Women on the Verge of Transition: Interview #1 - Trisha
Welcome back Through the Looking Glass, my friends.
Today I’m here with my good friend Trisha Palermo. She has recently emerged on the trans night scene here in Los Angeles and is already very well known and well-liked thanks to her great looks and gutsy attitude.
A: Trisha, can you please tell us about your week-to-week lifestyle?
T: First I would just like to say it is a pleasure to do this with you, Alice. At the moment my life is pretty split between my girl life and my ongoing boy world. I get out in girl mode at least twice a week and sometimes more. I go to the t-girl clubs but I also try to simply live my life as any woman would on the days I am in girl mode. I try not to compartmentalize too much. So that means I run errands, go to the grocery store, shop for clothes and shoes (I do that a lot) have dinner with friends, go to art openings, movies, sporting events and just wander around L.A. during the day getting pedicures and trying on clothes. I’ve been to amusement parks, very conservative restaurants and nightspots and every mall in the greater Los Angeles area. When I’m not in girl mode that means I am dealing with something having to do with making a living. I also spend an insane amount of time simply running. A girl’s gotta’ do something to stay skinny.
A: How do you feel about women? Are you involved? How do you feel about men or other MTF transpeople?
T: Although I consider my sexuality, like my gender, to be relatively fluid, for me it always seems to go back to my great love of women. I’ll be out in a club and getting chatted up by some guy (yeah, that happens a lot) and I’ll be feeling very feline, sexy and girly, all those things we love so much… then a GG will say something to me or give me a smile or compliment me on my shoes or WHATEVER and my attention just immediately goes to her. It’s at that point I realize that no matter where I eventually end up on the trans continuum my lasting relationships, the ones that ARE my life, will always be with women.
A: What kind of work do you do? Would you ever consider working or volunteering with the community?
T: I work in the entertainment industry and my life is basically one big creative freelance gig. So I have a lot of free time on my hands, which should really be spent creating. I try in my own way to help in the community. Mainly by simply being out there in the general public and breaking down barriers and fears. I have also been known to save the stray T-girl who’s afraid to come out… by holding her hand or dragging her by force to the Oxwood, our local t-club. I love to take that first timer around the room and introduce her to everyone. Before you know it she becomes a regular. I do hope to eventually land in some type of position that allows me to be a real force for positive change in and for our community
A: What are your size and features like? Do you think you pass most of the time?
T: I’m 5’9” and 145 lbs (yeah, the running helps). I was blessed with small hands and feet and very skinny wrists. People tell me my legs are my best assets, and I usually wear a size 6.The question of passing is a funny one. Many people in our community are far too hung up on passing and believe that just because no one says anything to them or stops them from using the ladies room, they are passing as a GG. Although friends tell me all the time that I am passable, I would never be so foolish as to think people are not reading me.
The trick is how you feel. I am not trying to be anyone other than myself and try to carry myself with an attitude that shows my pride in who I am. This just about always relieves me from any pressure to pass. I am certainly passing as Trisha because that’s who I am. Although suddenly there seems to be an inordinate amount of girls on the L.A. scene with my name… LOL. I am very comfortable out in the general public. And certainly dressing appropriately for the place you are going always helps. People are always incredibly nice to me, which some of my friends would mistake for a sign that they are passing… I, on the other hand, assume people are being extra nice BECAUSE they are reading me and want to show that they are cool with who I am, which I respect and appreciate.
A: Might you transition? What have you done to help you decide? What in particular, if anything, holds you back?
T: Transitioning for me is a difficult question and one I’ve been struggling with for a very long time. I consider myself a pragmatist and have to look at all of the ramifications of what it would mean to the life I have already built. I have days when I am sure I am on the path to SRS and other days when I am just as sure that I am not. Until I feel I’m certain of one path or the other I won’t make that decision and honestly don’t think any less of anyone who decides that she is forever undecided.
My recent experiment with being mostly full time for two months was meant to help me decide this and other issues. What did I learn? I’m not sure. I know I had a hell of a good time going out every night. But it is very difficult, for me anyway, to get a real life experience when you are, at all, part time. I have had this conversation with a few friends recently who are transitioning. One very good friend said “I don’t know if I’m ready to always have my guard up.” What she was saying was… in those situations where the place you have to go seems uninviting or downright dangerous… it’s easier to go in boy mode than to have to deal with all that comes along with going in girl mode. I understand what she is saying.
I also have another good friend who is going to have SRS with a doctor who is not looking for any real life experience. Although this girl is confident and together, she has very little experience outside of the safety of trans clubs. For me this would be a huge leap of faith. If you don’t know what it’s like to walk down Main Street, I’m not sure I’d want to find out for the first time when I’m post op.
A: Like me, you’re someone who seems to have been born on the border between TV and TS. Is there anything you’ve learned recently that might help others out there with this very tricky fork in the road?
T: First off I’d just like to say that I hate those labels (TS, TV, CD, etc.) And not just in our community, I hate labels in general. Putting people in boxes seems to me to be a very provincial, unhealthy and frankly backwards attitude. It seems to me that in a community full of people pushing boundaries, changing attitudes and challenging norms, we would not be so quick to force everyone to pick a position. We all see people around us moving from place to place on the gender continuum. In a community full of such fluid people, why on earth are we trying to categorize them all? I like the term TG or transgender, which is how I choose to describe myself. Okay now… what was the question again?
Sorry I got a little carried away. I guess one thing I’ve learned in the last few years really goes hand in hand with what I was just ranting about above. I really think it is okay if you are the only person in the world who is the way you are. I mean… as an artist that’s always the struggle, or the goal if you will, to be an original. Really, I have no desire to be like anyone else and my life has always been a quest for creativity and originality. It was difficult for me to bring this attitude with me into my girl world at first. My big breakthrough has been trying to incorporate my two lives together and not being uncomfortable in either mode. In this way I don’t feel any rush or pressure to make decisions about where I fit in any society.
My advice to people who feel they are caught in between as you describe above… Is to try and relax. Don’t get caught up in society’s norms and trying to fit in. Even our little TG society has its norms and you may feel pressure to pick a side. The common question “Are you transitioning or just a crossdresser?” seems to me to be just another way to marginalize people. I say fuck all that. You may feel one way today and another next month and shouldn’t let other people’s attitudes define your path. Just be you… whoever you are…
And do me one favor, if you’re a new girl in L.A. and thinking about calling yourself Trisha or Tricia or Trish, please consider other options. It’s confusing enough already.
A: You’re gonna kill me, Trisha—assuming some strident TS or angry wife doesn’t beat you to it— but I’ve already scheduled an interview with TG artist Trisha Van Cleef for next month. After that, I promise to help you stem the Trisha tide. And thank you for your time and thoughts here today.
Life's rich, complex, and full of possibilities. Be careful and enjoy!
Alice Novic, M.D.
To learn more about me than you'd ever dare to ask, please see my smart, sexy memoir, Alice in Genderland: A Crossdresser Comes of Age.
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