Pages Navigation Menu

Maynard and Tula (1992)

Maynard and Tula (1992)

©1992, 2013 by Dallas Denny

Source: Dallas Denny. (1992). TransAtlanta: The gender scene down South: Maynard and Tula. Crossdresser’s Quarterly, 2(4), pp. 33-35.

The editor of Crossdresser’s Quarterly asked me to write something about trans activities in Atlanta. This is one of several resulting articles. You can read the text or view a PDF.

 

Crossdresser’s Quarterly (PDF)

 

TransAtlanta: The Gender Scene Down South

Maynard and Tula

 

Here I am in Metropolitan Atlanta. It’s said there are two states here: the state of Georgia and the State of Atlanta. We’re talking a bustling metropolis surrounded by some of the most down-home country imaginable. Make no mistake about it: Georgia is Deep South.

There’s nowhere else like this city. It’s a microcosm of America, a city that’s all business. It’s crinolines and steel girders; mint juleps and Perrier with a twist of lime. It’s the rural South in bed with the Industrial North. It’s “The City Too Busy to Hate” (but see below). It’s—Atlanta, that’s what it is.

Any large city will act as a catchpot for sexual and gender minorities, and Atlanta is no exception. We have a thriving gay community. On one level it’s leather bars, male hustlers, and drag shows, and on another level it’s Pride Day, with tens of thousands turning out for the parade, and Queer Nation picketing Cracker Barrel Restaurants (Cracker Barrel recently decided to fire all their gay employees because they didn’t reflect the Barrel’s “family values.” There have been protests almost every week, with gay men and lesbians “eating in,” or rather, not eating in, just taking up space on busy Sundays and ordering only beverages.)

There’s a lot of gender activity, too. Where to start, where to start?

Why not start with Tula?

You know Tula. She was one of the Bond girls in “For Your Eyes Only,” and she appeared in Playboy in September in an article called “The Transformation of Tula,” looking very feminine in a man’s suit, and even more feminine when she took it off. Her real name is Caroline Cossey.

Caroline is a beautiful British model who was brutally outed some years ago by the British tabloid News of the World. The story is in her autobiography, My Story, which was recently published in England by Faber and Faber. My Story hasn’t yet been released in the U.S. Caroline told me she is negotiating with several publishers here. They want her to kiss and tell; she refuses. Good for her.

At any rate, back in September Caroline was invited to Atlanta to appear at Petrus, a local night spot (and a very good one, I might add). While here, something quite routine happened—she was made an honorary citizen of Atlanta.

According to Lyn May at the office of Mayor Maynard Jackson, there is a department which routinely researches such requests, primarily to make sure the honoree wasn’t recently featured on America’s Most Wanted. As my friend Margaux (who is also Deputy Director and Spokesperson for AEGIS—you may have seen her on 11/20/91 on the Joan Rivers Show) pointed out, such “celebrities” as Larry “Bud” Melman have been honored with honorary citizenship.

Anyway, the research was done (Caroline’s transsexuality had been made clear to the Major’s office), and the proclamation was duly put before the mayor to sign, and she was given the award. On 16 September, t was mentioned in Glenn Sheeley’s “Peach Buzz” in the Atlanta Journal/Constitution. On 19 September, Sheeley reported that Mayor Jackson, that once-staunch supporter of the gay community (he marched in the first Pride parade) had made a statement condemning Caroline’s having received the award. He didn’t actually take it back, but he might as well have, saying “someone whose main claim to fame is having had a sex change operation” wasn’t deserving of such an honor.

Now, those who have followed Caroline’s career know that’s not a true statement. In the first place, she was a successful model before being publicly exposed, and since being outed has twice taken her case to the courts, most recently to the European Commission on Human Rights. She frequently appears on television and radio shows stating her resolve to change the law for the more than 10,000 British transsexuals who, like her, are stuck in legal limbo. She has written two books. She is a gender activist; make no mistake about it. Jackson’s announcement hurt her feelings and put a chill on her warm memories of Atlanta.

I doubt if we’ll ever know ol’ Maynard’s true feelings about Tula. He’s a politician. His statement was one of political expediency; he caved in because of a deluge of calls from Atlanta’s black clergy and their constituents, complaining about him having given the award to Caroline. Rather than alienate such a sizeable minority, he chose to risk offending a smaller minority—transgendered people. But in doing so, he also offended the gay community.

Etcetera magazine had just published an issue with the theme, “Transcending Gender,” featuring Caroline on the cover, looking flawless; inside, she is interviewed. I happened to have an article in the same issue, and had gotten to know the folks there. There was some quick collaboration between AEGIS and Jack Pelham at Etcetera, and an article decrying the mayor’s actions (with a statement by yours truly) appeared in the next issue. A phone number for the mayor’s office was provided so people could call to express their outrage. The magazine hot off the press, I stopped by the Etcetera offices and picked up about a hundred and fifty copies (and a like number of the “Transcending Gender” issue) and delivered them in time for the opening of Southern Comfort (the South’s first major gender event, and a subject for another column).

But this story isn’t over. Tula mentioned the Atlanta debacle on The Joan Rivers Show and on Entertainment Tonight. Last seen, Maynard was maneuvering his not inconsiderable mass at Warp Speed VII away from the cameras of ET and Fast Forward.

Caroline was back in town around Halloween, and AEGIS had a private party for her at Petrus, where we presented her with an award thanking her for her work on behalf of transgendered people and welcoming her to our advisory board. About sixty of our friends got to meet her. Etcetera covered the event, mentioning in the ensuing article that unlike the mayor’s award, ours was nonrescindable.

The reason for Caroline’s return was to look at property. She had told us on her first trip that she was planning on opening a Parisian-Style night club here in Atlanta. She had come back to check out a condo and a club location on—you’ll never believe this—Tula Street. She will be becoming at least a part-time resident of the city that denied her honorary citizenship.

I like to think the Tula episode has been an embarrassment to Maynard Jackson and that next time he won’t underestimate the gender community and our allies, the gay community. To make sure, we plan to contact the Reverend Jesse Jackson with the question, “Are we not part of your rainbow, too?” and to enlist his aid in enlightening the black clergy of Atlanta so such an injustice will never happen again.

We keep pretty busy down here in the South.