Last night, the very lovely Crystal Frost was filming a documentary about transfolks that she’s been working on for the past year and a half. She prepared specific questions for me and Betty, good questions, about my erotica, about sexuality, about GLBT politics. I wasn’t surprised; the first time I met Crystal, at FanFair last year, we both instantly seemed to know that we understood each other. It had something to do with the fact that she had brought her boyfriend, and that I was not your average wife. She is a gay man in guy mode, and appreciated my inclusion of gay CDs in my book.
Quite to our surprise, we got the red carpet treatment when we arrived. Ina, Silver Swan’s hostess, saw us first, and then Crystal waved us over: we would be next up for our interview. We didn’t even have time to get a drink. We powdered our noses and reapplied our lipstick, and we were off. At the very end of the interview, off camera, I said to Crystal, “I don’t know who most of these people are; I’ve never seen them here before”. “Camera whores”, she whispered back.
After the interview, Betty and I went in for a drink and found a quiet table in back to talk. Unfortunately, the back room at Ina’s has lived up to the reputation of back rooms everywhere, and is now where the working girls set up trade. One of our CD friends was there, who chatted amiably with us about Betty’s next performance. The minute she walked away, an older chaser took her chair. He immediately explained he was confused by the place, and asked Betty if she was a boy. Although we knew what he was asking (effectively “do you have a penis?”) we didn’t clarify anything for him. He backtracked, pointing at me, “You’ve always been a woman, right?” and then went back to questioning Betty, who of course — as she always does — clarified that we were married. “So would you go on a date with me?” he asked in response. We’re still always dumbfounded by that. We tried to clarify. Betty: “We’re monogamous.” Me: “We met when she was still a boy, and got married, and we’re still married, happily.” Still confusion. Betty finally clarified, “we only have sex with each other, and we like it that way. We”e more like lesbians.” It took the L word to finally get that bulb to light over his head. “Don’t you think lesbians are the reason this place exists?” he said, “If these guys had been able to get dates, they wouldn’t have to do this.” “Uh, no,” I tried to explain. Betty chimed in with the usual ‘sex and gender’ clarification, and when she finished, he asked if we’d be interested in a threesome. “Oh wow,” I said, looking right at him, “we’ve never been asked that before.” I had him. “I’m kidding,” I said, “We get asked that every time we come here, and we always say no.”
At that moment, the very lovely Ina came up and told us we were urgently wanted outside. A big kiss to Ina for that bit of genius; I suppose I had started to look like I was going to hit him.
The night became more bizarre. Betty and I saw someone who looked vaguely familiar and she turned out to be Mona Rae Mason, who is currently interviewing transfolk for her Transgender Project. I stood outside and talked to Crystal’s producer for a while, about gender stereotypes and the way outsiders responded to transness; I got the feeling she was a woman who had seen a lot of the world and wouldn’t have been surprised by much. They moved the shooting inside and all the girls who didn’t want to be caught on film came outside. I chatted with a Silver Swan regular decked out in all white: white corset, hose, heels, – and not much else. I kept thinking about Diane Frank, one of our message board regulars who finds that kind of oversexed slutty outfit abhorrent, and trying not to laugh.
Eventually I went inside and sat next to Betty who was drinking a Corona and had bought me a white wine. â€œShe took a sip,â€ Betty said, pointing to a tranny sitting catty corner from me. Apparently she’d needed a prop when the camera had come her way, and my wine glass was within reach. “I already gave her what-for,” Betty explained.
I tapped the tranny in question. “Hi, I’m Betty’s wife, I heard you drank my wine.” “Oh, sorry,” she giggled. She asked if it was our first time at the Swan, so I explained I’d done some of the research for my book there more than two years ago. She wanted to know why she’d never seen me there before then. “We don’t come that often; we tend to hang out in lesbian spaces.” “Lesbian?” she clarified. I nodded. She swiveled on her chair and stopped speaking to me altogether.
In the meantime, the camera had found its way to our corner of the bar to shoot a t-girl putting on makeup, so Betty and I took a drink, as per the rules of the Tranny Documentary Drinking Game. Ina brought another girl over to the camera and encouraged her to “do a kick.â” The girl complied. “Oh do it again,” someone else said.
And suddenly I could see the video tape cover to Mondo Tranny. We left soon after. I didn’t have to wonder anymore if the whole talk show modus operandi when covering trans subjects really is the producers’ fault; from where I sat, the trans community was more than willing to play into stereotypes, and no-one had to tell them to, not even egg them on.
That said, I have hope editing will make this a good documentary, anyway.