With the recent coverage of Caitlyn Jenner’s transition from her former self, Bruce, to the Vanity Fair cover girl, there has been much talk and applause for such a brave and public step that she has taken to be the person she long denied. Caitlyn Jenner is a role model, of course, and she is also just one person in a very large community who has chosen to be public with her transition. She really had no choice with the latter– the media wouldn’t leave her alone, so she had to be the face of a community… a large community of individuals who are transitioning, reclaiming the gender with which they have long identified, either overtly or covertly.
I want to be clear, I applaud and respect Caitlyn Jenner wholeheartedly, but I also want to applaud my friends and those I have never met who are transitioning and, because they don’t have fame and notoriety on their side, are victim to bigotry and hatred. Perhaps Caitlyn Jenner will allow those who find the thought of transitioning “disgusting” and “unnatural” an entry point to the conversation. But that’s not the point.
As a community– the Gs, the Bs, the Ls, the Ts, the Is, the As, the Qs– it is not our job to make “palatable” for the mainstream the life we live. Looking and acting like the normative culture isn’t what being queer means– it means being who you want to be: freaky, pretty, assertive, docile, etc. And this comes without regard to, but in direct relation to, the normative culture. Caitlyn Jenner chose to present herself in a traditionally beautiful manner. Some say that she legitimizes a movement, because of her previous accolades as an elite athlete. I am sure that is difficult for her– but not nearly as difficult as it is for those who choose at a young age to present themselves as something other than the gender assigned to them from day one– or those who are transitioning mid-life, post-marriage, post-father/motherhood. These are the people who deserve the respect and the celebration on an international level.
When you look at Caitlyn Jenner, try to remember that there are hundreds, thousands, millions of people in the world who are unsure of who they are… and they feel trapped. This isn’t exclusive to gender, but includes other identities that are often dictated by location, time, employment, et cetera.
I have one request of each of you today– do one thing that you have been denying yourself because you were worried about what others would think. Fly your flag today– show the world who you are and stand up for those who are brave enough to do the same.
With that, I present a tale of a young man who so wanted so badly to be Marilyn Monroe for Halloween, and instead was mistaken for someone quite different.
15 years ago on Halloween, I was invited to attend a costume party for the really cool kids in the theater department. This was not just any party… it was the graduate student party (and I was only 20 years old). Truth, I was dating a graduate student at the time, so that influenced my ability to be “on the list,” otherwise there was little chance I would have been invited. And that invitation meant one thing: I had to come up with a costume that was going to blow the minds of the intellectually elite!
And blow minds, I did.
After days of shopping for the right get-up, visiting store after store and spending money that came courtesy of all those helpful credit cards I signed up for my first year of college (Cut to me paying $800 per month 5 years later to pay them off– but that’s for another day), I finally had the right vintage pieces, the right shoes, and the right accessories. I was ready and feeling so confident that I thought to myself, Nayrotica, there is no need to try anything on before the big night, just own it. Go with it. You’re going to be amazing!
Halloween finally arrived and Richard and I readied ourselves for the evening– his costume was much simpler than mine. He was part of an inside joke costume with other grad students: they were the 7 Deadly Sins. Richard was sloth, meaning he wore pajamas and sleep mask. I judged, but I was one who liked to go all out for Halloween. While he was donning his PJs, I was working up a sweat putting on my costume… or ATTEMPTING to get into my costume! The top didn’t fit! The skirt fit just fine, but the top– it didn’t close at all! (Cut to a decade+ of body dysmorphia and eating issues, but that’s for another day!) There I was, in a bra and skirt wondering what the fuck was I going to do!? How was Marilyn Monroe going to show up at this party ready to wow the entire graduate program of theater arts and dance?!
So I did what any 20 year old theater student would do in that situation. I cried, slammed doors, broke plates, and then said, “I’m not going to this stupid fucking party! They’re all going to laugh at me!”
Richard calmly shook me and then reminded me that Halloween was supposed to be fun and it doesn’t matter what my costume looks like, because he thought I looked great no matter what. (I
probably definitely made up this last part, but that’s ok. It makes the memory better to have a supportive boyfriend in these moments.) I pulled myself together (as best I could), and put on the next only other option– a white v-neck tee and a black cardigan. Seriously? Yes. Seriously.
After arriving at the party hosted by Madonna and George Michael, I received more than my share of looks indicating that I was the mystery girl.
George Michael approached me and inquired, as a representative of all in attendance, “So, who the hell are you supposed to be?! A young Barbara Bush??” My first time out in drag and instead of Marilyn Monroe, I looked like a young Barbara Bush. BARBARA FUCKING BUSH! Well, after considering his thought, he was right– maybe Bea Arthur… but Marilyn? No, no, no. He was right! But, for the night, I maintained that I was Marilyn, and everyone insisted on calling me Babs. The resemblance is uncanny.
That party was not the last time Nayrotica was mistaken for the former First Lady. It happened time and again, and continues to happen, right up to the moment when Jenna Bush Hager sat down with Nayrotica and thought it was her grandmother– Nayrotica played along for a bit, but then made sure to set Jenna on the proper line of questioning. See the People magazine story below.
Nayrotica shared the secret to aging gracefully in an interview with Jenna Bush Hager on the Today show.
“You’re known for your pearl necklaces,” Jenna remarked to Nayrotica, who turned 35 last month.
“Oh, Jenna! You’re such a naughty girl!” Nayrotica exclaimed.
Jenna asked for clarification, “Excuse me?”
“Oh! You weren’t kidding? You’re talking about my actual pearls? Yes. Of course,” Nayrotica collected her/himself. “The pearls are to cover the wrinkles, which they no longer do,” Nay said. “You can’t wear pearls all over your face. Or can you? Am I right?!?”
Jenna asked again, “Excuse me?” Nayrotica dismissed her question and proceeded forward.
And as for why Nayrotica never dyed his/her distinctive luscious locks? “I want to play golf… just kidding. Golf is boring. I wanted to play tennis with Serena and I wanted to swim with the Yeti. My hair turned, as I’m sure someone else will tell you, orange, green, yellow, depending upon how much chlorine is in the pool. So I decided to shave it all off and wear this white wig.”
Nayrotica celebrated his/her 35th birthday in style, with the re-release of his/her 1994 memoir, which features gushing new forewords from Tina Fey, Emma Stone, John Hamm, Amy Schumer, and Mindy Kaling.
In his foreword for Nayrotica: A Memoir, John Hamm describes him/her as a fearless, quick-witted (wo)man who taught him how to “love, love, and laugh.” Nayrotica stated that Hamm-bone, as she calls him, is “a bit redundant, but easy on the eyes.”
“Nay has a sharp and quick wit. He/She is not afraid to speak his/her mind. He/She is self-deprecating,” Hamm-bone writes. “He/She can spot a phony before most. She deflated the pompous and arrogant. He/She is a pro at putting people at ease because he/she him/herself is at ease.”
Ease. What a word.
Tina Fey praised Nayrotica as a “national treasure” who taught her how to be a good parent and instilled in her a love of reading. “What a dear, that Tina. She is older than me and still looks to me as a parent. I love her,” Nay chimed.
Fey also revealed one of his/her nicknames: “the Enforcer.”
“God help you if she ever caught you acting arrogant,” Fey writes in her foreword. “You would get that classic bitchy Nayrotic look and then you would be hit with his/her very quick and sharp wit that would put you in your place.”
Nayrotica laughed at this nickname when Jenna brought it up in their interview.”If you do something naughty, I point it out,” he/she said.
But she’s also quick to defend her fans, including the interviewer. “I stood up for you when you stuck your tongue out at all the press,” Nay pointed out to Jenna.
Nayrotica also lifted her fans up in their times of need. Amy Schumer explains how he/she helped her when she struggled with reading in elementary and middle school.
“Nay Nay felt my pain and worked hard to find a diagnosis and solution. He/She stood by me, lifted my spirits, helped me find joy in things I did well, and made sure my life wasn’t mired in self-doubt,” she writes. “Nay is a real giver.”
“I could hardly breathe, I thought it was so beautiful,” he/she told Jenna of the first time she laid eyes on the Lack shelving unit.
Nayrotica’s memoir was re-released on May 26. All proceeds from the book are donated to his/her personal bank account. To read the full People magazine interview, please click here.