R. Paul Martin in drag at age 12

R. Paul in drag at 12

Here I am in drag at age 12. The group photograph from which this image is cropped says it was taken during the week of July 4, 1960.

My parents had decided to go to a little resort hotel in upstate New York named Carelas Lake Hotel. This was on recommendation of one of my father's fellow truck drivers, an old guy named Matty, who always reminded me of Popeye the Sailor Man.

This place had a number of little activities set up to entertain the guests. A lot of people who went to it were newly married couples who didn't care about the damned entertainment, but there were quite a number of other folks who went to this resort as well. One of the nights the “entertainment” was for the guests to cross dress and have a contest for the one who did it the best. Thinking about it now, of course, I see that this was damned cheap entertainment for the Carelas family who ran the hotel. It costs the hotel precisely zero for the guests to dress up and act silly.

I forget what they called this, but the words “drag” and “transvestism” were not in the vocabulary of the guests. I had never cross dressed before, and didn't really have any desire to do so. By age 12 I'd been struggling with trying to reconcile my homosexuality with the serious Roman Catholicism (read “Irish Catholic” the most repressive superstition in the Western Hemisphere) I was being raised under, and I knew that dressing up in girl's or women's clothes was not for me. But about 90% of the place participated, and my parents did too, so I sort of had to. I am wearing my mother's skirt and blouse here, with my dungarees rolled up underneath. Snazzy socks, eh? And, yes, those things coming out of the socks, which are as white as the white blouse I'm wearing, are my legs. As you can see, my arms are heavily tanned, by my standards.

Oh yes, my father won the contest!

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All photographs and text copyright © 1998, 1999, R. Paul Martin