How Jesse Became Jessica

One mans story of becoming a woman

She remembers very clearly when she went public with her new identity. "The first time I go in the street in a blouse, I feel very nervous," Jessica says. "I think everyone is looking—people I know, people I don't know. It is very scary. Walking is so difficult I feel I might fall down."

Now Jessica fairly swaggers with confidence, luxuriating in the body she has fashioned—and the lifestyle that follows. She enjoys showing you her photo album, filled with pictures of friends and parties.

"I always like boys—and big dick," Jessica says lustily, "but I never like the very gay, gay, hiiiiii honnneeeyyyy gay boys. Not the feminine type for me. I like the masculine type. And now, because I imitate a woman, I only attract men who like women—or men who are bisexual. I don't care, as long as it is a real man."

Some of Jessica's friends are transsexuals, too, people she has met at bars like the Frat House and the Lion's Den. One memorable photo shows Jessica and two other transsexuals—all dressed provocatively—beneath the caption Las Curvas Peligrosas (The Dangerous Curves). "This is a name of a group of big women singers in Mexico," Jessica explains. "This is the joke of that picture."

But most nights Jessica stays home. "Oh, sure, I like parties and going out, too, but I like it better here," she says, wriggling into her couch. "I have to go to work every day, and this is what I work for—my home, my TV, my kitty. This is what I enjoy."

It has been a year and three months since Jessica settled in Orange County, but she's made herself comfortable. "My dream all my life is to live in the United States," she says. "I came around this area because a long time ago, I knew a girl who lives in Santa Ana. When I passed across the border at San Ysidro last year, I called her and said, 'Hello! I am here!'"

Jessica lived with her friend only long enough to land a job as a hairdresser, buy a reliable used car and rent a modern one-bedroom apartment in a safe residential neighborhood a few miles from the beach. That wasn't long.

"I know how to take care of myself—to survive, you can say," she clucks. "I am by myself for a long time, so I learn." Now, however, her solitude is relative. Her apartment complex accepts children and pets, and Jessica smiles contentedly as she watches her four-month-old Siamese kitten, Lucretia, tussle with a catnip mouse while neighbor kids play loudly just outside her front door. "These are happy noises," she summarizes with a shrug. "No problem."

Her cell phone rings, and as Jessica walks toward her bedroom for some privacy, she passes the framed photograph of a man. His picture is hanging on the wall in the hallway, a few inches from her own. He is wearing a Speedo and striking a pose that accentuates a chiseled physique. He is ruggedly handsome.

"He is my ex-boyfriend," Jessica explains when she returns to discover the photo has been noticed. "He is a jerk. I cannot trust him. If I go out of the room, he will try to fuck my girlfriends." Still, she hasn't removed the photo. "Well," Jessica counters with sass, "he is still cute."

She has returned with a can of air freshener, and she blasts it into the thin cigarette haze that has drifted across the living room. "I like to smoke a little, but I hate the smell," she says, flapping one hand back and forth as she sprays with the other. "And, really, it is so dirty, the smoke. I like everything very clean."

Jessica's apartment is spotless, but the cleanliness of the place gets an extra emphasis from its quiet. A light-brown, low-shag carpet stretches from beige wall to beige wall. The only place to sit is an off-brown-and-off-white, heavy-knit couch. One wood-grained end table supports a nondescript lamp; another sits in front of the couch like a coffee table and features a couple of candles. There's a Buddha statue sitting atop a slick, varnished chest of drawers along one wall, a couple of angel statues on a small stereo along another, and a couple of dried-flower arrangements are positioned here and there. The walls are mostly blank, except for a striking color print of a modern-faced goddess in ancient Aztec costume hovering above the couch and a woolly macramé creation hanging near the front door. There is no table or chairs beneath the ceiling fan in the dining nook, but a framed print of the Last Supper is propped against the wall, presumably waiting to be hung. "I just moved in this month," Jessica explains. "Before, I lived in another apartment."

There is a knock on the door. It is the cleaning woman, come for her pay. Jessica hands her a few bills, thanks her, and is smiling self-consciously as she comes back to the couch.

"Now you know who makes it so clean—but I am too busy to do it myself!" she says, giggling as she plops onto the cushions. "There are so many better things—even watching TV with my kitty. Anyway, it's a good deal, you know?"

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