On her eighteenth birthday, Ashley Nicole’s straight friends, led by her friend Rachel, thought it would be fun to celebrate their lesbian friend’s birthday at the local gay nightclub, New Beginnings. It was drag night and for Ashley, who was reared in the small town of Bluff City, Tennessee, it was an experience like no other.
“I was like, ‘Oh my God, why is that tall, dominatrix-looking woman lip synching? I don’t understand.’ Then Rachel explained to me that this was a drag show.” Ashley, who is now Tylor Chance, says, in his melodic, Southern drawl. With his precise pronunciation his voice evokes Matthew McConaughey as nighttime DJ on a jazz station.
Tylor, as Ashley, enjoyed the drag scene and began to frequent the club. She was drawn to the performers and was still naïve enough to think that some of the performers were cross- dressing men while others were women.
When she was twenty-one, she saw a performer at the club to whom she became extremely attracted. “She was absolutely hot. Soccer mom hot. Which was my thing at the time,” Tylor says. “I was absolutely swooning. It was horrible.”
That performer was Dana St. James. Seeing how smitten she was with the drag queen, her friends began to call her “TC.” When Ashley asked what TC meant, she was told that it meant “Tranny Chaser,” a term coined by the drag performer, RuPaul, for a person who is attracted to transsexuals. Up until that very moment Ashley did not know what a transsexual was. Her new nickname stuck, however, and she became known by the gender-neutral name: TC.
As a girl TC had always been what was known as a butch lesbian. She had been dressing in boy’s clothes since she was ten years old and she discovered she was attracted to girls at age seven. It was at that age when she kissed her young friend and the girl’s parents banned their daughter from ever playing with her again.
When she was sixteen or seventeen, she says, she had an episode that terrified her. “I was comfortable with my sexuality at this point but something still bothered me in my skin…under my skin…like I’m just uncomfortable and I remember getting so irritated to the point where I came home from work, ripped my clothes off and was like just…I don’t know how to describe it without sounding like a lunatic, but I was pulling my hair and grabbing my skin…I had a damn moment.” TC wanted out of this body that didn’t seem to fit.
After her experience at the gay club and meeting Dana St. James, TC became a performer in the club. She adopted the moniker, TC O’Hara and performed in male drag, pasting facial hair onto her face. She performed as a man for a year becoming acutely aware that she was more comfortable as a man and that it wasn’t just a drag persona. When she was a man for that brief time on stage, she didn’t want to crawl out of her skin. She was home.
It was sometime after this realization that she began to transition. TC is now twenty-eight years old and living his life as a transgender man. He adopted the name Tylor Chance, using the initials of his nickname as a template. Today people call him TC or Tylor. He is happy with himself and his life and, for once, he is happy in his body.