Classism and the Ripping of TS/TG Sisters who do “Drag Shows”

I’m not particularly a fan of low end drag shows.

But I’m going to defend them and the TS/TG sisters who work those shows for a living.

Not everyone has a fucking Law Degree.  Not every one has a fucking MBA or degree in engineering.

A lot of sisters who work these shows do not even have High School Diplomas.

The same is true of sisters who do sex work.

There is a level of classism that acts like a Trans-inclusive ENDA will solve all the problems TS/TG Folks have with employment.

That is pretty absurd given the problems of class based employment discrimination and the class war that denies people o the lower rungs of the socio-economic scale  a living wage.

When I came out street wisdom said there were three employment opportunities open to me… Hair dressing, performing and prostitution.  I didn’t do hair.  There was no call for anyone reading poetry/performing folk music on the show circuit so I did sex work.

Both performers and hair dressers look down on the sex workers.

But something else comes through now and then when I listen to the Transgender Borg Collective and that is how often I detect a smell of heterosexism and homophobia on the part of formerly heterosexual people toward people who came out through the gay community and who continue to have roots in the gay community.

The other thing is how often the TS/TG sisters being subjected to the criticism that smacks of classism are also people of color…

For what it is worth… Last year’s tizzy over the use of “trannie” had that same smell of classism and heterosexism.

Interesting article  in this week’s Dallas Observer:

Tortillas and Trannies at Dallas Taquerías

Transgender “travesty shows” help fill the seats at Dallas taquerías.

By Jose Ralat Maldonado
Thursday, May 5 2011

“Pistol-whipping” dick jokes, littered with chingas and pinches, spill from the glossy lips of an eye-poppingly beautiful woman in a rat-a-tat rhythm that keeps time with her hips as they shake to the beat of a Selena Gomez song. Colored lights above the corner stage whir back and forth, accentuating her dance moves at a taquería in East Dallas.

The restaurant, one-room Los Altos de Jalisco on Abrams Road, is decorated with beer flags and framed pastoral scenes leading back to a galley kitchen, where the cook is better at flirting with the waitress than reheating tortillas. It’s a sleepy place during lunch hours, when, if more than one table is occupied, it’s a rush. But that’s not uncommon among the scores of tiny taco shops across the city. The only thing that makes Los Altos stand out from other taco joints is the white delivery van parked outside. Pasted on its sides are colorful ads for weekend drag shows.


Sandra Cavalli, headliner of the La Catharaita show on Thursday nights at El Parral, struts across the floor. Her shtick involves direct interaction with the audience, such as caressing a shoulder and begging a married father-to-be to be gay for her. Cavalli walks the line between grotesque humor and vaudevillian zinger. Equally risque is her onstage “sister” Camilla Cavalli, a young male performer transitioning into womanhood, a 5-o’clock shadow juxtaposed with nascent breasts and long black hair, who hikes up her skirt to reveal a cleanly shaven thigh and gyrates to the cumbia blasting over the sound system.

A man in the audience, sitting with an attractive female date, whistles and catcalls during the numbers. He even bends over and digs his butt into a performer’s crotch and is ignored as if he were part of the bedazzling act pushed along by the DJ at the back of the stage, ready to add a prerecorded rim shot to a cheesy punchline. As Duarte and Cavalli both said on separate occasions, “What we do is comedy.”

Complete article at:

Now I know the Transgender Borg are often outraged by these carryings on…  But shit some of my TG Borg Sisters are more humor impaired than even many of feminists from the 1970s.  But hat is one major problem in movements that are overly fond of political correctness.

13 Responses to “Classism and the Ripping of TS/TG Sisters who do “Drag Shows””

  1. Geena Says:

    A lot of TG’s can’t deal with the flamboyant sincerity of gay\trans Hispanics, which is a mistake since Hispanic politicians are very accepting of GLBT equality.
    I loved the drag scene in Dallas, Houston, its diminished a bit, glad to see it still lives on. Will always remember a bar long gone called the Eighth Day on Fitzhugh in Dallas.

  2. Marlene Says:

    The disdain isn’t limited to our stuck-up transsisters, either!

    The upper-class boys of Gay, Inc. ignore their history and have this delusion that Stonewall was committed by a brave squad of uber-macho gay men who were tired of being harassed by both the cops and the Mob. Nothing could be further from the truth!

    I’ll tell this to our transsisters who stick their noses in the air as well as the Second Wave feminists and the boys from Gay, Inc.: If it weren’t for the *real* heroes from Stonewall — Marsha P Johnson, Sylvia Rivera, and a bunch of nancy boys and butches, the Stonewall Riot never would’ve happened, thus what you take for granted sweeties, *they* fought for!

    So when you see the queens from the drag bar float, send a kind thought to all those who’ve passed from the scene on whose shoulders you stand on, rather than spit on their memory!

    • Suzan Says:

      Stonewall was not a transsexual/transgender/queen bar. The area was gay male then just as it is gay male now. I picked up the first man I ever had sex with on the edge of the park across from where Stonewall was.

      I was out before Stonewall. I read the under ground news accounts of Stonewall as well as the actual history of it and saw the photographs by Fred W. McDarrah. You might want to read the accounts by Martin Duberman and David Carter as well.

      Transgender Inc has basically ripped off and colonized Stonewall, an actual event that was documented by photographs, news articles and writer/participants. Sort of the way they have ripped off and colonized the lives of post-transsexuals.

      Transsexuals had their own movement that was parallel but not part of the Gay Liberation Movement. So did the heterosexual Transvestites.

      You do both the Gay Liberation Movement and the actual founders of the transsexual movement and the transvestite movements a disservice by trying to colonize Gay Liberation while erasing actual TS/TG history.

      You’ve made a saint out of Sylvia who caused lesbian post transsexual women nothing but embarrassment as well as contributing absolutely nothing to our being.

  3. Marlene Says:

    Oh really, Suzan? Then who tired to rescue the street kids and the trans hustlers? It sure as hell wasn’t the GLF, or the others of the establishment, was it?

    Sylvia was a burr in the saddle of the ones who wanted to live stealth. She reminded all those that the street queens needed help, and she was shown the door.

    Let’s not forget that Eric Marcus edited an excellent series of first-person accounts titled “Making History”. In it Sylvia gave her account of what happened on that night.

    Yes the queens weren’t always welcome… but if it wasn’t for her and the others who rebelled that night, we wouldn’t be where we are today!

    I also know all about how the GLF and the other gay groups of the time ignored the plight of transfolk, not to mention the lesbians who demanded a seat at the table, and were told to go make coffee or run the mimeograph machine.

    For you information, love, I’m a historian…. and I knew about San Francisco’s Compton’s Cafeteria riot, which happened two years before Stonewall, and was instrumental in creating the first ever police liaison with the TLBG community in the US.

    • Suzan Says:

      I am not your “love”.

      You may be a historian but Martin Duberman is the one who did the oral histories that include Sylvia’s and the book is Stonewalll. Eric Marcus’s book Making History is a far broader overview.

      Kudos for knowing about Compton’s. I co-ran the organization that grew out of it for 18 months between summer of 1971 and spring of 1973. Maybe you even know about Reed Erickson who funded us. We were by and for transsexuals. We helped people change sex. Told them where to go to get hormones. Who to see for electrolysis. Who to write to or call for SRS application forms. We also told folks who to see at the library to get the beginnings of ID, how to get a student ID Card and yes some I told how to work ads instead of the streets.

      Where would I be today without Sylvia? Exactly where I am at now. Sylvia had zero impact on my life. Wendy Kohler, Mandy Taylor and Kathy Gruinier as well as Dr. Lieberman, Dr. Benjamin, Dr. Laub, and Dr. Fisk. Oh I almost forgot Reed Erickson, Zelda Suplee and April Ashley.

      I was given encouragement and support by Morris Kight, Harry Hay, Troy Perry, Del Martin, and Jim Kepner. The guys at SIR SF and Mattachine SF couldn’t help me but they sent me to people who could.

  4. tinagrrl Says:

    “Nancy boys and butches”. That’s about right. Stonewall was NOT a trans bar. Nor was it a trans gathering place. There was a trans after hours joint a couple of blocks away, as well as another trans after hours place next to the Broadway Central Hotel. There was an after hours joint on West Houston, the name of which escapes me, with a trans bartender named “Billie”, and a joint in a basement on East 10th or 11th St. where a fair number of trans folks hung out — as well as a good number of pimps — some of whom had good blow — we called it “The Sewer”. I have no idea what its “real” name was.

    Stonewall was a place where boy hustlers, and a couple of street trans folks like Sylvia would sometimes hang out. It was Mob run and VERY cliquish. Strangers were NOT welcome.

    The first night of Stonewall, I was at Telestar (the afterhours joint a couple of blocks away). We heard about the commotion, and just about all of us said, “Those poor bastards. The cops are going to work them over. They don’t stand a chance.”.

    No one who had a job, or was in any way closeted, would dare join in.

    Just about ANY level of drag was illegal. I remember thinking, those at Stonewall had NOTHING to lose. They were among the folks many in today’s “Transgender Borg Collective” would not even look at. Most lived by their wits — hustlers, boosters, sex workers. Hanging on for dear life.

    STAR (Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries) was founded, in part by Sylvia. It was not a part of “Gay Inc.”. Along with Sylvia there was a young activist named “Cookie”. I know she had her SRS, got married, and last I heard lived in one of the outer boroughs – a middle class housewife. The Trans Waitress at “The Sewer” had her SRS, moved to N.J., works, lives with her sister, helps her with her kids, and VERY OCCASIONALLY visits a place like “The Edelweiss” just to see what’s happening.

    These are the people that “Transgender Inc.” has glommed onto. Sylvia had substance abuse problems, detransed, and only resurfaced when some folks decided SHE was THE pioneer. Many of the others detransed, moved on with their lives. Others had SRS, moved on to try the middle class dream — some even succeeded.

    There are few Queens left from that era. Most died young. Then there was an entire generation of Queens that died of AIDS. “Transgender Inc” never seems to address that issue — I guess it smacks too much of SEX.

    At the same time, very few of the current “Classic Transsexual”, or “HBS” folks address any of this stuff either.

    What we seem to have is more than one myth being peddled — none of which approach the truth.

  5. Marlene Says:

    Suzan — I happen to have in My possession a copy of an article from a magazine called Trans-Action, which profiled some of the early transfolk who lived in the Tenderloin. It was one of the first in-depth articles I saw back when I was hungry for knowledge of transsexualism.

    I also saw the documentary Susan Stryker made of the riot and got a chance to talk with her as well. Remarkable woman.

    I’ll see what I can do to find Martin’s book, Suzan. You should see the timeline I’ve made of important events in trans history I’ve created over the years.

    • Suzan Says:

      Wendy, Kathy and Mandy are pictured in that article. The Transsexual Counseling Service was the organization. At the time of the article’s publication it was on Third st at Mission. There was a Big and tall Store on the Ground floor. it was funded by the war on Poverty. After they got their surgery Wendy, Mandy and Kathy left partly because the war on Poverty was killed by Nixon.

      Jan Maxwell, a student at SF State was recruited to take over on a volunteer basis. She recruited me in the summer of 1971. We arranged a grant through the Reed Erickson Foundation and moved the office to Turk St, a block and a half from Comptons’ Cafeteria.

      I left it in the hands of Leslie St Clair in 1973 with the grant in order for another year although cut. the office moved again. I moved to LA. Dr Brown came to town… Reed ceased funding the project as the counseling of transsexuals started being profesionalized and some in the psychiatric field were saying we were coaching people as part of their power grab.

      A power grab I had been warned would take place as early as 1970 by dr. evelyn Hooker.

  6. Andrea B. Says:

    I have already checked out what happened around Riveria. She was stoned-drunk through that entire period and nothing more than an annoyance who got credit for being loud and not much else. The lesbian and gay activists back then were just as much of an annoyance and colonisers of what actually happened, as Riveria.

    The bar staff from those bars have never been properly interviewed and neither were a lot of other people there. Only the loudest, of which quite a few were in fact most likely not there, were interviewed.

    The lack of non-anglo-saxon descended people that were interviewed, tells me everything I need to know about the people doing the interviews.

    Suzy, a suggestion.

    A history of what happened with the Reed Erikson Foundation would be very interesting. From actually getting the grant, through machinations that were occuring amongst transsexual people, LGB and psychiatrists could potentially be very illuminating.

    It could potentially explain a few things that have been confusing me about what happened by then. It could also through a bit of light onto what is happening now with the DSM revision.

    • Suzan Says:

      The West Village, indeed the Village tended to be predominately white although not necessarily Anglo Saxon. Not segregated but a matter of preponderance. Stonewall had younger crowd than the other bars/gay bars in the neighborhood.

      I think people are confused by the word “queen”, which had very generous usage, particularly in New York. A bit less so in San Francisco. An example would be the play/film “Boys in the Band”, every one portrayed could in street parlance be called a queen. Much of this changed post-Stonewall when Gay Liberation pointed out that the stereotyping of all gay men as feminine was just that, stereotyping.

      I don’t think there is all that much mystery surrounding the Psych. Industry getting involved. They are parasitical, like the drug industry. The late 1960s saw an enormous number of folks getting degrees in psychiatry. They needed jobs therefore the expansion of all sorts of psychiatric diagnoses were taking place.

      Psychiatry is also like religion in that it is a tool for maintaining social roles.

      Gender is about social roles.

  7. Marlene Says:

    I’ve read alot about the bad old days, Suzan… the demand that transwomen become the stereotypical housewife ala Barbra Billingsly, and conform to some sort of standard of beauty.

    It’s that fact which has escaped the Second Wave feminists like Lisa Vogel and the other anti-trans dykes when they claimed we made a mockery of women by embracing old stereotypes. It’s because we were *forced* to by the misogynist men who were the gatekeepers!

    I even remember reading about a male psychiatrist who more or less said that if he didn’t get an erection while treated a transwoman, she wouldn’t get the surgery! Now where were our so-called “allies” when statements like that got out?

    Don’t even get me started on Dr. Money, either. I hope Karma has dealt withhim for what he did to the Reimer family, as well as other transyouth!

    • Suzan Says:

      Really… Where did you read this about those demands that people become stereotypes…. Let me guess… The Transgender Borg Collective History and Lore.

      Again I went through the program at Stanford, which was really pretty typical. The group session, which was not about make-up tips even though it was called “grooming sessions” and was more about preparing people for things like work and relationships, had pretty much the same balance of people one sees in today’s transition oriented groups. One exception… there were more young people and more who were poor.

      Much of your knowledge of that era is mythology not reality.

      We weren’t forced into stereotypes by psychiatrists unless you call being able to look like a member of the sex we were transitioning to and being able to hold down a job (even part time) or attend school full time some sort of rigid demand.

      I dealt with one person in the Bay Area who has trashed me a lot claiming all this stereotype BS. For what it is worth. I was a cute hippie chick from Berkeley with a deserter boyfriend. I was also strongly feminist and militantly left wing. Any how in the trashing this person leaves out that her sanity was considered sketchy since she was a member of the Hare Krishna cult.

      Yes we all joked about the giving the doctors a hard on test. But that was mostly the young and pretty. As I said I went to Stanford and there was a whole other set of sisters who were engineers, many if not most were married with children. (I’ve written about this in the past “Mean Teen Queens and the Mothras” and “Tenderloin Terrors vs the San Jose Bombers”)

      The expectation that people actually look like a member of the sex they were getting surgery to be a member of has been conflated with all sorts of bullshit.

      All the focus on Money is bullshit too. How come the focus on Reimer isn’t on the procedure that resulted in his dick being amputated?

      Money has been made into a scapegoat when people like Stoller and Virginia Prince were far more problematic.

      It isn’t a coincidence that Prince and that lesbian faction spew exactly the same rhetoric.

      Oh BTW when I went through the Stanford Program I was open about being bisexual. But then the early 1970s were a lot freer than the world since Reagan and Thatcher.

    • Suzan Says:

      “The Bad Old Days”? Fuck that bullshit. The era I came out in totally rocked. It was the best time ever to be transsexual. We had great rock and roll, feminism and sexual liberation.

      Not to mention cheap rent. Best of all the whole Transgender Borg Collective didn’t exist.

      The entire ideology of “Transgender as Umbrella” has been the worst thing to ever happen to people with transsexualism. Worse in many ways than Money because it perpetuates highly reactionary Virginia Prince crapolla. Reactionary for its whole reification of “gender” as being something other than an oppressive means of keeping women in their place.

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