Read an Excerpt
Dear Student, an invitation is extended to you to attend a tea party reception with the academy deans. This will be your opportunity to meet the teachers with whom you will study as you proceed on your journey to cross-dress for success.
We are all seated at a lovely, big, round table. It makes it so much easier to share a conversation. Miss Viqui and Miss Melissa are in charge of the tea service; these are our two etiquette experts. Miss Viqui is the voice you hear when you telephone the academy. And it is a lovely voice that she has, calm and reassuring and very polite, which is what she expects you to be. She sets the tone for your visit. We all understand that you are nervous (I prefer to think of it as excited). Miss Melissa, in her signature pillbox and early nineties Versace suit, takes a moment to compliment you on your outfit. Miss Deborah, our fashion maven and academy dean of cosmetology, has helped you pick out a pink suit with a peplum that gives you just a bit more flounce around the buttocks. Miss Deborah and I both love our pink suits. Hers is suede by Rena Lange and mine is Chanel and is festooned with gilt threads and gold trim. In fact, each of the deans is dressed in an outfit by her favorite designer (oh, it's so hard to pick, isn't it?). Miss Viqui is in a piece she saved from Willi Smith. Miss Barbara Carrellas and Miss Kate Bornstein, our "too tall blondes," are sizing you up and smiling. They can't wait to whisk you away to play. Miss Barbara is our dean of femmenergy and Miss Kate, our dean of hearts. Neither one believes in labels, except on their outfits. Miss Barbara will help you experience yourself as pure energy. She's a dynamo in her swinging bell-bottoms by Norma Kamali. Miss Kate was born a man and became a woman, but when that didn't fit, she decided to be neither, so she's a "gender outlaw," a term that sounds familiar because that is the title of one of her books, and it is in your pink-plaid book bag. She's a Betsey Johnson fan 100 percent.
Uh-oh, Miss Melissa, devil that she is, has asked you to pour Miss Eva a cup of tea. Oooh, I know it's quite a challenge, particularly since Miss Eva, our dean of seductive arts, has leveled her provocative gaze on you. I hope you've been paying attention to the pouring process. Miss Topaz, our dean of nightlife and newest dean, takes pity on you and whispers a reminder to use the tea strainer. Place it over the cup before you pour the tea from the pot. Your poor hands are shaking, and we can hear the clink as the lid rattles on the pot. Whew, success. You thank Miss Topaz. Miss Topaz, our East Village fashion innovator, combines slutty and classy in a wardrobe from Religious Sex, Trash and Vaudeville, and Daffy's ("Bargains for Millionaires"). She says she's a drag queen trapped in a woman's body, so she fits into our faculty perfectly.
"Is this your first visit to New York?" That's Miss Judy, our dean of voice. She's always full of questions. Miss Judy is an accredited speech therapist. Before her involvement with the academy, she had the least experience with our kind of girl, and she is totally fascinated and dedicated to helping you in your quest to sound more feminine. Putting voice to your emotions is so important. So she asks a lot of questions to hear what you have to say, to listen to the way you say it, and to give you instructions.
Miss Mariette Pathy Allen asks if you've ever seen yourself so totally transformed. For many of your sorority sisters who visit, this is the very first time they have been done up with such expertise. Miss Mariette will record this moment with her camera. She will be thrilled to lead you to what she calls "the dance of self-acceptance and self-creation" and to help you realize you are a three-dimensional person who can present herself in many ways. Miss Mariette likes to present herself in vintage Halston. For creating your portrait, she'd wear a pink-and-white vertically striped dress with pink buttons, pink belt, and shoulder pads. You, my dear, could wear several outfits, from baby to bride or beyond. Maybe you would find yourself in Miss Mariette's next book. Her first one, Transformations: Crossdressers and Those Who Love Them, is a classic. We've put it on your night table for bedtime reading.
The two deans who are having a bit of a private chat are Miss Tiger and Miss Maryanne Byington, our two movement deans. "I'd like to offer a suggestion, even at this early stage," says Miss Tiger. "I think our student needs to sit up a bit straighter. Your shoulders need to be back and down, my dear."
"Yes, tits up," Miss Eva, Miss Melissa, and I chant in unison.
"We'll work on that in ballet class," says Miss Tiger. "And just wait till you see the new outfits I've designed for our ballet students." We're all ears as Miss Tiger describes a "spandex jumpsuit, belted-that comes with a loose raglan-sleeve jacket that could also be a minidress, pants top, or robe-plus a knee-length chiffon wrap skirt that is worn over the jumpsuit when in class, and a Velcro head wrap. There is a simple version and a glitter version à la Cher in Bob Mackie."
"Oooh, very versatile," says Miss Viqui. "I like that." Miss Viqui, who is a mom with a five-year-old, likes to make the most of each minute. She is my deputy dean and helps me organize your schedule.
"No tutu?" asks Miss Melissa, attentive to ballet protocol.
"Of course, there is always the classic black leotard and pink tutu," says Miss Tiger, "but only if she is very, very good."
"Well, I'll put her in chiffon and feathers and rhinestone-trimmed high-heeled dancing slippers as I teach her to move backward across the floor in the arms of her dream partner," adds Miss Maryanne.
Your eyes light up as if you've just seen your first Barbie under your Christmas tree.
"Do you enjoy wearing high heels?" asks Miss Maryanne, half in jest. We all know the answer to that one. Miss Maryanne Byington has brought home trophies from many ballroom competitions. Her focus now is on teaching, and her goal is to help you to walk with confidence and grace. She says, "Sometimes the technique of rumba will create just the right walk for the right situation." Miss Maryanne loves to dance and dress in Oscar de la Renta's most colorful Latin-influenced festive party gowns.
"I'd like to know whom our student has picked as her role models," says Miss Eva. Miss Eva is quite formidable in Vivienne Westwood. Every question from her sounds like a sexy challenge.
Every academy student is asked to choose some female role models to help her as she strives toward womanhood. That is why our motto is "Cherchez la femme." You seem to be a bit stumped. Well, I'll give you a little time to think about your answer. To help you along, the deans and I will share some of our role models. You can look them up to find out more about each one.
Miss Viqui says, "Shirley Temple Black, for her ability to get absolutely everything out of her childhood and then become an adult who was able to give back to other children."
Miss Mariette says, "I pick Gloria Steinem and certainly Margaret Mead. Mead was bisexual and a multitasker. She was a courageous explorer of gentler roles.
"I admire Mary Kay Ash," says Miss Deborah. "She believed in women and pink Cadillacs."
Miss Kate offers, "Audrey Hepburn and Morticia Addams."
"Oh, yes, Audrey Hepburn for me too," chimes Miss Tiger, "and Shirley MacLaine and of course the great ballerinas Margot Fonteyn, Alicia Alonso, and Cynthia Gregory. Also my eighty-nine-year-old mother, Margaret Farkas, the very most of all. Even with dementia and Parkinson's, she hasn't forgotten her manners and is as good-natured as ever."
"Here, here," and we clink our spoons to our teacups in honor of Margaret and all our moms.
"Well, I like Anne Francis," says Miss Barbara, "particularly during her stint as the adventure heroine Honey West."
"Hmm, I've always loved Emma Peel in that sense," I say, "but for a real woman, Victoria Woodhull, who had her own newspaper and was the first female candidate for president."
"And so far the only one," adds Miss Eva.
"Wait, I have one more. I'm not going to forget Jocelyn Elders, who told the country it's just fine to masturbate."
"Along that same line, I vote for Drs. Betty Dodson and Annie Sprinkle, our school sexologist," says thoroughly-up-to-date Miss Topaz.
Miss Eva, the activist, is back with "Emma Goldman." Miss Eva has contributed to various anthologies on sexual politics.
And activist Miss Melissa says, "Bella Abzug and all her hats and Judith Martin-Miss Manners-oh, and maybe Xena, Warrior Princess, for those difficult days." We all nod at that one.
"Well," says Miss Eva, "time to answer my question."
You wrinkle your little brow, your eyes light up, you straighten up in your chair, and you sing out, "My role model is Miss Vera."
Yes, that's what all you girls say. And I happen to think it's a very good answer. We're off to an excellent start.
Here, have a scone with marmalade and clotted cream.