LGBTQ HUMAN RIGHTS COALITION
She's been setting the stage on fire for years. The flame haired beauty known as Vicci Laine encompasses it all, beauty, brains and a heart of gold. She's still one of the top stage performers in the country and has also branched out to become a full time activist for the LGBT Community. She was recently honored with the Celia Bush Making A Difference Award. She's not going anywhere anytime soon and for that we can all be grateful.
Vicci Laine passed away in July 2017. This was her last interview.
Thank you so much for doing this interview for the website.
Where did you grow up?
Hi Meghan, First, thank you so much for this honor. I grew up in southern Indiana. Close to the small towns of Bedford and Williams.
When did you first realize that you were transgender?
I am not sure when the whole reality of being in the wrong body came along, but, I do know that from my earliest memory I knew I was a girl. Don’t get me wrong I knew the difference between boy and girls, and I knew I had a winky-dink and little girls had peachy butts, but, I still knew I was a little girl, just a little girl with a winky-dink! It was the first day of first grade the big slap in the face came. My mom dressed me like the little boys in the class! Even then, I didn’t believe that something was wrong with ME, I was madder than hell at my mom! How could she play such a joke on me.
What age were you when you finally decided to fully transition?
Well... I had made a half assed attempt at about 27 years old and chickened out because of peer pressure, and then started hormones and the path to total surgery at 31 years old. I have to tell you that the second time I started the journey I was in a much better place emotionally and mentally. The first time I was so scared that I would be one of those people who regretted the decision and go crazy, we’ve all known them!
But, I knew I had created a wonderful, beautiful life for myself as a man. When I realized that I was able to create this kind of happiness in a gender I didn’t belong in, I knew there was no question that I could have the same magical life on this side of the fence. I really feel badly for those who honestly believe that if your transgender you must live life with self loathing and self hatred. Life can be magical no matter where we are, IF, we seek out the happiness and magic and allow it to happen. I am not saying I was never depressed, or that I never was never down and out emotionally along the way but, I am saying it is okay to create happiness and enjoy the journey on the way to grab the goose who is laying the golden eggs!
What was your families reaction?
Meghan, you are probably one of the only people reading this who know my family personally, and, I hope you have seen how beautiful they are. My family never said NO! If it was a Barbie beauty center, painted fingernails, frosted hair and make-up as a teenage boy, or whatever I threw their way, they accepted it and smiled. My grandfather was a Pentecost Minister. He and my grandmother were gospel evangelists. They were also my biggest champions. I am sure I was one of the biggest tests of their faith. I must tell you though, when they were told of my decision to transition and have surgery, the first question was, “What is your new name going to be?" The next thing said was they knew this was what God had in His plans for me, but, they knew He had to reveal it to me in His own time and His own way. This same attitude carried from them all through the family, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, cousins, in-laws and so on. As I said before, I have a beautiful family.
How did you first come to realize you had a passion for performing?
I am a ham, I was short on rent, there was an amateur drag contest at the local gay bar (Bullwinkle’s in Bloomington Indiana) and my roommates threatened to throw me out if I didn’t enter, win, and pay my rent. Alot came out of that one night, I won the contest, kept my apartment, I got to dress up as a woman, and PEOPLE APPLAUDED AND SCREAMED FOR ME!!!! What can I say? I was hooked the first time!
Would you recommend performing to other young transgender men and women?
Yes I actually would. It is a place that you can be dressed as the gender of your choice, you can hone your makeup and hair skills, your walk, your presence and demeanor, in a comfortable setting. It was a great outlet for me to dress in the gender of choice, be accepted as a woman and still go about my daily life until I was ready to make the big leap.
What have you learned the most from being an entertainer and what it means to the audiences you perform for?
Whew… hard one! Being an entertainer has taught me so much about OTHER PEOPLE. People feel they know you when you are on stage, and they reveal the most intimate things about their lives during conversation. As far as what it means to the audience… I think it can mean something different to each and every person watching. Some people find what I do to be very trivial, some just look for the fun in it all, and then you have the person who tells you (through tears), “I really felt what you were trying to say in that number." I do know it has been a way for me to make great connections to so many people I would have never had the opportunity to meet otherwise. So many have been so good and loving to me and can’t say thank you enough.
Let's talk about Starbucks. We touched on the subject the other day but I'd like you to tell our readers exactly what the beef is with Starbucks.
Oh… Hmmm. Well I am not sure how to start. First let me say that Starbucks is just one on a list of companies and people on my sh!t list! Okay, my reasoning for being disgruntled with Starbucks is their recent endorsement and participation of the (RED) campaign. FIRST, let me clarify that I have no problem with helping anyone who needs the help! My opposition is that so many American companies and celebrities have jumped on board with the (RED) campaign, it has shifted so much attention to the crisis in Africa, people are forgetting about those living in the USA with this disease. I know that there is a HUGE need for help in other countries, I am not questioning that. What I don’t understand though, is so many companies jumping on board and making these big campaigns around their participation when in fact they are giving a very small percentage to the actual cause. In Starbucks case, 5 cents from certain drinks will go to the (RED) causes. Let’s figure that up. Average cost at Starbucks? $5.00 give or take a few cents. 5 cent donation? THAT IS AN AVERAGE OF 1% PER SALE!!!!! And this is NOT on ALL products they offer, the nickel will only be donated with the sale of 3 or 4 different drinks out of their whole menu! SO, that means it takes 100 cups of coffee for Starbucks to donate $5.00 to Aids in Africa! Come on! Skip one cup of coffee a week and donate the total price of that coffee to your local ASO and 100% of your money will go to help someone living with the virus AND it will stay in your OWN community! Hey by skipping one cup a week and donating that $5.00 you will have donated $20-$25.00 in one month! At 5 cents per cup at Starbucks you would have had to drink 500 cups of coffee to equal that same donation!
There is nothing wrong with helping ANYONE who needs it but I get angry when someone builds a whole campaign around “percentage of proceeds goes to help” and then if you look into it…… $9.50 is all that is donated from a red phone! A phone sold for $300.00! Lets see that is ONLY a little more than 3% of the selling price! I skipped the red phone and donated $300.00 to my local ASO (Aid Service Organization)
Meghan this shift in the attention to Aids in other countries and away from the US has caused us major harm in the US. The private donations have gone down, the corporate donations have gone down, and more importantly AWARENESS IS AT AN ALL TIME LOW. Many times I have been hit with statements like “I thought AIDS was over in the United States. You only have to worry about that if you go to Africa, why don’t you fight for something that matters," or "Look I am not giving my money because someone was messed up and didn’t wear a rubber, his bad, not mine” or one of my favorites was “Who cares, Aids is so yesterday!"
These are all statements from our own gay community! Can you imagine how low awareness is in the general community?
Why did you decide to become an activist for the LGBT Community?
Wow… me and activist! That sounds so funny to me. I am not sure when or how I decided to speak out, but let me say it hasn’t always helped me or benefited my career along the way. When I was Miss Indiana, the USofA board threatened to take my crown away because I was speaking out about the prevalence of excessive drug use and alcoholism in the gay community and the direct link to the spread of HIV. Hey we all know if you are messed up your judgment is impaired and you don’t make the best choices. LIKE SAFE SEX!
What is Change For Change?
Change4Change is an idea that came out of frustration. A few years ago our main resident of the White House, on World AIDS Day, made a big show of pledging a big amount of money to the Global Fight for AIDS and AIDS in Africa. Yes he got a lot of positive attention and applause when he made this announcement, but, what people didn’t realize is, he, at the same time was very quietly cutting the funding right here at home! 7% immediately, and another 8% a few months following in January. Because of these cuts, monies at the ASO’s had to be shifted to make sure that the clients had the best care. This shifting meant there were no money to buy testing supplies or EDUCATIONAL MATERIALS! After finding this out I decided to donate my tips from a Friday night to my local ASO to buy testing supplies.
came to reality trying to figure out a way to get people to donate
to their local ASO without breaking their pockets. The premise is
to save your daily pocket change for a certain period of time, and
then donate it to the ASO that takes care of YOUR OWN AREA! Keep your
money local. 100% of your donation will go to the care of the clients.
NOT ONE CENT will go to administrative cost.
Positive Link in the AIDS Service Organization in my area. I have had a long standing relationship with Positive Link and I can tell you, they are some of the most beautiful and caring people in the WORLD! I challenge everyone to take a moment and search out the ASO in your area. Talk to them and see what they need. You will be surprised how hard these people work!
How did it feel when you were honored with the Celia Bush Award?
Humbled! I don’t believe we do good work for the recognition, but it sure felt good to have someone say thank you and good job! The Celia Bush Award is given each year to the person or persons who have done an outstanding job for the HIV/AIDS community. As I said, I am so humbled.
How have things changed for the better or worse for the LGBT Community in the last ten years?
Hard to say, for every step forward there seems to be a couple steps back. Slowly but surely we are getting there.
What can we do to make things better for our community as a whole?
Just become proactive in your world! Do something to help your own community. Just go out and help somewhere or someone. Do just as you are doing Meghan, stand up and do something, say something!
Can you tell us something about you that would surprise people?
I am totally celibate and have been for many years.
What do you like to do in your down time when you're not performing?
Spend time with my nieces and nephews. Oh and my dogs (Jazz, Baily and Cooper)
If you could sum up your life in one sentence what would it be?
Really it would have to be more of a couple words rather than a whole sentence. Wonderful, Beautiful and Magical!
What advice can you give to other transgender men and women in the LGBT Community that they can carry with them in life?
I would love to see transgender men and women find a place of comfort in themselves no matter what state of transition they are in. Embrace who you are in every moment. Find the joy in the way your body is changing everyday of your transition and revel in it. Don’t be so anxious and hurried. Take time to get to know the new you.
I really would like to impress on transgender people though, that, just because Harry Benjamin says we must be unhappy and loathsome people before surgery, WE DON’T! We can be happy and full of joy. Meghan you are a perfect example of this.
Please find a way to embrace the person you are trying so hard to shed. If you can do this, you will make things so much easier on yourself, and easier on those around you who have loved you all your life. In my case, things were so much easier by letting my loved ones know that it was okay to keep the pictures and memories of Roger close to them.
Thank you so much Vicci. It's an honor to know you. You are the real deal and thank you for that.