First Lady

3.17.2008

By Julia Serano

You've done a lot of media appearances to promote the show. As trans people we get the typical set of questions, like 'When did you first know?' 'How did your family react?' and 'Did you have the surgery?' What has it been like navigating all of that? Has it felt intrusive?
There are certain questions that are OK, to an extent. People are curious and they want to know, so I never shoot anybody down for questions that they have. It is a little odd that you are asked the same five questions everywhere you go. It's like, 'Didn't you see the first interview?' [Laughs]

What's been the most surreal question you've been asked?
I don't know'. 'Do you like men or women?' That's so funny to me because your sexuality and your gender are two totally different things and they don't correlate at all. But how do you explain that in a two-minute interview? I wish it would get to the point where they're like, 'Where do you get your hair done?' [Laughs]

Do you see a time not too far off when trans actors or performers won't be barraged with all of the trans questions?
It's a hard question. I think trans people are where gay people were 20 years ago. Now nobody asks Carson Kressley, 'You like to be with men?' [Laughs] 'When did you first know?' All of that is just so in everybody's mind, but it wasn't [always]. I think that it will eventually happen -- it will just take a few years.

In the '90s you were in films like Wigstock, Stonewall, and To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar. Then after your transition you stopped acting. Was that a deliberate decision? Or was it just too difficult to find acting jobs as a trans woman?
Before, I was doing drag, and it was during that whole drag revolution and RuPaul, and there were all these parts coming up. I started my transition around then. So I felt that I wasn't draggy enough for the drag roles and I couldn't get the female roles because I had been in the industry too long and everyone knew my background. I had to make a tough decision at one point and say it's better to be happy in my personal life than my career. And I knew I'd be happy living as a woman, so I made that decision. And there were years that I didn't work [as an actor].

But it wasn't for lack of trying.
Years ago I was like, 'I'm going to try it.' And I had casting people say, 'Well, I could never let you audition for a Crest commercial, because that would be a major lawsuit if they ever found out.' And I was like, 'How? I'm a person with nice teeth.' [Laughs] It makes no sense how people think.

As if the deception myth applies to toothpaste commercials too.
Exactly! Like, I'm finding that it's hard for me to get an agent, even with a network show behind me. Basically what they're saying is that it would demean the agency to the point where the other actors would think, Well, I'm being represented by an agency that would represent a transsexual. But I knew that that was going to happen. I've been fighting that battle my entire life, before I even started my transition. So I know that it's going to happen, and I know I'm going to find the right person. And I know that the path that I take will eventually lead to the place where I'm supposed to go."

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