balancing that against the fact that you do actually enjoy this and want to be doing this.” Performer Batty Davis who lives and drags in Grand Rapids, Michigan, said she doesn’t mind working full-time (at Sephora, the cosmetics store, ha) and doing drag as her avocation. She said, “I don’t want to be the next drag superstar. I love what I do locally.”

The article also had this brief cautionary tale for anyone who might dream of being a full-time drag queen: “Gemma Stone used to bar tend full-time at Lips in Fort Lauderdale, earning nearly $1,500 a week. Sixteen-hour days in drag quickly burned her out. “When I started, it was an escape from my everyday life,” she said. “Turning it into my everyday life kind of destroyed it for me.” She now waits tables and performs monthly at Rumors [in Grand Rapids]. “I do drag when I want to. It’s fun again. We get here early and do our makeup together and laugh.”

THE CROWN

Claire Foy as Queen Elizabeth.

Let’s talk for a few minutes about a real queen instead of the drag types. I’ve been watching the Netflix series, The Crown which concluded its second season recently. Like most Americans, I fall into the category that thinks British royalty is huge nonsense — yet I’m fascinated by the real people and backstories of the royal families.

The television show seems to be true to historical facts with some necessary dramatic license. In fact, I saw several reviews that discussed its historical accuracy or fact-stretching and it came up with good grades. The casting is one of the shows great strengths and besides Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip, we get to see interesting depictions of Winston Churchill, the Queen’s sister Princess Margaret, Jacqueline Kennedy, and prime ministers Anthony Eden and Harold MacMillan. Queen Elizabeth is portrayed by actress Claire Foy.

I have to admit that I developed a slow moving crush on Miss Foy as I watched the first season. She is prettier than the real Queen Elizabeth but the producers have kept her understated in appearance and demeanor. Yet she manages to appeal whether in full Queen regalia or in her gardening babushka and wellies. It’s strange to be watching and thinking “the Queen is kind of hot.”

Princess Anne

The series so far takes place in the years that coincided with my very early childhood. Besides the “scandalous” partying of Princess Margaret (played by the attractive Vanessa Kirby), the show also touched on the “Profumo Affair” which brought down a War minister (John Profumo) and the Prime Minister (MacMillan) in its wake. That affair involved aristocratic swingers parties and the infamous good-time girls Christine Keeler and Mandy Rice-Davies. It occurred as precursor to the period that would soon be known for James Bond, the Beatles, Twiggy and Carnaby Street in London’s swinging sixties.

While Claire Foy and Vanessa Kirby are putting some sex appeal into their royal roles, there is one member of the real royal family I always thought was attractive: Princess Anne, the daughter of Queen Elizabeth II. She is in her 60s now but in her prime, she was a very attractive young woman. She was fond of horses and the only thing the accompanying photo needs is a view of her gleaming riding boots. Her Royal Highness indeed.

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Category: Fun & Entertainment, Opinion

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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