I’m Not a Man, Baby

Memories of Halloween in the Castro. By Jennifer Lea Cohan

Jennifer Lea Cohan

While living in San Francisco in the early 90s, before the party was canceled because of all the violence, I went out with friends to the elaborate circus that is Halloween in The Castro. I attempted a half-assed Cleopatra with Liz Taylor, naturally, as my inspiration. This meant a vintage double-knit wool column dress (subtract points for poor fabric choice: wool in the desert?), eleborate eye makeup, random gold sash tied around my forehead (additional points substracted for headpiece laziness). With my long hair dyed black and the lack of cynicism in my early 20s, I probably thought I looked totally fierce.

My friends at the time, a mix of gay guys and the straight women who love them, wandered The Castro, eyeing “mustachioed” Patsy Clines and other notable icons. And a Happy Halloween to you, too, six-foot-eight Barbra Streisand! Cheers, gal on a bike covered with tampons and Maxi pads carrying a “Menstrual Cycle” sign. Oh my God, The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence!

Navigating the scene, which was alternately fun and frightening due to the scarier gawkers, we came upon a drunken straight couple dressed in toga party gear.

The guy, with a huge smile on his face, made a beeline for me. “Wow,” he dribbled, “you look just like a woman!”

Me: “I am a woman!”

Guy’s girlfriend: awkward lip biting.

In his defense, I was also confused for a transvestite at a gay piano bar, The Swallow (now defunct), during Filipino night. The boy who came up and embraced me shrieked, “Oh my God! I thought you were her!” and pointed to my doppelganger, also in a fake fur jacket at the other end of the bar. And she was a man. So yeah, context.

And a very Happy Halloween.

Jennifer Lea Cohan is professionally shallow, a lifestyle publicist focused on food and hospitality, design and events. She comes to Philadelphia by way of California (self-declared nuclear-free zone Santa Cruz) and New York, and resides in Center City with her husband and two children.