Q: What do you
think your greatest achievement as a woman, specifically a transsexual
A: Well, Honey, it certainly wouldn't be parading
around as a Playboy bunny—or even working in film and television,
although I loved that. I do think I've done some very important
work as a teacher, but my greatest achievement as a woman has
to be coming to grips with my place in society. That can be a
difficult task even for genetic women. Society sends mixed messages
about what it means to be a woman.
Q: Do you see yourself a transsexual pioneer?
A: Oh, Mercy! Thinking of myself as a pioneer
conjures up images of me wearing a coon skin cap. I am from Tennessee,
like Davy Crockett, but I would hope that's where the resemblance
ends. I merely see myself as a woman who, in order to live as
one, had to go to some fairly extreme measures.
Q: So speaking in terms of self-identification
and personal success, how do you view your role in society?
A: My role is no different from the role of any
good citizen. I strive to be the best , most productive person
that I can be. I am not especially ambitious, but that probably
has nothing to do with gender. No, I see transsexual surgery as
a medical solution to a birth defect. It's not a reason for self-aggrandizement
nor does it offer the transgendered a segregated role in society.
My personal goal is grow into just another grand-old-dame.
Q: Can you give some marital advice to
women who are in bad, or seemingly difficult situations such as
A: With hindsight, which is always 20/20, I can
see that a lot of my marital problems were of my own making. I
was not being honest, even with myself. I was trying to be the
woman my mate wanted me to be. By trying to live up to someone
else's fantasy, I lost myself. I know a lot of married women who
are still making that sad mistake.
Q: Are people shocked when they learn the
"truth" about you?
A: Telling the truth about my past is still a
new experience for me. Coming out was not an easy decision, you
know. My ego is still so strong that I'd be hurt if strangers
did not react with shock when they learned the "truth"
of my gender history. Even at 63, old enough to know better, I
still want to be a femme fatal.
Q: If you had such success as a drag queen/female
impersonator, why did you make the decision to have surgery?
A: Because I felt incomplete as a man. I always
believed that I was a woman—it was just a matter of making
that a reality.
Q: Sexual reassignment is still a very
controversial issue in this country. How do you think attitudes
have changed-for better or for worse-since your operation?
A: Attitudes have indeed changed since my sexual
reassignment-they've gotten worse. In the beginning (excuse me
if I sound biblical) there were so few of us that we created very
little hoopla. Generally speaking, people were not threatened.
Curious maybe, but not threatened. We were simply a few ultra
feminine individuals, labeled male at birth, who fervently desired
to live our lives at the women we knew ourselves to be. As we
graciously slipped into society, we didn't make waves. That has
changed. I think that is largely because the media spotlight has
focused on an angry, in-your-face, crass transsexual fringe. I
find that sad fact disheartening.
Q: Do you ever miss being a man?
A: How can I miss something I never realized
I had? That's intended to be interpreted in the broadest sense,
you must understand. I never thought of myself as a man. From
my side of the fence, it takes more than a penis to be a man.
Do I miss a penis? Only on cold, lonely nights.
Q: What is sex like as a transsexual?
A: How badly do you want to know?
Q: What does the future hold for Aleshia?
A: Do you mean other than being universally loved
and adored? Ha! —wouldn't that be nice? Actually, I don't
know where my next steps will lead. I never have known. Any success
I might have found as a woman, or as a transsexual, if you prefer,
comes from getting up each morning, putting one well shod foot
in front of the other, and getting on with life. It just so happened
that my shoes had to be stilettos. I believe we're put on a path
at the very beginning of our journey. When we stray too far to
the left or to the right-the universe slaps us back to where we
are supposed to be.