Marianne Dawson – Sociability

“They made me feel very welcome.”

A friend of mine who was gay took me out for my birthday to a gay bar. I didn’t have a problem with that: “That’s cool, as long as people leave me alone.” [Laughs.] I identified as straight [then. The Zoo] was pretty empty when I was there, but there was the guys, there was drinking, and there was playing pool like any other tavern you would go to, only that was just gay specific. Had a dance floor. I danced. I think that it helped a lot in the sense that I got to meet other people there. “Well, they’re not so bad.” I did get hit on, and I was like, “I’m not that way.” I was flattered anyways, because somebody was interested [in me]. I’ve never been afraid of a gay bar since. It was like “cool,” and “I know how to say ‘no.’” I was nervous at first, but anything that’s brand new, you get a little apprehensive.

Usually there’s a specific bar in town that drag queens designate as their place of performance, where they do their shows and that kind of thing. Sonya’s was the place for that. I remember going in there for the first time. I saw this woman on stage. [She] was probably lip-syncing, okay? I didn’t know that. I was like, “Wow!” She was a really nice looking lady. Then, my friend who [had taken] me to The Zoo said, “That’s not a woman. That’s a guy.” I said, “Nooo! [Laughs.] No way!” “Yeah.” Then he called that person over. I think it was Sonya. I don’t know, but [my friend] had that person come over, then introduced me, and she said, “Hello.” I go, “Okay, deep voice.” Well, that kind of really piqued my curiosity. I said, “I didn’t know that this thing even existed.”

Later on in the years, I did go to another show in Eugene, Oregon, where there was a lot of “ladies.” I really thought they were ladies. I was with my ex-wife and she says, “No, no, no. Those are guys.” I go, “Nooo.” So I went over. There was a table designated for the royalty, people that were in the [Imperial Sovereign] Court. I went over there and I just chatted with all of them. I was nervous. I have to tell you, I was nervous. But I went, and I chatted with all of them. They made me feel very welcome. I got more comfortable. My table happened to be right there were their table was. [I] saw the performance. After I had talked to all of the folks there at the table, I was fine. They did their shows and I was just impressed. “I guess if you practice you could do this, right?” Well, that is what kind of projected me into, you know, “Maybe I want to do shows.” I tried that here in Spokane, to be in a show. I never made it, but I did practice in front of the mirror and did the fake microphone thing. Did all the moves, which only helped me put myself more into that persona. The more I did this kind of thing, the more I was sure I was supposed to be a woman—instead of being born man, like I was, physically anyway.

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I have had the occasion to have conversations and listen to F to M’s who’ve had some experience mixing with other men. That’s a whole scenario. It’s hard for a Male to Female [like me] to talk about, “What’s it like to be a man?” because we’ve always felt like we didn’t fit in anyways. It’s because we have more feminine attributes than masculine. [The masculine world is] real competitive and it’s real physical. If an F to M doesn’t fit into that, then they’re going to be looked upon as maybe a weaker form of male. That can be a brunt of a lot of jokes, and just harassment. It’s hard for them to fit in. Just looking like a man, having the facial hair, and having the deeper voice is one part of it. Actually being able to fit in with the rest of men folk, being competitive, doing the one-upmanships, “I’m better than you,” and all that stuff . . . It’s not fun. But then again, I went to the female side. If that’s part of their emotional makeup, to be that way, they’re going to fit in a whole lot easier.

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Sources: Interviews with Maureen Nickerson on 18 November 2006 and 9 December 2006, held at the Museum of Arts and Culture; Interview with Laura S. Hodgman on 16 February 2013.