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Houston loved her for it
February 7, 2011 8:36 PM   Subscribe

"I never was one to like to be intimidated. So I just take it off the table. If it's not on the table they can't use it." Charlie, not a man for small gestures, took his secret off the table and put it on the front page of the Houston Post, whose October 7, 1988, edition carried the headline "Transvestite Now Claims Probe Linked to Lifestyle" and a color photograph of McGuire in full drag.

Her son says, "Kathryn made a splash on the social scene in the late eighties and nineties as Houston's own transvestite millionaire socialite. She gave generously to all kinds of Houston's AIDS organizations and was one of the first to sit on a board to find a cure for the then unknown disease. She was involved in politics and ran for Houston City Council garnering her national publicity as one of the first open transvestites to run for public office in the United States."

Trailer for the documentary The Last Days of Charles/Kathryn. (May not be SFyourW, due to graphic descriptions of post-operative care of her new vagina.)
posted by rtha (24 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

 
Looking forward to seeing this on the office printer tomorrow.
posted by b1tr0t at 8:39 PM on February 7, 2011 [3 favorites]


Wow, that locked Chrome right the hell up.

Great article.

>"And the multiple orgasms are great. You can't imagine. It comes from way up inside of you."

Wow, that works on her? Miracles of modern medicine.
posted by wires at 9:16 PM on February 7, 2011


He did not, however, stop wearing women's clothes. He simply became a bigger man.

You gotta be a strong man to be a woman.
posted by louche mustachio at 9:21 PM on February 7, 2011 [7 favorites]


Off-topic but important: as annoying as multi-page articles may be, they're a better alternative to weird print-only versions of same. Please, don't do this.
posted by Deathalicious at 9:27 PM on February 7, 2011


[Changed the link to the non-print version since it was kicking up an actual printing prompt.]
posted by cortex at 9:28 PM on February 7, 2011 [3 favorites]


Confusing use of terms.

"Transvestite" refers to men who like to wear women's clothing. See: Eddie Izzard (who seems to have abandoned this lately).

"Transsexual" refers to people born one gender who seek to align their physical selves with the gender they feel they truly are.

I wish this article were better with using these words.
posted by hippybear at 9:35 PM on February 7, 2011 [13 favorites]


I had that feeling too, hippybear. But it was written in 1999. And it was the term he used for himself, at least for a while.

Apologies for the borked link, everyone. I'd meant to link to the multipage version but got my copypasta tangled up. And then my wifi keeled over. Woe!

Such an interesting life she had.
posted by rtha at 9:42 PM on February 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'd almost forgotten McGuire, but reading the story brought it all back. She was quite a character and apparently still is. I hope the show turns out all right for her. (And a Brad Tyer article in the Press! It really is old college week apparently.)
posted by immlass at 9:45 PM on February 7, 2011


immlass: "She was quite a character and apparently still is."

The gist of the post is that she just died. I'm sorry to say that so bluntly, but the lede's kinda buried, and there's a lot of noise-posting about the article format.

The video and articles make her seem like an amazing and humane person, and fortunate to have an accepting and loving son.
posted by boo_radley at 9:52 PM on February 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


Wow, yes, I totally missed the second article in sorting out the first article so I could read it. RIP Kathryn.
posted by immlass at 9:59 PM on February 7, 2011


She was an incredibly cool person. What a loss, and what a life she lived.
posted by mewithoutyou at 10:02 PM on February 7, 2011


.
posted by spitefulcrow at 10:10 PM on February 7, 2011


"Transvestite" refers to men who like to wear women's clothing. See: Eddie Izzard (who seems to have abandoned this lately).

"Transsexual" refers to people born one gender who seek to align their physical selves with the gender they feel they truly are.


Yes, but is it not often the the latter begins to express itself as the former? You do not jump into another gender without first trying on the clothes for size. Some people never get further than that, others can't go far enough.

And Eddie Izzard was much funnier as a person when he viewed the world dressed as a woman.
posted by three blind mice at 11:29 PM on February 7, 2011


That was really interesting, thanks.

Hey, it looks like she wrote a book called Texas Jesus:
Then all at once the cactus burst into flames, so Kathy jumped out of bed and ran over to put out the fire before the whole house burned down. Suddenly she heard a voice, "Hail to you, trans-woman."

I am an angel from God, sent to deliver a message," the strange voice said. "God has chosen you for a very special purpose, which I will help you accomplish."

The voice continued speaking, "You are to have a child, and her name shall be called Jesus. She is to become a modern-day savior and teacher. She shall reaffirm His teachings because so many today have gotten away from the real meaning."

But anyway, there's no way this could possibly happen? I have a neo-vagina."

"The Holy Spirit will take care of your impregnation," the voice continued.

Some time later, Kathy and this angel person were sitting in a cafe drinking coffee when an incredibly handsome man looked at them and smiled.

"That surely must be the Holy Spirit," Kathy said to the angel. The angel shook her head.

After sighting several more good-looking guys and questioning the angel about each, Kathy received the same answer: "No, that is not the Holy Spirit either."

HAH! "Her name shall be called Jesus," indeed. Reminds me of famous Canadian author Margaret Laurence's retelling of the Nativity story, called A Christmas Birthday Story, wherein the narrator says that Joseph and Mary didn't care whether their baby would be a boy or a girl. They cared only that their baby would be healthy. IIRC, wackos sent Laurence death threats for that.
posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 11:43 PM on February 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


On a more sober note, the National Transgender Discrimination Survey came out last week:
Medical providers and health systems, government agencies, families, businesses and employers, schools and colleges, police departments, jail and prison systems—each of these systems and institutions is failing daily in its obligation to serve transgender and gender non-conforming people, instead subjecting them to mistreatment ranging from commonplace disrespect to outright violence, abuse and the denial of human dignity.
Of course those who experience and think about such issues already figured that out, but having it documented in like this is invaluable.
posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 11:48 PM on February 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


Charlie, not a man for small gestures...

I think I see what you did there.
posted by doublehappy at 2:41 AM on February 8, 2011


Yes, but is it not often the the latter begins to express itself as the former? You do not jump into another gender without first trying on the clothes for size. Some people never get further than that, others can't go far enough.

While I see truth in your statement, I cannot help but think that there's a gross misunderstanding at the core of what you have said.

I should clarify from the start by underscoring that I am a man, happy to be a man, who dresses as a man (rather butch blue collar style), who has sex with men. So neither transvestitism nor transsexuality are really part of my makeup.

But across the years, I have learned a lot from people I've met and things I've read. And I think it's a bit of a mischaracterization to say that transvestitism is a stepping stone into transsexuality. They're two very different things. They may have similar surface expressions and may appear to the uninformed as though they are related, but there is a huge difference between living life as the opposite gender and wearing their clothes. Both of which are themselves different from being a drag queen (in that the women created by drag queens are costume characters and not the person living out their daily life).

Now, I do acknowledge that, from what I understand, part of the transition process involves living as the intended post-transition gender for a length of time. From that viewpoint, it does seem as though there is a continuum between "putting on the clothes" and "having the operation". But there are many many men who wear women's clothing of varying sorts who have no inclination toward changing their gender. And I've known a couple of transwomen who over the course of our friendship have shared with me that until they began their transition process, they never put on a dress.

I guess where what you said sticks in my craw is the idea that some people never go further, others go all the way. Because it's not about further or far enough, it's something much much deeper than that. The two impulses are not really related, because men who wear women's clothing aren't the same as men who want to become women.

I'm sure I'm not explaining myself very well in all this.

At its core, I think this is the point: Eddie Izzard was never viewing the world as a woman. He was viewing the world as a man, and his preferred mode of dress happened to coincide with what our society views as more appropriate for women.
posted by hippybear at 8:06 AM on February 8, 2011 [4 favorites]


I'd really like to see the whole documentary — is there any way to do that?
posted by taz at 9:24 AM on February 8, 2011


I'd really like to see the whole documentary — is there any way to do that?

I just spent the better part of a half-hour trying every possible combination of keywords I could think of to pull out a "watch online" link or a torrent or something... But it seems to have never been posted online in any form, nor made available by PBS for purchase.

Ah, the interwebz of 1995. How you fail us sometimes.
posted by hippybear at 10:25 AM on February 8, 2011


But there are many many men who wear women's clothing of varying sorts who have no inclination toward changing their gender.

And how.
posted by Gelatin at 10:52 AM on February 8, 2011


James remembers the day his father told him. [...]

"He's like, 'I just really want to tell you something. I want to tell you something before you hear it on the street.' I was like, 'what are you talking about?' And he said, you know, 'I like to wear women's clothes, and I'm a transvestite, and I've always considered myself a woman and blah blah blah.' I could deal with it. I knew, and he knew, and I don't think that he knew that I knew, but I could deal with it on that level. When it was in my face it was very uncomfortable. That evening, I guess he had to be someplace as his female self, and he's like, 'I'm sorry to have to do this to you,' and then he started painting his nails in front of me. I couldn't even look at him at that point. It was really awkward."

Kathryn remembers that day, too. "I told James. He said, 'Are you gay?' I said no. He says, 'well I am.' " [...]

"I just figured I might as well get it all out while this was all happening," James remembers. "He said he wasn't surprised at that moment, but then that night he was like, 'Where did I go wrong? Oh, my God, I can't believe you're gay!' He kind of freaked out, which was really kind of surprising.

"But then of course he had to accept it. He's, like, running around in women's clothes." [...]

"Yes, it was hard," Kathryn remembers. "What was hard is that gays live a harder life than normal people. I lived a harder life than a normal person, so I know; I am the one that can make that argument, because I have lived the harder life. That was what worried me most, was him having a harder life than if he had just been straight."

I love this. It's a reminder that it's hard to be on the receiving end of someone's coming out, even if you've got queer stuff of your own -- because it's a shift in who you think you're dealing with, and a change in the kind of future you imagine for them. (And it gets better as you get used to it; it just might take a little time.) It's very humane that they were so up front about this - yeah, at first it was hard for both of us to take the other person's coming out.
posted by LobsterMitten at 11:44 AM on February 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


Yes, but is it not often the the latter begins to express itself as the former? You do not jump into another gender without first trying on the clothes for size. Some people never get further than that, others can't go far enough.

Hi*. Not really. These words get mixed up a lot, and are unfortunately too similar at a casual glance, but refer to very, very different concepts. Even within the separate categories they belong to, there are degrees and gradations. I'm neither an expert nor a sociologist, but I am a helpful and pedantic nerd who absorbs certain kinds of information like a sponge, so I'm hoping I can help clarify a little.

Transvestism might literally just mean the same thing as cross-dressing, but often carries connotations of fetishism. A lot of transvestites are ordinary straight people, comfortable in both their sexual orientation and gender identity, who feel erotically drawn in some way to wearing clothes associated with the opposite gender. It's a "sexy" thing. Or a "fun" thing. Or a "theatrical" thing. Or whatever. And that's fine! It hurts no one and if people have fun doing it, no problemo.

But not everyone who wears clothes associated with the opposite gender necessarily likes to camp it up, or be lumped in with those who do. So they use different terminology ("cross-dressing;" Wikipedia link that looks like it tries to cover the whole spectrum here) to refer to themselves. And that, too, is fine.

But all of that is a completely separate thing from transsexualism, which usually refers to people whose self identification is different from their physical sex. Often this manifests as extreme dysphoria leading to severe depression and a high risk of suicide if left untreated. Most people in this camp will try to seek medical treatment to bring their bodies in line with their identity. Some recent research suggests a neurological cause for this mismatch of sex and gender identity; transsexuals may actually be misbrained (or misbodied).

Now. These are two very different categories. They don't overlap as much as common sense would seem to suggest. Most transsexuals don't "start" by cross-dressing and most cross-dressers don't "go further." Most transsexuals don't "start" at all--their gender identity is just what it is.

* No idea why I opened with a greeting, but yeah. Hi!
posted by byanyothername at 11:52 AM on February 8, 2011


Having read the rest, whew. The old quote about "be kind, because everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle" is fitting.
posted by LobsterMitten at 12:02 PM on February 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


I noticed that before the surgery she (or he, I'm not sure how she identified at that point) told her son she wasn't gay, which I took to mean she was not attracted to men. After the surgery, and in a new town, she seemed to be dating a man. Can anyone clear that up for me a bit? Is this a common progression for a hetero-identifying transsexual?

Really interesting story. I'd never heard any of it before. Thanks.
posted by monkeymadness at 1:37 PM on February 8, 2011


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