The red-haired giant from Tennessee was showing me his gowns, trailing his fingers in a reverie along the satin and feathers that hung in his closet. “This is my favorite,” he gushed, pulling out the hem of a silky blue number. A photo of him wearing that dress and ten pounds of wig and makeup sat on his bedside table. His slow accent, his friendliness, and his interest in what I thought was quite touching.
It was Christmas break 1969, and I was visiting my boyfriend’s gay friend Richard in San Francisco. We’d hitchhiked for two days from our apartment in Isla Vista a few months after rioters had burned down the Bank of America. I remember wandering over to the bank several days later with my dad’s check to deposit, then looking up in shock when I realized that it was my bank that had burned down. Reality on the news doesn’t always immediately translate into your reality.