I’m From Brooklyn Center, MN.

by brian ness

This story is about jealousy. And about seeing Joan Rivers.

My friend convinced me that we had to go, that it was fated that we go since Joan was playing at a casino only a little over an hour north of Minneapolis. I was nervous to go just the two of us. We hadn’t known each other for all that long, and though we got along swimmingly, I didn’t know how we would fare alone in rural Minnesota. His fey ways tend to trump my cautious and careful demeanor, so I invited my boyfriend along, who, at the time, I’d only been seeing for a few weeks. He drove and booked us all a room at the casino hotel. He was visually apprehensive about weekending with the two of us when he picked us up in front of my apartment, but it seemed by the time we made it to our room he had settled into taking the weekend for what it was worth.

True to form, my friend made our presence known. He held up the line at the bar, having to teach the bartender how to mix a sidecar. The stage where Joan performed was decorated with rows of crappy house plants, and at the end of the show, after Joan did this bit where she hurled the plants out at the audience, he hadn’t caught one, so he crept up after everyone had left and took one for himself. He named the plant Rivers, and we had to drag it across the parking lot to our hotel room before exploring the casino. Later in the night, I came to find him and my boyfriend bringing a few single girls out onto the dance floor. The next morning, we woke to find him lounging in the living room on the fold-out cot, posed like a Hollywood starlet, wearing only a pair of polka-dot briefs, then replaced for the continental breakfast by a pair of short shorts and a hoodie.

We drove back in semi-silence, humming along with forgotten 70’s pop songs, Rivers blocking nearly half of the car’s rear window.

Inevitably, and not too long after our trip, my friend moved to New York City. And I’ve stayed put in Minnesota. We speak rarely, only to talk about how we’d make much better floats for the Tournament of Roses Parade, or to tell him about when I sold jewelry to Donatella Versace. At times, even, about how we’d have made the closest of friends had we met each other back when we were young.

But what we don’t talk about is that there’s a big part of me that is incredibly jealous of him. Jealous that his touch of pink shines brighter, or at least a little more obviously than mine. That his fabulous doesn’t hang behind some rigged scrim of normalcy. Like a hairdresser or a choreographer from a 1920s movie, he can stroll through small town bars and pony across the room, harnessing that kind of presence that never needs words to come out of the closet.

All too often I hear people giving sissies a hard time. But I applaud them, envy them, and wish that at a younger age I had had the sort of reinforcement to not stifle my own sissy behavior.

And I hope that now, maybe one day, I may be able to clutch my purse between my fingertips, or sling it across my shoulder, instead of relying on it to merely fall out of my mouth.


  1. I learned to respect sissies during the 80’s when AIDS separated the men from the boys and most of the men were sissies.

  2. Sissies always make me wonder if I’m truly completely out and totally comfortable with my sexuality. While I believe I am, it’s always good to keep questioning and checking.

  3. This is excellent stuff. It was the fey guys who led the Stonewall movement. They’ve been forgotten, I think.

  4. I was thinking about this recently because of the stifling preference for masculinity on certain gay dating sites. LF MASC HUNG TOP! MASC ONLY! REAL MEN WANTED!

    Oh whatever. I want someone who will giggle with me about Doris Day, who sometimes bursts into song and dance, and who will swish his finger back and forth at me when I wear something inappropriately frumpy or unfabulous – not someone who will roll his eyes and go back to watching football whenever I do those things. I want a sissy.

  5. I tip my hat to those guys who know who they are and ARE who they are, knowing full well that they get crap from not only straight bigots, but from insecure wannabe-straight gay people too.

    It takes a real man to be unafraid of how he’s perceived. Sissies fucking ROCK.

  6. A new way for me to look at things

  7. I’ve always been a little bit in love with sissies too.

  8. Brian, I loved this story and I was reeeally looking forward to reading it when I saw your byline. You write like you draw; it’s recognizable and beautiful art.

    I’ll admit that it took me too long to ‘get’ this way of thinking. I used to be unnecessarily proud of my own relatively straight demeanor, or felt secretly comforted when people were surprised to find out I was gay. I would tell myself that I was bucking stereotypes, that I was showing people that even straight-acting gays can be totally out of the closet.

    I can’t remember when it occurred to me, but I remember feeling stupid when I realized that the more flamboyant among us were just being themselves, not worrying about conforming to other people’s expectations — that they were doing exactly what I always thought and still think gays should do. I was so startled by how obvious it was: merely coming out isn’t the only way to be yourself.

    Anyway, thanks for saying what doesn’t get said often enough.

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