In New Orleans a long time ago when drag queens often wore beards and mustaches, when realness was only one way of doing drag, when transgender people were usually called transsexuals, in the bars in the French Quarter we called each other she, girl; look at her with her face in her drink, we would say, look at her about to go to the back room and get on her knees in front of that man, oh girl, she’s got calluses on those knees, or splinters, we would say, and burst into hoots and spill bits of alcohol on the nasty floor. The bar was dark, lights around the pool table where we could watch the butch boys bend over in their jeans. A juke box where the current dance songs were playing. Sometimes the bartender would give me change to get the music going, and I’d pick out something by Donna Summer, Bruce Springsteen, Roberta Flack, Michael Jackson, and we would sing along, harmonizing to the song while he, the bartender, did his dance down the island, flashing his pretty behind at the customers, working the tips. Girl, that man likes you, said my friend. I never made much of it, mostly asexual. Some instinct we had that the notion of he and she had to be fluid, that we had to slide from one to the other as the need arose. Girls had to stick together, run in packs, pick out the real men in the crowd, leave each other alone – what would two queens want with one another, we would ask, all they’d do was fight about who was on the bottom. Not so clear cut as that, of course, but we pretended. Kept the group neutral maybe. Oh, girl, please buy me a drink, these heels are killing me. Even if we weren’t wearing heels. Even if all we really were went something like this: slightly sissy boys in cheap jeans and button-down shirts, a bit pudgy, wearing boat shoes or oxfords. Hair stiff with product, thick with cologne. Talking to ourselves like we were the center of it all, like we were really princesses, and looking about hungry to figure out who in the bar might be worth trying to pick up. Or else frightened at the thought and hoping somebody would just find us and make all the decisions and at least take us home instead of down the end of some French Quarter alley. This was where we figured out gender for ourselves. Heading out for the night we would say, knockers up girls, tonight we’re going to find true love.