The boom-boom-boom of the beat filled my eardrums, the barely-clad dancers—mere inches away—drew my eyes, as dozens of sexy, single women surrounded me, right there on the edge of the stage, seven days ago today.
It was my birthday. And to celebrate, I had lured ten girlfriends to Southern Nights in Orlando, Fla., to drink and dance the night away.
There was a drag show, then an outdoor patio, where we got our groove on. Then, inspired by an amazingly flexible go-go dancer, one of my friends and I tried our hands at twerking. Well, not our hands, of course. Truth be told, she had the body for it, and I had the enthusiasm, but neither one of us did anything other than making fools of ourselves. But having fun is all that I really remember of that moment.
We moved inside for the stage show, and all of us spread out as we gathered around the glitter-ball and klieg lights focused on the runway.
From a corner in the shadows, I studied these women who had everything I had ever wanted: a genuine girlhood, bodies that matched their identities, a life absent the twists and turns endured by someone transgender.
Someone transgender, like me.
I watched them in their plaids and backward baseball caps and cut out tops and short shorts and ties and every kind of butch, femme, dyke, lipstick, boi, and all kinds of lesbian fashion one might find in Central Florida on a Saturday night. Their eyes were, if not on each other, then on the stage.
And there was a lot to look at. Ivy Les Vixens and her dancers from Girl The Party twerked, twirled and tested the staying power of pasties to the cheers of everyone, as DJ dLux and DJ Nela rocked the house.
If anybody saw me at all, no doubt they saw a woman who more closely resembled their mom than anything else. And me standing next to another mom from our group likely didn’t help. We had a great time, but there was no mistaking us for 20 or 30-somethings.
Hey, that’s better than being seen as “a man in a dress.” For the record, I wore leggings.
Writer, YouTuber and my forever friend, Maia Monet was honest in her assessment—as always. She was the one who made sure the ladies and I got into the club and had a great night.
“Yeah, you looked like every other straight woman who has attended a Vixens show,” she texted me. “You looked like that last time, too.”
That’s an improvement, actually, over last time; upon my first visit to Southern in 2014, when I struggled to slip a single into Ivy Les Vixens’ bra, Maia told me, “Hon, you even smell straight.”
Look, there’s no denying I could have been a gold star: I’ve dated no one but women all my life, I’ve never had sex with anyone but women and was married to one woman 19 years.
But in coming out as a trans woman in my late 40’s, I opened wide a door I’d never dared even knock upon. I realized, in emerging from the shell I had inhabited so damn long, that I was a woman who wanted to be loved by a man.
And so that first trip to Southern three years ago was a transgender test, of sorts. I needed to explore who I was in a world of women who love women and learned something essential about what I had been hiding.
That’s why, last week, I was not surprised to feel a familiar desire fill me, looking out from my corner of the stage upon the dancers prancing on the runway and gyrating every which way. The sexuality was raw, the energy electric, and there was no mistaking that the women and girls watching with me were turned on.
But I didn’t want them; I wanted to be them.
That’s when Ivy spotted me, standing where I was told to stand, as she sashayed right up to me and planted her gorgeous, luscious lips on me, wished me a happy birthday, and told me—even if it was not true—that I looked fabulous.
As sweet as that gesture was, as jealous as every woman in that room was of me at that exact moment, that right there was the gift I had hoped for.
This incredibly beautiful woman saw me for who I am. It’s all any trans person wants: to be visible.