With 2018 just around the corner, I find myself looking back on three years of Detroit Invasion events. It has been a truly interesting and totally unexpected ride. A lot of people have asked how it got started and why. I guess it is time to put that down in writing both as a chronicle of sorts, but also as an explanation, since a few people, I fear, have misconceptions about these remarkable events.
To be quite honest, Detroit Invasion began by accident, and quite unintentionally. No one knew what was starting at that time, and the success and growth has been amazing.
At the beginning of 2014, after a lifetime of hiding from myself and every other human on Earth, I finally emerged into the light of day as myself, full of trepidation and some panic, and totally unsure of much at all, beyond the fact that I could no longer live my life in fear. I did not step out shyly and cautiously. I was more like a race car waiting for the light to change. I fairly exploded out of the gate, so strong was the pent up need formed over many decades.
In that first year I became a regular member of the local Detroit transgender community, and found I loved socializing with other girls. I discovered I loved to dance. And, I was blessed by many wonderful new friends who all helped me more than I can say. I just assumed the Detroit community, with it’s friendly, warm, all embracing sense of family, was much like any other TG communities anywhere else. I have since learned this is not entirely true. From what I have seen, many cities have larger but far more balkanized communities rife with back biting and cliques. Detroit is not like that.
During the same period, I attended several large TG events around the country, exploring, watching…listening and learning. At most events, I found similar experiences…. a lot of workshops, classes and speeches, followed by some night time social events. But, honestly, the experiences left me disappointed. I am not young, but I am computer literate, and I know how to do research. And, beyond that, a career as a well trained professional actor has given me a good understanding of psychology and the ability to critically analyze complicated questions. For me, the classes and seminars, covering everything a transgender person might need, from medical advice to legal advice to such things as “ladylike behavior and comportment” were unnecessary… I confess, the last had me positively rolling with laughter….but then, I do know there are girls who need such things. For me, nothing in these classes offered me anything I did not already understand either from research or personal intuition. Rather, for me, the large events were about meeting and getting to know other people like myself…about discovering the breadth of experience in our community…. about making new friends, listening to other experiences, and, most of all, just having a good time in the company of other people who “get it”. For a degree I was disappointed by events that took themselves so seriously that the “fun” was given little attention. I’m a rock and roll girl. And I’m in no hurry to start acting or living like an aging grandmother. I have too many years of missed experiences to make up for still. At home, much of our time together as a group was spent in social activities of a different sort, with a lot of time in nightclubs dancing. Detroit girls like to party and have fun. I went to events expecting a bigger and better version of this and quickly discovered an average Saturday night in Detroit was a better party than I could find at most national events. In fact, at several events that first year, as part of a group of Detroit girls in attendance, I found that other girls started asking around to find out what the “Detroit Girls” would be doing that night. It was eye opening. Apparently, we were not the only girls looking to kick up our heels a little.
In late 2014 I attended the Erie Gala in Pennsylvania with my friend Donna. There I met a couple of girls from Ohio who seemed of a similar mindset to those of us in Detroit, at least in regard to having a good time. We got to talking about our home communities, and they were intrigued. We invited them to come for a visit and see for themselves. A weekend in January of 2015 was agreed upon and the die was cast. I got online on a chat board used by many of the local girls and let them all know a couple of guests would be in town.
Let me pause and say this…on any given Saturday night in Detroit, the two main bars/nightclubs where TG go to hang out will host from 20 to 40 girls. On any given Saturday night.
That first weekend in January of 2015 we planned for both Friday and Saturday night. Friday was small and intimate. About 10 of us were there, altogether. You all know who you were, I am sure. Many claim to have been there. I can name names of the few who actually were. Regardless, it was a tiny affair. But the following night, when I walked into the bar, there were well over 100 people there. It was jam packed. I had never seen so many girls in that bar before. And it was an amazing night. So amazing that we all vowed we would have to do it again. And so we did, the following April. Only now, it seemed like our little event needed a name.
In the run up to the first weekend, one of our local girls had gotten on the chat board and asked “What’s all this I hear about some t-girl invasion of Detroit?”
The name stuck. That April we held the second Detroit Invasion (Mk II). And that is how it all began.
But there is more.
A lot of people misconstrue the intent and actuality of Invasion events. Operating without any real knowledge or understanding (a common way to form opinions in America, unfortunately) many people think the Invasion events are nothing but “wild, over-sexed crossdressers”. Nothing could be further from the truth, although, in this Trumpian age of fake news, it seems no one need let actual facts get in the way of their own beliefs. And, sadly, within this vast community that we call “transgender” there remains a lot of backbiting and gossip and much of what we term a “trannier than thou” attitude. For the uninitiated, “trannier than thou” (Sometime shortened to “Triple T”) refers to a sad but all too common form of self aggrandizement that targets those considered further back on the road to self acceptance as somehow unacceptable and “lesser than”, and as such the target for scorn and derision. It is an ugly and unfortunate phenomenon that serves to divide us instead of finding commonality. It defines people by labels instead of facilitating understanding.
Here is the thing. Critical thinking in this country seems to be in sad supply. It has been replaced, it seems, by the habit of “feeling” an answer to a complicated problem, and then attempting to rationalize those feelings through thought. It leads to a lot of faulty logic and poor conclusions. Actually, all too often, even the attempt to rationalize feelings is absent, as more and more people go through life forming totally emotionally driven and, often, totally illogical ideas.
So… here is the truth about Detroit Invasion events.
Yes, they are social only. We make no attempt to laden them with classes or speeches.
Yes, they are a lot of fun, at least for anyone who knows how to have fun. But they are not “a bunch of oversexed crossdressers”
Far from it.
Detroit Invasions are totally egalitarian when it comes to the transgender umbrella. There is no litmus test to determine if someone is “trans enough”. Our Detroit family accepts everyone. Everyone is welcome. As such, we have all kinds of girls, from fully transitioned post op through pre op, through non op…. we have full time, part time and first time. In fact at every single Invasion we have welcomed at least some girls “out” for the very first time. No girl left behind. It is a big tent and we welcome everyone with love, support and warmth.
But, on another level, Invasion events are political. Visibility is a political act in our world. And, at Invasion, girls are very visible. There is political empowerment working on two levels. On one level, those of us too shy or inexperienced to venture into totally public spaces are able to safely do so, visiting, as themselves, everything from nightclubs and bars, to river boat cruises, casinos, theme parks and auto shows and more. Further, Invasion events are political because they force mainstream people in these spaces to interact with transgender people (often for the first time). Many mainstream people have never knowingly met one of us. And even when they do find themselves in the same space as one of us, such as at a restaurant, interaction rarely takes place. This is not the case with an Invasion event. It is hard, if not impossible, to not interact when the space you are in is suddenly “invaded” by 50 to 100 happy, gregarious, transgender women. And in that unavoidable interaction, people discover we are not strange and exotic, not cartoons, not sexual predators, but rather some pretty nice, happy, warm, and fun human beings. Much like anyone else. We become familiar. That word….”familiar” …the root of that word is family. In a sense, we become family. If you fail to grasp that fact about Invasion then you miss the point entirely. Invasion events are political action events on a very basic, non threatening level. But, of course, they are also a lot of fun.
Our team has now grown beyond just me and includes half a dozen or more over worked volunteers. Together, we plan, coordinate, and host four three day events each year. Each event is similar but each is different with aspects tailored to take advantage of seasonal opportunities. We bring in girls from all over the country. By memory, our “little” event has drawn girls from the following states and provinces… Michigan, Ohio, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Wisconsin, Tennessee, New York, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Texas, Georgia, Louisiana, New Mexico, California, Missouri, Kansas, Minnesota, West Virginia, North Carolina, New Jersey and Ontario …. and I have probably missed a few. Each event draws between 100 and 150 girls. Because each event brings out different girls, in total each year we affect the lives of more than 350 transgender individuals. By that count, we are larger than several of the “major” national transgender events. And we are growing. In 2018, if all goes well, TGDetroit, the sponsoring organization for the Detroit Invasions, will attain full non profit status. And plans are already in place not only for Invasion events and activities running through the next two years, but also for TGDetroit itself to grow into a full transgender support agency where the Invasion events will only be a small part of our expanding goals. With your support and a lot of work we will be able to help a lot of girls.
Because, ultimately, as much fun as it is to “have fun”, this is about way more than that. Far too many TG live lives of quiet desperation…attacked physically and verbally, abandoned by friends and family, fired from jobs…and all simply because the average American remains uneducated and ignorant about us and harbors misconceptions that lead to hatred and abuse. It is a war zone out there for a lot of girls, and a lonely life in those personal trenches. Detroit Invasion is about giving girls a three day pass every now and then to get out of those trenches, and breathe freely for a while. To let their hair down in a safe space among family who really treat them as family. They are more than parties. Every girl that comes to Invasion becomes part of an ever expanding family and Invasion events are truly a lot like family reunions. And even beyond that, what we do is all part of a plan and vision to move the ball down the field… to try, in some small way, to make a difference and make life for girls down the road a little better. It’s our way of saying thank you to the girls who helped us. And, be sure to understand this…. TGDetroit is not about making it easy for a few “passable” girls to fit within some archaic and mythological gender binary. TGDetroit is about tearing down that binary….destroying it and every shred of pain it has caused… and replacing it with a world where all of us, from across the entire gender spectrum…. ALL of us….have a place that is safe, secure and respected. That is our goal.
Those of you who know me personally will have heard me say “I just throw parties” Yes, it’s true. That’s what we do. But, it’s also lot more than that. Instead of just having an opinion….come see for yourself. We will make sure you feel like part of the family.