Terry, Age 19

Executive Director of PhillyGayCalendar

I was always ultra-feminine.  Even really young, all my friends at school would ask me if I was gay.  When I was like 11 my mom came up to me and was like is there anything we should talk about and I was like ohshe knows.  We didn’t really discuss it for a few years after that, but I knew she suspected it.  I guess that made it easier to finally talk about it.  I knew I could just pretty much tell my mom—she probably wasn’t thrilled but she’d never change how she was with me. 

But still, I was hearing it from everywhere else, boys like girls and girls like boys and that’s how it is.  I started thinking to myself, maybe if I like boys, maybe I should have been born a girl.  It made sense to me because if you’re telling me I’m wrong for liking men, well maybe something’s wrong.  Maybe I was born the wrong way.  It’s always been something that was with me, ever since I can remember.  I was always attracted to men and never took to women like that…yeah, maybe I was born the wrong way.

At 14 I went to stay with some older friends, but I needed a job cause they couldn’t support me.  I started hanging out around 13th Street at night and met a lot of kids who would drag up and walk the strip.  Saying oh, you’re cunty, you should be a girl was like saying you were cute.  It was like that was just what you did if you were feminine.

Being so new to the whole scene I wasn’t really ready for a lot of the stuff I saw going on.  I didn’t know about street hormones or any of the drugs they were doing.  I started taking hormones I got from one of the girls I was staying with.

Up until a couple years ago I was taking them off and on.  Sometimes I’d get scared when I saw my body changing and I would stop.  Then I’d start again a month later and do it all over again.

Now that I could think of myself as a woman, I didn’t have to deal with the issue of being gay anymore.  Not like I never thought about it, every once in a while it would still come up – wondering whether I was living right, you know – but most of the time I could just say well, I’m a woman, so that’s it.

Of course I needed money to support myself, and I looked to the people who I was around.  A lot of them got money from working 13th Street—hustling—so that’s what I did too.

That was crazy.  Sometimes I’d think hey, I used to be this real clean-cut kid, I was so naïve…now I’m sleeping with these strange guys, taking drugs…I had money whenever I needed it, but it also had a big downside.

Let’s just say there’s more to it than you think.  The money kept me in it for a while, but eventually I just told myself you know, you are gonna get yourself killed.  Whether it’s the guy who picks you up, or the bad hit of something he gives you, or the STD you get cause your condom broke, you are gonna get killed. 

I got a job working retail part-time.  It wasn’t great money, and for extra cash I still kept seeing some of the guys who would come to me regularly, but I think that’s when I started to get out of that whole lifestyle.

I started meeting new people—people who had other ways than hooking to get by.  I started seeing there were other ways people thought about themselves.  I was working in a store in the gay neighborhood, near Broad, and a lot of my co-workers and customers were gay men.  It was a different kind of person than I was used to meeting…it wasn’t like you had to choose between being a woman or else being this real butched-up man.

I liked that atmosphere a lot, and it started me thinking again about all those issues I had been struggling with.  I stopped thinking that the only way you could like a guy was to be a girl.  I thought well, maybe I don’t really have to choose between being a butch guy or a feminine girl.  I feel more comfortable as a guy—I’m just a feminine guy.

Terry, 19


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