dysphoria and daffodils

hey big spender! me at 5.

hey big spender! me at 5.

Dreams of daffodils, a sunny field of them, and an audience applauding.

I think it’s time to deal with my stage anxiety.

At five I was the shortest little jazz dancer in Miss Ella’s studio. I spent most of my time trying to touch my uvula with the tip of my tongue in the mirror – though I did rather enjoy the flashy sequinned leotard, which later figured prominently in my after-school wardrobe.

But the dancing…. well. And what was Miss Ella THINKING, choreographing Big Spender for a group of five-year-olds?

All I know is, on Recital Day the shortest dancer had responsibilities that I wasn’t fully briefed on – too busy daydreaming about the crowd gathered in the Hofstra auditorium. So when our routine closed and the shortest dancer was supposed to lead the line off stage right, one tiny drag queen boldly sashayed left while the other girls, who had dutifully listened to directions, looked extremely confused then scurried off to the right.

The entire audience burst out laughing. My grandpa peed his pants. I was humiliated and quit dancing – at least til I got to college and landed in my first gay bar.

I also became deeply ambivalent about being on stage.

Meanwhile last week I hotboxed the Green Pony and wandered upstairs to Bingo at the Hotel Chantelle, hosted by the generally delightful Murray Hill and Linda Simpson on the Lower East Side. My sister Sylvia’s sequins sparkled golden in the spotlight; I was mesmerized and missed some of the stage babble.

And then I got bingo! On my first try!! This was my lucky night!!!

Except um GUESS WHAT. Somebody did some ill-timed dreaming AGAIN.

Because guess WHAT. The three bingo winners were actually required to prance around NAKED and compete for a prize. Two adorable Scandinavian fags and one awkward tranimal, stumbling through Murray and Linda’s pop quiz for contestants.

The details of my participation in this contest are actually too mortifying to repeat here. I froze, and basically fell into a horrific trans spiral of dysphoria and shame and extremely desperate attempts to be funny. The hosts kept poking fun at “the lesbian,” which made me plummet even deeper.

I wanted to say, “actually, I don’t identify as a lesbian,” but this didn’t feel like an effective teachable moment.

I wanted to tell the audience, “it’s not my body I’m ashamed of, it’s how I know you’ll see it.”  Because let’s be real, what happens on a queer dance floor stays on a queer dance floor — but this audience of strangers felt like a totally different set of eyes.

I couldn’t exactly give them my whole shtick, like, “just pretend these tits don’t exist, that’s basically what I do, cause I’m still getting used to the idea of top surgery and until I make up my mind for sure I just have to live with them.”

Instead I refused to take my underwear off, repeatedly tried and failed to run away from the spotlight, and TOTALLY lost the contest.

Syl says it wasn’t as bad as I felt, and it DEFINITELY wasn’t as bad as Miss Ella’s recital, but…. there are memories you enjoy, and memories you’d rather forget, and this one is pretty deeply in the latter.

Back to the dream of applause, and the daffodils. Because next week is Pussy Faggot, and I’ll have to get on stage again. I wonder what might happen if I tried transposing those two images. What is more calming than a field of spring flowers, afternoon sunlight streaming through golden petals? Maybe if I try to channel that dream, my gorgeous community audience will become the beautiful flowers they are, and I’ll find a way to have peace in the spotlight.

At least I’ll have all of my clothes on.

Oh my GOSH.

Pussy Faggot, a seasonal queer happening at the Delancey, is coming up on May 16! I am guest curating and hosting. RSVP here for reduced admission.


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