Pride follow-up 1: The Trans March

Among the tribe, Dolores Park, San Francisco, June 25, 2010.

It took me a week from hell (namely, a major eruption of unemployment anxiety, triggered by the first throes of a dying car) to finally get up the spirit and the time to write the follow-up to my post a week ago about Pride — the concept of pride as I contemplated going up to San Francisco for both the annual Trans March a week ago Friday (June 25) and the SF Pride Parade last Sunday (June 27).

Well, I attended both. Never a dull moment in my life, and neither day was an exception to that. I don’t know if I really ever have to do any of this again, but I at least experienced it up close — and what I saw both excited and disappointed me.

The Pride Parade will be the next post. First, the Trans March.

I had my doubts about whether I wanted to participate in two events — which, since my friends were out of town and hotels were either sold-out or Sir Francis Drake expensive, would mean I’d have to drive up and back twice in three days. And driving through the hot, vast expanse of the San Joaquin Valley on 99, with many miles between exits in the middle of nowhere, especially late at night, is not something I look forward to. Plus, it gets expensive, even with a car that gets about 33 mpg in freeway driving. (Dammit, I need a job up there!)

Actually, I attended the Trans March for the first time last year. It was on a gorgeous, sunny Friday afternoon. I was just starting to spread my wings, so to speak, and this was to be the first time I would be among so many women (and men) of my tribe, and I was truly thrilled and excited, so the occasion called for something festive. I was a vision in purple, from my makeup to the flower in my hair to my flowing, pleated top to my tights — almost ‘70s Bohemian without really trying to be.

I met a couple of people here and there in my walking around Dolores Park that day, but generally I felt alone in a crowd, though I did get a few nice compliments. San Francisco is not, as I’ve gradually learned, the warmest place in the universe, and I’m not talking about the 60-degree days in mid-August, either. I didn’t feel any real sense of community — just a couple thousand people loosely connected by one particular thing.

The 2009 parade dead-ended somewhere deep in the Mission, after which we walked back down to Mission Avenue, toward an after-party at El Rio, past the occasional calls and whistles from a bunch of young thugs hanging out at some halfway house or shelter or something like that. The El Rio party was crammed to the walls in each room, as well as out in the courtyard. I guess I don’t do crowded clubs well anymore, except maybe for a band I want to see. Met one girl there and had an enjoyable chat with her for a while, a cute woman with greenish eyes and curly brown hair past her shoulders. She had just moved to SF from North Carolina for a job as a nurse, at SF General if my memory serves me right, and she was just coming out as a lesbian. We kept each others’ numbers for a while but drifted off after a couple conversations over the summer.

The only downside of the day was the demise of my shoes, black patent platforms. First, I somehow broke the loop for my right ankle strap on the BART on the way in from Pleasanton. Then, during the rally, I stumbled and stepped the wrong way on the uneven pavement along the hillside, and the next thing I knew the platform of my left shoe had split at the ball of the foot. (And I found out what they use to make platforms: some cheap, mop-bucket-water gray particle board material that looked like industrial waste.) But intuition had told me early on in my transition to always carry a spare pair of flats in my purse. The platforms were only $12 Payless cheapies, but they were comfortable and styling they did me well, and I was gonna miss them. But they were truly a lost cause. So I left my shoes in San Francisco, low on a hill, and changed into the emergency flats.

I didn’t approach this year’s Trans March with the same degree of enthusiasm. Hell, I wasn’t sure there was gonna be one until early in the week. The organizers didn’t even post any info until a few days before. I have a sneaking suspicion this lack of shit-togetherness is why the Chronicle didn’t even give the march a mention, either in the Pride weekend previews or after the fact — save for a Mission blog post the next day that used the march as the entry to a piece about … the goddamn Red Sox, who were in for the weekend to play the Giants. I can’t imagine the Chronicle deliberately giving much space to the Dyke March the next day but overlooking the Trans March.

Anyway, I just didn’t have the same enthusiasm, but I needed to get away from Fresno, and besides, you never know who you’re gonna meet at these things … maybe the girl of my dreams?

No platforms this year — instead, a pair of black Simply Vera Wang Mary Janes I found a couple months ago for about 15 bucks on eBay. And no bright colors this year — my black Celtic top, fishnets and a black ruffled miniskirt I bought at Target the night before. (The damn thing, with its elastic waist, kept sagging in the front, and I had to keep pulling it up.) Plus, my go-to cardigan. The weather in Fresno might have been sunny and upper 90s, but the forecast for San Fran called for cloudy and in the 60s. Which usually means about 10 degrees colder with the wind.

Left around 8 so I could get up there in time to get some breakfast, go to my favorite MAC for a touchup, maybe get some gelato next door at Tango and then get some coffee a couple blocks up Fillmore at The Coffee Bean. True to form, I encountered the clouds as I crossed over Altamont Pass on 580 into Livermore, so I knew I’d need the sweater eventually.

Got in around noon and decided to have a late breakfast at Lori’s Diner on Mason, a block and a half from Union Square. It’s a small local diner chain, and I found this one next to the King George Hotel when I stayed there in between one of my recent trips home. I enjoyed the spinach omelet – with cream cheese and a ton of garlic. Also enjoyed Marta, the classic bleach-blonde, hard-edged diner waitress with the kind heart, and the oldies soundtrack was pretty good.

I sat myself down and ordered my usual. As I was getting ready to leave, I saw a familiar face walking by. Holy shit – it was Ron.

Ron Orozco is the religion writer at The Fresno Bee; I was his editor for three years. Ron’s a born-again Christian. In Fresno, where radical right-wingers and prominent Christian preachers with agendas lord hand-in-hand over the political landscape — such as their wholehearted support of Proposition 8, the anti-gay marriage law passed in the ’08 election — that often means intolerance of others, ignorance and a strong belief in the gospel of wealth. Ron, however, is one of the kindest, gentlest, most accepting, most open-minded and least judgmental souls I know. In other words, a true Christian.

But Ron was the one ex-colleague I sweated a little about coming out to. I figured it would be a bit of a shock to him, having worked closely with him, not to mention talked baseball with him, all that time. Anyway, the day before our friend and ex-colleague Tom’s memorial in April, I met with Ron and Rick Bentley, the paper’s TV/movie writer, at Mediterranean, the restaurant on Tulare where Tom and I occasionally snuck out on Fridays. Rick organized the service, Ron lined up his church for the service and gave the eulogy, and I helped organize the music Tom wanted. Rick knew about the girl in their midst, but not Ron. So I told him as we were getting ready to dig into lunch.

His reaction?

“Well, you’re my friend, right? That’s all that matters.”

God love him.

Back to the diner. With all that in mind, I thought, “Ron hasn’t seen me yet; I don’t want to shock him.” But the voice of reason shot back, “Hell, he knows already!” And I would’ve kicked myself. So that said, I bolted to the door and let out a “Ron!” He didn’t hear me. So I ran back, left my tip on the table, grabbed my purse and sweater and rushed up the block. He got to the corner of Geary and I shouted more sharply, “Ron!”

This time, he stopped.

“Ohhhhhhh!” A big smile of gradual awareness. “Fraaaaaaan!”

“Trick or treat!”

He gave me a huge hug and a how-are-you. He then introduced me to his girlfriend, who was, not surprisingly, an absolute sweetheart. They were in town for the game that night. We caught up for a few minutes before they had to go meet their friends for lunch. But I took it as a good sign that I got such a welcoming affirmation, and from an unexpected familiar face, to start my day in San Francisco. It was a great souvenir to carry around in my heart …

And with that, I walked to the 38 bus stop headed out on Geary to Fillmore, and from there then a two-block walk to MAC.

The boutique was as crowded as I’d seen it in a long time, especially on an early Friday afternoon. I was looking at a couple of limited-edition eye shadows I hadn’t seen before. There was a deep pinkish/purplish Liberty of London shade called Dame’s Desire. MAC also had a limited-edition line called To the Beach; among the seashell-adorned shadow cases was a shade of aquaish blue called Shimmermoss; it matched the paua shell earrings my friend Pam bought me from a vendor out by the Cliff House when she came out to visit from Nashville in April.

One of the artists asked if I needed any help. I was looking for a replacement for my liquid liner, since I ran out to the absolute end that morning. I also told her I was looking to do something a little different with my eyes, and I was curious about these two particular shadows. And she was more than willing to have her wicked ways with me, so I sat down.

Missy moved down from Seattle a couple months ago to take over as manager, and she knew her stuff. And she knew her people. We hit it off wonderfully. She learned early on that I knew several of the other artists there. I told her this shop was where I had my first makeover nearly 2 ½ years ago, where I learned to do my face, and she was thrilled when I told her Mimi was my first artist. I told her I was up from Fresno for the day for the Trans March, and she gave me the names of a couple of artists at the Macy’s back at the Fashion Fair Mall I should get to know.

She also saw the possibilities in blending the two shades — Dame’s Desire for the lower lid and in the crease, Shimmermoss for the upper lid. And for the crowning touch, she drew a perfect line with the black liner on my lid, out in a cat fashion, and in a way I couldn’t master. It was thin, it was straight; it was perfect.

“OK,” I asked her after I looked in the mirror, “Just how the hell did you do that? I can’t draw my lines out like that without the brush getting caught in my crow’s feet.”

“You do your stroke inward,” she explained. “You put your finger down” past the corner of the eye — “Don’t pull on the skin; just hold it firmly” — and take the brush and sweep in the line slowly from the endpoint into the eyelid. It was just too easy.

She then gave me a coat of lip gloss, which I knew wouldn’t last long, but it made for a photogenic crowning touch.

Makeup has become such a near-everyday thing for me that I occasionally need a reminder of the fun I can have with it, or at least the possibilities. (Plus, what girl doesn’t like a little extra pampering and attention?) This was a truly fun experience, and I felt more than ready to take on the crowd at Dolores Park. Missy told me to check in sometime in September and we’d do some more experimenting with looks.

Went next door to Tango and had some gelato — Steve, the young Israeli guy who’s my usual server, wasn’t there, and I wasn’t surprised; I figured I’d run into him watching the march, as I did last year. (I didn’t, though.) Headed up the street to The Coffee Bean and had an iced coffee and saw another friendly familiar face; I hadn’t seen Suzy, my coffeeslinger, in months, and I figured she had just moved on. “No, I’m not going anywhere,” she said.

And I’m still astounded, whether it be at MAC or The Coffee Bean, places with high-volume business, that the people who work there remember my name, even if they haven’t seen me in months. Of course, I’m a hard face to forget — and I’m betting they probably don’t get many transgender customers — but still, they encounter thousands of people in their lines of work. I’m always flattered and pleasantly surprised when they say “Hey Fran.” I never take that for granted.

So from there, it was onto the 22 bus and down Fillmore to Church, to the turn at 16th, two blocks from the northeast corner of the park. It was getting close to 4 o’clock, and the rally started at 3:30, but the reason for rushing to get to the far half of the park wasn’t because I felt I was late; I was just feeling the adrenaline.

The sun was making sporadic appearances, and only for a few minutes at a time. But I did feel some warmth from some of the crowd, which included at least as many supporters/friends/lovers as trans men and women. One woman, on blankets with a few of her friends called out and asked if I would sit with them for a picture. I gladly obliged and then asked if they could do the same with my camera. Three the women were of the genetic variety, plus one transman … plus a beautiful young black transgirl named Diana. “As in Diana Ross,” one of her friends said. “As if I couldn’t figure that out,” I grinned … With the long, curly hair, she did a great approximation of the early-’80s “I’m Coming Out” Diana — except she had a much sweeter disposition than Miss Ross.

I also ran into a couple of friendly acquaintances I made at last year’s march. Dani was sitting on the hill with her wife, Susie. Dani, who’s about a decade older than me but dresses much younger — she’s definitely a skateboarder dudette — is a lawyer who works for trans causes in town, and for not much money. She and Susie were wearing the bright red T-shirts of the organization for which she works, the Transgender, Gender-Variant & Intersex Justice Project. A good deal of her work is with trans women in prison, where being trans, as you can imagine, seriously jacks up the chance for abuse.

Their story is wonderful. They’ve been married 38 years now, and Dani came out to Susie 11 years ago. That’s so often a deal-breaker for a marriage, but certainly not in this case. As Susie explained to me last year, it was because of the love they had for each other. We walked together part of last year’s march. It was wonderful. And as we sat, a couple of trans girls in the same red shirts came over to say hi.

I later ran into a couple of friends from Fresno. Andrew is a keyboardist extraordinaire, trained at Berklee — and for Californians, that’s the prestigious Berklee College of Music in Boston, not the prestigious University of California at Berkeley. I had just seen him play a couple nights before with a funk band at the Landmark after the pub quiz. He was up for the whole weekend with his boyfriend, Clint, who I didn’t really know but who, like Andrew, was a familiar face from the Revue. We sat for a while, and watched speakers speak and transpeople perform.

One group that struck me was four young trans girls who did a dance routine. They were young and they were hot, and they knew it. They belonged to a support group for young trans people, ages 14-24. Just the fact that they were that young and that out, and able to rock their true selves so wonderfully at that young an age, says volumes about how society is starting to evolve and finally come around. I so wish to hell I could have come out in my teens or early 20s. Then again, everything for a reason, right?

So it was with Andrew and Clint that I started making my way down to the foot of the hill, onto Dolores, and the start of the march a little after 7. About an hour before, I decided I fought the cold as well as I could, but it was time for the cardigan.

It was a noisy procession to downtown, with good-natured whoops punctuated by the hoary old liberal marching chants passed around on small pieces of paper by some of the organizers (you know, of the “Hey hey! Ho ho! …” variety). Since there’s little in the way of order to these things, save for keeping people on the parade route, people kept going ahead of me and falling behind me like tides ebbing and flowing. At one point early on, we met three young lesbians from Fresno who were behind us, lending their support to our causes.

About a third of the way down to the Civic Center, I lost Andrew and Clint — though I saw them later on, Andrew snapping a couple photos of me from the sidelines on Market, around 11th —  and I ran into two young girls.

Stephanie was someone I met a year ago during some of my job training workshops at the SF LGBT Center. She’s in her early 20s, and if I remember right, she was working on getting a job in the music business, on the recording studio end. She was sporting a combo of fluorescent colors, a denim jacket, pigtails, striped tights and Converse Chucks. And I couldn’t help but notice, as she walked with her bike, that her transition was going very well; she’s turning into one very pretty, feminine young woman. We shared a hug and walked for a bit with another young lady. After a while, Stephanie drifted off and the two of us talked.

I had noticed Zoe walking around on the hill at the park earlier. I actually thought, from a distance, that she was a genetic female: short, very slight, light brown hair past her shoulders, in a belted green overcoat, black jeans and cute black flats. It wasn’t until Stephanie introduced us that I discovered she was one of us. We talked from about the point where the procession turned from Dolores onto Market, down to the end at the Civic Center.

Zoe is 27. She’s only been in San Fran a few months — just long enough to be surprised that I had come up from Fresno for the march. As I told her, and I tell many San Francisco friends and acquaintances, don’t sell Fresno short. In many ways, it is as bad as they think. But for all the right-wing-radical yahoos, the city does have a large LGBT population (which always raises eyebrows), and of all the places in the world, I was able to come out in Fresno.

Plus, I told her, had the “No on 8” forces devoted at least some time and effort to the true battleground, the Central Valley, and not spent all their time and money preaching to the choir in San Fran and L.A. — in other words, had they not shown a certain degree of their own snobbery and prejudice — maybe gay marriage would be legal in California right now.

Zoe is planning to be a lawyer. She’s a Chicago native who had lived in Lansing, Mich. That was, until a fire gutted the house where she was living and forced her to move back with her parents, to whom she had just come out a few months before.

Everyone in the trans umbrella has their own particular tales, some harrowing. As we walked past cars and SUVs heading outbound on Market and occasionally honking horns and waving in support, Zoe told me how she almost died in the fire — not because she was trapped, but because she went back inside to put on some boy clothes. When the fire started, she ran out in her nightgown, and she was afraid of what would happen to her if someone discovered she was genetically a male. Plus, all her boy clothes were in the house. Anyway, she ran back in to change and took in two lungfuls of smoke for her troubles. To her, risking her life to avoid being discovered in Lansing was the lesser of two evils.

Wow.

So here she was in San Francisco, trying to scrape out a living and forge a new life for herself (and maybe meet a nice guy), and trying to pass the bar. And speaking of passing, she passes wonderfully – she just needs the electrolysis and no one will read her.

So we ended up at the Civic Center, where the parade dead-ended a little after 8. From there, it was just a bunch of people mingling and gradually dispersing. By that point, my feet and ankles were starting to get sore, it was damp and windy and getting dark, and I didn’t really feel like exploring or getting a bite to eat, and I really didn’t want to fight the crowds in the Castro after being around people all day, or go way out to the Mission to El Rio for the afterparty. Plus, I wanted to get home at a decent hour. So since the BART/MUNI station was right there, I headed downstairs.

I sat and waited about 10 minutes for the train back to Pleasanton. And my lower back was screaming at me. I know I’m getting a little creaky at 49, but even with my recent weight loss, the back seemed out of joint. At least until I stretched about a minute later and felt the reassuring, bass-thump snap of my vertebrae reverting to position. Got back to Fresno around 12:40, but I was too wired to get to sleep for another hour or two.

I guess the one thing I wondered most at the end was the real purpose of the Trans March. Is it to promote public awareness? (Obviously, if the organizers couldn’t get their act together to tell the Chronicle in a timely manner, then public awareness wasn’t part of their thinking.) Was it to let the general public know that transgendered people are still facing prejudice on the employment and social fronts? Or was it just an exercise in narcissism, an excuse to say “Look at us?” I really don’t know. Maybe a degree of all of the above. I have to think about this one a little bit more.

But I did get to mingle, to meet some more people in similar situations, and to feel, at least, that the tide is turning ever so slightly in favor of trans people, even factoring in the preaching-to-the-choir aspect of holding one of these rallies in San Francisco as opposed to Bakersfield.

But this didn’t feel like a movement — it again felt like a bunch of people with different stories, agendas and points of view very loosely united by one particular thing. I’m not convinced I really need to go again next year unless I’m living up there. But it was something to do, it was kinda related to what I’ve been going through, and I had to do it.

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4 Responses to “Pride follow-up 1: The Trans March”

  1. Rocky Lawrence Says:

    Fran, Keep being Fran,love ya.

    ATB,

    Rocky

  2. blake Says:

    Dang. Thing is: you’re a writer, and your blog posts are thick and long..with lots of stuff to start big ol’ conversations.
    I know that feeling…’yeah, Fresno’s just as bad as you imagine’/’no, Fresno would surprise you with the magic that can happen’—–it’s a verrrry weird dichotomy (even if I spelled it wrong)…but NOwhere where there’s human beings can be pigeon-holed with just a few words….

    and I Do love how SOMEhow you blended baseball and the TransMarch…..

    I’ve only been to Dolores Park once…and yeah, I was glad I brought something besides shorts and t-shirt to wear—-heard some music and visited the near-by mission.

    best to ya,
    Blake

  3. Richard Hulett Says:

    Great Stuff Fran, this “not a journalist” stuff kinda frees one up a bit, no? I’m thinkin “all of the above” re: The Parade…purple’s always been one of “your colors”. I’ve got a few friends in the Bay you should know if your gonna relocate/spend a lot of time there. Peace and Love Always, Dick

  4. How I spent my summer vacation (aka Labor Day) « Franorama World Says:

    […] gotten up to San Francisco three times this summer: for the Trans March and the Pride Parade in June, and a great girls’ afternoon out early last month with my […]

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