You’re Just You: An Accidental Love Letter to Los Angeles

You don’t want to move to Los Angeles. You never have.

You grew up in an LA suburb and your adolescence was filled with closeted trans lesbian trauma. Every time you visit LA your high school experience comes rushing back and it takes weeks to shake off.

But you’ve been offered a job and you want that job. It’s just three months. And there are good things about Los Angeles.

There are.

Theatre at the Ace Hotel: Live Read

One of the best parts of living in Los Angeles are all the random queer events that pop up.

ADVERTISEMENT

You might be in LA for a couple weeks and realize all you’ve done is work when Indya Moore tweets that they’re participating in one of Jason Reitman’s famous classic movie live reads. This one is for Casablanca and it’s “all women.”

The event is bustling with a whose who of LA queers, including the editor you recently worked with who never followed you back on Twitter. You think of trying to talk to her, but decide instead to go to the gendered bathroom where you receive the usual stares. Even though you’re at a queer event you try to make yourself as small as possible to avoid any confrontation.

An usher upgrades your seat and you have a drink to celebrate. You make an effort to chat with your seatmates, your shared upgrade fortune being an easy conversation starter. On your left is a woman about your age who is cute, which isn’t relevant since you mostly talk about your respective partners, but is relevant because it’s nice when people are cute. And on your left is a slightly older woman who is unaware that the event is for the Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice, completely unfamiliar with Casablanca or the cast, and admits she’s just there for Hannah Gadsby.

After the show you rush to the bathroom. Your hormones make you have to pee constantly. There you brush past the painfully gorgeous Teddy Geiger. You wonder if she feels as uncomfortable as you do. Even though her fiancée was in the show, and she was just nominated for a Grammy, and she looks how she looks, you wonder if she still makes herself small.

The next day on Instagram you see a photo taken at the event. The entire cast is in the men’s bathroom facing the urinals. Except Indya Moore. Their back is to the wall. The joke is none of them have ever used urinals. But you have. And Indya probably has. They stare defiantly at the camera.

The Last Bookstore

Whether you live in LA or are just here for a weekend, The Last Bookstore is an essential stop. The ground floor is fairly standard, but the upstairs is a fantasy world, a labyrinth of used books and new art. Browse these shelves and you’ll find exactly what you always wanted and just never knew. For example, a collection of Paula Christian lesbian pulp novels that alternates between lesbian sex and flight attendant 101 like a Sapphic response to Moby Dick.

You take the Paula Christian collection downstairs and start the first novel while you wait for your favorite poet, Joshua Jennifer Espinoza, to do a reading. You sit in the front row, because you’re you and feel embarrassed and anxious about that the entire time. Because you’re you.

The first time you see Jennifer your stomach does a backflip. You keep stealing glances. You’re practically staring.

The event begins. You already know her poems so well, but still get emotional. You’re glad you’re in the front row. It feels like she’s reading them just to you.

Afterwards you push through your anxiety and go up to her. You have never been this tongue-tied. You manage to say something about how you couldn’t possibly have survived the last few years without her. You add that you love her Twitter and Instagram. This sounds silly. What you meant to say is she’s the first trans woman you came across who loudly declared herself as gay, who dressed like a soft butch, and who was in a loving relationship with another woman. You meant to say that her vulnerability in expressing a truth outside the standard trans narrative both in her work and online allowed you to be who you are.

Maybe she could tell this is what you meant. Because she asks if she can give you a hug. You melt into her arms and feel truly safe.

It’s not until you’ve said goodbye and are buying your Paula Christian book that you realize you didn’t clock any other trans people. It was just you and Jennifer alone and trans at the last bookstore in the world.

The Grove Farmers Market

The Grove is an outdoor mall built out of the historic LA farmers market. It’s become a common tourist destination due to frequent sightings of Kardashians and real housewives.

You come here to do some last minute holiday shopping the first week your girlfriend arrives. Even though a crowded mall the week before Christmas should be a nightmare it’s actually sort of nice. It’s the first day you’ve spent with her in weeks and you feel really glad that she’s here.

The farmers market has endless food options. You go back and forth with your girlfriend before finally deciding on something. As you wait in line you notice the person taking orders is trans. When you get to the front she says, “I like your style.” You say, “Thank you. I like yours.” You imagine what it must be like serving all these cis tourists. You feel so much love for this person you don’t know. You feel less alone.

The Satellite: Gay Asstrology

In June of 2017 the last lesbian bar in Los Angeles closed down. There are no longer any queer night life spaces that don’t cater to cis men. But on the first Friday of every month at The Satellite in Silver Lake there’s a queer dance party called Gay Asstrology and most of the people who attend are women and non-binary. It is, after all, astrology themed.

You hear about it from your girlfriend’s high school friend who lives in LA now. She invites you both to meet all her queer friends. You wear your new Autostraddle scissoring t-shirt and Doc Martens because you’re gay. You and your girlfriend get there before 10pm. Early entry is free. Someone waiting by the door sees you and shouts, “The queers are here!” You laugh and shout back that they better be. The dance floor is mostly empty so you take your drinks to the upper bar where people are hanging out on couches.

You see Laura Zak. Co-writer and co-star of Emmy-nominated and life-changing web series Her Story, Laura Zak. Major celebrity crush, Laura Zak. Your girlfriend says you should talk to her, but you would never.

The group you’re meeting arrives. These queer women might as well be cosplaying The L Word. It’s fun to meet new queer people. But then their Shane starts talking about how she hates Lady Bird and loves Three Billboards like she’s been cryogenically frozen with bad opinions since last Oscar season. You excuse yourself to the bathroom where a staff member is taping up makeshift gender neutral bathroom signs. Someone must have complained. Bless them.

You go down to the dance floor and start dancing with your girlfriend. You can’t resist glancing around at all the other hot queers. You sort of wish you were there by yourself. Then you realize Laura Zak is dancing with Brittani Nichols right next to you. That feels really cool.

Later in the night you think you see somebody you studied abroad with in high school. You spent the last year writing a script based on that period in your life and part of you thinks you’re just really fucked up and imagining things. But it’s him. You exchange numbers. He’s sort of touchy and you sort of enjoy it.

As you’re leaving the venue you see Laura Zak again. Maybe it’s because you’re properly inebriated, but you decide to say something. You apologize for bothering her and express your love of Her Story. Your girlfriend is standing next to you so you introduce her. She tells Laura Zak that Her Story was the first time she saw something resembling your relationship on screen. You think it’s funny that she says this because for you Her Story had nothing to do with her. It was the first time you saw something on screen, but it wasn’t your relationship. It was the possibility that somebody like you could have sex with somebody like Laura Zak.

The next day you and your girlfriend decide to open up your relationship.

Melrose Umbrella Co./Harlowe/Little Bar

On nights that aren’t the first Friday of the month you may find yourself at any number of straight bars in the city. You and your girlfriend are meeting up with a gay friend from New York who recently moved to LA. If there are enough of you maybe any bar can be a gay bar.

The first bar is so straight you don’t even stay for one drink. The second bar you should’ve done the same, but instead get Long Island Iced Teas to cope. The third bar is still very straight but it’s quiet enough that you can talk. You’re relieved to know at least one other queer woman in the city. Even if none of you know where to go.

The Pie Hole

The Pie Hole is a bakery and coffee shop in the Arts District. They’re known for their pies and their “pie holes” which are like donut holes but pie.

You’re sent there on a Thursday afternoon to pick up a treat for a coworker’s birthday. Everyone is cool in the Arts District. Your girlfriend points out later that really everyone is just rich. But you don’t care. You want to have sex with every person you walk past and then steal all their clothes. Especially the person working at The Pie Hole. You’re in love. Or you just smell pie.

You get back in your car and check your email.

“Would You Like to A-Camp?!” You drop your phone.

Only a week earlier you’d started putting part of your paycheck away so you could attend A-Camp in 2020. And now here was an email asking you to apply to be on staff for A-Camp 2019.

That night you start working on your application and over the next few days treat it with the same attention you gave your college apps.

Taft High School

If you’re in LA working on a TV show about high schoolers you might end up in the Taft parking lot late at night waiting to pick up the day’s hard drives. You’re horny and bored and decide to join Tinder. You’re less than twenty minutes from your own high school chatting with cute, queer strangers.

One of your matches asks in their bio for your favorite corner of the Internet. You message them about Queering the Map, a site you return to often where queers place pins all around the world with captions ranging from long emotional stories to stuff like “We fucked here.” She’s never seen the site before and thinks it’s the coolest which makes you feel like the coolest.

Conversation comes easy and it’s just so fun to flirt. She’s a musician and lists Hannah Diamond among her influences. You’ve never heard of this person so she suggests you listen to “Fade Away.” The song is so fucking good and you tell her as much. She asks if you want to go with her to a rave sometime.

When you’re on your way home you call your girlfriend and tell her about your night. You loved chatting with this stranger and you love chatting with your girlfriend.

Moonlight Rollerway: Rainbow Skate

Every Wednesday is queer night at the Moonlight Rollerway in Glendale. It’s a mix of total newbies and seasoned pros. The pros are hot.

You were reluctant to go, because you’ve never skated before and don’t like being bad at things. But your friend invited you and your girlfriend wanted to go so here you are.

When renting skates you explicitly say you’re a Women’s 8. He reaches for a Men’s 8 and you correct him. You struggle to get the skates on and then struggle to walk in them to the rink. But you do it. And once you’re going you’re surprised how easy it is. And how fun it is.

A tall woman wearing a PJ Harvey t-shirt skates by you. She is so hot and so cool. You spend most of the night skating around respectfully ogling all the hot and cool skaters. Especially her.

You still can’t believe you’re actually good at this. You feel hot and cool now too. You start fantasizing about coming back and becoming really good. What a fun new addition to your identity that would be.

Towards the end of the night you fall and tear the skin on your knee. But you pop back up and keep skating. You’re relieved. Now that you’ve fallen once you know you’ll be okay.

The Getty Villa

The Getty Villa is a gorgeous outdoor museum and theatre space that specializes in Greek and Roman artwork. The Villa has two theatres, one indoors and one outdoors. But for the first time the Getty is hosting an immersive theatre show as a companion piece to their exhibition Underworld: Imagining the Afterlife.

The night before the show your girlfriend wakes you up at 3am. She’s been reading articles on open relationships and you’ve done it all wrong. Everything escalated too quickly.

It was good to talk, but now you’re driving to Malibu and trying not to. Instead you listen to the very sad, very horny playlist you made that starts with Hannah Diamond and ends with Mitski. You’re wearing the shorts you were gifted from a modeling gig and a low-cut top and feel hot. You’re resentful that your girlfriend doesn’t say anything.

You get dinner at The Reel Inn, a casual seafood restaurant near the Villa. You give up and continue the discussion from the previous night. As you say your feelings out loud you know they’re not true. Every follow-up question drowns you in failure and inadequacy. All the things you mentally blamed on your girlfriend are your fault. You accept validation from strangers, but not the person you love most. You refuse to believe that your partner sees you as a woman even though she always has. You talk about wanting to sexually experiment but don’t feel safe around your safest person.

You both cry. It’s good. The pendulum swings back to the center and you realize you’re both right and both wrong and ultimately everything is okay now that you’ve talked it all out. Or it’s not. But it will be. Or it won’t.

The show is a series of vignettes that start off silly and get increasingly more effective. The Villa is a stunning location and they mostly use it well. Halfway through the show one of the cast members “let’s you into the underworld” before your girlfriend so you spend the rest of the night apart. It’s always better to be alone during an immersive show anyway.

You’re struck by how much Greek mythology is just torture by monotonous tasks. Sisyphus, of course, but also the highlight of the show: three women filling unfillable baskets with water. You think of the “millennial burnout” article that’s been circulating social media and feel part of an ancient tradition.

The audience is seated on the ground for the last number. You see your girlfriend and sit down next to her. Midway through the song, a cute queer in the cast reaches out their hand for you. You’ve been chosen. They hold your hand and lead you up a long flight of stairs. This is how you and your girlfriend met. She was acting in an immersive show and you were in the audience and she chose you.

Walking up the stairs you think about how good your legs look in these shorts and you pointedly walk one foot in front of the other so your hips move. When you get to the top of the Villa, the cast member whispers something in your ear and you’re released back into the night.

The next day you get a message from someone on Tinder. “I think I saw you at the Getty Villa last night??” So your legs did look good.

Jersey Mike’s Downtown

This Jersey Mike’s has a gender neutral bathroom. It’s just a single stall, but the sign says “All Gender Restroom” and that feels pointed. You haven’t seen a sign like that since arriving in LA. Way to go, Mike.

Tabula Rasa

Tabula Rasa is a wine bar located between Hollywood and Los Feliz. It’s as chill as it is expensive. A friend from New York and Juilliard classmate of your girlfriend is DJ-ing there and invites you both along.

It ends up becoming a Juilliard reunion. Back in New York you’ve been consistently taken with her former classmates. Beyond talent it’s clear this school chooses genuinely lovely people. But tonight the energy is different.

You get stuck in a conversation with a cis straight white guy who’s a friend of a friend. He’s in the industry and talks like a cliché Hollywood satire. He shares that his favorite movie is Michael Clayton. Yes, the George Clooney lawyer movie from 2007 is his favorite movie ever. He asks what your favorite movie is and you reply The Watermelon Woman. His eyes glaze over and you tell him he should check it out. You excuse yourself to the gendered single stall bathroom.

When you get out you see a new wave of Juilliard alums have arrived and you join them and your girlfriend on the patio. You start talking to a particularly handsome man who shares that he’s just worked with Jamie Babbit on a new Netflix show called Russian Doll. You start gushing about But I’m a Cheerleader. You gush together. It’s clear the individuals who are actually successful have less to prove and therefore can have a normal conversation.

Samira Wiley arrives. The conversation continues and is comfortable and nice. It’s such a relief to hang out with successful queer people. A joint is passed around and you note that being around famous people you admire is less anxiety provoking than being around straights. You haven’t felt this relaxed in weeks.

Everybody goes inside and the magic dies. The queers split off into separate conversations and you’re feeling a tad too high. One of your girlfriend’s classmates arrives, someone you met pre-transition, and she rushes you both over to him. She gives him a hug. She says, “This is my girlfriend. She is transgender. You met a couple years ago, but she’s a woman. She uses she and her pronouns now.” The guy hugs you and you want to cry. She has never talked about you that way, the way cis people do that makes you feel like you’re not a person, like you’re not standing right there. She must be so drunk. You immediately forgive her but still feel shitty.

You end the night talking to the handsome actor’s friend. She’s straight but you’re confusing enough and she’s drunk enough that she flirts with you. She keeps touching your knee. You let her.

Bottega Louie

Bottega Louie is a restaurant, gourmet market, and patisserie located Downtown. Your parents got you a gift card there for your birthday and you remember to go just a few days before your girlfriend goes back to New York.

The hostess asks your last name and then leads you to a table in the back by the window. The waitress walks up and repeats your last name with a question mark. You say, yes, that’s your last name. She lightens up and says, “Oh okay! Usually it says Mr. or Ms. but for some reason it just says Gregory!” You know why it just says Gregory and reply that Ms. will do.

Dinner is lovely. You have pizza and martinis and end with a giant macaron. You talk about your relationship and your hopes for the future and what you miss about New York. Neither of you know what’s going to happen next. You don’t know where you’ll be living or what you’ll be working on or whether you’ll be in the same place. But you’re happy to be together now.

The Lyft driver is chatty. You say that you’re from New York and she starts talking about weather. You’re too tipsy to engage so you let your girlfriend talk and you check your email.

“Wanna work at A-Camp?!” You drop your phone.

You hear the Lyft driver say, “I’m still not sold on global warming.” And you do not care. Because you’re going to A-Camp.

You keep reading the email. The theme this year is high school. Of course it is.

Los Angeles International Airport

As the sixth largest airport in the world, Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) is a hub for major airlines such as Alaska, American, Delta, and United. The TSA agents are more likely to assault a trans woman than take away your weed and the various terminals offer a wide variety of food options.

The day you’re supposed to drive your girlfriend to LAX you receive a text message from the producer of the show you’re working on. She’s been hired to produce a spin-off of one of your all-time favorite shows and she wants you to be her assistant. You would start in a week. You think about it, but there’s not much to think about. You accept the job.

You and your girlfriend stop at a friend’s Chinese New Year party on your way to the airport. You try to remain present as you make dumplings, but you keep remembering that in just a few hours you won’t be seeing your girlfriend for at least two months.

A group of people arrive at the party and you clock one of them as trans. You want to go up to her and say, “Hi. I’m going to be in this city for at least two more months. I need trans people in my life. Please be my friend.” You don’t say this. But you manage to introduce yourself briefly before you have to leave.

When you’re ten minutes from LAX you start to cry. Your girlfriend jokes that she’s usually the crier in the relationship, but she seems to be doing okay. Every time you try to speak you cry more. By the time you arrive at departures you’re sobbing.

You collect yourself and help your girlfriend with her bags. You hug and kiss and say you love her and she says she loves you. You hug and kiss more.

She leaves.

Back in the car you put on Mitski. You scream and sob the lyrics the entire way home.

Two weeks later you and your girlfriend break up.

Fonda Theatre: King Princess

The Fonda Theatre is a concert venue on Hollywood Boulevard that’s existed since the 1920’s. Tonight King Princess is performing.

You bought the ticket for what was originally supposed to be your last night in LA. One final queer event in Los Angeles. It still feels that way. Even though you sort of live here now. It still feels like the last night.

You no longer need a rental car for work so you’ve decided to nix that expense and use public transit. Your mom thinks it isn’t safe in LA as a trans woman. Walking to your car late at night doesn’t seem particularly safe either.

On your way to the bus station a car starts to follow you. You turn around and go a different direction, but he does a U-turn and keeps following. You walk faster. He rolls down his window and asks if you want a ride. You shout a firm no. He follows you a bit longer then speeds off.

The rest of the trip is easy and you make it to the concert a half hour before doors open. You’re always early. Your girlfriend is always late. Together you show up on time. Apart you’re just early. You don’t want to show up to a concert before doors so you walk to Amoeba music. You find a copy of Jamie Babbit’s Itty Bitty Titty Committee which isn’t available anywhere online. You have to buy it. It’s sticking out of your purse the rest of the night.

You smoke a little then walk back to the venue just as people are being let in. Everybody there looks like a child. King Princess is, after all, only 20 years old. And these are the fans who showed up at doors. At first these confident queer teens and queer teen couples make you happy. But despite yourself you start resenting them. Imagine being out as a teenager. Imagine being in a queer relationship as a teenager. They all look so happy. You feel weird and old and trans.

You find a spot on the raised platform to the side of the stage. You’ll have a better view and you don’t need to be in the middle of all the kids. You smoke a little bit more. You feel stupid. All you wanted was to go to queer spaces by yourself. Now you’re here and you just feel lonely.

“Drew??”

You hear your name and look up.

Holy shit.

She was your sister’s best friend when you were born. She was your first crush when you were four and she was eight. She introduced you to Avril Lavigne. And now she’s standing right in front of you.

You know from Instagram that she’s gay. And hot. You’ve made a lot of mistakes in your life but since the age of four everybody you’ve had a crush on is cool and gorgeous and mostly queer and she just might be the coolest.

She asks if she can buy you a drink and you gladly say yes and give up your spot. She buys you the drink and invites you to hang out with her and her three straight friends she’s known since high school.

Her friends are incredibly drunk. One of them is dancing on you and putting her face near yours like she wants you to make out with her. You’re not sure what gender she thinks you are. Another one of the friends keeps telling your crush that she’s going to find her a girl whose “pussy she can eat.” It’s clear she’s taking her role as straight friend a tad too seriously. Your crush keeps saying “I have all the women I need.” Her friends don’t see you as a woman, but it seems like she does. She starts dancing with you. You’re very high and unsure how much to touch her while dancing. You eventually put your hands on her and she seems receptive.

You cannot believe you’re dancing with this person. You cannot believe she’s here.

The show ends and Hannah Diamond comes on the speakers. You follow your crush outside to help her find the pocket knife she stashed in some bushes. She’s so gay.

You share a cigarette and she invites you to the hotel they’re staying at. She lives in Laguna. They’re just here for the night.

Back at the hotel it’s clear she’s trying to ditch her friends. Eventually two go to sleep and another goes off with some guy. You sit at the hotel bar talking and flirting. Discussion ranges from exes to L Word characters because you’re both cliché and it’s lovely.

She invites you to spend a weekend at her house in Laguna. You wish you were there right now. You also hope this night never ends. She asks if you want to play a game. You say one physical characteristic you like about the person, one personality trait you like about the person, and one thing you like about yourself. Is this how lesbians flirt??

You say she looks good in her jeans like you’re quoting a Lady Gaga song. But it’s true. She does. You say that she’s always been so confidently herself and you admire that. She says nice things about you as well.

Then the night is over. She has to get back to her friends. You order a Lyft.

She walks you to the car. You so badly want to kiss her. But you want the night to stay perfect. So you don’t. You make plans to hang out soon. You know this is something old Drew would do. New Drew was supposed to take bold risks and be sexual and not care about anything. But you’re just Drew. That will never change. So you take the perfect night. You look around and think, Well I guess this is what LA can be like. And you’re happy. You’re uncertain. You’re scared. But you’re happy.

Drew is an LA-based writer, filmmaker, and theatremaker. She is currently working on a short film about Gordo from Lizzie McGuire’s transition (it’s canon) and a million other projects. She also runs social media for I Heart Female Directors. Find her on Twitter and Instagram @draw_gregory.

Drew has written 60 articles for us.

22 Comments

  1. But you don’t care. You want to have sex with every person you walk past and then steal all their clothes.

    DREW, YES.

    this entire piece is a generous beautiful gift and i thank you for it!!

  2. As someone who is a local(I can say I went to LAUSD), this is a great read. How does one hang out with queer celebs the way you have? Cause all the celebs I meet are ballplayers cut from the team and guys who played the ex on a show for teens on Disney or Nick. lol

      • True, some of them are like a teenager when it comes to taking pics. Serj from System Of A Down wanted to make sure we all were smiling in the selfie he had to take with my camera(had a tilting screen for such usage) in 2005.

  3. Oooof Drew this is so beautiful and good ❤️💔 I’ve never read something that made me miss LA so much (usually I do not miss her!) Really glad you’re there, and I hope you continue to have more of these good and sweet happenstance meetings.

Contribute to the conversation...

You must be logged in to post a comment.