Suzie St James Transitioning Begins
It was the beginning of 1984. I had just turned 16. School was over thank god. My mum tried to encourage me to complete year 11 and 12. No way that was going to happen. Not in a million years. I was still working at McDonald’s Auburn and earning a little money.
One day someone in the group suggested we go into the city. So we would all meet at the usual friends place and get ready to venture off. We would get a lift into the station and off we would go. Passion pop in toe. It was and still is a terrible drink. However it got you pissed.
We arrived in the city and I don’t know how but we ended up on Oxford Street. It was a whole new world. We discovered the Exchange Hotel. Me dressed in my weird attire of pink overalls and the pink corded handles of a Dotti Bag tied through my hair. Gosh looking back how special I must have looked. The Exchange was always packed and sometimes I found it hard to get in because I looked so young. However when I did get in I would venture around the place looking at all the different people. It was fascinating.
It was here that I came across my first transsexual. They weren’t called that much in those days. They were more commonly known as Drag Queens. I was besotted by what I saw and I had to know more. She was so beautiful. When I found out what it was all about; the penny finally dropped and I had found my life path. It was my dream to transition and become a happy person.
For weeks after weeks we kept going back to the Exchange and then maybe over to Club 45’s or Patches across the road. It was a totally different atmosphere back then. It was much more relaxed and there were so many venues on Oxford Street to choose from. It was here that I discovered I was not the most conventional person, a little weird perhaps. I had my own unique kind of style. We enjoyed the upstairs bar of the Exchange Hotel. I remember I was a little awkward in socializing, I don’t know if it stemmed from my hearing loss or just my personality. Who goes to a hotel and knits a cardigan in the process. Yes I used to knit while drinking cheap wine.
Soon after a couple of months my parents were getting very concerned as to where I was going and why I was coming home at all hours of the morning. If we missed the train we would share a taxi and one of us had the job of offering the driver a sexual favour for the job of paying for the long ride home. One morning when I got in at about 2-3am my mum was waiting. I copped the interrogation about where it was that I had been. So it was time to spill the beans. They didn’t take it very well and were very angry. So we came to the agreement that they would come to the Exchange Hotel with me one night. Oh dear I thought this is going to be tricky.
So Mum, Dad and I went to the Exchange. The look on my fathers face was priceless. I don’t I’ve ever seen the man speechless. My mum wasn’t too bad. They got a taste of where I was going and what I was up to. We kept going for a few months and then I got the courage and decided to move out of home. Neither of my parents were impressed especially because I was so young. But I had to do it. I don’t remember where the connection came from but I end up landing in a house filled with Drag Queens.
We lived in a house, really it was a house split into 2 apartments. There were a few Drag Queens (I’ll keep using the term as it represents the time) who lived upstairs and a few of us downstairs. It was so nice to be free and amongst people I could relate to. It was all very daunting at the time but I just seemed to finally blend in somewhere. It’s here that I met my best friend Ali. She was sort of a guidance and mentor to me. She showed me around the venues and even got me started on hormones. Cause I was a little too young I couldn’t get them from the Dr. So Ali would get them for me. Oh they were terrible things. They made you feel squirmish and sick all the time for the first couple of months. However it soon settled down. The price we pay to alter our gender.
I wasn’t very fortunate though with the results from the hormones in the early stages, especially in the breast region. They started to grow; but one was way bigger than the other. However the hormones softened my features a little more and I was pleased with the ongoing results.
To survive the expensive life of transitioning there weren’t too many options a young queen had at hand. Normal work was very scarce and limited with what little skill sets I had and most of the show work around the traps was taken by the older and more experienced Drag Queens. The last option and the most common in those times was prostitution. I hummed and arghed for a little while but Ali soon convinced me that it was the most viable option and the one to get the things I needed in my young transitioning stage. I remember the first night I did it. It was the most scariest night of my life. I decided to tail Ali down to a place not far from the house we lived in to try and get a feel for what was to become a so called career option. The place was called “Premier Lane”. Fuck it was a scary place. A one way lane way wedged between a giant sandstone wall and the rear of buildings on the other that faced onto busy William Street. It was dark and just situated on the outskirt of Kings Cross.
There were cars parked on one side of the lane and the other was clear for cars to drive along. The girls were either standing between the parked cars dressed all sexy to impress. Or if there were no cars they would line up somewhat like a row of pins in a bowling alley. The clients or “Mugs” as they were called would drive up the lane. If they saw something they liked they would stop, wind the window down and chat to the girls about their rates and services they provided. I was so overwhelmed by it all Ali gave me a pill, little did I know it was Rohyptonol. I ended up passing out on the back seat of one of the girls car. Ali and the others came and got me at six in the morning and took me home. I had fears about working, It all came with risks. The possibility of sexual disease transmission and violence and abuse. The lane was quite a dangerous place. As it was one way in and one way out for vehicles, yet if there was an attack by guys on foot from both ends; there really was no way out, except fight.
A day or so later I went back down with Ali and a few girls from the house and decided I had to do something to survive. I lined up like a ten pin skittle and waited. I was dressed in a swimsuit that Ali lent me and it wasn’t long before I was approached. Ali filled me in earlier of the going rates. I upped each by about five to ten dollars for the services I was offering. Oral sex was the most common service as you could do it in the car with the client somewhere discreet. However you had to do a lot more of them to make descent money.
My offer was accepted and away we went. I performed oral sex in his car for forty five dollars. He was what’s known as a regular mug or client and Ali yelled and told him to look after me. He took me to some place in the back streets of Paddington and I performed the deed. He wanted a raw act. No condom. I didn’t oblige even though he offered and extra bonus. I did a little research into the outcomes of bad sexual practices. I wanted to live a full life, not a quick one.
We returned to the lane and Ali asked how it all went, I said ok and we then lined up to await the next line up of cars that would come through. It was like a Macas drive through system. But it was how we survived.
Being around drag queens was a little intense for me at first. They can be aggressive and very bitchy. There were certain circles as I called them that would define where you were on the Drag Queen ladder. I learnt so much in these early years with the environment I chose to live in. Prostitution was illegal and staying a step ahead of the police was a constant challenge. They would define the rules that all of us broke in order to survive in what was a very competitive way of earning a living.
The one thing that I remember very well from this time was that you grew up fast. Learning to try and fit in amongst other Drag Queens and becoming street wise was daunting but exciting at the same time. I did however relish in the thought I was finally on my way to being the person I was happy with. I am now Trans.
Transitioning Part 2 – The quest to be the showgirl.
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