|April - Photo by Lauren|
Last week’s discussion of “7 Escapes For This Summer” made me remember one of my first ever escapes in the real world. It was to a movie.
I had been going to a “Woman’s Bar” (BJ's originally on Kennedy Boulevard, Tampa) and had come to know several of the girls that worked there as well as the owner. I found the women at this upscale bar to be understanding, open and treated me like any other patron; unexpected and appreciated.
This was a somewhat progressive establishment for the 80's and had two young transgender girls, Edie and April, working as waitresses. Weekly the two would put on a dance/lip-sync show. One of the girls loved my shoes and we wore the same size so she would borrow my shoes for her act. April was young, cute, fearless and was living full time as a female. She had been thrown out / disowned by her religious parents at 17 and now at 21 was just surviving. In spite of this, she was always positive and fun. I tried to tip well.
April was the catalyst for me finding the name "Rhonda". This was my first choice for a name and it seemed to stick. As April put it, "Tom just does not work, honey". She was from North Carolina.
I shared with April that I would love to go out more and be in the real world as Rhonda. April came back after her dance one evening and suggested we go to a movie on her next night off.
At that time to have someone to shore-up my courage in public and be out was a dream come true. The next week we made a date. What the movie was to be, I did not care.
I picked up April the next Tuesday and we headed to the large theater complex. Being it was my treat I gave her the money and that alleviated my big fear of going to the ticket counter. She said she understood. As we were walking in, she asked very politely if I would like any popcorn and she volunteered to get it. I gave her the money and she headed over to the concession counter.
About halfway between the concession counter and where I was standing, she turned and asked in a voice I am sure everyone in the lobby heard, “Mama, do we want butter on our popcorn?” Several attempts to speak produced nothing. Finally, I mouthed, “NO” and something like, “I am going to kill you!”
April was enjoying every minute of it as I stood, frozen waiting for her to return. To my absolute amazement, the world did not come to an end, the gender police did not come to take me away and I did not kill April.
That was not the last time that April and her “Mother ” went out. Her encouragement meant a lot to me over the next year. Thinking about that evening and April brings a big smile. April passed a few years later. A victim of the AIDS epidemic of the 1980’s. She is missed. A free spirit, intelligent and gone way too young.
There are other stories from this emerging time of Rhonda's early ESCAPES; stay tuned. Please share some of your early escape stories. "Everyone has a story".