Laptop Anthropologist

Transgender party

By Tara Murtha
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 6 | Posted Oct. 8, 2008

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illustration by kris chau

My new friend Juli invited me to a party for transgendered people out in the 'burbs. After hours at a fancy restaurant in a posh pocket of manure-smelling McCain country is the unlikely spot where men--mostly blue-collar types--can safely mingle while zippered into pencil skirts and hoisted up in heels.

Here, transgendered women (the party�s open to anyone but transgendered men rarely show) sneak in a few hours dressed in feminine finery and, in varying degrees, act in ways our society says is only cool for people born with vaginas.

To clarify the he-she-it language issue: It's appropriate and respectful to refer to transgendered and transsexual men in the feminine. (All names here have been changed.)

In some ways, TGs are buried deeper in the closet than gays and lesbians. If you're a homosexual living a double life, at least your sexual partner knows what gets you hot. Not so with transgendered people, who often live their entire lives hiding hose from girlfriends, bosses and beer-hall buddies.

Many of my new friends here go to great lengths to manage rigidly compartmentalized lives. Like Juli, who's never even been out to a romantic partner. Juli's especially stressed tonight because since the last party, her worlds collided in the worst possible way.

Juli's friend Grace, who's taking hormones, tried to kill herself. Juli couldn't help save Grace. It wasn't until she heard her friend's desperate cries on the other end of the phone that she realized yet another risk of staying in the closet: Juli doesn't even know Grace's real name.



Madison is a professional plumber who's got a stylish Jackie-O-meets-'50s-housewife thing going on. Sidled up at the bar, she tells me the biggest misconception about TGs is that people assume dudes who dress like ladies are gay.

"Your gender preference is one thing, and your sexual preference is another," she says. As a board member of Renaissance, the national support group association for TGs, Madison talks on the topic at colleges. She says the percentage of gay men in her world is about the same percentage as the general population.

"They assume you're gay because you cross-dress. That's just homophobia. They look at your legs or think you're sexy and then they think, 'Oh my god. I was just turned on by a guy, and what does that say about me?'"

She says they catch plenty of shit from girls too.

"White rich girls are the worst. They chase you through the mall pointing and laughing. That's just bad parenting skills to not teach them tolerance. Not that I'm not different, but still," she says. "You don't have to be mean about it."

Madison says it's harder to come out in the suburbs. "That's why this is so nice. Out here it's just me and my horse," she sighs. "And my horse doesn't care how I dress."



Margot organizes the parties. She did her time in the closet, but she's "about as out as you can get" now. She tells me how cross-dressing's been around since ancient times and about the old days, when TGs were a top-secret society with coded door knocks and everything.

As we look out over a bar bustling with a few dozen TGs--almost all of who would only talk to me on the condition of total anonymity--Margot says things have gotten better.



At the mirror in the ladies room (it's like Grand Central Station in there) I'm chatting with Tina, a woman who looks like your friendly neighborhood biker mom. She's there supporting her man.

She agrees to tell me her story as long as I promise to write no identifying characteristics. She wants people to understand. To leave them alone.

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COMMENTS

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1. Victoria said... on Oct 8, 2008 at 06:09PM

“Tara, Thank you for taking the time to write the article. I hope we see you at future parties. And I hope you continue to help illuminate others about our lives through more articles, that we are not all that different when it comes down to the real person inside. Most suffer in silence for most of our lives, and have a rebirth like a Phoenix from the ashes too late in life to make it really count. Please come to another party and hear the spectrum of stories, many start out as you have written and other progress over time to a much happier place, and these parties are moments when we can all feel ourselves without any fear of furtive glances or paranoia of having less than attractive comments being made by people under their breaths (this is a minority and don't want to make it seem like everyone). Actually most people don't care. Thank you again and please feel free to contact me via email if you want. Victoria”

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2. Sandy Matin Philly T girl said... on Oct 10, 2008 at 06:44PM

“Dear Tara , Thank you so nice for your story on us ladies in the Tri-State area. Haveing to been to Laptop on many a Saturday night and know the true names of theladie you were chatting with was enjoyable to read. My Name is Sandy Martin and I run Support Yahoo group for us ladies in the area . My mission with the help of my Partner Victoria is to help more girls like us to get out. and enjoy is life. The group has lot of information on it and it PG-13. and the girls connect though it. Hugs and Thank again and feel free to contact me . Sandy cphlslt@yahoo.com or cphlslt@aol.com Sandy Martin Philly T girl Yahoo Group”

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3. kristintoo said... on Oct 10, 2008 at 07:59PM

“hey Tara..."Madison" here. I thank you for coming to our little corner of the world, and for your kindness toward us. But as well written as your article was...I want to make sure people understand, that we are not a private little club. To the uninitiated...it sounds like we are hiding out in secret places, only to party privately, ashamed to be seen. On the contrary...we are GOING to the Main Line establishment...to be OUT with the general public, to show that we are not people to avoid, but people to embrace, for our uniqueness. The Resturant IS open during our party and we have many people that come week after week to hang with us, because we are a fun, interesting and engaging group of people! Being Trans is no different than being blue eyed, blond haired, tall or short. We are who we are and ask nothing more of society then to let us not be judged unfairly, as we are a unique and special group that can offer much to our society. Thanks again, Kristin Nichols”

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4. Tammyrae said... on Oct 11, 2008 at 09:47AM

“Hey Tara: Last night I was speaking with two dear friends and your article sparked a comment that I must simply bring to your attention. The Laptop may have several blue-collar type attendee but the crowd varies week to week and is truly a mixed grouping of people with background/careers that range from back-breaking laborers to CEOs. I would also like to mention the location is not City like but its also not the farmlands your words created in my head. The establishment we gather at is just off the Main Line amidst other businesses and dining establishments. Furthermore, the Laptop party is open to all, thus it is a public venue - not a big closet, Some people are secretive, but this generally comes out of fear created by a binary system imposed by controlling powers of our long ago past. Others are open and are willing to talk about virtually all aspects of our lives. That said we gather and support each other through idle conversation and bit of drink and dance. We commiserate and we celebrate, and most of all we relish in the fact that we are not alone in the world. Our variation from the binary gender system is not unique to ourselves, but is a true and natural occurrence that can be follow back through history. More importantly events like the Laptop and urban venues such as Monday Night Tgirls and the Friday Gathering down in Philadelphia help provide opportunities for those not ready to face the direct challenge of standing against the coveted binary system. For me, the Parties, which are more correctly social gatherings with music provide every attendee a brief respite from potential persecution and hopefully build a network of supportive friends.”

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5. terry said... on Sep 8, 2013 at 10:27PM

“willing to talk about virtually all aspects of our lives. That said we gather and support each other through idle conversation and bit of drink and dance. We commiserate and we celebrate, and most of all we relish in the fact that we are not alone in the world. Our variation from the binary gender system is not unique to ourselves, but is a true and natural occurrence that can be follow back through history. More importantly events like the Laptop and urban venues such as Monday Night Tgirls and the Friday Gathering down in Philadelphia help provide opportunities for those not ready to face the direct challenge of standing against the coveted binary system. For me, the Parties, which are more correctly social gatherings with music provide every attendee a brief respite from potential persecution and hopefully build a network of supportive friends.”
http://lucyyou.com/mat-kinh-hang-hieu

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6. huynhhai said... on Sep 8, 2013 at 10:30PM

“good !”

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