Mar 15, 2006

Trannies ain't what they used to be

Simon Doonan fears the current crop is too sensitive. Where are the grand old "gals" of yesteryear?
Whatever happened to those tough trannies who strutted their stuff at Edelweiss and Sally’s Hideaway in the 1980’s and 90’s? Where are the big, hairy, hetero New Jersey cross-dressers one used to see popping into Lee’s Mardi Gras Boutique in the meatpacking district to buy their size-17 black patent Mary Janes? Ho-hum. Trannies just ain’t what they used to be.

Instead of glorying in the hilariously freaky diversity of it all like we all used to, we now spend far too much time applauding the courage of those involved. I’m thinking of the breathy reverence accorded Felicity Huffman’s “brave choices”—playing a man becoming a woman—in the movie Transamerica. Don’t get me wrong, I think La Huffman did a bang-up job, but I suspect that playing Bree was probably the easiest, most rollicking fun job of her career, requiring none of the draining nuances and subtleties that she so successfully deploys to keep her two-dimensional character alive on Desperate Housewives.


The recent LOGO documentary series TransGeneration followed the lives of a group of deadly earnest college kids undergoing gender reassignment. (I predict that the majority of those featured will live to regret doing something so drastic at such a young age, but, with tranny politics abounding, there was no room for common sense.) Most intriguing were a couple of fiercely butch chicks who were studying at Smith College. They were in the process of becoming men. Shockingly, at no time did these gals, or their college supervisors, acknowledge the sidesplitting irony of the central conundrum of their lives—i.e., Smith is an all-girl’s college. Bonjour!

And let’s talk about their personal style. One would imagine that two feminist F-to-M’s would, given their antipathy toward male archetypes, adopt a nonaggressive post-op dressing style. I’m thinking an effete Dorian Gray look in Hedi Slimane Dior suits, a little Paul Smith, a little Jil Sander fall 2006. Paging Aubrey Beardsley and Cecil Beaton! But no. Au contraire. As the documentary progresses, the Smith gals/guys macho it up to the point where they resemble truck-stop rednecks and, eventually, gay male bears. Yikes! It’s all so confusing.

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