I recently went to an event in Sackville Gardens in the the Gay village of Manchester called ‘Village People in the Park’. I was lucky enough to have VIP tickets allowing me to actually meet my idols; the American Apparel Ad girls!
Why am I telling you this? Well, it was during that meet and greet that I finally became comfortable in my own skin…
Before the meet and greet we waited on a staircase. I couldn’t hear them, I couldn’t see them but I just knew they were in the next room. Before the woman at the door allowed us into the room, to await our turn (and buy some merchandise), she lay down some “rules”. No selfies, don’t be too long, etc etc.
All of this was making me anxious, but honestly I was anxious already, because I had another weight on my shoulders. Would they see right through me? What should I say my name was? Would I look like a right weirdo if I said my name is Ben but am obviously female?
What I am really writing about here isn’t just a great fan experience: It’s more so the fact that I have never experienced such a trans-positive moment in my life.
In retrospect, all those questions I asked myself seemed stupid, but they were crippling me. While I was at the stall buying merchandise it was suddenly my friend and I’s turn to meet them! I was late so had to rush, trying to put my wallet in the pocket of my skinny jeans (a difficult task, even when you’re not shaking in fear).
To be honest, the meet and greet hadn’t really sunk in before we were called up to wait. I was still revelling about how amazing their live set was about an hour before, but when I was standing on those stairs is when it finally hit me. I didn’t really have any time at all to control my nerves.
By the time I had sorted myself out, my friend had already said hello, so Willam said hi to me. She asked whether I was a miss or a sir; obviously sensing who I really am without my needing to explain. I mumbled something about being “technically miss”. She said to me that a lot of their fans were trans people, and so she wanted to get it just right.
It was then I could fully admit who I was.
“Yeah, that’s me, I’m trans” I said with a half smile and a nervous laugh.
“Well then, I should call you Sir,” smiled Willam with all the confidence in the world. A big supportive hug ensued.
I finally plucked up the courage to ask her to sign my newly purchased merchandise. “So, what’s your name?” she asked, using her hand as a writing desk.
“Ben” I said.
She nodded and said she liked it. I mumbled something odd about liking the name Willam (which is also her out of drag name) and we started having a brief conversation about names and things. My nerves were lessening at this point. I was accepted.
It got even better when my friend came back to talk with us. Courtney, another of my idols, who was standing in the middle of the group curved her arm around me and pulled me in for a massive hug.
“Hello, Ben,” she said and then she introduced me to Alaska making sure to put emphasis on my name. “Ben, this is Alaska. Alaska this is Ben”
“Hiiiiiiii” I said, which is one of Alaska’s catch phrase. I instantly regretted how unoriginal I was.
“How many times have you heard that today?” I cringed.
“About eightteen,” she smiled jokingly.
“Have you been counting?”
Then me Courtney and Alaska chatted for a bit. I felt like we were in a weird way, friends.
To be honest, I’d been struggling with finding a name that suited me and Ben was a name I hadn’t had for long, so I was still trying to come to terms with it, but with Courtney calling me Ben, I felt my name really fit for the first time properly. It was an amazing feeling….
After more chat – including Willam liking my ‘Hasta La Pizza, Baby’ shirt and calling me fun – as well as a photo, I could tell that the woman running it was getting a little impatient because we were taking so long. I was still shaking. Willam asked why I was shaking and I cast it off as the few red bull and vodkas that I had had that evening, which had them laughing.
Of course they saw that I was nervous. The whole time I could feel that they were being protective over me. It felt nice. They seemed to genuinely want to keep chatting to me. They seemed to like me.
I know it’s sounds just like a teenager meeting Justin Bieber and making a meal of it, but I can assure you it’s not like that at all. Maybe, and probably, they are just lovely to everyone they meet, but that’s not the point to me. What I am really writing about here isn’t just a great fan experience: It’s more so the fact that I have never experienced such a trans-positive moment in my life.
That meeting put me in such a confident mood where I was more comfortable in myself; and I’ve been there ever since.
I’ve noticed some bad rep in the Trans community about drag queens, because some feel that they mock trans issues. With my experience that night I can guarantee that this is not true whatsoever for the majority of queens who are out there.
After all, I think they are in a similar boat to ours. They understand what we are going through.
I wrote this article because I didn’t have the chance to explain how appreciative I was to the Queens themselves. I was far too nervous. My mental state prevented me from doing so. I want to thank them for being so positive. For being understanding and supportive. I look forward to meeting them again at some point in the future.
I wont be so nervous next time.