Sandra Dees hadn’t changed much: it was still your typical cheesy-pop-playing gay bar where your typical cheesy gay guys, fag hags and dykes with faux-hawks went to sniff poppers at the weekend; the drinks were overpriced, and most of the clientele were overbearing; and the only things that were different were the drinks promotions and the faces.
I looked around, surreptitiously, half expecting Kelly Corless or some other fruit loop from my past to pounce on me from behind the cigarette machine. That was the kind of luck I had. And it was another reason I didn’t like hanging around these places. I could venture out anytime anywhere on the gay scene--no matter whether it was in London or Glasgow or Timbuc-bloody-too--and I pretty much always bumped into someone I didn’t want to see.
A fuchsia pink poster on the wall next to the men’s toilets caught my attention. It said,
‘MANHOLE: 8 TILL LATE EVERY SECOND SATURDAY’
Actually, I tell a lie, it was the person in the super-skinny drainpipe jeans and short sleeved red hoody who was standing under the poster that caught my attention: heart-shaped face, puckered lips, a slight frame and sexy sinewy biceps.
A mishmash of horniness and guilt washed over me. The kid I was drooling over looked barely nineteen, plus I wasn’t sure whether they were a poof or a dyke because he or she styled their hair like a lot of young queers--blonde and spiky at the front with two V-shaped tram lines shaved up the back and sides.
‘See anything you like?’ asked Nick with a saintly smile. He was referring to the menu--we’d decided to get some food because neither of us had eaten dinner--and this jerked me back to reality.
I ordered a Diet Coke and an egg salad from a roller-skating teenage waiter in a skin-tight Wizard of Oz T-shirt. Nick ordered a milkshake, double cheese burger, fries, beer-battered onion rings and a salad on the side.
As soon as Dorothy the roller-boy was out of earshot, Nick leaned close and lowered his voice: ‘I’d stay away from him if I were you.’
He cocked his head towards Little Red: ‘He’s trouble.’
I shifted uncomfortably in my seat. ‘What do you mean by trouble?’ The hairs on the back of my neck prickled. ‘He’s not underage is he?’
I imagined myself on the front page of the Daily Fail under the headline: ‘Predatory Tranny Lulls Unsuspecting School Boy Into Seedy Sex Session’. I wouldn’t be the first to be hauled off to prison (probably a women’s one knowing my luck) and locked up in isolation with all the paedos and the perverts all because I’d failed to ID my date.
‘But that doesn’t mean he’s not one to watch.’
Up on the podium, a fat drag queen with a fruit basket on her head began introducing a line up of Ru Paul wannabes. Nick excused himself to go to the toilets then, leaving me to scrutinise the talent on my own. Apparently, they were expecting a special guest to appear later, but I was too busy ogling in the other direction to pay attention.
Little Red Riding Hoody reminded me of a girl I grew up with: her name was Hannah Jeffery and she had a mushroom hair cut and wore boys’ jeans, and she used to lie around topless in the sun (something my mother never allowed me to do); and during the summer holidays of 83’, right before we started high school, she let me ‘massage’ her 28A tits. Twice. We never talked about it afterwards, and the dynamic of our friendship changed as we entered our teens: whilst Hannah found herself a boyfriend, I stayed home and obsessed over Michael Jackson choreography and how to perfect the moonwalk.
When I made the decision to transition I thought I was as close to heterosexism as I could possibly get, but over time I began to doubt this: I’d been a straight woman and I’d been a lesbian, and I’d been a straight man; and eventually I gave up trying to put labels on anything other than envelopes. I’d always liked androgyny: boyish girls, beautiful butches and Hilary Swank look-a-likes; then gradually, with each new hormone injection, I found myself lusting after girlish boys as well. Maybe, it was because I was more comfortable in my body that I felt able to express these hidden desires, or maybe it was because I was suddenly receiving a lot of attention from gay men; or maybe I was just plain horny end of story, because taking testosterone does enhance your sex drive, and there were days when I was practically humping table legs.
‘What’s yer name then, darlin?’
The boy--because the low timbre of his voice confirmed his gender for me--slunk down into the adjacent chair and began batting his long ash-blonde eyelashes.
I hesitated at first, but his skinny hand on my thigh soon had me stammering a response.
‘You’ve got nice eyes, Allen.’
I was flattered, and a wee bit smug I suppose, because in the past most of the people who came onto me in gay bars--be they male or female--looked like Ghengis Khan and his Mongol warriors. Still, I knew I had to bring this stimulating liaison to a premature halt. Not only because I was nearly double his age, but because I didn’t have the genitals he was anticipating.
I took a deep breath.
The question of when it was appropriate to tell a prospective partner that I didn’t have a flesh and blood penis had dogged me for years, and it was one of the reasons I’d been celibate for so long--the other was because I’d spent half those years looking like a teenager whose balls hadn’t dropped, because the transition from female-to-male was such an excruciatingly slow process.
It would have been so easy to have taken Red home, or just taken him into the toilets. (I might not have had a real cock but I certainly knew how to handle one, plus I was packing expensive equipment that hadn’t yet been christened.) I’d met lots of transguys who’d had one-night stands and they’d gotten away with turning off the lights and restraining their lovers’ hands from wandering south; and although I completely understood why they kept the history of their sexual organs a secret--fear of rejection, fear of violent reprisal, fear of being outed, fear of never finding a partner who accepted the real you--to me, it felt dishonest.
‘I can’t do this,’ I told him, pushing his hand away. ‘I’m sorry.’
And I genuinely was.
He was a very good looking boy, and I was very turned on.
He leaned in then: his face was centimetres away from mine, and he said, quietly:
‘Tenner for a hand job.’
I jerked back and almost fell off my chair. I had not seen that one coming.
I had never met a real live rent boy, and I had definitely never considered paying one, not even when I was at the height of sexual frustration with no girlfriend and no hope of enticing a new one.
I told him to fuck off.
He leaned in again:
‘Alright, eight quid but that’s as low as I can go.’
‘You’re not listening, pal,’ I said. ‘I told you I’m not interested.’
‘A blow job then? I’ll give you a blow job for a tenner.’
Chance would be a fine thing.
I told him once again, very politely this time, but very firmly, that I didn’t require his services. The boy scowled. Then he stood up and stamped back towards his position under the manhole poster.
Nick slid down into the seat next to me, just as Dorothy interjected with a tray full of food and a derogatory remark about salad munching.
Lynsey Calderwood is a Scottish writer living in England who likes to tell stories about quirky, diverse characters who live on the fringes of society. Her autobiography 'Cracked: Recovering After Traumatic Brain Injury was published in 2002 and she graduated with distinction from Glasgow University's Creative Writing MPhil in 2004. Over the past fifteen years, her short fiction has appeared in many magazines and anthologies including Mslexia, The Edinburgh Review and The Scotsman Orange. More recently, she won an Escalator Award for her novel-in-progress, Kingstreet.
This issue of Chelsea Station was co-edited by
Mitch Kellaway, AJ Sass, and Noah Grabeel.