|Fall '91, 1992 by Charles Ray |
(The Broad, Los Angeles)
”Now there’s something you don’t see in the paper every day,” I thought, and headed over.
Chatting with the owner, I realized there was a larger story here. Not just one boutique, but a community. So I plunged in, visiting safe houses — cross-dressers often did not tell their spouses, so they needed places to store clothes and wigs — and attending a dance at a Northwest Side banquet hall, selecting “Miss Chicago Gender Society 1992.”
The story holds up, in my view, because it isn’t condescending. It uses “she” to refer to the people encountered. Why? Because that’s the word they used. When you’re a reporter, it gets in the way if you stand in judgment. Honestly portray any group — a skill many people never master — and praise or blame won’t be necessary.
The only outdated aspect of the story is the term “transvestites.” That is what they were called then. Or so I thought.
At the dance, I found myself talking to Leslie, who seemed an attractive young woman. “So you’re gay?” I asked.
No, she said, but she lives as a woman and dates men.
That was almost a paradox. These days, she might instead say she “is a woman” rather than “lives as a woman,” and it is easy to tumble into that semantic gap the way J.K. Rowling, famed author of the wildly popular Harry Potter books, has over the past two years.
Rowling began her slide into the bog of disrepute by defending a woman fired for angrily insisting on the preeminence of biological differences. The more Rowling explained herself, the more mired she became, until the stars of the Harry Potter movies felt the need to distance themselves from her. Fans wondered if she’d even be mentioned in the 20th anniversary show about the films that HBO Max began airing Saturday Jan. 1. She is.
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