Published on December 28, 2007
Unforgettable Kati was the first transgender I became friends with. She lived on the island of Mallorca, Spain. (Gay) Hollywood hero Errol Flynn was her uncle, her grandmother had served the Chinese emperor, and she herself had earned a respectable fortune opening several restaurants and antique shops. Life was pretty comfortable. Or so it could have been, if it would have meant anything to her. But it didn't, because when we met she still was Kati in Kevin's body.
Most of her family and the people around her would not support the woman in her, so for decades she had been struggling with fate. Then at age 40 she had finally decided to turn from Kevin into Kati and make it visible for everyone. But like a curse, as soon as she had made the decision, bad luck knocked on her door, along with local Mafia and her unfaithful financial consultant: The business went bankrupt, she lost everything except for a little house in the mountains. All of a sudden there was no money left for the sex change operation, which she desperately longed for.
So Kati, just in case you are reading right now: This column is for you, because I want your story to have a happy ending - and of course it is for Candi Stratton, whose story I am going to tell now. Talking to her wipes away every little doubt that there ARE transgender biographies with a happy ending. It is a Kitsch story, a "they lived happily ever after" story - exactly the kind we need more of. This is it:
Candi Stratton was adopted at birth by a Swedish couple living in Chicago and she is convinced it must have been a guardian angel who placed her in the arms of these parents. They grew up on farms and were very religious, especially her mother. No surprise they had a very hard time when they discovered their little boy was not just going through a very special "phase" with all his adoration for Cher, dresses, dancing and drag. But obviously their love was as strong as their will to handle the challenge - in the end they were the ones to pay for the sex change operation to correct their child's "birth defect". After the surgery Candi's Dad sat at her bed asking "How is my daughter?"
His daughter, 26 then, was fine and very soon at her best, when she got accepted as a flight attendant. A big step to complete her deepest wish, which was nothing less than having "a normal life".
Twelve years later she met her Australian husband on the Internet (her soul mate, she says lovingly) and they tied the knot in the same church her parents did. So this really was Cinderella's dream coming true!
Candi moved to Australia and there it happened: The past caught up with her in Melbourne.
Before her surgery she had been performing shows as a female-impersonator all over the United States. She was a celebrity in the gay community and had won numerous pageant titles. So after all these years she was recognised when attending a drag show - and asked to perform again.
She did and ended up developing a glamorous Cher Tribute Show, which again earned her enormous media attention, enthusiastic fans and one day an invitation to Thailand, followed by the decision to move to Bangkok. The new location goes perfectly together with what Candi calls her purpose in life: To educate people on transgender issues by telling her own story and help the community to gain deeper acceptance.
Her performances at Bed Supperclub's "Pink Sundays" are the entertaining part of it. Another, quite different one is being an international ambassador for Yanhee Hospital. She takes care of clients who are facing a sex change operation, is there to comfort them, answer their questions and share their fears.
So I wonder if one fine day Candi will run into Kati at Yanhee Hospital? At first glance they may not have a lot in common, but the thing is, with or without surgery, they both are inspiring women with a great sense of humour - elegant ladies, beautiful people who easily make you forget that they were or still are in a male body. If they accept themselves, which is the hardest thing to do if fate made you different from how you feel inside, why can't others? So if you are one of those who can't, or don't have anything against gays and transsexuals - as long as they don't happen to belong to your own family - ask yourself why. And then go see Candi's show, stay for an after show talk with her, get educated, ask questions, she will be delighted to answer them.