“The Normal Heart” vs. Transgender Revisionist History

Last night I watched HBO’s film “The Normal Heart”.

I was in the Bay Area when the AIDS crisis erupted.

I had a girlfriend who lived upstairs from one of the first gay men in San Francisco to die from this horrible disease.

I watched as a handful of cases turned into thousands. Handsome, talented, funny, wonderful young men wasting away.

I saw a man collapse and die on Castro Street near 18th, his friends were frantically calling emergency and grew angry when an ambulance was very slow in coming.

EMTs wore what were similar to HazMat suits in those days, cops wore rubber gloves and face masks for even simple interactions with gay men.

Watch the 1990s film “And the Band Played On.”

I had slept with a transgender sister just prior to the outbreak of AIDS, remember it wasn’t even called AIDS for the first couple of years.

I had a strange acquaintance with a huge honking cold sore tell me she didn’t want to hug me or kiss me because I had a history of loving very freely.  I was fine with that because people with open oozing sores scared me.

Kim, a sister I had been friends with was an IV drug user had AIDS and died in the late 1980s.

I found myself taking on the role of of scold, lecturing sisters on safer sex and the necessity of using condoms every time they had sex, whether for money or pleasure.

But so many “trannies” (the word we used up until about three years ago) choose to live kamikaze lives of engaging in high risk dangerous acts like street sex work, IV drug abuse, sharing needles, silicone pumping, that my pleading with them to use condoms was ineffectual.

Even though they too were getting AIDS and dying of it so many insisted they weren’t “faggots” and didn’t want anything to do with those “faggots.”

I never really felt I was part of the trans-community so I wallowed in my own grief and spent my time with lesbians who picked up the slack.

In “The Normal Heart” there is scene taken from the early days when the Gay Men’s Health Crisis Center was being founded. A lesbian volunteers, prompting one of the founders of GMHC to proclaim, “Thank god for the lesbians.”

After a decade of squabbling between gay men and lesbians, arguments over gay male priorities and lesbian feminist priorities, the gay men who had led the Gay Liberation Movement, that grew out of Stonewall, were dying and that was creating an organizational vacuum.

When you watch films about the 1970s gay and lesbian movement you never see transsexual or transgender folks.

There is a reason for that.

We weren’t part of the Gay and Lesbian Movement back then. Transsexuals weren’t really part of what became the Transgender Movement.  The Transgender Movement grew out of Tri-Ess, IFGE, Tapestry, The Casa Susanna.

In the 1980s the queens and transsexual sex workers in San Francisco, the people getting HIV and dying from AIDS frequented the Tenderloin and a place called the Black Rose, the married folks who would later come out as transgender held monthly meetings in a restaurant near the San Francisco end of the Bay Bridge and far from the drag queens and “trannies” who lived the kamikaze lives.

There was a bookstore on Market in the Castro.  I think it later became the SF branch of Different Light.  It was run by a wonderful gay man, a man who was dying of AIDS.  He turned me on to Tapestry Magazine.  This was about 1984 or so.  I started reading it and was able to watch the development of the “Transgender Movement”.

I don’t believe I ever saw mention of the word AIDS in Tapestry Magazine prior to the early 1990s.  It was as though the writers were operating under the influence of heterosexual privilege and were continuing their disassociation from those nasty drag queens.

Which was okay.  I know privilege when I smell it and I know heterosexism when I smell that too and the early Transgender Movement reeked of both.

I was there in the period immediately after Stonewall, during the time when queens and transsexuals were a separate entity from the gay and lesbian movements.  Our bars might have been raided the same as gay or lesbian bars but our bars were just that, our bars.  I was an outlier, the hippie woman who happened to be transsexual.  The one who went to the conferences in the early days and tried but failed at making a case for unity between TS/TG folks and the L/G community.  But it wasn’t due to complete rejection by the gay community but rather to having too many sisters think that partnering with LG people would make them queer.

You see they wanted to be seen as heterosexuals, just as the heterosexual transvestites did.

After SRS I went my own way.  Some my gay male friends were far more sophisticated and educated in the arts than I ever dreamed of being.  They suggested art shows I should see, books I should read, they helped me to gain confidence and learn about art. Some were fabulous furry freak brother bears, who smoked dope with me and went to Dead concerts.

The hot mustachioed man, who taught me how to mark up my photos to get the prints I wanted from a photo lab died of AIDS.  He was thirty something when he died.

Last week the war over the word “trannie” that is being waged by wannabee leaders of the Transgender Movement deteriorated  to the point where one of those leaders hurled the slur, “Faggot.”

If you are Larry Kramer, you get to use that word as the title of an important book you wrote. If you are a “trannie” trying to convince people to not use the word “trannie” then you don’t.

But then “trannies” love to police language while also coming up with creative slurs for non-trans folks.  One of those is the use of “fish” for assigned female at birth women, another is cis-gender for non TS/TG people.

I think the adage about glass houses applies here.

Then this morning I read a complaint about The Normal Heart” getting all the attention and how all the horrible sufferings of the transgender community were ignored.

That one sounds pretty damned narcissistic to me.  Maybe, just maybe the world doesn’t revolve around transgender people and their issues.  Maybe it is time to wipe your own ass and learn to stand on your own two feet.

I realize that for most people living in and as a part of the “transgender community” is a temporary matter, or perhaps it should be.  Transition, get SRS and then move on and grow.

Get over being special and learn to accept your own basic normality.

Acting up and hurling the F-Bomb isn’t acting like an adult.  It is acting like a spoiled child who wants to be the center of attention.