Do You Want To Dance? Or... To Tell or Not To Tell?
I'm out on the town with another sister, having a good time, maybe had a drink or two. All of a sudden a man is standing in front of me and says, "Would you like to dance?" So, what do I do if a man asks me to dance? How flattering. Depending on where I am, it could mean that in his eyes, I am a woman. If it is at a gay bar, the gentleman most likely knows I'm transgendered. If this happens at a straight bar, maybe I just passed. Wait, what am I doing out in a bar? Isn't that dangerous?
Nightlife in St. Louis for transgendered has never been better. There are several choices of bars. Yes, the GLBT community has lost a few really good bars over the last several years. Alibi's was a really popular meeting spot for the transgendered. Blake's appears to have somewhat filled the gap, for the moment. Blake's is small, and due to the continuously running drag show on the weekend evenings, it is difficult to carry on a conversation. Also, there is no dance floor. Still it does provide a very comfortable setting with most, if not all, of the patrons being accepting of our crossdressed community. Blake's is planning a move to a larger facility late 2004 or early 2005.
The following is a brief rundown of other accepting gay and lesbian establishments. Franks place is a bar with a second floor that offers a quiet environment. The Heights is a nice piano bar and restaurant. The Complex (G) is one of the largest bars, offering several seating areas, drag shows (not on weekends), a dance floor with DJ music, dining till 9:30 and a game room. Magnolia's (G) is large, with several areas to chat, drag shows, a dance floor with DJ music and three pool tables in various rooms.
I have found the people at all of the above to be open-minded and friendly, with just an occasional look of disapproval, but let us not limit the field just yet. The general public in St. Louis is more accepting or at least more tolerant than I would have ever imagined just two short years ago. I am sure there are bars out there that could be dangerous. I would not recommend Cadillac Jacks, a well-known biker bar. Prejudice is not unique to the straight community; JJ's, a gay leather bar, is just as hostile. In fact, don't even try to go to JJ's because they will not let you in if you're crossdressed.
One of my favorite bars in the county is Generations. On Wednesdays, they have a DJ (Mad Manord and Jackie McCoy) who plays golden oldies and on the weekend they have live music. Most of the people are friendly. The age range is 30s and 40s. Lisa and I are on occasion asked to dance. There are a lot of regulars at Generations, so we are not asked to dance as often as when we first started going there. Just a few weeks ago, I was asked by a woman to join her on the dance floor. Sometimes when we're dancing, women will join us. If I am asked to dance, I usually tell the gentleman, "I would like to dance, but to save you any possible embarrassment from your friends, I want you to know I am transgendered." At that point he has the option to back out or sometimes he will say it doesn't matter.
Harry's Downtown (20s-30s) and Harry's West (30s-40s) are also gender friendly. Dorsett Inn is a little rougher around the edges, but I have met several open-minded people there. Downtown bars on Washington Street have a very young crowd and have been indifferent to my presence. When I danced at Have a Nice Day Café, young females often join me. One problem I had at Have a Nice Day was a reoccurring scenario that young guys like to play. A young man will come up to me and say his friend would like to talk to me, but he is shy. The first time this happened, I went over to the friend only to find he didn't have a clue as to why I was there. So if you're out and this happens to you, to avoid being part of a prank just say, "Bring him over and I will be glad to talk with him."
Lisa had a young man in a small group throw a derogatory remark her way one evening. She went over to him and said, "Don't I know you from somewhere?" He replied, "I don't think so." She said, "Yes, I remember it was at Magnolias, I've seen you there several times." By the time they were done talking, I think his friends were distancing themselves from him.
Recently at Bottle Neck Blues Bar, a man came up and asked me to dance. This was one of those occasions when I didn't forewarn him that I was transgendered. He was a very good dancer and came back several times during the first set. After the band returned for their second set, he did not. I later had the chance to talk with him and he was very distant. I think someone clued him in during the break. So the downside of not telling became evident. On the one hand, I feel remorse for not informing him; on the other, I wished he had been more open-minded.
What if someone just offers me a drink and sits and down to talk? At what moment is it appropriate to tell someone what my physical gender is? Is it necessary? If someone is led on too long he could become embarrassed or, even worse, mad. Of course, conflict could be avoided altogether by not going out, but for me that would not be living. Now that I have had a taste of getting out, I want to enjoy every experience I can.
If an offer to dance is accepted, the safest path seems to be to tell in advance. But, once in awhile it's exciting to walk on the wild side, and just dance.
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