Valerie

VALERIE is the tale of an abused 17-year-old who flees to to Hollywood to find it’s even more of a nightmare than home. Will she find a happy ending before the end finds her?   A short student film by Christine D. Beatty screened at the Hollywood Reel Film Festival in 2018. It has found a permanent home at theflickfest.com

Backstory

Christine D. Beatty is a transgender woman who climbed her way out of a world of addiction and prostitution in the 1980s. In that world, she met many fellow sexworkers who’d been driven from abusive homes as children—youngsters who turned to prostitution to survive.

Two decades later Christine volunteered at the Los Angeles youth shelter Children of the Night. For several years she took other clean and sober women into the shelter to share their experience, strength and hope with the teenage girls and boys rescued from prostitution.

As a published author, journalist, and a Cinema Arts honors graduate of LA Valley College, Christine made this, her thesis film, intending to draw attention to the horror of child abuse and child exploitation.

The Movie

Molested by her stepfather and ignored by her alcoholic mother, 17 year old Valerie flees Oxnard for Los Angeles. Her boyfriend Brian tags along as her protector, but nothing can save her from the sleazy reality of netherworld Hollywood. When even a porn model agency turns her away as a juvenile, she does like other street kids and starts turning tricks. Emasculated and desperate, Brian gets hooked on meth and comes to a terrible end. Valerie’s horrific discovery of his body begins the turning point in her life.

Wicked Wanda

Commission by Dave Cherry of Spectator magazine, 1993

I needed a short break from politics and this seemed like a good way to it. This poem is the first piece I wrote for my 1993 chapbook Misery Loves Company. It’s a tribute to my bestest best friend in the world, without whom I would have literally been dead several times over. She and I both escaped heroin and the Life in the late 1980s. I love you, Nola.

She has great hair, but. . .
she’d planned on being dead by thirty
a senseless, tragic loss of wasted youth,
an end glamorized by the young and foolish,
until one day she woke to find herself forty-one
and still very much alive despite her plans
so carefully conceived but with careless execution,
now the victim of her starcrosssed love affair
with bathtub methedrine and bad cholesterol,
and thank God that she’d switched to heroin
at the tender age of thirty three
or else she’d really be a mess by now
a view for jaundiced eyes
and beneath contempt of those
who could afford the surgeon’s knife
and if she could scrape the cash together
she’d get her own facelift
and then she’d show those bitches
who smirk and stare at her
deathrock clothes, spikes and jewelry
and look down their collective nose
because she was born with a cock
and they weren’t.

A brilliant artist she was told by all
and most certainly she was
give her a pen and watch
her worst nightmares unfold on paper
a trip into the surreal and the all-too-real
a vacation you cannot afford to take
with your eyes and mind so closed
but she’d make you take it anyway,
and this was not her only gift
but thanks to all of those
well-meaning reckless friends
with good intent and bad judgment
who talked her into art’s pursuit at
the great expense of not becoming who she was
(in truth they wanted her to stay a he)
and so in remorse she spent her nights
shooting crystal meth up into her arm
and eating cuts of poor dead cows
just barely cooked past bloody raw
when her hunger wouldn’t go away
‘til hopefully her heart would burst.

Day by day and year by year
this was her life
until one night she’d done some Dust and
burned her hotel room and took a ride
to the Bryant patch, booked for Reckless Arson
and thrown in K-Tank with a psychiatric case
who’d shot a black man and
white girl in Golden Gate park
because he heard voices tell him to.
After she had been released
she decided she had better work
on becoming who she was
if she didn’t want to burn
another divebag hotel room
and run around the lobby
wearing just a bra and daring the cops
to kick the living shit out of her.

So here she comes a brand new woman
(okay, she’s got a cock)
styling in her leather, chains
and pointy metal studs
in five inch spike heeled thigh-high boots
and a whip at her side
when she’s really feeling it
and great hair for days,
but she was stranded without even cab fare
until she met Miss Crystal who gave her
the nerve to whore,
until she met Michelle who taught her
how to work the streets,
until she finally kicked dope
and quit putting all that money up her arm
and bought silicone instead
and now she’s got great boobs.

There goes Wicked Wanda
you can yell “faggot” at her
from the safety of your car
and she’ll flip you off so casually
and suck that middle finger
just to piss you off
because she knows you lack the guts
to leave your car down here
you little coward from the suburbs
and there goes Wicked Wanda
don’tcha love her in all her heavy metal beauty
don’tcha want her in her exotic slutty outfit,
and if that’s not enough for you
she has great hair.

Satan’s True Minions

“What do you think the Devil is going to look like if he’s around? Nobody is going to be taken in if he has a long, red, pointy tail. … He will look attractive and he will be nice and helpful and he will get a job where he influences a great God-fearing nation and he will never do an evil thing.”
– James L. Brooks, Broadcast News

From the 1977 Anita Bryant crusade against gay people to this latest assault on the rights of consenting adults, the Christian Taliban never gets tired of sticking their nose into their neighbor’s business. Most recently, it’s #SISEA and the PornHub purge along with the #VisaVictims and #MasterCensors crackdown. And just so I’m clear: revenge porn is horrific and should not be enabled. And child porn should be rooted out like cancer, with the perpetrators brought to proper justice.

The difference is, religious groups use revenge and child porn as an excuse to try to censor all adult content.

Most religious zealots are so smugly confident in their crusade, they don’t care who they hurt. They don’t even consider it. They believe that they know God’s mind better than anyone, and that it is their “sacred” duty to impose their values on others. So many of them are flaming hypocrites. While this has been the case for centuries, over the last forty years the media has shone a light on these holier-than-thou frauds.

While some of the following examples go back to the 1980s, they were sensational scandals that underscored the hypocrisy and the dangers that these leaders pose to the common good.

Pastor Steven Anderson in Tempe, AZ, is a relatively recent case of religious mania gone very wrong. Anderson equated gay people with murderers stating, “The biggest hypocrite in the world is the person who believes in the death penalty for murderers and not for homosexuals.” He went on to vilify gay people as child molesters: “The sodomites are recruiters and you know who they are after? Your children!” He later preached a sermon entitled, “God Hates Barack Obama.”

Ted Haggard was the pastor of the New Life Church in Colorado Springs, CO with 14,000 members—a Christian leader who used the bible to condemn homosexuality. In 2006 he resigned from his church leadership positions after a massive scandal involving homosexual prostitutes and methamphetamine use. He initially denied all of it but as a media investigation proceeded, he finally came out as gay.

This kind of hypocrisy is hardly anything new. In 1987, televangelist Jim Bakker was forced to resign over a sex scandal with church secretary Jessica Hahn. Soon after, Reverend Jimmy Swaggart was photographed in a motel with a prostitute and suspended from his ministry. Amusingly enough, during Bakker’s scandal, Swaggart appeared on Larry King Live and stated that Bakker was a “cancer in the body of Christ.” Both of these men preached against LGBTs.

However, nothing quite takes the fruitcake like the Westboro Baptist Church, whose leader Fred Phelps hosts websites GodHatesFags.com and GodHatesAmerica.com. They have a national reputation for picketing public events and funerals, often those related or peripherally related to gay people or soldiers in the military. They praised the 9/11 attacks on the United States and praised the existence of AIDS.

What is particularly troubling for America is when religious assholes meddle in politics. The Anita Bryant anti-gay crusade was the turning point in a whole new era of theocracy. Back then, televangelist Jerry Falwell gained unprecedented power by helping organize conservative Christians into a powerful voting bloc. This launched the “family values” crusade of the Republican Party bent on oppressing LGBTs and women.

Thirty years later this bloc still evidenced power when an organized effort between the Mormon and Catholic churches helped pass Prop 8 in California, which codified discrimination against gay people into the state constitution—specifically against gay marriage—an injustice that took a protracted court battle to finally overturn.

The tragic thing is that all of this hatred, hypocrisy and even insanity is painfully evident to people who would like to believe in some form of a Higher Power. By trying to bend society to their religious values, these fundamentalists end up turning people away from spirituality. When it avoids authoritarianism, spirituality has the potential to bring peace, to give people the courage and strength to get through challenging times, and to heal divisions among people.

There has seldom been a more critical time in world history when peace, courage, strength and unity are badly needed. Yet instead of working toward that end, people supposedly of spiritual faith are only driving people further apart and denying them the potential comfort of spiritual peace. In doing that, these religious people are far more effective agents of evil that all of the agents of “Satan” whom they rail against.

Ain’t that a bitch?

The Bryant Patch

Hall of Justice, 6th Floor, San Francisco

[After spending all weekend on getting an indie film script polished for screenwriting competitions, I’m too written out to start a new piece. So here’s a true story from Misery Loves Company for your enjoyment.]

I was starting my third month locked up in the county jail of San Francisco at 850 Bryant street and not feeling very pleased about things. I had a class two felony hanging over me, but all I needed to do was find a drug program that would accept me, and then the judge would dismiss the charges upon receiving a favorable report. Unfortunately, due to my history of 24-hour psychiatric holds for PCP psychosis, of IV drug use, of being a whore and a former transsexual — but mostly because I was honest about all this stuff — I was, as one social worker termed me, “a difficult placement case.” Just why the staff of a rehab program would think its other patients might feel a tad uncomfortable about living in close quarters with a dope-shooting, drag-wearing, cock-sucking, borderline personality with narcissistic features is still somewhat of a mystery to me. I guess they just hated the fact that I’m not ashamed of this stuff. Worst of all, I missed my lover, a preoperative transsexual who I loved more than anything except perhaps heroin.

Faced with internment in a regular felony tank and still in possession of breasts not yet completely deflated despite have been off female hormones for months, I revealed my residual titties and begged the deputies to put me in Gay Tank, the jail’s repository for homosexual males, pre-op transsexuals and other transgender types who have a penis, men who admit being unable to defend themselves, and hardened cons who lie about being queer so they can be top dog in the tank. I didn’t really identify as gay and was trying to reclaim manhood, but I knew that one look at my androgynous face and my tiny boobs would place me smack-dab in the center of a non-consensual orgy the moment the lights went down. So then in with the gays and the “queens” I went. It was kind of like being back in the ‘hood.

To help me pass the time my lover brought me money, which I spent on the high grade smack the trustees furtively sold at the tank’s bars. When the dope wore off I was so lonely for my lover — and she for me — and I realized the only way we’d get to spend some quality time together was if she got herself arrested on a Friday afternoon on some minor charge. Being a preoperative transwoman she’d be tossed in the tank with me, a somewhat unorthodox conjugal visit. If it were a small enough misdemeanor she’d be released on Monday and only have to do a few hours of community service along with time served. Being just as fucked up on drugs as I was, she also thought it was a great idea, and so she set out to get herself busted.

The problem was that every time she pulled a caper, she got away with it completely. If she shoplifted, she ended up with great looking clothes, even though she hit numerous retail outlets notorious as shoplifter hunting grounds. If she whored — and she was as blatant and reckless as she could be — she just made money. Finally, she tried something that I just knew would get her in here with me. She mixed some crushed up aspirin and baking soda, placed it in a tiny plastic bag, and put it into her purse with a syringe. Then she came to visit me in the county jail. The logic was the rig was only a misdemeanor and once the lab discovered the powder was bunk, they’d have to let her go. But when the cop searched her, he merely looked into her purse, shrugged, and handed it back to her, telling her to move along. Apparently he was only searching for weapons. Drug felonies were “not his table.”

Later, after I’d finally been released into the custody of a drug program and then booted out of it for showing up testing dirty for opiates, she compared herself to Brer Rabbit from the Uncle Remus stories being unable to fool Brer Cop by telling him not to throw her in the “Bryant Patch.”

Wave Your Freak Flag High

If you think of yourself as “normal” you can go ahead and read this, but it may not speak to you. If you are proudly, gratefully Different, you already know this stuff. Rejoice! However, if you struggle with self-acceptance, then this was written just for you.

For years I seesawed through existential crises, caught between embracing my deviance and a pathetic desire to retreat into “Normal.” Whenever I allowed self-doubt to rule, I wallowed in my depression like a pig in shit. I sometimes actually took sick pleasure in feeling bad, as if I deserved to suffer like some fucked up religious penance.

I wasted so much valuable time on self-pitying bullshit, like dreaming up spectacular ways to kill myself. One of my girlfriends back then, a blonde bombshell of a pro dominatrix, faced her own demons. Sometimes when our dark moods were in sync, I’d suggest she and I hit the road on a Thelma & Louise style rampage, youtubing our crimes until we found ourselves facing a hundred SWAT rifles on the edge of the Grand Canyon, with all the news cameras in place. And then…

Such are the excesses of indulging in being Less Than.
Don’t do it, children.

What held true when I was a child still holds true today in the age of social media: anyone who stands out is a target. Thirty-five years ago, the Tenderloin district of San Francisco taught me a simple lesson, that misery loves company. So many “normal” people are so unhappy, and they would rather put a spotlight on someone else’s life than doing the hard work of fixing theirs. In the 1980s I formed a hard shell and shot heroin to protect myself from cruelty. I’ve since learned that accepting and loving myself is the strongest armor of all..

If you’re not “normal” it’s vital that you learn how to do this.

What helped me start was realizing that, throughout my life, the people I most admire are the rebels, the upstarts, the misfits, and the ones who refuse to be a slave to public opinion or “traditional values.” I’m talking about the freaks who refuse to apologize for being themselves.

“Freaks” is a word we should reclaim with pride.

Whatever you do, never give into the ultimate surrender. Refuse to give Normal People™ the satisfaction of your death—that final little burst of “superiority” they’d feel for a moment. Because before long they will find another freak onto whom they might turn their focus and distract from the empty, shrieking nothingness that is their own lives. Your life isn’t worth the cheap, phony fix they’d get.

Be a free spirit following your heart, not a slave following the crowd. Soar like Jonathan Livingston Seagull instead of fighting over fish guts with the other birds. Take heart in the courage of your convictions instead of playing it “safe,” because you’re going to die anyway no matter how safe you play it. Instead of joining the “normal” assholes who catcall  from the bleachers, instead run down to the field and have some fun.

Let your Freak Flag wave high!

Do More of This in 2021

I started doing Photography as a 13-year-old—was raised by pro photographers—was a studio and darkroom assistant—but as much as I enjoy it, it’s a struggle to find the time. In 2018 I took a UCLA class in Photography just so I’d have deadlines to light a fire under me to get out there and shoot. These are some of my best in that class. In 2021 I hope to self-motivate myself to go out and shoot more frequently. I hope you enjoy this little sample of my work. The camera is a Sony α7 full frame.

Franklin Canyon reservoir, just after sunset, 100mm lens wide open
“Ghost Train” – Five-second exposure, remote control trigger, stopped way down!
Sherman Oaks/Van Nuys park, long shutter, wide open. Love the clashing color temperatures.
I-5, Newhall Pass, 10-second shutter, wide open. (Reminds me of LSD.)
Street photography assignment. Sometimes you luck into a photo like this. The boy jumped up on the edge of the fountain, ran all the way around, and then started dancing. (Future backup dancer?) His mom’s reaction is priceless. Even the seated woman’s dog is enjoying the show.
Another Street photography assignment photo. I waited 50 minutes to get this shot.
The assignment was to show an example of backlighting. It was an opportunity to have some fun, so I brandished my off-trail machete, a latex prop, and threw a kicker light on the blade.

Welcome to the Tenderloin

Groundzero of the TransGirl stroll, 1990s

For nearly a century, San Francisco’s Tenderloin district has been notorious for its squalor, prostitution and drugs, and crime in general. I first made acquaintance with it in October of 1982. Oddly enough, I still romanticize that neighborhood to this very day. I’m even nostalgic for it. In my 1993 anthology, Misery Loves Company, I committed that first impression to print.

Back in ’82 I was an insecure kid of 24 with a buried gender issue and an affinity for the dark side. Times Square in 1976’s Taxi Driver appealed to me far more than the whitewashed “normality” of suburbia, whose desperately unhappy denizens do their best to keep up a good front. Downtown is a place where the pretty lies get scrubbed away, where you can confront the truth of the world and then find your way to make a place in it and, hopefully someday, transcend it. For me it was always best to start from the truth instead of an illusory lie.

“Concrete Jungle” [Misery Loves Company, 1993, all rights reserved]

I knew such places existed, had seen their likes depicted in Hollywood melodramas, had driven past them with windows tightly shut against whatever stench or bugs might lurk in the air, but nothing could have prepared me for that first walk through the rotten core of the Tenderloin. I had driven here for an electrician job at a gay disco in the center of this urban no man’s land. If I got the job I’d have to scurry through here for at least a week. I should ask for hazardous duty pay.

The parking lot was a forbidding alcove off the street, three one-way lanes skulking through a canyon of dilapidated concrete and brick edifices that might have been stately forty years ago but were now pathetic, reborn as piss-in-the-sink hotels and apartment blocks of hovels sheltering those who’d nowhere else to go. The lot itself was a weathered, stained stretch of asphalt, rustling with windblown trash and tinkling with discarded booze bottles, like cynical whispers and titters at the entire predicament.

No sooner had I left my car, I was assaulted by an odor rife with desperation, a mélange of rot and stale piss and other things dreadful. Walking toward the street, I placed every footfall with the care of a soldier in a minefield. Each step took me another hundred miles away from my well-scrubbed suburban upbringing, from the way the world is supposed to be. I half-expected to see a movie crew shooting.

Condoms lay here and there, clearly used, and though most of them were dessicated several were obviously of recent vintage. Dried splotches of what looked like veggie stew revealed the source of one mysterious odor. Far more benign was all the glass, broken and intact bottles of every size and brand of lowbrow hooch—half-pints to quarts, malt liquor to rotgut vodka—the primary anesthetic of the impoverished in means and spirit, a respite from their tragic lives.

And then there it was, lying on the sidewalk, in BROAD DAYLIGHT, an insulin syringe tinged with clotted blood, a emblem of unconditional surrender to this awful world and one step removed from the permanent final solution for one’s earthly troubles. It’s stainless steel needle seemed to wink at me in the midafternoon light. Was it letting me in on the joke? Was it beckoning me? Was it cautioning me not to be smug, because it could have me too?

I reached the street and gratefully noted the club was only four doors away, with only two people between it and me. The first would give me no trouble, a man crumpled semi-fetal on the dirty sidewalk and snoring moistly, all wild hair from the neck up, his threadbare denims soaked with urine and a yellow, acrid rivulet running from him to the gutter. Ignoring the wino and me was a fortyish woman—but she might have been much younger—her fishnets were ripped, her high heels clacking purposefully as she clutched a black leather purse to her short rayon dress. Her overdone makeup said she was a prostitute but there’d be no Pretty Woman ending for her.

Finally safe in the club doorway, waiting to be admitted, I turned and regarded this godforsaken neighborhood. I had never been in a place so far removed in aesthetics from my middleclass hometown. For that reason alone I nearly fell in love with it—a living, breathing, stark repudiation of the bourgeois fantasy called “the American Dream”—and never imagined I would one day call this place Home.

A Bag of Bricks Called Guilt

Practice what you preach, I always say.

“Guilt is like a bag of fuckin’ bricks. All ya gotta do is set it down.”
The Devil’s Advocate

Be there no mistake about it, guilt destroys people’s lives. Since we live in a society so influenced by fear-based religion—and led by hypocritical politicians who pander to it—it’s no wonder we’re drowning in it. And so needlessly. How terrible for a person to be caught between harmful guilt and their legitimate, harmless desires.

Needless to say, guilt has its place in the instance of rape, murder, child abuse, non-consensual violence or other act where another human being is harmed. People who do these things and don’t feel guilt are sociopaths, and if they continue to harm others… well, that’s for the Law. But that is not the guilt about which I write.

There is much—most of it sexual or gender-related—that religion has trained society to feel guilty about, establishing artificial boundaries between “normal” and “perverse.” Quite often they lump these in with far broader definitions of “Good” and “Evil.” In doing so, they classify any sex they deem perverse along with murder, making it only a matter of degree how bad one or the other is.

It’s human nature to want to feel “normal”—to fit in with the majority of other people. The danger is that the desire to conform to the majority ignores that human beings are not all the same, nor should we be. We have different feelings, needs, wants and values. In that respect, “normal” is a harmful lie with no basis in reality.

The Chronicles of Narnia author C.S. Lewis wrote, “Don’t you think the things people are most ashamed of are things they can’t help?” How sad that people repress their instincts and desires because they’re afraid they’ll be judged by people who have no right to judge. The guilt from those judgments can grow into shame of who you are—a terrible burden to live with.

 As a thirty-five year member of the trans community I’ve seen firsthand, and lived it for myself, the tragic cost of undeserved shame. Substance abuse, harming yourself and those around you, suicide attempts—much of it stemming from the guilt we feel because we transgress gender rules. And the price we and that our loved ones pay goes on and on. Gay and bisexual people often live with the very same demons, as do those whose unique carnal desires fall outside the boundaries of “normal.”

LGBT people who wait until later life to live their truth, may do so because they fear how people will react. The tragedy is that the energy put into denial—getting married, having children, etc.—eventually fails and now there is family likely to be hurt in the bargain. So in the end, living one’s life based on the approval of others is destined to fail in one way or another.

Despite its many failings, the Internet has connected people together and opened their eyes to things they’ve never before considered—to see things in a new light. Thanks to this, it’s less stigmatizing to be LGBT than it was before the Information Superhighway ran through the world. “Deviant” lifestyles like BDSM may take longer to gain acceptance, but I have hope that one day there will be far less stigma.

The pain of lugging around all of that unnecessary guilt—for simply being yourself—is one load you can unburden yourself of at any time. All you have to do is set down that bag of fucking bricks and be honest with yourself about who you are and what you need.

The truth of the matter is: if you’re not hurting anyone else then you have nothing to feel guilty about.

So there.

Somebody Get Me a Doctor

Last updated on December 28th, 2020

Hunter S. Thompson, Aspen, CO

Most millennials look around at what’s going on in America right now and conclude our country has never been this screwed up with division and strife. Were it only so. Fifty years ago, the left and the right were torn over the Vietnam war, the rise of feminism, Black Power, Brown Power, hippie culture, drugs, and the newly hatched gay rights movement.

From this morass of political and social upheaval came a singular, unique journalist and author who did his best to beat sense back into people. Most people born before 1980 know of Hunter S. Thompson or at least his most famous work, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Thompson’s brash, irreverent and brutally honest approach to reportage combined with an outrageous brand of humor that constantly pushed over the top; it was impossible to ignore.

The “Good Doctor”—he often referred to himself as a “doctor of journalism”—pulled no punches whether he was holding a merciless mirror up to hippies, hypocritical politicians or anyone else who offended his sense of honor or propriety. A man of contradictions, he was a Democrat at heart but who loved guns and was an NRA member—an idealist and yet also a ruthless pragmatist—and a man who craved control but was legendary for his drug and alcohol intake.

The reason I go on at length about Thompson is that we need a voice like his more than at any other time since the early 1970s. Ironically, his writing published now would be rejected by this world of cancel culture, political correctness, trigger warnings and nannyism—just as much as the political right would have hated him as a “communist” (he wasn’t). Were he alive today, Thompson would be horrified by what had become of his beloved country. He was a true patriot who believed in the kind of of freedom that makes America unique.

Peeling back Thompson’s outlaw exterior reveals a fearless herald with a deep insight who cut through all the hired bullshit, hypocrisy and hero-worship that beguiles many if not most journalists. He would seize the truth by the throat like a Doberman Pinscher and hammer it onto the page with the IBM Selectric typewriter he cemented his reputation with. He would have savaged both Trumpism and extreme Wokeness.

Around the 2004 election, the integrity of American media began circling the drain, aided by the growing influence of social media and news organs that cared more about retaining viewers than getting at the truth. In his 1971 “Vegas book” he made this wry observation that seems all the more prescient now: “Journalism is not a profession or a trade. It is a cheap catch-all for fuckoffs and misfits—a false doorway to the backside of life, a filthy piss-ridden little hole nailed off by the building inspector, but just deep enough for a wino to curl up from the sidewalk and masturbate like a chimp in a zoo-cage.”

We need someone like that, a journalist who uses words as if they were blunt instruments and brings them down with savage force to dislodge the dysfunctional mania gripping our republic. We need that brutal clarity to jar us back to our senses. We need a journalistic bitchslapping and a good talking-to.

Thompson’s style of factual but subjective  journalism—shock treatment, if you will—may be our best hope to shove extremist politics and cultural warfare back to the far edges where they belong, before they combine like volatile chemicals and blow us to kingdom come. We’re far beyond where we have the right to be crying about hurt feelings—there’s too much at stake. Wake the fuck up.

Selah.