The show at 181 Eddy lasted two years. But it didn't last enough. Like I've said, my life has been an in and out of the stage. Transformismo is the beginning of theater in Greece, where men would dress up. When I don't get what I want from it I let it go until it comes back to me. Because I have great respect for this art. And this art is lost now. Surgeons are manipulating the art now. I want talent. I'm an entertainer. If you have talent, come work with me. If you don't have talent, don't waste my fucking time.

After 13 years, Adela helped me, like she's always done. My great friend, she said, I have all you've ever wanted to do: theater. So we did La Casa de Bernarda Alba (The House of Bernarda Alba) at Mission Cultural Center. We did it with the community. My relationship with my community has always been through performance, show. Art. Because art heals. Art is the only form of telling history. You know? I haven't done all of this intentionally, it just comes natural to me. It is a necessity to perform, it is not a business. It is an incredible pleasure.

During the '90s I wore a big Mohawk, high heels, and leather pants. I had a Latino drag show on television for 15 years called The Catherine Show Percent. On channel 53, "El Canal de Las Estrellas." I was lucky enough to present millions of documentaries brought for the Gay and Lesbian Film Festival. I invited and filmed people. I recorded Esta Noche. All in Spanish. I was Catherine on a weekly show. At the end it was only me editing. Inventing, pulling things out of my butt.

I have made art because you have to do it and I've made it in Spanish. Because luckily or unluckily, however you wanna see it, I am not American. I am Caribbean, I'm from Cuba. And if I die and have to be born again I want to be born in Cuba!

"Catherine" is my woman name. And when Catherine arrives I say, "Por tu vida, She is here!" Sometimes people ask about her. She is on vacation, I say. She's too much. I love her, but sometimes she is too much. She does things I'd never do. She stops traffic, she talks to policemen: "Qué tal? How are you doing today? What's going on?" Makeup all over her face and a little drunk. With a huge bag, going around different bars. If I am not comfortable in the character, I'm not doing it. But if, let's say, I put on a big feathery hat and go out into the street I'd feel gorgeous. My friend tells me the other day: You don't do drag, you just dress as a rich woman. Adela sometimes tells me when I dress up too often, she tells me that I get transgender euphoria.

It's something really interesting: When a man gay or straight wears a wig and high heels there is a this spell around it and everyone wants to see it. It is all wonderful, amazing. It's like wow. Like a clown in the good sense of the word. It is an art. All my friends, we've always had women's names. I wanted to have a sex change until my early 20s, but then I discovered that wasn't my path, that I was an artist, a transformista, an illusionist. I'm a transsexual or... I don't even know what to call it. I don't have a name. I'm beyond names. I said several times that I wanted to get a sex change and just transition completely. And imagine that, in Cuba, it was crazy talk.

I think transformismo is a marvelous gift. Latin American transformismo is special because it has a certain passion, a tumbao. A different flavor. I'm not sure what it is. I've been so lucky in my life. I could die talking to you right now. I've had my glories and my tears and my obstacles. I believe in Buddhism and I think this is my last reincarnation. I don't think Catherine is going to reincarnate anymore. Life is wonderful, I've experienced so much in my life it is amazing. And it has cost me my entire life to be who I am, because I have high heels and boots. When do I wear the heels and when do I wear the boots? It has always been very ambiguous, but that's who I am. And if it has taken so much for me to understand it, I can only imagine for other people what an effort it must be.

I've had the privilege in this life of living and continuing to live both worlds. But when you dress as a woman, when you remove your pants you realize the power men have given to pants, which is incredible. Not even faggots want to drop their pants, because when you remove your pants you lose power. I wear skirts, panties and I have balls and a dick bigger than everyone. You need balls to put on a pair of high heels and a dress and go out into the streets!

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These stories are inspirational and touching. Natural born citizens take so much for granted. The struggle to be more than the sum of your bits and pieces is one that every person can identify with. I hope to read more articles like this one in SF Weekly!

Faithful reader,

John Gunderson

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