Ok so you have read my top tips and you are ready to go P A R T Y like a rock star. Just one problem you have nowhere to go! Not true, there are a multitude of places that will be only too happy to have you. What follows is a list of suggested places that are worth visiting dressed. Obviously it is heavily biassed by my geographic location (Johannesburg, South Africa) but hopefully it may spark some ideas for other people and provide some useful guiding principles as well.
In my opinion it is best to avoid places where large numbers of single, young, heteronormative, cisgender men will gather. These people often drink alcohol and alcohol seldom encourages tolerance and a respect for diversity. They may identify you as trans and want to prove a point or worse one my be attracted to you, find out you are trans and feel a need to assert and (re)prove his manliness. These situations seldom end well for the transperson. You may be able to ‘handle yourself’ but wearing false nails, a wig, clothing that is unfamiliar and ‘fussy’ will reduce your ability to fight back. Heels will not only hamper your ability to fight (lack of balance, inability to kick etc) but they will also make it impossible to run away. Bottom line avoid conflict.
You want to be as comfortable as possible. This must be a fun experience for you. You therefore need to strike a balance between the familiar and anonymity. You do not want to go somewhere where you will be embarrassed if a waitress, proprietor etc recognises you. You also do not want to be constantly looking over your shoulder to see if friends, family or neighbours are there as well. Conversely if you go somewhere totally alien to you, you may feel awkward and uncomfortable in your surroundings. So if you are a beer and pretzels kind of guy, be careful about going to an upmarket cocktail or wine bar first time out (by all means build up to it if you wish but a more familiar environment may be better for your first time out).
Make sure you dress appropriately. If you wear that LBD with bling shoes and all the jewelry in your wardrobe to the supermarket, you will feel uncomfortable and you will draw attention to yourself. Attention the first timer can almost certainly do without.
Consider researching some LGBT friendly venues in your area. Make sure they are T friendly, not all LGB people are necessarily T friendly. You will almost certainly be surprised at how many palces are in fact LGBT friendly.
Consider going with a friend. I know this is not always possible for the first timer but if you have a close friend and ally you will almost certainly have more fun than on your own. Also something that struck me is that women (at least South African women) tend not to go anywhere on their own. You will blend in much better if you are with someone.
Finally, be prepared… It is a necessary requirement for Boy Scouts, Girl Guides and trans people!
Venues I have visited
I have been to Sandton City, Sandton Square, Rosebank Mall, Campus Square, Thrupps Illovo Centre, the V&A Waterfront and Cresta Mall. These are all malls in close proximity to my home (within a few kilometers) and are also where I shop normally. They are all relatively ‘liberal’ in character with a diverse crowd. Rosebank and Cresta in particular seem to have a fair number of lesbian and gay people who do not feel uncomfortable holding hands in these malls so I have assumed being trans is pretty safe too. They are relatively safe malls with security guards and a good reputation. I have eaten at restaurants, shopped for clothes, gifts and gift cards, watched movies and generally had a good time at these venues. I have had one or two less than ideal experiences but I have never been insulted, felt threatened or unsafe at any time. People have merely clocked me, and moved on. I have never been misgendered (in fact I have always been called “ma’am” or “ladies”) either so well done to all the staff and patrons of these malls. I have never used the public toilets at these malls as I have never needed to. I do however prefer to avoid public toilets and go at home if at all possible. Some of the restaurants I have frequented include Doppio Zero, Piza e Vino (sic) and Mugg and Bean to name a few. I have shopped at a range of shops from Mr Price and PnP Clothing, through to Edgars, Woolworths and Stuttafords. I have not (yet) visited any boutiques.
I have been to see The Rocky Horror Picture Show at the Pieter Torien Theatre at Monte Casino and Swan Lake at the Civic Theatre. I was very impressed with the Monte Casino complex and pleasantly surprised at how accepting everyone was. The security personnel were professional and welcoming and did not misgender me and were happy for me to be searched by the female security guard. we had a very good meal at a restaurant in the casino complex and then went to the theatre. Here I had to use the public toilets and I had no problems using the ladies’ room. Although we were lucky in that we arrived early before there was a queue which did materialise whilst I was in the cubicle. I did not make use of the facilities in the Civic Theatre although my friend Jenny did. The staff at the Civic Theatre were less ‘cool’ than the staff at the Civic Theatre who were very eager to take photographs of the ‘trannies in their midst’. But other than that all was good.
Our fellow theatre goers were very accepting and I felt no issues. Obviously Rocky Horror patrons are probably a fairly ‘cool’ bunch of people who would be happy to see the odd transgender person around. The ballet crowd was different. It was almost exclusively female and even though we deliberately chose the later 8 pm show there were a lot of children (almost all girls) present. I was a little surprised by this as we have only ever taken our girls to the matinee shows. I simply did my best to blend in and not present too scary a prospect to the children. I do not recall any problems and I suspect that they were all too excited to pay much attention to me. Apart from that this was a good place to go dressed, perhaps a midweek 8 pm show would have less children and be a safer bet.
LGBT Friendly Spots
I have visited Trouble and Amuse on numerous occasions and have without fail had a fabulous time every time. Both venues are wonderfully welcoming of a diverse group of people. My wife has felt safe and welcome at all times as have I. I can heartily recommend these venues to anyone looking to get out and about in a safe and welcoming environment.
When in Cape Town I visited Beefcakes and I had a lovely time despite being on my own. The staff made sure everyone had a great time and that we partied hard, even though it was a weeknight. I have not been to the Johannesburg venues but I assume they work to the same formula. The cocktails were seriously good. No seriously the cocktails were good! And for those of you so inclined the waiters are all good looking young men, very friendly and witty and seem to know just how to give you a good experience. Also (again for those so inclined) their clothing is, shall we say, minimal… The pricing is however on the high side so be prepared to feel a lot poorer the next morning.
In Durban I stopped off at The Lounge. It was alright and maybe being midweek made it a bit underwhelming, but I did not feel welcome and I did not find the place very interesting. I left soon after arriving.
Amuse is very nice as the toilets are not segregated. Trouble has men’s and women’s toilets and I have always used the ladies’ room without incident.
In Kwa-Zulu Natal I have visited the promenade on the beach front in Umhlanga Rocks and the Moyo restaurant in Durban. I felt a little out of place on the beachfront but that was because I had dressed for a night out and had stopped off at the beach before heading into Durban. I was thus rather overdressed. In truth as Durban is a rather relaxed city, I was overdressed for a night out so my outfit was a over the top for the beach. Such is life.
Places I Would Like to Visit
There are a number of places on my bucket list that I think will be good alternatives to the usual fare. Some of these are:
The Goodman Gallery, Museum Africa, the Market Theatre, Greensleeves Medieval Kingdom, Lindfield House, The Saxon, Circa Art Gallery, Lilliesleaf Farm, a concert at the Linder Auditorium, the Blues Room, the Barnyard Theatre, the restaurants in 54 on Bath, Stelle restaurant in Parkview, a spa for some pampering amongst other things.
I hope this has been useful. Feel free to contact me through my contact me page if you want more information.
Please excuse all the toilet stuff, but this can be a highly relevant piece of information when the need strikes!