I’ve had many mothers: Flawless Sabrina, who was brave enough to go and to have conversations with my mom, was one of them. To have those two in a room in the early years, and then to have them in a room before Sabrina had died, having tea, eating, and having cocktails, talking about the progression of my life, that was full circle.
I met Flawless Sabrina at Bentley’s nightclub. I saw this old white woman with the most perfect silver bob I had ever seen on the dance floor, swinging and carrying. I was like, “Who is this old queen?” And she danced for about four hours straight. But I noticed that all the people in the club were gravitating around this woman. At the end of the night, she came to me and my girlfriend Ronnie and she said, “What do we do after this?”
We went back to Ronnie’s house, we got high, we drank, we partied until about six in the morning. She says, “So, listen, I want you all to get dressed, you’re going to come to my house.” I still knew nothing about Flawless, other than that her name was Jack. She says, “You’re going to come to my house. I have an international call that I have to be on. And it’s at eight o’clock in the morning.” So, we went to her house.
When we got there, I knew I landed right. I landed in the right place at the right time. And when she got off the call, the first thing we addressed was all the white hair on the floor, because we were high, and we were like, “Where is all this white hair coming from?” She said, “Oh, it’s from my wigs.” Then I said, “Wigs?” And—remember I said her bob was perfect? She started ripping it off her head. One thing a lot of people don’t know is that she cement glued all her hair pieces to her head. Every baby hair, all of it was cement glue. That way she could spend the whole night swinging it. When she went to take it off, I thought I was going to faint. And she was like, “No, no, no, I just rip it out, and then I clean it off, and I wash it, and I hang it. Go look in the bathroom.” And she had all this hair hanging there. I was stunned. And then she said, “So, what’s your deal?” I told her, “Well, I’m going to run away.” And she said, “Then we need to fix it. You have to go back home.” So I said, “I don’t think that’s going to work.” She said, “What you’re going to do is get a good night’s sleep. And in the morning, I’m going to call your mom.” And that was scary.
I thought my mom was going to shoot me, but they had a conversation about gender identity. My mom did let me back in the house. It did not work. I was only there for a couple of weeks, and it was back to being called faggot and shit like that. And there was no way to stop it. And I didn’t know how to turn it off. Gender identity is not something you turn off.
I had gotten to the point of not being able to hide it anymore, nor did I want to hide it. And I couldn’t give a damn what anybody thought. It was time. It was either that or commit suicide. I chose to live. I chose to fight for myself, and if that meant being homeless, then God damn it, I’ll be homeless. That’s partially why Flawless took me home: because she didn’t want me on the streets. But as life would have it, I wound up on the streets again, and again, and again.
I became part of the nightlife scene. I lived in the Chelsea Hotel for about two weeks. I saw Debbie Harry, Susanne Bartsch. I saw all the party kids in the beginning stages of party kids. And I was blessed to be in that company because these were the people that told me, “There’s another way. Turn to your community at this time in your life.” And it helped. Oh my God, it changed my life, but it changed my views and my fears of being around the wrong company, because they were guiding me away from the whole ballroom scene and all of that. It wasn’t sustainable, so they didn’t want me involved.
It’s nothing against the ballroom scene; I just needed sustainability. My queerness was different, because I had middle-class parents. There was a lot I didn’t know, so I was vulnerable when I was homeless. I was in Covenant House for a little while and all the places where queer kids were all worrying about the wrong things and not worrying about going back to school. But I had Flawless telling me, “No, you will go, because I will go to your school and embarrass you. Back to school until you’re finished.” It was because of somebody like Flawless that said, “No, this is unacceptable.”
When I got my first job, I was still going through stuff. I was going through addiction and everything, and Flawless said, “I’m going to give you a retreat. You need to heal.” And she sent me to the person that gave Michael Jackson massages and healing ceremonies. I spent the night there, and then was up at Flawless’s mom’s house in Nyack, where I slept for what seemed like 48 hours. My body was tired, my mind was tired, my spirit was tired. And Flawless was with me and just took care of me, and I detoxed and all of that. Her mom rubbed my head, wiped my face, gave me pajamas. That’s family: when people take you in and not only give you the encouragement to be a better person but shelter you. I had a fever, I went through the shakes and everything. My addiction was crack by then. I went through it, and I came out on the other side clear. I was foggy going all the way up to Nyack. And two days later, I had a purpose. And four days after that, I applied for a job at the Human Resources Administration for a shelter and became an institutional aide. I went from being homeless and in a shelter to actually becoming an aide in a shelter. So, I knew I was on the right path for helping people at a very young age. I knew I was going to start somewhere.