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Christine Hochberg (2001)

Christine Hochberg (2001)

©2001, 2013 by Dallas Denny

Source: Denny, Dallas. (2001, Summer). Editorial: Christine Hochberg. Transgender Tapestry, 94, p. 20.






Christine Hochberg

By Dallas Denny


When we ran a photo of Christine Hochberg in our “Out and Proud” feature a few issues ago, we received a letter telling us what a horrible person Christine is. Although it was a broad-based attack, it was clear the writer’s real problem with Christine was her appearance.

Many of us have met Christine at conferences. Her trademarks are garish eye makeup, tight tops that exaggerate her not-insignificant belly, and very, very short skirts. The first time she came to my attention was at an event in the early ‘nineties— I’m not certain, but I think it was the very first Southern Comfort; that would be 1991. Linda Peacock (now Linda Kaye) asked me with some exasperation what to do about a person whose skirt was so short everything was not covered. I shrugged and said, “Ask her to go change into something more appropriate.” Linda did just that, and Christine reappeared a few minutes later in a dress that left little to the imagination but did cover the essentials, so to speak. Disaster averted.

Christine Hochberg

Christine Hochberg

That was then; this is now. Ten years ago, the nightmares of most conference organizers were crossdressers with facial hair and those who dressed “inappropriately,” i.e., like Christine. These days, Friday night at Southern Comfort looks like a hooker convention as several hundred leather- and spandex-clad queens and several dozen FTMs in leather-and-jeans queue up for the tour of gay and B&D bars (and more power to Southern Comfort for making this amazing display possible). Things have come a long way.

If Christine stands out in the year 2001— and she does— it’s not because she dresses like a slut, but because she does it so garishly— because she is, as Dianna Cicotello says, a clown. Moreover, Christine is not an accidental clown, but a clown on purpose. She could dress presentably, but delights in looking like a train wreck in short skirts. One could even say that’s who she is. Certainly I’ve never seen her dressed any differently while en femme. And she’s not just a clown— she is a very visible clown. She makes sure she’s in the center of things by volunteering for thankless tasks, by shamelessly dropping names, and by making a point of doing aggressive gender outreach to the general public.

Are Christine’s dress and behavior embarrassing? Certainly. Could there be a hostile element in her making sure she’s the focal point by namedropping and by aggressively buttonholing passers-by who doubtless think she’s a typical representative of the community? Perhaps. Does she make things worse for herself by sometimes not paying the requisite fees to attend the many conferences she attends? Yes, she does. Do the organizers of these events have the right to expel her for not paying? Certainly they do. Do they have a right to expel her for being outrageously dressed? Yes, that’s their right too — but they shouldn’t.

The reason Christine is considered persona-non-grata at at least two gender events is because of a combination of her freeloading and her appearance — but bottom line, it’s her appearance that seems to gripe most people. Dianna is right; we’re horrified because Christine looks like a clown to us and we know deep down we fear that others see us as clowns.

If, as Dianna says, our movement is about freedom of gender expression, then we must support the right for a 50-year-old man to dress like a 15-year-old girl. When we are affronted by Christine’s appearance, it’s a measure of our own internalized transphobia, our own uncomfortableness with who we are.

Does Christine embarrass me? Yes, sometimes she makes me absolutely cringe. Do I think she should clean up her act? Yes, certainly, and the first thing she can do is to stop welshing and pay up like everybody else. Will I keep suggesting to her that she dress and act more appropriately? Yes, I will, and I hope you will too, politely, early, and often. Do I think we should kick her out of our conferences? No, I don’t, so long as she pays her fees. And am I in some measure proud of Christine? Yes, I am, for in some strange way, she’s a measure of how far we’ve come.