By Anna Pulley
By Erin Sherbert
By Chris Roberts
By Erin Sherbert
By Rachel Swan
By Joe Eskenazi
By Erin Sherbert
By Erin Sherbert
For years, there was a popular T-shirt that read "I blacked out at Trannyshack." Last year, Deidre George won "Drunkest" honors, the most coveted accolade in the Trannyshack Reno awards show, traditionally held on the bus ride home. Marlin and el Diablo were winners in previous years, thanks in part to el Diablo's rhinestone-covered beer bong. (He left it behind this year, having recycled the jewels for use on a Cher costume.) George was proud of her win, because it marked her total acceptance, as a straight woman, into a crowd composed mostly of drag queens.
"It's not about who gets the most drunk; it's about who can stay drunk the whole weekend and hold it together. Last year I was like, 'I love you guys, you guys are great,'" George explains, slurring her words theatrically as the bus heads toward Sacramento. "But I didn't pass out or puke or anything. I was just fucked-up the entire time."
George can become annoyingly chatty when she drinks; once, a friend even doused her with pepper spray to shut her up. El Diablo marvels that Roberts, who rarely drinks to excess, is so patient with her. It's one of the many things that make the relationship between George and Roberts odd, but workable.
They met at "Trannyshack" five years ago, when George, who now works at an Internet advertising firm, came to the show with her friend Marlin. At first, George thought Roberts, an art director at the Bay Area Reporter, was a chick with a big nose. "George, you were at 'Trannyshack,'" Roberts groans whenever his girlfriend tells the story. And he thought she was a dyke.
After George discovered Roberts was a bisexual male, she flirted with him, and he asked her out. They fell in love, in part, because of their shared passion for nightclubbing. Unlike many couples who, upon becoming autonomous units, glue themselves to the DVD player on a Saturday night, Roberts and George went out even more after pairing up. They began to DJ together around town, playing electroclash, pop, and mash-ups. Though he feared becoming bourgeois, they agreed to be monogamous. Now they're engaged.
She talked him into the idea, over his protestations about not believing in the institution of marriage. But when he proposed last summer at Burning Man, his eyes brimmed with tears. "I was drunk," he jokes now.
They're tying the knot this summer, far, far away from both their families and the conventional world they're determined not to become a part of. Roberts' parents, who are divorced, haven't even met Deidre. He fears it would be "too awkward." He was disinvited to his own sister's wedding, after all, when he e-mailed and warned her that he "looked like a girl" now.
The wedding will be at Burning Man, officiated by one of their "Trannyshack" friends.
"This year, Adrian makes the most out of wearing least," reads Peaches Christ. The fashion show has begun; participants write cue cards for Peaches to read as they strut down the aisle of the bus. "She's wearing ... flaming-hot hot pants from For Play in Hollywood and 7-1/2-inch stiletto boots from Foot Worship in the Tendernob."
Roberts began cross-dressing full time on his first Trannyshack Reno trip, eight years ago. "It was the experience of dressing up in daylight hours in another town," he says. "When I got back to San Francisco, I thought to myself, 'I'm always going to wear lipstick and mascara from now on.'" This year, he vowed to step outside his comfort zone and go nearly naked. Now, walking down the aisle in vinyl halter top and hot pants, shaking his tiny ass, he kicks a boot to his forehead with perfect balance honed from years onstage with his band, Blue Period.
"Woo Adrian!" cries his girlfriend. (George is deeply attracted to Roberts' masculine side, which is expressed through his rock 'n' roll frontman persona.)
Traditionally, Trannyshack Reno stops for lunch just beyond Sacramento, at the Auburn McDonald's, and this year is no different. Roberts bites the dust trying to walk across the parking lot in his stilettos, and George cackles at him. But amazingly, he and two trannies in bathing suits aren't asked to leave the restaurant. The diners, however, stare at them bitterly, as if the patrons suspect they're the butt of a joke they're not getting. George wolfs down a fish sandwich, anticipating that booze and coke will be her diet for the rest of the weekend.
Two 17-year-old punk rocker boys from Auburn are shopping for used poetry books across the street at a thrift store. They see the freaks and come over. In seconds, the trannies surround them, crying, "They're so gorgeous!" One lifts up the taller kid's T-shirt and sucks on his nipple, and, surprisingly, the kid doesn't wiggle away.
It's an odd scene. The young men, who cheerfully tell the trannies that they're straight, seem perfectly OK with being molested outside McDonald's by a pack of total strangers. George understands.
She and Marlin grew up in a small town outside of Dallas, where, she gripes, her options for dates were girls, gay guys, and rednecks. The two would drive to the city, starving for anything alternative, and found the biggest freak scene at the gay clubs. Even though she wasn't gay, George found her people, her dearest friends, there. Who knew? Maybe this chance encounter with "Trannyshack" will change these boys' lives completely.