Wednesday, September 30, 2009


When I first started turning tricks, back in San Francisco, I would tell these elaborate stories, I knew that every hooker had stories. Like the one that started like this: it’s my fifth trick, he calls around eleven, says do you go to Concord. I say 100 an hour, 250 for the night, wash up, catch the last train, and of course he isn't there. So I'm standing there waiting, thinking he's not going to show up and there isn't another train 'til morning and what the fuck am I gonna do. Finally this guy shows up in Speedos and a windbreaker, says are you Tyler, like there's anyone else around with pink hair. Then we're driving along, he's pushing my head to his crotch saying suck my cock suck my cock and I'm sucking his limp dick, he's doing Rush every few minutes and squeezing my balls and we're driving in the pitch dark -- I don't know where the fuck we are.

Often I would tell those stories back at that kitchen table in San Francisco, kitchen table that was also the living room people didn’t have living rooms in those days I mean not people we knew, a small green sofa on one side that was our prize, it wrapped around the table. Andee kept saying you need to write those stories down. A lot of people said that, but Andee was the most persistent. At the time I wrote poetry, so at first I wasn’t interested -- I thought the details of these tricks were too mundane, I wanted to change language. But Andee said girl, you need to write those stories down, and then when I started to write them down I realized oh, these are good stories, I need to keep writing them.

I started turning tricks not so long after I remembered I was sexually abused but I’d planned it before. It made sense and I didn’t necessarily know why, except that once I got to San Francisco I lived in a culture that made it possible. Not in that pathologized way of leaving my body I knew that too well. I stayed conscious of when I would start to float up to the ceiling and then I’d move into not away from skin.

When I went back to Providence, I performed that first story at the big queer performance event of the year, I’m not sure how I found out about it except that I was venturing as far as possible from that school, exploring all the bars downtown where there was a whole strip, really -- a video bar, drag bar, male strip club, leather bar, and then the one I never went to because everyone said it was racist I mean they all were probably racist, but that was the one everyone knew was racist. Then, further from downtown, there were two clubs, the new one which was the most popular, the only one where people from Brown would go, actually people from neighboring towns and cities and even in states would drive to that club, and then there was the one where people from Brown used to go, before the other one opened, and then there was a huge dyke bar but they weren’t so happy about me unless I showed up with dykes. Even then. Actually, I’m not sure any of these bars were so happy about me, but I was happy about these bars.

Anyway, I performed at that event, ‘Stravaganza, which took place in a big performance space downtown, I even had the actual shorts that I got from that fifth trick, yellow lycra with black stripes down the side, after ecstasy and niacin and pot and cocktails and straightboys and another hooker and at least one blackout, and I stripped down to the shorts before beginning. This blond guy who seemed really young, I mean I already knew him but he still seemed young, even though he wasn’t much younger than me, maybe not younger at all, he came up afterwards and said I really like those shorts and I didn’t know what to say because the shorts were a joke I wasn’t sure he was in on the joke. And I still didn’t know how to interact with fags when they were flirting with me, fags who didn’t hang out only with dykes.

Then there was this guy who was a theater director, the big theater downtown, he said he really enjoyed my performance, he’d like to take me out for dinner. I never called because I couldn’t figure out what he wanted, and that scared me, I mean I didn’t like those awkward situations where you didn’t know whether sex was what was supposed to happen, and that’s something that hasn’t really changed. The one time I tried to turn a trick in Providence, this guy wanted to take me to Gerardo’s, that was the club that wasn’t as popular anymore, now that the new one had opened, he couldn’t believe I hadn’t been to Gerardo’s. Then we were there and I didn’t know what to do really, so much easier when there’s just a bed and you with this guy.

After I got thrown against a metal pole at that other club, the straight one, I wrote to Richard Bump, the author of the queer column in town, in one of the weekly papers, saying that I wanted to get a group of people together to get dressed up and go down to Club Babyhead to show those homophobes that we would still flame, before it was just me but now it would be we. It wasn’t the first time I’d written to Richard -- before I moved back to Providence, I found his zine at A Different Light Bookstore in San Francisco when A Different Light still sold zines, all punked out and queer and I couldn’t believe this existed in Providence, I wrote to him and asked if he knew of anyone who was looking for a roommate, anyone who didn’t go to Brown.. Turned out he’d gone to Brown a few decades before, which was kind of funny, since I’d assumed he was closer to my age, but anyway after I sent in that letter for his column, and he published it, I tried to gather everyone I knew, and everyone I didn’t quite know, to go down to Babyhead. I pulled together a special outfit, which was this tiny silver dress from Contempo Casuals almost like a neglige, the kind of thing that would only look good on someone like me, someone who wasn’t wearing it seriously, or was seriously wearing it in a different way.

Then I accessorized with silver thigh highs and black stretchy clips that I used to wear that looked like garters, they connected the thigh highs to my boxers underneath but you couldn’t see the boxers. This might’ve been only the third or fourth time I’d worn a dress out into the world, but I didn’t tell anyone that. And then I added big silver clips to my magenta hair, and I called everyone I knew, talked to everyone who I ran into: most of my friends didn’t show up, only two people from Brown, the boy with the barrettes and my friend Eve, she was one of the only people at Brown who didn’t seem like she’d changed for the worse, maybe because she was honest about herself and her privilege before and she was still honest. Maybe 10 more people came and they were all random people from Providence who I didn’t know or barely knew, and that taught me something about where to find support, at least in Providence, even though soon I would decide to leave, I was leaving again.

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