By Stephanie Julianna
I have loved girls’ clothes, then women’s, from my earliest memories, around 3-4 years old. Yes, some people can remember that far back. I am the youngest, a surprise baby, of a family of three older sisters and a brother. I was born in early 1949 and spent my younger days admiring my sisters, mother, girl classmates, and the girls in my neighborhood on Long Island, NY with their amazing full dresses and skirts. I attended a Catholic Grade School that did not require uniforms. Boys had to wear dress slacks, white shirts and either a long tie or bow tie. Oxford shoes only, no sneakers. The girls had to wear dresses or skirts and blouses. There was no rule about skirts being too short because they were all knee length or longer anyway. Mini skirts had not become the fashion yet.
In 1956 my family moved from a cramped 1 and 1/2 bedroom apartment (remember there were seven in the family) to a three bedroom Cape Cod style house with a full basement. I was seven and that was when I was left alone without a babysitter for the first time and immediately took advantage of my sisters’ and even my Mom’s closet and dresser drawers. My life started on the path of a crossdresser that, after 64 years, I am still happily traveling. But I was alone, as a boy, and I knew it. Society frowned on any male, young or old who would want to dress feminine unless it was a parody of one, like what Milton Berle or other comics of the 50’s did.
Fast forward to the fall of 1962. I am now in another Catholic school, but now it is a boys High School. It was a college Prep School in Brooklyn, N.Y. We were required, from freshman year on, to use the famed 5th Avenue New York City Public Library to do research for any papers we were assigned to do. I was now thirteen and still feeling like I was the only boy in the world who wanted to dress like a girl. The weight of carrying this secret was truly heavy on my soul. Things were very different back then compared to now. Imagine letting a thirteen year old commute 2 hours each way to school and back home, via bus and subway today? Then add to that, commuting into Manhattan to that phenomenal World Class NYC Library on the corner of 5th Avenue and 42nd Street on Saturdays to do more studies. No parental monitoring. At thirteen a boy was on the threshold of being a man in those days. Amazing times to grow up in.
It was on one of those Saturdays that I finally found out that I was not alone. You could leave your books and papers where you were sitting in the amazing Reading Room at the Library and return an hour later without a page being disturbed. I would eat my brown bagged lunch in Bryant Park behind the library. But one day, I wandered down 42nd Street toward Broadway and Times Square. Everything seemed new and amazing to me. But when I got to Broadway and looked down the street toward the Hudson River, it was like I was looking into the gates of Hell. After all, I was a thirteen year old Catholic boy. I could see movie marques hanging over the sidewalk for what seemed like forever. And they all had XXX next to the titles of the movies. Coupled with the signs that announced ADULT BOOKS all over the place, I thought I had just committed enough sins, just looking down the street, to go straight to hell.
It took a few more Saturdays before my curiosity took over and I ventured past Broadway. I remember it as clearly as if it was yesterday. As I passed the Times Building and stepped onto the curb on the “sin” side it was only a few store fronts before I looked into a window and saw the Premier Issue of Female Mimics on display. I was riveted to the spot. On the cover was a guy on the left and a girl on the right. In seconds I realized that they were one and the same person. I was not alone.
I went in and grabbed a copy. My face was burning red but I was not leaving without that magazine. “How old are you, Kid?”, the clerk asked. “Eighteen, Sir.” No ID was asked for. He slid it in a brown paper bag and I rummaged my pocket for the money to pay him. I did not take it out of the bag until I got home hours later and in the privacy of my room I entered a whole new world where there were people just like me. Well, I was not in their league yet but little did I know that I would be a part of that world years later, rubbing shoulders with some of the Royalty of the NYC Drag Scene.
I am presenting pictures of the first issues of that awesome publication. It was one of the first magazines devoted to professional female impersonators. I am also presenting an early picture a few years after I became very active in the Drag scene from the early’80’s and one a few years ago. The last 20+ years I have simply moved my dressing into the public domain mixing comfortably with the general public. It has been a wonderful journey with many adventures in female mode that I hope to share with Kandi’s readers in the future. I am so thrilled that Kandi has invited me to share my stories here and would also love your thoughts and comments.
I love and miss you, Steph!
I did smile when I read this as it reminded me of an experience I had myself, albeit at a more advanced age than Steph was.
Like Steph’s ‘adventure’, mine involved buying a magazine, in my case from a shop in Frith Street, London back in 1980 or thereabouts. The magazine cost the best part of £10 as far as I recall – expensive for a mag at face value even now but astonomical when you consider it’s the equivalent of over £30 in today’s money. My publication was, too, put into a plain brown bag where it remained until I got back to my student house. Without being too harsh on the ‘models’ therein, I quickly realised that the aforementioned tenner was definitely not money well spent!
Quite what I hoped for from a magazine with the front cover banner ‘Tranz Publication invites you to the World of Transvestism’, I’m not entirely sure but, unlike Steph’s experience with ‘Female Mimics’, ‘awesome’ it was not!
While we all share the same basic need it’s suprising how varied our stories are to reach where we are today . It’s also interesting how the clothes have different meanings for us over the years , that’s possibly why counsellors have a difficult job in helping us to live with our needs .
My parents were newsagents so I had access to many magazines but I still recall the impression Danny La Rue made when I read an article with a picture in a national newspaper . I didn’t know what drag was but to look so convicing as a woman just blew me away . The question is what does that ignite in us , why do we want the same thing ? To a young boy of 11 who felt guilty about wearing his sister’s clothes I couldn’t answer that but I knew what I felt deep down .
It’s possibly not fair to talk about regrets , looking back life really is very short , would I change anything if I knew the facts then ? It’s really swings and roundabouts , I wouldn’t trade my kids or grandchildren in for the World , perhaps I should accept I married the wrong person but we still shared something wonderful with some unforgetable moments .
Teresa, You may not have seen the post sometime back, but Stephanie has disappeared from the radar altogether. This is not uncommon in our world, sadly. Whether that be because she simply can no longer deal with this, is trying to stop doing so or has health issues, we do not know. But these have been fabulously written and rerunning them is my tribute to her.
When I visited Times Square the only difference was that the store did not spring for a brown paper bag! And of course I worried about what the clerk thought of me
However my 1st awakening to “us” was much earlier at age 10 In of all places Woolworths. While my Mom shopped I used to kill time perusing the pocket books. I was literally almost knocked on my rear end when I came upon “Man in to Woman”. The book told the same story as The Danish Girl many years later. Needless to say I made many stops at that store until I read most of the book. I still remember my 1st reaction-I thought my blood pressure was going through the roof
I had many of the same reactions when I came across those types of books at the library in my youth. Funny how we are all different and so much the same.