My name is Gigi and my alter ego is storyteller / mouth musician Dr. Dreame. I’ve never been happier than when I became a woman 3,5 years ago, but it wasn’t an easy journey.
I was born in Akron, Ohio. I have three siblings, a brother and two sisters, all younger than me. As a kid I always had friends, both boys and girls. I liked playing nurse, or candyland, and the guys always wanted to play baseball, which of course I hated. But I got along with both, I felt comfortable.
I love to learn. I can spend hours on Wikipedia, following the tracks of the blue words like a detective. But I hated school. I had gender dysphoria, dyslexia, ADHD and I was bipolar. They didn’t know jack shit about that, they had no meds. I was being punished because they tested my IQ and it was above average, so they said ‘You’re just lazy’.
“I hated school. I had gender dysphoria, dyslexia, ADHD and I was bipolar. I was being punished because they tested my IQ and it was above average, so they said ‘You’re just lazy’.”
There are certain things in my life that I didn’t even analyze back then, but now they make sense. I remember bouncing on the bed at age three, saying ‘I’m a girl, I’m a girl’, and feeling really happy. And then, when I was seven, trying on my mother’s makeup and kissing my best friend. He didn’t like it, but we were kissing anyway.
“I remember bouncing on the bed at age three, saying ‘I’m a girl, I’m a girl’, and feeling really happy.”
In 9th grade, I was performing in a variety show for the first time. I did an imitation of Jonathan Winters, who was my first really big idol. People loved it, I got a standing ovation! Afterwards I was backstage, and I thought ‘I think I’d like to be in entertainment.’ My mother came backstage with my brother, saying ‘Oh, you were wonderful, your father is telling everybody around him that you’re his kid.’ But when we got into the car, he didn’t ever say anything to me. That hurts.
My father always criticized us, trying to talk us out of our plans. Because of him, I’m always comparing myself to others, criticizing myself. There is a scene in the movie On the Waterfront, the famous cab scene, where they say ‘You shoulda taken care of me just a little bit. I want to be somebody Charley.’ That’s just like my dad and me. He has ruined my life.
My grandparents were really supportive, they encouraged me to pursue my own interests. My grandmother was on her deathbed at that time and she said ‘Well, if you want to be in entertainment, go for it.’ She passed away when I was 14, and I still miss her so much.
I didn’t go to college, but I went to the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York City, and I loved being around all these creative people. Right after that I started doing standup. I liked doing that, but as time went on I gave up for a long time, because I felt I was getting too old.
“I didn’t go to college, but I went to the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York City, and I loved being around all these creative people.”
Throughout my life, I did many of what I called shit jobs. I just wanted a job where I could go through the motions, and go home and just forget about it.
For 13 years, I did radio, and I really enjoyed that. I’m really good with accents. I’ve never been great with learning languages, but I can easily learn the rhythm of the sounds. That’s actually how Dr. Dreame started. The first time I performed as Dr. Dreame was during Halloween in 2011. People loved it.
Dr. Dreame started as an androgynous character. I had a white face, two colours of hair, and weird eye makeup. I liked doing that. Later, I realized that I had been in my caterpillar stage, presenting as male for most of my life. Dr. Dreame was basically the start of my cocoon stage. And then in the next stage, I came out as a beautiful butterfly, as a woman. I could finally move on, and feel happy and confident.
“Dr. Dreame was basically the start of my cocoon stage. And then in the next stage, I came out as a beautiful butterfly, as a woman.”
June 14th of 2013, Flag Day, that’s when I officially transitioned. I started hormone replacement therapy that day. But I still have to shave every morning and I hate it. It’s not so much that I think it gives me away, but it’s the one guy thing I have to do every day. I want to get electrolysis in my face and neck, because it drives me nuts.
About a year ago, I went to court and got my gender marker and name changed. It was huge, because they would always call out my name in the waiting room in the hospital or whatever. My first and last initial are G, so it’s GG, which is Gigi. I always thought it was a cool name. My whole family knows about my transition now, but my mum is the only person that will not call me Gigi, she still calls me by my old name. I don’t want to tell you my old name, it brings up bad memories.
“My whole family knows about my transition now, but my mum is the only person that still calls me by my old name.”
I feel more confident as a woman, but even here in San Francisco we’re not fully accepted. Transgender people, we are the lowest of the lowest. But believe me, nobody is completely male or female. You know what kind of people harass me the most? These macho guys, because they’re not comfortable with their own identity, so they are intimidated by us.
“I feel more confident as a woman, but even here in San Francisco we’re not fully accepted. Transgender people, we are the lowest of the lowest.”
It has taken years for me to figure out my identity. We all grow up thinking we’re straight, but I began to think maybe I was gay, or bisexual. Now I know I’m into heterosexual men, and women that have a little extra down there. I’ve actually been married twice, both times to a woman. I’m still living with my second wife, even though we’re not a couple anymore.
She’s the one I moved to San Francisco with, after having lived in many different cities. I knew that I would get back to San Francisco at some point. Before we got to the city, we were living in our car, getting our stuff at 7/11. You know what I had for my 50th birthday on the road? A can of beans. That was all we had. But still, it was kind of fun.
In San Francisco, we sold our car to get some money. We got jobs, and we were staying at an SRO. Back then, you didn’t have the waiting lists you have now. They would let you stay a night or two, sometimes a week, sometimes four. We called it the hell hole. It had mice, lice, rats cockroaches, bed bugs, everything.
“In San Francisco, we stayed at an SRO. We called it the hell hole. It had mice, lice, rats cockroaches, bed bugs, everything.”
We had to get out when we ran out of money. So then, we were literally on the streets for three or four months. We spent our first night at the stepstones of the Opera House. We put all our stuff in storage, so we could travel around light. We’ve learned a lot, with the homelessness thing. I mean when I see a homeless person I know what they are going through. For example, they guard bathrooms in this city like they are safes. If you have to go to the bathroom, where do you go?
“They guard bathrooms in this city like they are safes. If you have to go to the bathroom, where do you go?”
And there’s nowhere you can rest. One day, we were resting somewhere together with an old woman. The cops came up there and said ‘You can’t sleep here.’ And I thought ‘Jesus Christ, if that was your grandmother, you wouldn’t talk to her like that.’ They are taking out all the benches and replace them with spikes. I live in the Tenderloin now, I see what’s going on. There are people laying down, because they’re out on heroin usually. They look like they’re dead. I see these things and I go ‘Brrrr’, but what I can do? I wish I knew!
I know there is enough money in this area to solve homelessness. What makes me mad about Bill Gates is that he sends a billion dollars to Africa. You should take care of your own people first! I mean, you can send money there, but at least also spend a million here.
I would really like to make it as a storyteller/mouth musician. I have shows, I get bookings, but I usually don’t get paid for those. I have friends that are doing better than me, and they are not anywhere near as talented as I am. Most of them are singer/songwriters, there is plenty of them. But there is only one Dr. Dreame. No-one has fused storytelling with mouth music. My dream is to be on the cover of the Times magazine, as America’s Storyteller.
“No-one has fused storytelling with mouth music. I want to make it as a T-Girl [transgender woman]. I want to make the trans people proud of me.”
I want to make it as a T-Girl [transgender woman]. I want to make the trans people proud of me. There is a lot of shit out there, there are a lot of people that should be recognized. There are trans people that are doctors, lawyers, but you don’t see them. There should be a magazine that has to do with nothing but trans people. To show that we are doing it, that we are part of society. ‘On the Waterfront’ is one of my favorite movies. Every time I see it, I see me. They say ‘This is not your night, kid’. I want what Terry wants: I want the title shot.
Shared weekly on Medium, and soon to be published in a book, ‘Stories Behind The Fog’ is a compendium of 100 stories of people affected by homelessness in San Francisco. The project was triggered by one man’s story that will be released next year in the form of a feature-length documentary: www.moses.movie