“I come here every Wednesday for Art, to be Art,” said Jeremy Boatman, also known as “Little Orphan Tranny.” Like a famous exhibit at a big-time gallery, Jeremy was certainly getting attention that night I followed him around the club scene in San Francisco’s Castro (Gay) District.
The idea for this project appeared in my mind back in 2009, while in graduate school. Someone showed up to class one day with a picture from the “Sunday’s A Drag Brunch” show. That’s a drag show that entertains people every Sunday inside the Starlight room located atop the Sir Francis Drake hotel in San Francisco, California. I am a huge fan of observing human behavior. So being the curious type that I am, questions started bubbling up. Simply put, I wanted to document a day in the life of a cross-dresser, complete with the transformation process. Then create a short video slideshow and set the images to music. Once I gathered all the content, I spent half-a-second trying to learn video editing software. Life happened and I shelved the project. It kept gnawing at me all these years to finish, especially when I would pass by the project folder in my archives. So, last week I made it my priority to learn Final Cut Pro X and finish the Drag Queen project.
I met Jeremy through a friend at school. He agreed to let me photograph his process and then follow him around the Castro club scene on a random Wednesday night. I have to admit, it was a little abrasive to watch a guy morph into a girl. In addition, there’s the Gay club scene in the Castro District. Being heterosexual, the whole night was a bit awkward for me. I felt like that one girl, surrounded by a group of guys at the keg-party back in High School. I’m going to assume most of you have witnessed this kind of hunt. Six-to-seven young, puberty-charged teenagers, all trying to jockey into position for a shot at the one chick at the less-than-popular High School keg party. I’m guessing she felt a bit like a piece of meat. Allow me to back up; there weren’t a lot of homosexuals where I grew up. So at that time, I was a little foreign to Gay culture. That’s likely the reason I was so curious about cross-dressing. That’s also why I felt like a piece of sexual meat that night photographing Jeremy in the Castro. There were a couple of times while shooting pictures, I suddenly felt a hand caress my back in a loving way, followed by a dude suddenly appearing before me with an ear-to-ear, flirty grin. I couldn’t have launched the words “I’m not Gay” fast enough.
Looking back, I laugh at how skittish I was that night. I was in their club, thus, the guys obviously thought I was Gay. Everyone was really cool. Plus, the clubs weren’t really all that different from heterosexual clubs. I compare the two because while at the clubs that night, there was a pretty thick sexual vibe in the air. At the time I thought this was a “Gay” thing. Then after a few years of continuing my quest to maturity and further experience shooting inside other, heterosexual nightclubs, I realized what I observed that night in the Castro wasn’t any different than any other big-city club. I’ve seen some pretty seedy shit while on assignment photographing hotels night clubs in Las Vegas.
I’m stoked I got to experience the process. It helps shed light a subculture I normally don’t hang out in.