Tag Archives: Kansas City

Highly Interesting Photos of the Kansas City CD/T Scene, and an Upcoming Local Event

PrivateBirthdayParty0Unknown, 1958

I was pointed to an article in New York Magazine by an acquaintance, which highlights something which I think is very cool. The subject is the discovery and a project to exhibit an incredibly rare collection of photos of the crossdressing, drag, and transgender scene in Kansas City in the 1950’s and 1960’s. From the original article:

In 2006, artist Robert Heishman was poking around a Kansas City salvage yard, looking for material for an undergraduate documentary class, when he stumbled upon a slide carousel labeled “Jack’s Slides: Chicago and Kansas City.”

“The first image I looked at was this picture of a man in a kimono that was incredibly colorful — it was just a stunning image to behold,” Heishman told the Cut. “There were family photos, and then I hit this line of images that were all people dressed in drag, predominantly standing in front of this beautiful mosaic outside a bar.” Intrigued, Heishman purchased the slides — for $2. “I didn’t really know what I was purchasing, but I wanted to have time to sit with them a little longer,” he explains.

Two years later, Heishman’s longtime friend Michael Boles was helping a friend move into a new house in Kansas City — which, as he describes it, was right around the corner from the drag clubs that were vibrant in the ’50s and ’60s. He came across a shoebox of slides that turned out to be quite similar to the ones Heishman had found at the scrapyard. “When we got them together and paired them up, it was kind of amazing,” Boles reflects. “Some of them are even from the same parties.” The resulting collection — titled “Private Birthday Party,” after the signs that used to appear on club doors when drag balls were taking place — includes over 200 images and provides a vivid glimpse of Kansas City’s early drag-ball culture. Heishman and Boles have since brought on Emily Henson to help with background research; together, the three believe they’re close to identifying the photographer.

PrivateBirthdayParty1Unknown, December 1964
PrivateBirthdayParty3Unknown, December 1964

A first peek at these rare photos can be found on the project site, Private Birthday Party. I confess that when I saw the wonderful old photos complete with their classy kitsch I let out a squeal of joy which raised my wife’s eyebrows.
PrivateBirthdayParty2The Colony, 1959

What’s more, there is a debut party and fundraiser for the project which will be held on April 17, 2014, at the Guild in downtown Kansas City. Yours truly is intending to attend, and I hope to be able to ask some questions directly of the folks involved in this project. If anyone reading this wants to say hi, show up and look for the funny little lady with her camera.

PrivateBirthdayParty4The Colony, November 1968
Click here for a direct link to the photo gallery in its current form. I very much hope that they will be posting all of the photographs soon, and in higher resolution as well.

A Mom’s Thoughts on “I am a girl” Article

transgenderJAN2014

I’d like to introduce myself to you. I am the mom of the little girl called A.J. who was profiled in an article about transgender kids in the Kansas City Star. I never thought my family would be interesting enough to be featured on the front page of a newspaper. As surprised as I am to find us there, I am also incredibly proud.

I don’t want to ruin the article for you (it’s really, really good…go read it!) by quoting much of it here. We aren’t the only family featured, either, so I don’t want to take anything away from the other kids by making it sound like it’s all about us. What I would like to do is highlight a couple of myths and arguments we hear when the subject of transkids comes up and dispel them one by one. A few are mentioned in the article — spoiler alert — but because of space limitations, some that I had mentioned to the reporter were left out.

1. We are liberals pushing a gay agenda.

Nope, sorry. I am a conservative Republican from the Deep South, raised with Southern Baptist beliefs.

2. We (or at least I, because they always blame the mom) wanted a girl, so we turned our child into one.

Again, no. I desperately wanted boys. The idea of raising a girl in today’s world scares me to death. I’d much rather be responsible for raising a good boy who knows how to treat girls well than to be responsible for raising a girl who might only be interested in bad boys.

3. There was too much female influence on our child, so “he” just grew up thinking girly things were normal and convinced himself that he was a girl. 

Hmmm, no, I can’t agree with that one either. She has an older brother, so all of their toys and clothes were “boy” things. She was in a preschool class with only 2 girls and a veritable posse of 10 boys. Crew cuts, wrestling, G.I. Joes, dinosaurs, trucks, and everything blue was what she was exposed to daily. I’m not particularly feminine. I have very short hair, rarely wear make-up, don’t polish my nails, and didn’t have a single item of pink clothing when she was younger.

4. “Kids have no idea what they want or who they are. My kid wants to be a dog. Should I let him?”

Well, that’s up to you. I wouldn’t. But there is a profound difference between wanting to be something in imaginary play and in declaring who you are insistently, consistently and persistently. Those are three markers that set transgender children apart, and my daughter displayed all of them.

5. Kids shouldn’t have to learn about sex at such a young age.

I agree, so it’s a good thing that being transgender has nothing to do with sex! Sexual attractions don’t happen until kids are older. You know…that whole puberty thing. Gender is strictly how a person views him or herself on the inside, and it is completely separate from who we are attracted to. The confusion between gender and sexual attraction is something that adults have a problem with and need to deal with on their own.

6. Transgender people are perverts and shouldn’t be in the bathroom with “normal” people. 

I don’t know what you go into a bathroom to do, but I know what my daughter goes in there for…and it isn’t to look around. It’s to go into a stall, lock the door, and pee where no one else can see her.

7. God hates transgender people. They are sinners and going to Hell.

My God taught us to love one another. Jesus sought out those that others rejected. Some people may choose to embrace Biblical verses that seem to say being transgender is wrong, although I believe they are ignoring the historical aspects of Biblical societies and what the verses are really talking about. I choose to focus on verses like I Samuel 16:7 which says, But the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.'” My daughter is a girl in her heart. She knows it. God knows it. That’s enough for me.

The newspaper was kind enough to turn off commenting on the article so that my daughter won’t have to go back later and read really ugly and hateful things about her or our family. But because of that, you might think it’s hard to know how people in our area felt about the article. Thankfully, kind and wonderful and open-minded people took the time to let the reporter know. I also shared the article with an online group for parents like us with gender non-conforming kids to see how they felt about it. Many have been burned by other news outlets who promised anonymity but then outed their children, or who turned the story into a sensational piece by including quotes by people who clearly hate the idea of any transgender person’s existence. I’d like to share a few snippets of the comments I received from both groups.

“This is hands down one of the best articles I’ve ever seen on transgender kids. I’m sending it to everyone in our family who has been less than supportive.”

“Thank you for the courage you and your family showed by opening your home and life to the journalist.”

“I am so appreciative of the thoughtful, well-researched and compassionate story you wrote about A.J. I wish every child was blessed with parents like them.”

“Please share my support, admiration and best wishes with A.J.’s family. Raising our children requires more of us than we ever expect and the profile your story shared tells me about people with extraordinary compassion, courage and resolve to do their best. A.J. is the blessing and the blessed.” (This one made me cry.)

“This article will serve to enlighten a world still mostly unaware of transgender challenges and will provide solace and community to other transgender children and their families for many years to come.”

“I am 63 years old and have been fighting this battle since I was 5. It took me 50 years to come out to myself, God and my family. Articles like this are a major way the general public will begin to understand what we go through.” 

“I have two little girls and don’t care what A.J.’s biology is. Please have her mom contact me if she’d like to arrange a play date or just meet another family what will welcome her family just as they are.” (Awww. I never expected this kind of offer!)

“Transgender children is not something I have ever thought about before. I will now tell my children that there aren’t just boys and girls in the world, and that someone like A.J. is wonderful because they get to know both.” (Well, not really since she knows she is a girl, but there are many gender-nonconforming kids who don’t feel they fit on either side of the binary, and this is a beautiful sentiment for them. Thank you.)

One of my favorites was a voicemail from a mother in Connecticut. (“Isn’t it wonderful how the internet lets people all over the world read a local news story?”) She has a 10-year-old transgender son who transitioned in 2rd grade. I could hear her voice shaking as she thanked the writer for telling a story like hers and including so many details of our journeys as parents of transkids that are never shared. She ended the call quickly, with obvious tears in her voice as she said, “Thank you from the bottom of my heart. You’re the best.”

 

#transkids  #transchildren  #transgender  #parenting  #unconditionallove