They met through a friend, a goodly grizzled large man who owned a small press and a literary “little” mag that published whatever he found interesting, intellectually or artistically, including work by his friends. Giselle, who despite her name was not French, wrote poetry. They’d been talking about the sexes, a common topic in the early 80’s, and in particular about those people who didn’t fit the Procrustean bed of real male or real female. “You’ll like Jock,” said the editor, “he’s transitioning.”
The editor gave her one of his great wide grins, famous on the streets of lower Manhattan. “His woman’s name is Fawn. He’s a professor out at Indiana. Wrote a few dozen books. Funny guy. My best friend.”
Jock Drake was younger than their mutual friend but not by much. Certainly beyond Dante’s midway point on the road of life when he finds himself in a deep forest where the way (out) has been lost. Jock had been married twice, had several daughters, lived with both of his former wives and their children, supporting this emphatically feminine household through his job at the university and the parade of books he produced on topics from archeological excavations in Macchu Pichu to eschatology and the new politically-charged Sociobiology of E.O. Wilson. Jock’s first wife, a Peruvian, had earned a Ph.D. (Indigenous Music) during her marriage to him and the second wife, too, was just completing her dissertation for a doctorate in Physics. When Giselle and Jock met (at the Figaro Café on MacDougall and Bleecker, where Who Knows Lorca? was scribbled on the wall of the Ladies Room) he poured out his life story as easily as he lifted the pitcher to fill her glass with more Sangria. He was now undergoing hormone treatment, he said, devised by his Brazilian mistress, a plastic surgeon. She, like his wives, wanted him to keep his penis.
“For some reason,” he told Gisele, “they like my penis. Or simply a penis. Frankly, I don’t see it.”
It was then the mid eighties, the closing years of the century and millennium in the slim apron of time before the new era opened up on the wide world of the internet, cell phones, social media and Political Correctness. The current forms of stereotype and anti-stereotype had not yet been cast, and though of course there was black/white, man/woman, hetero/homo, rich/poor, youth/age and all the other divisions and categorizations so dear to analyzers of voting patterns, we were still by and large Americans, all of us, unhyphenated, bare of modifiers and not preceded with adjectival introductory matter alluding to family origin, ethnicity, race, age, religion or sexual preference. That last above all. In the 80’s we still cavorted in the Eden of our naiveté. Though sex was in the air and most of us were giddy with doing it or just talking about it, the “culture” in general, meaning what the big white whale of America had swallowed whole before being forced to spit it out a quarter century or more later, was white, male and heterosexual, despite the Aids crisis (1985, Band Aid: We are the World, We are the children), when even the people we knew were dying, many of them disowned by parents so god-fearing they could condemn their first-borns or their one and onlies to the eternal fires of hell if they so much as put their penis in the wrong hands, or worse. (Mothers of gay sons were usually more savage than parents of gay daughters.) Of course Hollywood was gay and so were a lot of other professions (not every gay man a hairdresser), but the sham covered the rock of fact, and homosexuality was relegated to artists, bohemians, and people in the fashion trade, as well as “sissies” and such. Anything beyond that, including the observations and evidence that have become part of our current mantra of Political Correctness, was disregarded,, even though hermaphroditic children – babies with superfluity of sexual characteristics – were a medical fact (and problem), and the concept of sexual reassignment had been introduced to readers of the Daily News thirty years earlier in the 1950’s when Christine Jorgensen went from guy (a soldier!) to gal. But we were still in our American-manufactured fog up to the 1980’s, trying to eke sustenance out of Wonder bread and accepting the standards of the Wundermenschen – white, male and straight – with Berlin Cabaret (1972 for the movie), John Waters (Polyester! with Divine, 1981) and the limp pansy with a penciled mustache in pink or lilac shirts who sold shoes at Tall Gals on Fifth Avenue for those of us whose feet (mine) were larger than the largest size carried in the stores, typified what a New Yorker might recognize as gay, though gay wasn’t yet the term, with “fairy” being preferred and the butt [sic] of jokes, except for English fairies who sang: We’re queer because/We’re queer because/We’re queer because/We’re queer.
Evenings, Jock told Gisele, he sometimes went out in the university town in drag with his daughters, calling himself Fawn. They’d go to a club, usually, music and drinking. Always had a great time. The girls loved it.
Giselle surveyed his broad chest, listened to his deep voice and had an idea. It was not an unusual one; in fact it was the idea she’d had from the moment she heard about Jock. Jock paid (he insisted) and they strolled up towards her apartment on west 13th Street. All her life she had been aware of the twin forces in herself, the male and female. She often worried about not being “feminine” enough, not able to follow the practice of trying to appear less intelligent than the man so he would not be intimidated. Not always able to wait for him to make the first move when her lust was kindled. She was now extremely curious to know what making love with someone who had breasts and a penis would be like. More hetero or more homo? As soon as they walked into her apartment she poured each of them a gin with a dash of tonic, ice, and a sliver of lemon. She wrapped napkins around the glasses so their hands wouldn’t be too cold and they took the drinks to the bedroom.
His breasts were small on the large chest, but the nipples were erect and to feel, taste the nipples while he spoke to her in his deep voice was very exciting. He wanted her to put on something kinky if possible, but all she could find was her Fredericks of Hollywood black lace jumpsuit. She got into it, no underwear, and spread her legs, but he couldn’t tear the material (elastic) with his penis. He found a scissor and carefully cut a hole in it. Then he could do it. She watched, the black lace spreading, tearing as he thrust and it was wonderful.
Afterwards they drank the remains of their gin and tonics. He told her of the place in Paris, outside the Pompidou in the Beaubourg, where cross-dressers and trans congregated. He would like to take her there, he said. And then bring her home to Indiana, where she could live with his wives and daughters, and his Brazilian mistress. He loved her, he said.
She was touched. Really, she would love to go to Paris with him and join the festival of people, faces, bodies from all over the globe assembling in that great medieval square of jugglers and magicians, children squealing with joy and people eating swords and fire. She’d been to Paris, she knew the spot, and the Café Coste in the corner of the square where the Ladies Room was in the catacombs. It would be heavenly, she thought, but she said she’d think about it, knowing that her husband and kids would be returning from their trip to New Hampshire on Friday. There might be a few awkward hours at first, but by next day they’d be the same old family again. Except, she thought, they never were and never had been the same old family.
She kissed Jock good night and promised to see him next day, his last in the city. She thought she might write a book about him, The Man Who Was Everyone, or something like that. We can be everything we want to be, she said to herself. We just have to do it, he answered.
Tiresias, the blind prophet who was born a man and turned into a woman for seven years was asked who has the greater pleasure in sex, man or woman? It is rumored he chose woman, but then again it may have been for the novelty. Or because as a man he made love to women and probably hoped he was giving them the highest form of satisfaction. At any rate, it’s an unquenchable question, and in a life we only get to live once, those who are able to expand it in any way, reach for the extremities of what being human is, those people, it seems to me, are the ones who bring us a new understanding of limits and possibilities; they redefine us. From Plato through Hedwig, hermaphroditic snails to the man-woman in each of us, we are everybody; We are the World.