My First Time: Getting Caught in a Dress

Twenty-four Hoosiers (and one regular visitor) revisit moments that inspired passions and redirected futures. From these experiences, they have found success as doctors, champions, entertainers, aficionados—but nothing feels like the very first time.

VICKI ST. JAMES, Female Impersonator

St. James, 35, is known as “The Queen of the Catwalk” for her impersonations of female entertainers. St. James was born male, grew up in Anderson and hid her penchant for dresses until, one day, she was spotted in one.
When my mom would go next door to the neighbor lady’s, I would sneak into her closet. She had a little horrible polyester dress—it was red with gray and blue on it, with a tiny thin leather belt. I loved that thing and used to call myself Connie Kitt then. And I would run around the house in my mom’s stuff when she wasn’t there. One time my stepdad caught me. It was horrifying. I had come in the house for something. I had blue-jean cutoff shorts on, and I had something wrapped around my waist like a little skirt. My stepdad asked me what we were doing, and I said we were playing M*A*S*H, and he said, “Oh, really. Who’s Hot Lips?” And, of course, I froze. Obviously, I was Hot Lips, but I didn’t know what to say, so I didn’t answer. That was hard, growing up, because I don’t think they understood being transgendered back then. My mother was very tolerant. She didn’t understand it, and she didn’t approve, but she just loved me.
—as told to Liz Joss


Photo by Tony Valainis

This article appeared in the July 2006 issue.