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12/01/2001 Entry: "Remembering Crystal."
Truth be told, I didn't really know Crystal May all that well. We met at a University of California conference of queer activists in Santa Cruz. She was the wildest thing there, and sharp as a tack. She was one of the first people I knew who really made me think about gender and identity—She was always Crystal, even if she wasn't in drag. Even if she was making jokes about her big dick. To this day it still feels wrong to use male pronouns to describe her.
As it turned out, she was the friend of friends of the performer who worked with the woman I lived with when I first moved to the city. It sounds like it's a more complicated thing than it really was, I swear. I'd also met these people at Club Uranus at the Endup and in the VIP room at Product...now, I was at best an observer of this scene, mind you, the "+1" on someone else's guest list. Crystal was one of its bright spots. And terribly sweet. She asked you how you were and actually listened to the answer. Her housemates adored her. She was popular with boys. And at her astonishing height even out of heels, she was the skinniest thing you ever saw.
After a while I started hanging out in other places and some friendships in my social circle dissolved, so I didn't really see Crystal for years. But I had heard that she wasn't doing so well.
I worked for many years in a coffee stand across from the Cannabis Buyers Club on Market Street. That was an interesting place. I met a bunch of nice people who'd come by on buying days. Around the holidays one year a zealous club patron who got coffee from us dropped a special "tip" in the jar. I even spent the night with a boy there once, and met some of the people who worked there (and slept there.) I still think they're fighting a good fight, and someday I hope they will succeed.
In retrospect Crystal might have been coming from there. I didn't recognize her at first. A woman was pushing her wheelchair down the street, and they stopped maybe 150 feet from the storefront. They rearranged a blanket around her and moved on. I probably could have gotten out of the coffee stand and gone to say hello, but they were already leaving by the time I realized who she was. She died within a couple of months.
But truth be told again, that's just a small memory for me. I still remember glamorous Crystal, in trashy shorts and heels, tall and skinny, standing in a bar cruising guys. Asking how things have been and listening for the answer.
Posted for World AIDS Day, 2001.