Life at Sloane House YMCA

2006-05-19

Drag Queens and Transvestite

There were no private showers, except rooms on the 2nd floor at Sloane House. Showers and restrooms were in the hallway. This caused lots of problems: Sloane House had to change shower curtains in the men’s room almost every other week. Someone slashed the curtain right in the middle, making a cigarette box sized, 90 degree cut. So while you were taking a shower, someone could see your private part without you seeing him. It was creepy. We never caught the people who did this.

Freshly coming of the boat (my friends at the Y used to joke about me until I figure out what it meant), I had no idea what homosexual was. When I was in college, my English teacher from Virginia told us of her observation when she first arrived at our campus: she could not get used to girls holding hands and locking arms while walking together. She said this behavior was considered quite homosexual in United States. We were not sure what she meant at the time because we simply didn’t know the word “homosexual” meant. We were English students and were considered in the fore front in trends and fashion and all. So it was not hard to imagine what entire China was like on the subject of “homosexual”. I sure paid the price for being ignorant.

One day I was doing my laundry in the basement. There were two young black students there, a male and a female. It was sort of a slow day in the laundry room. I usually had to wait in line for hours because there were not enough laundry machines for the residents. Through conversation, I knew they both just came from Detroit to attend a school in NY. I offered my help and gave them some pointers as where they could go for NY adventures and where to get food at affordable price. After 3 hours laundry, we became friends. They came to Club34 later that night. I had lots of sympathy to young kids who just came to New York City. I knew how tough it was and how helpful it was to have someone give them some help. I told them they could come to me anytime they needed help. They both were very appreciative. After I closed the club, it was 1:30 in the morning. I was exhausted and ready to crush. When I opened my door I noticed there was a note on the floor. I opened unfold the note and started reading it. My hands were shaking while I was reading it. It was a full page love letter from the guy I met earlier in the laundry room! I was mortified and panic, not knowing what to do. I had this fear in me and just wanted to get out of my room. For some reason I was afraid he would come to my room at any moment. Gina was not in her room. I ran to Liz’s room. I told her the whole thing and showed her the letter. Liz had never seen me scared like this. I stayed in her room for about an hour. After Liz calmed me down a bit, I went back to my room and didn’t sleep that whole night. Nobody knocked on my door that night.

The guy came by the club the next evening. I said hi politely and did not look at his direction after that. He must have sensed he made a fool of himself and stood up and left. I never saw him again.

Dawn’s next door neighbor was a tall gentleman from New Zealand. He was 6.0’ tall, in his 30’s. He was one of residents at Sloane House who I considered a gentleman. He was soft spoken and very respectful. He was a student from New School. One day, after tired of listening Dawn’s complaining about her trouble finding "a few good men", I told her she should hook up with her neighbor. “He seems a great guy.” I said to her. I was hoping she do find someone so she would not have to bother me all the time. She gave this Are-You-Kidding-Me look, and paused for a second, to see if I was indeed humoring her. After realizing I was nothing but serious, she gave me this Get-Our-Of-Town look and said: “He is a good guy alright, but he likes guys.” “What are you talking about?” I asked her, couldn't believe what I was hearing and looked at her to see if she was making this up. Right away, she leaned her head towards me, looked around the room and lowered her voice: “You think I am wild, he has more actions than I do. He has guys in his room every night. He is like a man whore.” I was speechless, totally in shock and disblief.

One day I was working at the front-desk, a group of gorgeous, well-dressed, voluptuous ladies came to me for directions to second floor lunge. Admiring these beautiful women passing by, I turned my head to Bobby, singling him to pay attention to these ladies. He was standing there, staring at me (surprisingly!), with a look on his face as if to see how long I would continue with my admiration. The moment the ladies were out of the sight by the stairs to the second floor, he burst out loud with a laugh and started banging the counter. I did not know what was so amusing. The more I looked perplexed, the harder he laughed. “What’s so funny?” I asked him. “Peter, you need to change your glasses. They aren’t no girls. They are men! Didn’t you see the big Adam’s apple under their chin?” Chin was not my focus, I thought to myself. He told me these girls were drag queens. The Latino transvestites of New York City rented our lounge for their annual convention. There were about a hundred of them, all dressed beautifully. I knew Bobby would never lie about something like this to me. I felt like a stupid donkey. But I was so curious about the whole thing and I wanted to check it out myself. So I went to the second floor, peeked through inside the conference room through the door. And I still couldn’t believe they were men. They all had heavy make-up and a beautiful pair of boobs. They sure fooled me.

Later that night, Bobby told me this story: a few years ago, there was a tall, handsom looking Turkish student living on the 5th floor at Sloane House. He was a playboy and got all the girls all the time. One night he spotted a girl at Club34 and at the end of the night, she was in his room. When he reached his hand into the girl’s pants, to his great surprise, the girl was a man. Much like the movie of The Crying Game, except the guy, Bobby told me, was a mess afterwards. He saw him in the street a few months after that incident. The big, tall handsome Turkish student was no longer the same person. He told Bobby he was so ashamed of himself that he couldn’t think straight. He couldn’t bear the thought that he almost had sex with a guy. It was a no-no in his culture back in Turkey.

Gradually I learned if a person dressed too lady-like and walked too girly in Sloane House, most likely it was a he, not a she. In America, women were losing their feminine side (due to woman’s right movement?). The flip side was that they were more confident, independent and assertive than girls back home, especially when it came to sex. It was quite different from where I came from, where a girl walked like a girl and a man walked like man, well, for the most part. What surprised me was the amount of cross-dressing people living in Sloane House. It didn’t bother me. They were the friendliest people you could ever meet, except for one.

3 Comments:

At 7:22 PM, Anonymous Herb Greenwood said...

I lived at Sloane for two years while going to FIT. I had the best time hanging out with Parsons, NYU, SVA, and FIT folks. It seemed like many that moved into Sloane House that were straight went gay, and many tried straight. I met my first boyfriend there. He had come from the Cuban Mariel Boatlift. His name is George Rodriguez. We lost touch, but the impromptu parties at Sloane never ceased to amaze me. One night, my pals from SVA had a porno night projecting XXX in the South wing airshaft. The evening wrapped up with a tossing of the water filled wine jugs into the airshaft...from at least ten different rooms. We were young,wasted,and in NYC.Dr.Soares was PISSED! Hilarious.
Thanks for blogging.

Herb Greenwood

 
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