Monday, November 5, 2012
Diary of a Misfit
Nearly 10 years ago, I sat across a tiny wooden table from my grandmother. My grandmother fumbled with a pack of Virginia Slims. I touched my hand to my hair, which I had had cut into a close crop the week before. I had just graduated high school. We were not close.
"When I was a little girl, I lived across the street from a woman who dressed like a man," she said suddenly. "Her name was Roy."
Any TV show or book or history lesson would tell you Louisiana in the mid-1900s was not the kind of place where you would have wanted to be a woman living your life as a man. Even now, people there have a word for people like that: Hesheit. If you slur it just right, the phrase sounds like heshit, which is what people called the local cross-dresser in Monroe, Louisiana, where I went to junior high school. There, gender roles are specific: Women wear make-up and dresses, do womanly things. Men are masculine, given to hunting and sports-watching. If you are something in-between, people make fun of you. A heshit, they say, is not something God intended.
Delhi, just thirty miles east of Monroe, isn't much different. That's where my grandmother Louise grew up. But my grandma never felt that way. In 1952, Louise already knew something was different about Roy. He wasn't shaped like other males. His voice was a little higher.
But Louise was only 12 then. She knew nothing of the world. And when she first met Roy, what struck her was not his shape or his voice, but the banjo he held in his hand.
That day at the table, my grandma told me the first details in a story that I've spent a decade trying to unravel. At times, I've thought I'd never learn any real truths about Roy's life. But I'm closer.
Aubree Bernier-Clarke and I launched a Kickstarter today. We're hoping to raise $10,000 so we can go to Louisiana and Arkansas several times in the next year to finish the movie.
The video above is the first trailer we have released. Filmmaker Aaron Wong and musician Christopher Johnson also contributed.
If you feel like donating to the Kickstarter, here's the link: Diary of a Misfit: The Roy Hudgins Documentary Project.