Red Jordan Arobateau is an artist. He has written poetry and novels since the 1950’s. Red is also a painter. Red is also my friend. I do not exaggerate when I say that to know Red is to know a true starving artist. His struggle to survive in a rapidly gentrifying San Francisco, California is far from romantic. However, to his credit and strength, Red continues to exude romance. Even as he fights to maintain a roof over his head, food in his stomach and his health, Red is kind, truthful and reaches out is hand to everyone (albeit with unpredictable results).
I write of Red here because he is a man of trans history. He is also a man with a lesbian history. Red wrote and published lesbian fiction before there was a gay or lesbian movement. Red wrote about his life as a transsexual man before “transgender” became a commonly used term. Red lived in the shadowy world of the sexual outlaw and these characters populate his stories. Red told stories of incarceration, drug addiction, class and racial discrimination, and the dangers that the psychiatric establishment posed to homosexuals. However, Red is best known for his tales of lesbian sexual adventurers: dikes and sexual gratification.
That was the territory in which I met Red the writer. I recognized myself and my desires in his short story of a male-identified, lesbian sexual adventurer. Never had I identified with a fictional character so strongly. I was so fascinated, I wrote him a letter in care of the magazine in which the story appeared. I was living in a small Midwestern town. There was no internet. There were magazines and books. And there it was, a fictional story that indicated that someone else on the planet was having feelings like mine. I began to feel slightly less alone and odd. But life took over and I slowly forgot that I ever wrote the letter.
About fifteen years later I had the pleasure to meet Red. We gradually became friends. I recalled the letter and told him about it. Red claimed the magazine did not forward it to him. Red expressed no surprise that the magazine probably tossed my letter in the trash. Imagine being able to tell a writer that his story was like light in a darkened room after decades of darkness! I am glad the universe was in favor of our meeting, to say the least.
Today, Red spends most days sitting in a coffee shop observing and engaging life. Red also attends Grace Cathedral where he is a featured reader. Red writes everyday, constantly adding to his voluminous memoirs. You may contact Red by email, twitter and facebook but since he cannot afford to have a phone in his home, his replies take a few days. RedJordanArobateau@yahoo.com
The images that follow are from a CD booklet that I created last year to encourage (entice? 🙂 ) Red to record some of his less racy stories. The recording is still a work in progress.