Kim Speaking On:
I remember one time . . . [My friend Benderella, another transwoman in Tacoma,] loved smoking marijuana. Oh God! We were at a party, and I guess we were too noisy. The police came and they says, “Ladies, calm down.” And Benderella kicks the door with her leg and says [in a high-pitched voice], “Oh! Kind of kicky!” is what she to the police officer. The officer looked around and said, “Benderella, what the heck’s going on?” And she says, “Ooh!” [and shimmied her shoulders]. So, they found the rest of the weed and we all went to jail. The whole house.
I met other people through Benderella that were [sighs] society’s throw-aways. There was this one lady named Goldie. Couldn’t put two words together, but she loved her makeup and loved to go out in dresses. She was obsessed about the size of a man’s penis, Goldie was. Benderella was just happy being a lady.
I used to take [Benderella] shopping all over. We used to go to grocery shopping. We used to hit retail stores. She wanted to try on some dresses and they says, “We don’t think so!” And Benderella looks at them and says, “Why not? I have the money to buy it!” “Well, we really . . .” They were uncomfortable. That’s what it was.[Benderella] attracted a lot of truck drivers. They used to take her grocery shopping and put money in her purse. She’d enjoy them. I remember one time, she met one truck driver that she really liked, and he kept coming back. She comes and she says, “Oh, he’s going to marry me.” Then, one day he drove off and just never came back.
I used to go visit her and we’d have coffee. I bring over coffee, or I’d bring her out to coffee, you know. We used to go to Vern’s Restaurant, on 9th and Pacific. I used to take her there after the bars closed—that’s where everybody got together to meet. She enjoyed that. That was part of our bond, was that we weren’t any different than each other. She wasn’t better than me, and I wasn’t better than her. We were just there.
I’ve had some guys want to come and spend more time “to get to know me,” you know. I know the difference between a hit on and sincerity. These guys just hold your hand and say, “I really want to get to know you.” [And I think,] “No you don’t! You do not. What you want is some fun. Let me give you a referral.” It could be just me, being in my own way. I’m really very apprehensive to a lot of different things.
Everybody is saying, “Well, when are you going to get into a relationship?” I said, “I’m not. So stop asking.” I do not want to be in a relationship. I’m tired of waking up out of a sound sleep and seeing knives come at me. I don’t have to live like that no more. For God’s sake, let me have a little peace! The people that I brought in, [that] I thought were the closest to me, were the ones trying to kill me. And the people that I pushed away were the ones that were caring about me.
More information about the life and death of Benderella will be published as Laura S. Hodgman , “No Cinderella Story: Friends Remember Ben Scott “Benderella” Rae,” Oral History Review, forthcoming. The article, which relies on a wide variety of source material, sometimes departs from the story as it is told here, but it could not have been written at all without Kim Winchester’s collaboration and willingness to share her memories.
Sources: Interviews with Laura S. Hodgman on 22 February 2013 and August 28, 2013.