By Stephanie Julianna
I have loved girls’ clothes, then women’s, from my earliest memories, around 3-4 years old. Yes, some people can remember that far back. I am the youngest, a surprise baby, of a family of three older sisters and a brother. I was born in early 1949 and spent my younger days admiring my sisters, mother, girl classmates, and the girls in my neighborhood on Long Island, NY with their amazing full dresses and skirts. I attended a Catholic Grade School that did not require uniforms. Boys had to wear dress slacks, white shirts and either a long tie or bow tie. Oxford shoes only, no sneakers. The girls had to wear dresses or skirts and blouses. There was no rule about skirts being too short because they were all knee length or longer anyway. Mini skirts had not become the fashion yet.
In 1956 my family moved from a cramped 1 and 1/2 bedroom apartment (remember there were seven in the family) to a three bedroom Cape Cod style house with a full basement. I was seven and that was when I was left alone without a babysitter for the first time and immediately took advantage of my sisters’ and even my Mom’s closet and dresser drawers. My life started on the path of a crossdresser that, after 64 years, I am still happily traveling. But I was alone, as a boy, and I knew it. Society frowned on any male, young or old who would want to dress feminine unless it was a parody of one, like what Milton Berle or other comics of the 50’s did.
Fast forward to the fall of 1962. I am now in another Catholic school, but now it is a boys High School. It was a college Prep School in Brooklyn, N.Y. We were required, from freshman year on, to use the famed 5th Avenue New York City Public Library to do research for any papers we were assigned to do. I was now thirteen and still feeling like I was the only boy in the world who wanted to dress like a girl. The weight of carrying this secret was truly heavy on my soul. Things were very different back then compared to now. Imagine letting a thirteen year old commute 2 hours each way to school and back home, via bus and subway today? Then add to that, commuting into Manhattan to that phenomenal World Class NYC Library on the corner of 5th Avenue and 42nd Street on Saturdays to do more studies. No parental monitoring. At thirteen a boy was on the threshold of being a man in those days. Amazing times to grow up in.
It was on one of those Saturdays that I finally found out that I was not alone. You could leave your books and papers where you were sitting in the amazing Reading Room at the Library and return an hour later without a page being disturbed. I would eat my brown bagged lunch in Bryant Park behind the library. But one day, I wandered down 42nd Street toward Broadway and Times Square. Everything seemed new and amazing to me. But when I got to Broadway and looked down the street toward the Hudson River, it was like I was looking into the gates of Hell. After all, I was a thirteen year old Catholic boy. I could see movie marques hanging over the sidewalk for what seemed like forever. And they all had XXX next to the titles of the movies. Coupled with the signs that announced ADULT BOOKS all over the place, I thought I had just committed enough sins, just looking down the street, to go straight to hell.
It took a few more Saturdays before my curiosity took over and I ventured past Broadway. I remember it as clearly as if it was yesterday. As I passed the Times Building and stepped onto the curb on the “sin” side it was only a few store fronts before I looked into a window and saw the Premier Issue of Female Mimics on display. I was riveted to the spot. On the cover was a guy on the left and a girl on the right. In seconds I realized that they were one and the same person. I was not alone.
I went in and grabbed a copy. My face was burning red but I was not leaving without that magazine. “How old are you, Kid?”, the clerk asked. “Eighteen, Sir.” No ID was asked for. He slid it in a brown paper bag and I rummaged my pocket for the money to pay him. I did not take it out of the bag until I got home hours later and in the privacy of my room I entered a whole new world where there were people just like me. Well, I was not in their league yet but little did I know that I would be a part of that world years later, rubbing shoulders with some of the Royalty of the NYC Drag Scene.
I am presenting pictures of the first issues of that awesome publication. It was one of the first magazines devoted to professional female impersonators. I am also presenting an early picture a few years after I became very active in the Drag scene from the early’80’s and one a few years ago. The last 20+ years I have simply moved my dressing into the public domain mixing comfortably with the general public. It has been a wonderful journey with many adventures in female mode that I hope to share with Kandi’s readers in the future. I am so thrilled that Kandi has invited me to share my stories here and would also love your thoughts and comments.
I love and miss you, Steph!