Crystal Little was born in 1943 in New Orleans, Louisiana, and named Charles. The second of seven kids in his family, Charles never felt a boy. He invented reasons to stay home from school so he could wear his sisters’ clothes. At school dances, Charles occasionally forgot to bow and would courtesy instead. At 17, hoping to put his complex gender feelings to rest, Charles joined the Navy which was at least useful for adventure. On the advice of a Navy priest, Charles got married. A son soon followed, and then the marriage dissolved.

After leaving the Navy, Charles worked daylight hours restoring houses and giving tours around New Orleans. At night, alone at home, Charles lived as Crystal. When Charles’ mother died in 1985, Charles finally went away completely. Crystal lost the support of siblings and friends, and her son has not spoken to her since her transition. Beyond that, it took almost another decade for Crystal to learn there was a name for what she’d been feeling her whole life: transgender.

After transitioning, Crystal became deeply involved in the New Orleans LGBTQ community. She joined the Gulf Gender Alliance and quickly became president. Through this position, she got involved with and formed coalitions with other LGBTQ organizations. For more than two decades overall, Crystal worked tirelessly advocating for transgender people, and trying to help cisgender people get more comfortable with them. Troubled in particular by the number of transgender suicides, Crystal delivered talks to doctors, mental health providers, and teachers to try and close the understanding gap.

Today, Crystal lives alone in a tidy apartment in the small town of Bay St. Louis, on Mississippi’s Gulf Coast. She gets around Pass Christian on a pale purple bicycle, and for her OUTWORDS interview in July 2017, she wore a green Trails & Rails polo shirt, touting a program she participates in where volunteers educate train passengers about the regions they’re passing through. Crystal has traveled a long trail, literally around the world and back again, to make peace with herself. And today, she seems to have done just that.


Mason Funk: Good, then you're gonna be fine.
Natalie Tsui: We're rolling, by the way.
Crystal Lynne Little: I am super unpolitical correct.
Mason Funk: Okay. Alrighty.
Crystal Lynne Little: I could never be.
Mason Funk: 'Cause we're not ... like I said, there's no right opinions and wrong opinions.
Crystal Lynne Little: Right. Just your opinions.
Mason Funk: Your opinion. Exactly.
Crystal Lynne Little: And a lot of people don't seem to understand that.
Mason Funk: I know. I know.
Crystal Lynne Little: [00:00:30] Matter fact on Facebook the other day, I made some kind of comment and apparently somebody was very upset and they said well, "Crystal, if you keep this up I'm just gonna have to block you!" And I went back and said, "Oh? Am I supposed to be upset over this? You're gonna block me? Oh gee. How heartbreaking."
Mason Funk: [00:01:00] Okay. Before we go any further, do me a favor and just tell me your first and last name and spell it out for me.
Crystal Lynne Little: Crystal, C-R-Y-S-T-A-L, Lynne, L-Y-N-N-E, Little, L-I-T-T-L-E.
Mason Funk: Okay.
Natalie Tsui: Okay. Just have one tiny thing, which is can you scoot your chair just a little bit closer? Or, not closer, but rotate clockwise one minute of the opposite way.
Crystal Lynne Little: Clockwise.
Natalie Tsui: Just there. Yep that's it.
Crystal Lynne Little: That's it. All right.
Natalie Tsui: Maybe a little bit back. I'll split the difference.
Mason Funk: Oh my gosh.
Natalie Tsui: [00:01:30] It's to get that reflection out of her glasses.
Mason Funk: But the thing is, she's gonna move her head.
Natalie Tsui: Oh that's true. [crosstalk] Well, we're just going to see the reflection of that light every so often.
Crystal Lynne Little: Yeah.
Mason Funk: Why can't we just slide the light a little bit? Just a tiny bit.
Natalie Tsui: Okay. I'll slide it.
Mason Funk: Here. I'll do it.
Natalie Tsui: Just move it to the side.
Mason Funk: Yeah, I just don't want it ...
Natalie Tsui: Crystal, can you look over that way, just ... okay, that's still in.
Mason Funk: Well, no, but she's looking over this way now.
Natalie Tsui: Okay, so look over here.
Mason Funk: So, look over here.
Crystal Lynne Little: [00:02:00] Oh, I thought you said look that way.
Natalie Tsui: It's actually still in, so walk it towards her. Okay, now it's out. But can you move your head around, Crystal, like you're talking? Okay, I can just pretty much peek just a little tiny bit when she looks up.
Mason Funk: I don't mind if it happens. Let's just keep an eye on it and tell me if it's happening a lot.
Crystal Lynne Little: Don't sit on-
OH, I thought you were fixing to sit on your glasses.
Mason Funk: Oh! You scared me. If it's really happening a lot, we'll tweak it.
Natalie Tsui: We'll just move it. Okay.
Natalie Tsui: [00:02:30] But, right now, we're rolling.
Mason Funk: Okay. So, She spelled her name, that's good. Tell me, if you were to be identified on screen, would you prefer Crystal Lynne Little, or Crystal Little?
Crystal Lynne Little: Crystal Lynne.
Mason Funk: You like to have the full name?
Crystal Lynne Little: Yeah. You can throw the whole name in there. Crystal Lynne Little.
Mason Funk: Great. Okay. And please tell me the date and place of your birth.
Crystal Lynne Little: October 22, 1943. New Orleans, Louisiana.
Crystal Lynne Little: And the hospital's been destroyed.
Mason Funk: [00:03:00] Oh that's too bad. It wasn't Memorial was it?
Crystal Lynne Little: No, it was a place called Hotel Dieu. It used to sit where LSU Hospital is now.
Mason Funk: I see. Okay. So, do me a favor. Just tell me a little about, you mentioned your family being in New Orleans a long time. Don't give me the whole family history.
Crystal Lynne Little: No.
Mason Funk: But paint me a little picture of your family. Who were they and where were they from?
Crystal Lynne Little: [00:03:30] Well, the St. Pierre's, first went into New Orleans, like I said, the first forefather here was with the French army down in the Caribbean, so of course when they started colonizing they just brought 'em right up out of the Caribbean at first. And then, we were pure French, course we're mixed. We got a little bit of Indian in us and everything else. So all of the St. Pierre family lived down off of Bayou Lafourche down below New Orleans in Cajun country. My brother was born and raised down there, same with her parents and her grandparents and everything. But they moved up to New Orleans.
Now, my mother was a good 100%, pure Cajun girl ... and yes, I say it different than everybody else. But, then she met up with this dadgum Irishman, Scott-Irishman, when she was a teenager in New Orleans and that took care of that. Diluted the Cajun blood. And then, you know, his people all came from out of Ireland, through the Carolinas and everything, and ended up down here.
Mason Funk: All right. And how many, were there, did you have siblings?
Natalie Tsui: Wait. I'm spotting the thing. Let me try to do something with the camera to see whether or not that will work.
Natalie Tsui: If I just raise it a little bit, maybe the angle will be a little different.
Natalie Tsui: [00:05:00] Thank you. We've got most of it out.
Mason Funk: All right.
Natalie Tsui: It's just catching on the corner whenever she lifts her head up [crosstalk] it's fine.
Mason Funk: Okay. So, did you have siblings?
Crystal Lynne Little: Yes, I have six.
Mason Funk: Six, what?
Crystal Lynne Little: [00:05:30] Three brothers-
Mason Funk: Sorry. Start over and say, "I have six siblings."
Crystal Lynne Little: Six siblings.
Mason Funk: So, start fresh.
Crystal Lynne Little: Okay. I have six siblings. Three brothers and three sisters. I am the number two child. I always say thank goodness my father died when he did. Otherwise, there'd probably be more of us.
Mason Funk: So, your father died when you were young?
Crystal Lynne Little: Yeah, I was 14.
Mason Funk: [00:06:00] You have to say, "I was 14 when my father died."
Crystal Lynne Little: Yeah, uh, I was 14 when my father died and the youngest baby wasn't even six months old ... the youngest ... when he got killed. So ...
Mason Funk: How did your dad get killed?
Crystal Lynne Little: In an oil rig fire.
Mason Funk: You need to say ...
Crystal Lynne Little: 57.
Mason Funk: "My dad died" ...
Crystal Lynne Little: [00:06:30] My dad died in an oil rig fire in 1957 and I was very thankful that he did. My father and I did not have a good relationship. I was his all-time punching bag.
Natalie Tsui: Okay, sorry.
Crystal Lynne Little: It's ready to ...
Natalie Tsui: Sorry. I'm rolling.
Mason Funk: Okay. So, just start over talking about your father and why you were basically glad he died.
Crystal Lynne Little: [00:07:00] My father never really took a liking to me. As I understand it, as I gathered bits and pieces from when I was younger, we never started off with a good relationship. I was a very hard delivery. I didn't get it straight told to me. I picked up pieces along the way. I came out sideways so that meant long time and everything and messed up my mother.
But, he never really took to me. He would get angry and I would be his handy punching bag, so we didn't have a good relationship, my father and I. It was, the beatings, they weren't whippings, they were beatings. If I'd gotten older, there may have been problems, for sure. There was never ... Crystal was not a parent to anybody else, but me. 'Cause I even felt something was different with me way back then, when I'm still under six. So, now my father's parting gift to me was a beating to end all beatings. I was held by my wrist, my arms over my head, and a heavy leather belt applied wherever it landed.
So, we did not have a good relationship. I did not cry when he died. Things were good after that.
Mason Funk: Did that cause hardship for your family? The fact that you suddenly found yourselves without a father? [crosstalk]
Crystal Lynne Little: [00:09:00] It did for the family.
Mason Funk: Tell me what did. So start fresh.
Crystal Lynne Little: [00:09:30] When my father got killed, it was '57, the youngest baby, the youngest child was just a matter of six months or so old. This was back in 1957, and there was no wonderful programs back then as there are today. Here she became a widow, my mother became a widow with seven kids to tend to. Social security back then, she collected on his social security, of course, after much fight. That was $25 per child. So, back then you were expected to clothe, feed, and school a child off of $25. Of course $25 was a lot bigger back then, than it is today. So, yes, it caused a lot of hardship trying to get by.
Where we lucked out, was both my father and my mother had been sensible enough to get insurance on the mortgage to where if something happened, it paid off the mortgage. They did have that back then. So that meant the house was paid off, which gave us a place to live. It was just paying the bills.
So, I got through it, but still I was maintaining my super independence anyway. All I did was take off and go find me a job. I started working at 12 actually, cutting grass. Then delivering papers. Ran two paper routes. Morning and evening. Then, I moved up and went to work in a movie house.
Mason Funk: Just a sec.
Natalie Tsui: I’ll just pause. I can hear the refrigerator, is it?
Crystal Lynne Little: Yeah, the refrigerator turned on.
Natalie Tsui: Should we unplug it? Sorry. I'm like, and also I can hear you squeaking on the chair.
Mason Funk: Okay [inaudible]
Natalie Tsui: Why don't you move that chair?
Mason Funk: [00:11:30] 'Cause there's just no place for it.
Natalie Tsui: You can just scoot it in front [inaudible 00:11:31] actually ...
Mason Funk: Oh really? Okay.
Natalie Tsui: Yeah. [inaudible 00:11:37] basically in front of me. Seems like you're struggling sitting there, so ...
Crystal Lynne Little: Yeah, I haven't sat on that part of it.
Mason Funk: Yeah, it's not intended for sitting on it probably.
Mason Funk: [00:12:00] Okay. So, you said you had two paper routes. You basically set out very young and started making money and basically probably supporting yourself.
Crystal Lynne Little: Oh yeah, I was supporting myself through, you know, having ... helping my clothes-
Mason Funk: Do me a favor, start by staying, "At the age of 12."
Natalie Tsui: And while we're at it, you kinda have to scoot a little bit closer to the camera so that ...
Mason Funk: Okay. Okay.
Natalie Tsui: ... [inaudible 00:12:15]
Crystal Lynne Little: [00:12:30] I basically got started at 12 doing work to pay for a lot of my own stuff. Wasn't having to depend on my mother. So, that's when I got my start. Even back then, you know, I knew there was somebody else in me. But, there was no kind of information back then. Back in the 50's you were strictly on your own and you knew you were dealing with a sin because everybody told you so. Even the priest.
Mason Funk: What did they tell you?
Crystal Lynne Little: You're not living as God wanted you to. What? You know, people like me, people back in those days, LGBT people as we call 'em now, you know you were just a sinner because you were supposedly going against the Bible and against God.
Mason Funk: [00:13:30] Well, what kinds of things were you doing that would cause them to ...
Crystal Lynne Little: Oh, too afraid to do anything.
Mason Funk: So, how did they know?
Crystal Lynne Little: [00:14:00] Oh, they didn't know it about me, but I would get bullied because quite often, unless you really catch yourself, I would be carrying my books in my arm against my chest. Back then that was the only way, you know, girls carried their books like that. So, whoa! You know? What gives with him? Hmmmmmm? Yeah. And also we were getting ready for a Christmas play or something and guys supposed to bend at the waist and all that other good stuff. I'd want to curtsy. I would just instinctively go to curtsy. Everybody would be in an uproar.
Little things like that. So you had to always be on your guard. Otherwise, back in those days it was open season on anybody different. People talk about bullying today, but it is really kinda minor compared to what it used to be. Of course in those days, you get a bunch of frat boys together, the football team together, just plain outright bullies ... they're going to go around looking for somebody to beat up on. If you're the smallest one, you're free game and I was the smallest one. So, I put up with it for a long time.
Mason Funk: What did you do during these years? Did you stay in school?
Crystal Lynne Little: I was in school and I gotta throw this little joke in for fun. I was in Catholic school for awhile because after my daddy got killed, the local priest at the Catholic school decided well these boys, my brothers and I, were without a male figure so he was gonna step in. I think he was after my mother's insurance money more than anything else. But, we had to go to Catholic school, we weren't in public school.
Natalie Tsui: I'm sorry, when you do that it, your ...
Crystal Lynne Little: Oh, I'm sorry! [crosstalk] I'm sorry, dear!
Natalie Tsui: It's okay!
Mason Funk: Yeah, the mic will pick that up.
Crystal Lynne Little: [00:16:30] Right. We had to go to Catholic school so we could get off on a good direction and all that other good stuff. One of the priests, the assistant priest, I was really dealing with, you know ... I'm a teenager and these feelings and everything, so great. So, I tried to talk to the priest. Trying to get him to understand how I'm feeling and everything and what's going through my mind, and he gets the ... I'm a teenage boy ... he gets the idea that I'm worried about masturbating. So, okay, go say five Hail Mary's, a rosary and an Our Father and you'll be good. Right. So, he gave me this pamphlet on boys and masturbation and I carried it home.
Now, back in those days you didn't talk about anything. So it's in one of my school books and my mother sees it and she hits the panic button. "Where did you get this? What are you reading? What's this?" I said, "Father Rafio gave it to me." So, it didn't help really. But there was no information as far as trans. Yeah, we knew gay people ... I mean, lesbians and we knew guys ... you know? But nobody knew about trans issues. It was, you were just a drag queen. They couldn't get past the fact that a guy in a dress was just an entertainer, a drag queen. They couldn't believe that it could be something more. So, that's how we came to be.
Mason Funk: [00:18:30] So, did you, getting on say, after high school as you kind of became an adult, what kinds of things were you doing, just kind of ordinary life? What were you doing to support yourself? You went into the military, is that right?
Crystal Lynne Little: Yeah, but I left school in the eighth grade.
Mason Funk: Okay. So talk about that.
Crystal Lynne Little: [00:19:00] Well, I was behind in school. Two years behind. I'm left-handed. Now, back in those days you could not be left-handed. You may have heard some of your people talk about it. Being left-handed was forbidden. To be left-handed you were a child of the devil. I guess it comes from the devil being on the left-hand side of God, or something. Whatever. So, I spent years in school, my formative years, grade school, with teachers that were trying to make me use my right hand. And I was a mean, persistent, old bitch way back then! I am still left-handed.
But, oh yeah, we got the routine with the ruler across the knuckles and all that other good stuff, and I got failing grades. Tests and everything would be marked low because the teacher could not understand my handwriting. So, I failed a couple of years. So, by the time I'm coming up on 17, I realized, damn! I'm just going into ninth grade. I'm going to be 21 before I get out of damn high school. If I woulda made it. Of course I'd been raised with this, you're dumb, stupid, and ugly. So, that was my whole formative years; I was dumb, stupid, and ugly. I really felt that I wasn't. The teachers would always put on the report card comment, "Can do better."
After much analyzing, I found out I am not stupid. I am far from it. Another good ... seventh grade in Catholic school, we had no Catholic high school in Slidell at the time. Only went as far as ninth grade, so, where am I gonna go to Catholic school? Everybody says I'm dumb, stupid, and ugly. Ugly, maybe. Dumb and stupid, no.
We had to go over to New Orleans to take tests, placement tests for high school. Well, I took the test and floored the hell out of everybody, because I was chosen to attend three of the biggest Catholic boy's high schools in New Orleans. My test scores were that high. The teacher and Father Tim, the priest, "Wow! Wait a minute! Something wrong here."
But, I didn't go because the Navy was the only answer. Slidell back then was a dead-end town. No hopes of much of anything. Public high school, I could've survived that more than likely, but I really felt I had to get away. Get out of that town. So, I went to the Navy recruiter and I passed all of their tests. He was happy to see me. My mother and grandfather signed the papers to where I could go in, because 17 you have to have your guardian sign you in. So, I took some more tests over in New Orleans, passed them. I only weighed 98 pounds at 17. They took me. Should've been 100. They gave me a waiver on those two pounds, so that told me something right there.
So, day of my 17th birthday, I'm on the train heading for San Diego. Get over there, all my tests are fine. Once I finished boot camp, I went to this brand new ship. After we were active and on a cruise, the education officer came along and was giving GED tests for people that didn't have their high school diploma. I took the GED tests. I did not have to take any kind of remedial courses. I passed every one of those test in the upper 98 percentile.
Mason Funk: Really?
Crystal Lynne Little: [00:24:30] So, I said, there's no way in high hell I'm stupid. So, I got my GED before my classmates. I got my high school diploma before the rest of my classmates. It was good.
Mason Funk: So, give us a little bit of an overview of your time in the Navy. Just kinda tell us where you were stationed and the kinds of things you did.
Crystal Lynne Little: [00:25:00] Well, I was stationed in that wonderful town of San Diego out at 32nd Street Naval Station. But, we finished boot camp in San Diego. It ain't there no more. Went up to Seattle 'cause the ship was being built in Bremerton . So, went up there. Loved it. Fell in love with Seattle. We were out at the old Naval Air Station there called Sand Point, it's now a park I believe. Beautiful old campus, as they call everything these days.
So, I was up there in Seattle and we commissioned the ship, went down to San Diego. Now, I'm still 17. This is really fun. We did our shake down cruise. We went from San Diego down to Acapulco, Mexico ... across the equator, had all the fun... the old-fashioned way of crossing the equator, then we went to Lima, Peru where a bunch of us took a train trip up through the Andes. Narrow-gauged railroad. Ain't nothing over there! You know, times when they had to lock down the cars of the train, the locomotive broke away and went to the back to push up the inclines because it couldn't pull. So, that was a lot of fun.
Then back to San Diego. I said, wow, damn, I'm not even 18 yet. So then we started our regular cruises to the Pacific. I've been to Sydney and Melbourne, Australia. Hawaii and Guam, of course, mid-way. On our first cruise, went down to Australia, then we went up river to Bangkok, Thailand and that's when I more or less started falling into following the teachings of the Buddha. Then, of course Japan and on up through there and on up through the Arctic Circle off of Alaska and Siberia. It was an experience. We actually rode out a typhoon in Formosa Ran into another one coming out of Yokosuka, Japan. I think that's why I'm not worried about hurricanes. When you're floating around on a ship and you're in the middle of a typhoon, don't worry, everything else is nothing.
So, that was a good experience. I enjoyed it. But, I got stupid, still following the advice of the priest and society. You do what everybody’s supposed to do. You know, you get married and it will cure you. It didn't cure you. It didn't cure me.
Mason Funk: Tell me about getting married.
Crystal Lynne Little: [00:28:30] I’d come home on leave one Christmas and ran into this girl, it was a classmate of mine. Of course you're always lonely, you're out at sea. You want contacts with home. Well, we got to talking. Ran into the movie house where I used to work selling popcorn. So, we struck up a relationship and I'd go see her whenever I'd come home and yes, we supposed to be in love and I'm still dealing with the other me.
I said, okay, maybe this will be the thing to do it. So, we got married June 6th, 1964. I told her, she says, "Well, I guess you're gonna forget our anniversary like every other husband, huh?"
I said, "No, I won't."
She said, "You won't?"
I said, "Oh, no. I could never forget our anniversary."
"How can you say that?"
"Well, June 6th, D-Day. June 6th, 1961 was the day we commissioned the ship. And I could never, ever forget that about the ship. That's the ship's birthday!" She got mad. I don't know why. I was gonna remember our anniversary, wasn't I?
It didn't last very long. She started stepping out with my brother after we were married a week. So, it didn't last very long. Which was fine, with me. So, I struggled on through. I was heavy drinking back in those days. Trying to make it work and it wasn't going to work, so I finally said, well, goodbye. We had a son, but he don't talk to me now. I just file 'em all away in the dead file. Plain and simple.
Mason Funk: I have to ask, you know you talk about things that seem very, like they would be the source of some painful memories, like you're father's beating, or the fact that your son doesn't speak to you, but you say it with a smile, as if it doesn't...
Crystal Lynne Little: It bothered me for years.
Mason Funk: [00:31:00] Uh-huh (affirmative).
Crystal Lynne Little: [00:31:30] And it kept me so thoroughly mixed up and it did help bring me towards suicide a number of times. But, I finally said, well why am I wasting all of this energy on this? There's nothing to be done of it. So, okay, that's how you feel? I'm not going to beg you to stay in my life. Following my beliefs and everything have helped me. I used to get into some serious depressions. Even with my involvement with the community in New Orleans. I was dealing with a lot of baggage until I finally worked it out.
Mason Funk: How did you work it out? Did you have friends who helped you?
Crystal Lynne Little: [00:32:30] No, I did it all on my own. I did it all on my own. Because I found out most of the people I thought were friends, were not really friends, more than anything else. So, I just had to find ways to deal with it. There was many times I went and sat down there on the river in New Orleans and thought about how long I would sit in the water before I would succumb. I knew I wouldn't last very long.
This social worker friend of mine, woman I had met after Katrina, we used to do a play and I can get to that later. Not a play, a performance. What she used to ask me, "Well, Crystal, how do you break this depression?" I said, "Well, I just finally get tired of being in that mood, kick myself in the ass and get moving again!" I've never sat with a shrink. I'm one of the rare ones. I've not spent thousands of dollars on a shrink to tell me who I am. I figured that out myself, and I've handled it myself.
Okay. Well, let's go back and kind of follow your timeline some more. Then, we'll catch up to the present again. So, you had a child, you had a son, you got divorced, now you're out of the Navy ... start kind of after you finish with the Navy, what did you begin to do with yourself?
Crystal Lynne Little: Well ...
Mason Funk: Give us some years to hang your story on.
Crystal Lynne Little: When I got out in '64-
Mason Funk: [00:34:00] Start again, but say, "When I got out of the Navy."
Crystal Lynne Little: [00:34:30] When I got out of the Navy in '64, I had relatives working over at the big shipyard there in New Orleans, Avondale Shipyards. So, I got on over there and went to work on the ships. I was doing interior communications work. Working on the automatic controls and communications systems and everything, 'cause that's what I'd been doing in the Navy. [crosstalk]
Mason Funk: That was just like on-board communications?
Mason Funk: Like, intercoms and ...
Crystal Lynne Little: Right.
Crystal Lynne Little: [00:35:00] And, then of course, I helped hook up the shortwave radios and everything. But I stayed there for a number of years and worked up pretty fast. But, with the break-up of my spouse and I, I went into drinking binges and it got difficult to get up and go to work every day. So, I finally left there and went to doing other things. Painting houses. I finally found myself in restoration business, restoring all of those old houses in New Orleans. I liked challenging jobs.
When I first started painting for myself, a friend of mine asked me if I'd go paint his house. I said, "No."
"Why not? I thought we were friends."
"You have a brick house on a slab. You have white fascia and soffit and metal windows. That's not a challenge for me. That is a boring job." I used to restore the old houses there in New Orleans. That was plenty of a challenge. So, I enjoyed doing that and I'd knock around on different jobs. Whatever seemed interesting to me. I knew early on I could never sit in an office. I could not sit in an office all day, doing the same thing. So, I was at the point where, hey, that looks interesting, that's new, that's something I would like. So, that's what I'd start doing.
Mason Funk: So, would you work for yourself?
Crystal Lynne Little: [00:37:00] I did for a long time and I worked for other people. Most of the time I'd end up going back to working for myself, which was good. I was so crazy back in the days when I was at the shipyard. I was doing electronic work and there was a Sakai Foreman that was handling lighting and everything ... show you how independent I have been.
One day, I'm sitting down in the engine room hooking up this big console; controls for the engines and the boilers. The superintendent loved my work, I was metidious; my work was right. So, one day I was in a bad mood anyway; It's hot, the turbines are running, steam going to 'em. So this lighting foreman, didn't like me too much. Comes along and he's over my shoulder as I'm hooking up the wires to this control panel. He's back there for a while. I finally put down one last wire and I started putting my tools in my toolbox. He looks at me and says, "What are you doing?"
I said, "I'm gonna go home, Joe."
"What do you mean you're gonna go home?"
I said, "You been watching me for the last 30 minutes over my shoulder like you know what I'm doing better than me, so I figure I'll let you do it." And I got a pass out and left the job. But, that's how I am and it was hilarious. He didn't think so. So, I always wanted to do something new. Something interesting.
I have been a tour guide in New Orleans. I can actually drive mules because I did the carriages there in New Orleans. What merely amazes a lot of people, I did tours on a Segway. You know? Riding around ... you know? Yes, it looks like it can be fun. It looks like it's interesting. Something new to learn. So, that's what I'm gonna do.
Mason Funk: What did you do about the fact that you were drinking so heavily?
Crystal Lynne Little: I finally broke it. Well, what really broke it-
Mason Funk: [00:39:30] Do me a favor, what really broke what?
[00:40:00] The drinking, 'cause I had really slowed down a lot ... I don't drink alcohol at all now. When I was involved in the community in New Orleans, I was co-chair for the Alliance of Pride in New Orleans. We put on the Pride Festivals. There was this gay bar right close to where I lived called The Mint, it's on Elysian Fields. I think it's Mag's now. But, anyway, after a Pride meeting one night, a friend of mine was the bartender, well somebody I knew because he was on the Pride board also. So I lived right around the corner from the place, from the bar. I'm in there, I just want to have one screwdriver and go on home about my business. Well, down at the end of the bar was a guy sitting there. He wasn't a winner, let me put it that way. Not that I was interested in him in the first place. He keeps wanting to buy me a drink and I don't want a drink. I learned long ago, I buy my own drinks. You don't have to buy me a drink unless you're a young woman with plenty of money, then I might let you buy me a drink. But, the bartender said, "Crystal, the guy wants to buy you a drink."
I said, "Well, that's fine. I don't want a drink! I have one." So finally Joey comes over, he puts another screwdriver down in front of me and I hadn't even finished mine. Well, I finished mine and I said, "Oh, God damn. I guess I have to be social." The guy bought me a drink. So, I take a sip out of it. Whoa! Something strange about this drink! That's serious! I said, “Well, I can't finish this.” I get up and I start walking to the door with Joe only about 20 feet away. I'm walking from my stool over towards the door ... wow! So, I go out the door and it was only about 30, 40 foot down to my door to get in my house. “God damn! Let me get home.” So I get my keys in my door, get the door open, pull the keys out, shut the door, and fell across the sofa, out. I was out for 12 hours. I said, that was not a regular screwdriver and it wasn't even a double and I swear to this day, he put something in that drink. After that I couldn't stand the taste of alcohol.
Mason Funk: So, that was that?
Crystal Lynne Little: That was it. Just turned it off.
Mason Funk: How old were you when this happened?
Crystal Lynne Little: OH, God. I don't know. It was around 2000.
Mason Funk: [00:43:00] Uh-huh (affirmative). Okay.
Crystal Lynne Little: Coming up in that time. So I wasn't a spring chicken, no. I was in my 60's for sure.
Mason Funk: So, does that mean that during those years, the 70's, 80's, 90's, you were ... well, actually let me go a different direction. How did you get involved in the...
Crystal Lynne Little: How did I get involved in the LGBT community?
Mason Funk: Yeah. Let me clarify one thing. During these years, were you living as an out gay man? How were you living? Who were you? Like if people saw you...
Crystal Lynne Little: [00:43:30] I was two people.
Mason Funk: Okay. But, tell us about that. Who did people see when they saw you?
Crystal Lynne Little: They saw Charles. They saw Charles, 'cause I was very good at hiding it.
Mason Funk: But, who was Charles? Who was Charles? Like-
Crystal Lynne Little: [00:44:00] Just some old bloke running around the countryside, you know, living the life like everybody else. Working for a living and basically Crystal would come out at night, at home. You know? That was my time.
There was a coffee shop where we always hung out. There in Jefferson Parish, called Dunkin' Donuts. I'm sure you've heard of Dunkin' Donuts. I actually even worked there cutting donuts for awhile. I told you I liked to do ... I was there when I ... hanging out there when I finally decided to come out. Well, my mother had died and it was time for me to be myself. I'm tired of living the way everybody else wants to.
One Saturday we had a group of people that all hung out together. A little coffee club in the back section of Dunkin' with that curved counter. So, one Saturday Charles ... my hair was long back then. Hippie days, you know? Hippie. We're sitting back there and one of my best friends at the time had been in the Navy also. As they say, you get two sailors together, and you're going to start hearing sea stories. So, I was talking one day about a gunfire exercise we were on because I was, what they call, a fire control man. I sat up in the director and pointed the gun in the right place. So, anyway, we're sitting there and I'm telling this tale about our almost shooting down a friendly plane, and this guy comes in, a cab driver comes in and sits right across from us. So I'm telling this story. He comes in in the middle of the story. He looks at me and says, "What year was this?"
I wasn't trying to be Crystal. I was trying to be Charles. So, I said, "Oh, this was around 1963. Something like that."
"What kind of ship?"
And I said, "Guided Missile Destroyer."
I said, "Yeah."
And he says, "Well, I didn't think they had women on ships back then." And the cats out of the bag. Everybody just sits there in stunned silence, like oh my God, what is he gonna say this time. Me.
So, I just looked at this cab driver and said, "Oh well. That was a different life." Just like that. Like a beautiful drama queen. "Oh, that was another life!" The guy just, "Huh? Huh? What?" Takes another sip out of his coffee cup and leaves and everybody just ... damn, he ... the cats out of the bag. So the next morning, I went in in a dress. I went there as Crystal. Well, I didn't have a name yet. But, I went there as Crystal and everybody, "Oh! Okay. Wow!" You know? And that started it.
Mason Funk: So what year was this roughly? How old were you about?
Crystal Lynne Little: [00:48:00] That was in the 80's. About '83, something like that.
Mason Funk: So you were going on maybe 40 years old? You were about 40?
Crystal Lynne Little: Yeah. Somewhere thereabouts. You know, and so after that, it was me all the time.
Mason Funk: Tell me about the decision to not transition or come out until after your mom had died. Why?
Crystal Lynne Little: I felt ...
Mason Funk: Tell me what you're talking about. "I didn't want to transition," or whatever, "Until my mom died." Start that way.
Crystal Lynne Little: [00:48:30] I didn't want to transition as long as she was alive.
Mason Funk: As long as who was alive? Start one more time, but say, "As long as my mom was alive."
Crystal Lynne Little: [00:49:00] As long as my mom was alive, I felt I owed her that much respect. You know? I really think she knew there was something screwy with me anyway, but I felt that I should at least honor her by that. I didn't know how she would take it and I didn't want to get her upset at anything. So, I said, well it would be better. But, once she had died, I said okay, I don't give a damn about my siblings or anybody else, I've gotta live for me. I've lived for other people for long enough. So, that's when I transitioned.
Going all the way back to when I was young, I was one of those toddlers with the white hair and the curls. We lived uptown New Orleans close to Tulane and Loyola and everything so there was always a lot of college students around the neighborhood. Anytime anybody would see me, they'd always look at me and say, "Oh, he's so cute! He shoulda been a girl!" I always said, damn, they knew something! That's how I was accepted for so long. Maybe that's why my daddy didn't like me. Because I looked like a girl. When my hair went white everybody said, "God damn, Crystal, what happened to your hair?"
I said, "I'm just going back to my hair color when I was a baby. See?" So that's when I finally said, I'm gonna live for myself. I've got to. If I don't start living for myself, I am going to be in serious trouble. I cannot handle it anymore. The stress and everything. I said, the hell with everybody, you don't like me, get over it. Plain and simple. So, that's when I really ... and the reasons that I held back. And of course I was always too damn poor. I never got out of the poor stage.
Mason Funk: So, that was one of the things that also kept you from ...
Crystal Lynne Little: [00:51:30] Yeah. You know, all during the times that I was fighting it, you know more and more information started coming out ... you got to go pay big bucks to a head shrinker and all of this and there are steps to take and this, but they all amounted to serious money. You know? That's big heavy money. People don't realize it. But-
Natalie Tsui: I'm sorry to interrupt. For whatever reason, the reflection's getting more and more and I just need to just move ...
Natalie Tsui: ... can you move closer to the camera?
Crystal Lynne Little: Oh, 'cause the sun's setting, dear heart.
Natalie Tsui: [crosstalk] Oh no, it's that light.
Mason Funk: No, it's from here.
Crystal Lynne Little: Oh.
Natalie Tsui: So, basically it's just if you're closer than she won't look ... it's the angle ...
Natalie Tsui: ... the two of you.
Natalie Tsui: So, if you just get closer to the camera.
Crystal Lynne Little: [00:52:00] Oh, my eyes are going over that way too much?
Mason Funk: No. It's not your fault. It's just, my face feels so close to the camera though.
Natalie Tsui: You're actually fine as long as you're not nodding like crazy. You can actually, like, yeah, you're ...
Natalie Tsui: We're good.
Mason Funk: Alrighty. So, just keep looking at me.
Mason Funk: Yeah. You're doing fine.
Crystal Lynne Little: Where did I leave off?
Mason Funk: [00:52:30] I know I have a question that's been in the back of my mind, which is, did you get involved ... when did you get involved in the LGBTQ community in New Orleans? And swivel all the way back to me.
Crystal Lynne Little: [00:53:00] We had an organization in New Orleans in '94, well, '93. Something like that. '92. Called the Gulf Gender Alliance. I had discovered them, and of course I'm transgender, and I ended up joining them. And that was the road to hell. That started it all. I joined them and within two months I became the President of the organization. We had a lot of outreach going. The group did not belong to the community center, did not belong to Pride, they were just existing for themselves.
But, we were starting outreach. I came along and I don't know! The flood gates opened. I started getting out more and more to different groups. Being invited to talk to people on trans issues because really, like I said, everybody thought anybody that put on makeup and a dress was a drag queen. That was the only trans issue there was; drag queens.
So, we started an education process and then when Pride was coming up, I saw to it that we participated in Pride. We had an outreach booth. So, we had our booth going, met a lot of people there at Pride, started making a lot of contacts, started getting to talk with more and more groups.
One time, Pride and another group in New Orleans had put together this conference of all the different LGBT organizations in New Orleans. Just a get-to-know thing. Give a presentation on what your group does, who you are, and things like that and all. One of the spearheaders of that conference had been a member of Pride, I think he was on the board. So, I was invited to become a member of Pride.
So more and more outreach ... and then I was asked to be a member of the Lesbian and Gay Community Center at the time, as it was known. Which, I did, I ended up on the board. Eventually I ended up co-chair. Was co-chair for a whole bunch of times. I was co-chair of Pride for about five years. Then I was too busy with the Community Center and the Gulf Gender Alliance, so my allegiances were really out there. And with the forum free quality and what used to be known as LAG pack, a legal arm. So, that's when I knew that was my interest and okay, we have to get the word out all the way around. We're not just a bunch of weirdos.
And at that time, who is it ... HRC, Human Rights Campaign people were strictly anti-trans. They felt we should not belong within a gay organization. They didn't want us in HRC and we went to war with them and had lots of support in New Orleans. Matter of fact, there was one year they were having their convention, conference, or whatever in New Orleans. The entire gay community came out against HRC. One guy, an early activist on gay rights in New Orleans, had redesigned the equals sign and put a slash through it. We boycotted and what do you want to call it ... demonstrated at the HRC conference and we sat down, trans group and some other people from the Community Center, sat down with Robin ... Robin Ridgetree? She was mostly Indian and she was ... oh, God darn Crystal, your memory's getting that bad ... the early woman leader of HRC.
Mason Funk: Ummmm, oh gosh.
Crystal Lynne Little: Yeah, I know.
Mason Funk: It's alright.
Crystal Lynne Little: [00:58:30] Yeah, her assistant was down here in New Orleans wanted to talk to us, had a long talk and everything. Really didn't do much good because HRC dragged their heels for a long time before they finally decided well yes, maybe trans people do. Because a lot of trans people if they go from female to male, they still may be chasing women. So are they gay? Male or female. A lot of 'em still go after women. What the heck's the story here? So, we broke down those bridges also.
We had ... the parent group.
Mason Funk: PFLAG
Crystal Lynne Little: [00:59:30] PFLAG. We did a lot of work with PFLAG. Matter of fact, one of my friends from the Gulf Gender Alliance, helped PFLAG put together their little pamphlet for trans parents on issues and everything. That's when PFLAG put the "T" in also. So, we did a lot of work down here on getting trans people accepted. I guess there was other people working in different parts of the country, or whatever, but my concern was New Orleans.
Mason Funk: Sure.
Crystal Lynne Little: And, so that's really how I got started.
Crystal Lynne Little: [01:00:00] Because it was of a big interest to me. One time, someone had asked me what had really got me interested in doing this? Well, I can remember how troubled I was in my young years. Whenever I hear, or heard, of a youngster taking the big jump, my heart went out. Why did they do it? What made them do it? You know? It was LGBT issues that they were probably dealing with. I said, this is wrong,
Then, you've probably heard, Michael might have said something about it, but we had a serious fire here in New Orleans. The Upstairs Lounge fire. Well, I was still hidden. Nobody in my family knew anything about me, but there was some people in my neighborhood who lost someone in that fire, and that fire really tore me up because I'm still hiding and everything, andsaid, “I'm at fault also. I'm not brave enough or serious enough to step out and defend those people.” Because you know, you heard your usual things. "Oh, it's just a bunch of queers! Throw another queer on the fire!" You heard all of that and everything. I'm still so damn scared, I won't do anything. Can't do anything. And I figured when I finally came out and started doing stuff, trying to make up for my lost years more than anything else. Because it was a big ... still is. I know the guy that wrote the book, Johnny Townsend. Met him a few times.
Then this woman came along a couple years ago doing this documentary, Track and Fire, out of Louisville. Can't remember her name now. She dropped me. Oh, she dropped me cold turkey during the election cycle. She's pro-Hillary and I spoke out against Hillary one time too many, so she didn't want to have anything to do with me anymore, and we were good friends. Same happened with that social worker professor, we used to put on this performance. She loved Hillary also and she dropped me because I didn't like Hillary. I oughta cover that, what we did.
Mason Funk: Let's take a little break. I think it's getting kinda warm in here and I can feel myself getting a little glazed.
Crystal Lynne Little: I only take 'em when my stomach feels [crosstalk] Yeah.
Mason Funk: It tastes good though. Tastes like it's good for you.
Crystal Lynne Little: Yeah, it is.
Mason Funk: [01:03:00] Probably because it's not very sweet in a traditional way, so ...
Crystal Lynne Little: Of course it helps with blood pressure and I've been fighting high blood pressure for awhile. So, I'm trying to take care of myself. I want to stay around for awhile.
Mason Funk: Stay around a little while now that you finally made it out to [inaudible 01:03:13] St. Louis. Are we speeding?
Natalie Tsui: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Mason Funk: Okay. So we gotta kill this.
Crystal Lynne Little: Oops.
Mason Funk: [01:03:30] Okay. So let's have that conversation that we were starting to have. First of all, give me an overview of the comparison between Pride in New Orleans, the Pride Festival, and Southern Decadence. Tell us what each of these events is, and how they’re different.
Crystal Lynne Little: [01:04:00] Well, the history of Southern Decadence is, and it had actually started as an end of summer party amongst straight people. You know, a bunch of people together and had cocktails, and all these other... Kind of a Tennessee Williams Type operation. Of course them dadgum gay people came along and kidnapped it, and made it better and brought it out to the public. It became a gay event. Coz there a lot of creative people and everything involved in it, with the straights. So, that's where it got its early roots. Of course it was strictly a parade, a bar-hop. We have a few bars here. That's how it really started, was people going from bar to bar, have cocktail here, a cocktail there and move around to different bars. So then New Orleans costumes came into play and more and more gays, you know them gays love to do drama queen and all, so it just got built up to where it is today.
Mason Funk: [01:05:00] What is it today? What happens at Southern Decadence?
Crystal Lynne Little: [01:05:30] They have a big parade all through the quarter. Just having a good time. Still doing the bar-hopping, everybody gets drunk. Let me throw in one of my favorite little things. There was a preacher man here in New Orleans. Well, over there in New Orleans, that hated gays. I mean, man, he hated Pride, he hated Southern Decadence. He sent us all to hell and he said that the hurricanes over there in Florida were because of the gay people and then of course, the storms here ... we gay people did all these. We're pretty good!
Well, anyway, Gale Storm was his name. Yeah. Well, he was caught one time out in Jefferson Parish by this big public park, sitting in his car parked by Kiddieland, with his tool out and drinking a beer. A mother saw him. He went to jail. That's it, there you go. Look at this! Oh, yeah, them gay people!
We've had a few get caught like that. Many had been caught around the country, you know, so anti-gay and come to find out, they're either gay themselves or they're involved in kiddie porn or something. So, it's hilarious. I had to die laughing, I saw where one of the Pope's top aides in Rome was picked up on drug charges. You know? And they talk about us. It's really a lot of fun.
But anyway, and then with Pride. Pride put on a festival, a weekend festival. Kind of a fair.
Damn my clock is making that much ticking sound? Oh there's something that vibrates over that way and I haven't found it yet. I don't know what it is.
Natalie Tsui: What is that sound? Yeah. Is it [crosstalk]?
Mason Funk: Something is just shifting.
Crystal Lynne Little: [01:08:00] Yeah. I don't know what it is. When I sit over there [crosstalk] It should stop. You can just filter it out or something. It's not my clock. That's been going the whole time.
Natalie Tsui: Yeah. I've been hearing the clock, but it's just in the background.
Mason Funk: Yeah. We're fine. It just sped up and slowed down. Okay.
Crystal Lynne Little: So, and like I said earlier, Pride was a family affair. A summer festival.
Mason Funk: What was the idea behind Pride?
Crystal Lynne Little: Just, coming out.
Mason Funk: [01:08:30] Tell me the whole story. Give me a complete sentence. "The idea behind Pride."
Crystal Lynne Little: [01:09:00] The idea of Pride, from what I gathered when I first came up, was to make a good presentation of the community. That we weren't all a bunch of psychos or something like that. That we were, are, normal people. When I was with Pride, New Orleans Pride, that's what we were trying to convey. We're your banker, we're your doctor, we're people. We can have fun too, and we want everybody to have fun. And of course we wanted ... the coming out ones, the slowly emerging people to know that they had a safe space. That they were real people. That's what we always tried for.
Of course, we put on the parade one day of the weekend to expose ourselves, you know? Look! We're normal human beings. It has endured for a long time now. There are new people running Pride and they got corporate sponsorships and things like that and all to sell it. Like I said, I hadn’t been to a Pride event in quite awhile. I kind of drifted away. I was involved in so much other stuff. But, we put on big stage performances and everything else when I was with it.
Mason Funk: [01:10:30] What was your objection? You were talking earlier about how you sometimes think these events quote-unquote, reinforce all of...
Crystal Lynne Little: [01:11:00] When you get the ones that are running around half-naked and doing public exposure and everything like that, yes you're expressing yourself, but we still have our detractors and our hate-mongers. So, the preacher man, when he sees these types of activities he's able to get up there on his pulpit and say, "You see? They're just like what we say they are!" That's why I liked Pride, because it gave a more affirmative thing.
Now Decadence is wonderful. It's a big money-maker for New Orleans really. It has grown so big. It's the fact that people have the right to express themselves and to show the world that yes, we do exist. For so many years we were just pushed ... they don't exist. But, we have a place I the world, in this country, no matter what.
Now in New Orleans it seems is the only place that has something like Southern Decadence.
Mason Funk: [01:12:00] Do you think there's value, I'm going to play Devil's advocate here for a second, do you think there's value, you said we don't want to reinforce their worst preconceptions, but is there value in pushing the boundaries and saying, "We're not going to play by your rules. We're going to be who we are. You can just get used to it, or you can just change the channel." Is there value on that side as well?
Crystal Lynne Little: She's trying to get your attention.
Natalie Tsui: It's okay. I was wondering, I think you might have moved a little bit. Would you mind just scooting just a tiny bit 'cause the mics really far from you.
Crystal Lynne Little: Oh my goodness.
Natalie Tsui: [01:12:30] So, I have to just get focused really quickly. I was like, oh I think she's ...
Crystal Lynne Little: Maybe when I got up the chair moved some.
Natalie Tsui: Yeah. It's okay. I should have said something earlier, but I [crosstalk]. What's going on?
Mason Funk: Okay. She's trying to get your attention.
Natalie Tsui: Okay, that's great. Thank you.
Mason Funk: Okay. So, you heard my question, right?
Crystal Lynne Little: Yeah. I do believe that also.
Mason Funk: Tell me what you believe. So 'cause-
Crystal Lynne Little: [01:13:00] I believe that there comes times that we have to push the limits, push the marks. Especially in the early days. For a reaffirmation that, why are you following these silly dadgum rules that you set? People should be able to express themselves. You know? Yes, you have to push the boundaries sometimes as long as you keep it halfway civil.
That's one thing that makes me pretty happy about Southern Decadence is there has never been any serious violence. There has been a few fist fights in a bar, something like that. That's everyday stuff. We've never had, well we have a lot of Christians out there, you know with their noise and everything, but there's never been any violence.
Of course, we get the Christians here for Mardi Gras even. I used to live outside the French Quarter and it's really hilarious. The Christians will show up in buses and everything and they're going to protest the parade and the drunks in the quarter and everything. I always love it when they put together their cross to emulate their Christ. They're putting together a cross out of one by four's. Or even one year, I saw someone, they were putting it together out of PVC pipe and I looked at ... "The Christ wasn't carrying a little bitty cross like this. Why don't you make your cross out of railroad ties and carry that? That's pretty similar to your Christ's cross." You know, and well, you're not going to impress me by carrying a PVC cross or a one by four cross because I handled that all day long once upon a time. That's no weight. Some of them even have a little wheel at the back.
Mason Funk: [01:15:30] So the cross won't be too heavy.
Crystal Lynne Little: That is not much of a penance to me. How silly can you be? But, that's their gig.
Mason Funk: Let me ask you this. You said, you took some heat ... well, first of all you said that your community has let you down.
Crystal Lynne Little: Yes.
Mason Funk: [01:16:00] Tell me about that and start with something like, "The reason-"
Crystal Lynne Little: [01:16:30] I put in close to 20 years. Would've had 20 years. And I'd been working for all those years and I'd been with the Community Center for all those years and I did a lot in there. I'm not blowing my horn. As I said, I wasn't college educated and there was some people came along, college educated, who thought they could do a better job than me. I kept the place open after Katrina and everything. Practically by myself. But anyway, I was basically run out, off the board. I went through a serious depression. First I was told I didn't know how to handle volunteers and I didn't know how to run a library. Knew nothing about a library. And I didn't know how to run the center. So, you know, serious attacks and everything.
So, they wanted me off the board. They wanted me away from being co-chair. And I I said, "Well, I can always be on the ballot."
These two individuals said, "No, we're not going to put you on the ballot. Your name won't appear on the ballot."
"Well, I'm a board member I can put my name on the ballot.
"Oh, no, you can't." So, I didn't have any backers. All of the people at the center and everything were members and there was nobody backing me. I said well that's a hell of a note. So, okay, goodbye. And that hurt because I put in a lot of years on that center. There was bad times and it was after Katrina.
A couple of people that I thought were friends, truly, I'm still trying to pull the knives out. But, one whom these two yo-yo's wanted on the board, word came back to me through the grapevine, she had made the comment that she wanted to be on the board again, but she wouldn't be on the board if I was around. I said, well that's a hell of a note.
And all of the board members, there was one woman who was a big supporter of the center. Of the community. Big activist in New Orleans for a long time, Lesbians. Matter of fact she helped spearhead the war against HRC on our behalf, but she had put an article in the big newspaper there, Ambush Magazine, bar rag as we call it, and she was pointing out a lot of the faults and defects, and everything in the center. All the board got all up in a hoorah, of her slamming the center. I said, "I don't see this as a slam. It's constructive criticism." They all wanted to write a rebuttal letter. And I said, “You don't need to write a rebuttal letter.” Well, they all walked off the board because of what this woman had said. So I was left as the only person around I was the only one to run the center because the board just disappeared. I kept it working for a couple more years until these college guys came along and decided they could do better.
Mason Funk: [01:20:30] How does that feel to have put in so many years and then be sort of shown the door?
Crystal Lynne Little: Very, very hurtful. I was hurt. I was shattered, beyond shattered. Basically because of the way it was done, and to be told what I was told. We don't care what you want to do, you're not gonna be on the ballot. You're not going to be a part of the center anymore. Well, we had a good deal where we were; the landladies of the building, lesbian couple, gave us a break on rent and everything else. But, they were getting old, they moved out to Arizona, and their adopted daughter was handling everything. Well, we had a storm come along after I was out, ousted; and it did a lot of rain. So, of course the center building took a lot of damage. The one woman that wanted me gone from the board was now co-chair and she didn't want to negotiate with the woman, so they lost a great facility and it went downhill from there.
So I said, "I didn't know how to run the center? And I kept it going for so many years? And now it's gone?" Struggling to stay alive. So I said, whatever. I did the best, I helped a lot of people. That was the main thing.
Mason Funk: [01:22:30] What does that tell you? you know, we the queer community, however you want to name us, we fought a lot of external battles, but obviously we've been capable of also ... a lot of organizations, a lot of movements struggle inwardly as well.
Crystal Lynne Little: [01:23:00] Well yeah, because, guess what, we're all humans. We all have our little petty issues and everything else, so we're no different from any other straight community; that's what people can't seem to understand. We have our differences, we have to resolve them, or we get mad at each other. As the British say, we get our knickers in a twist and storm out, or something. So, that's why, you know ... I don't find where we're any different than any other person walking the face of the earth. We're gonna get mad, we're gonna have our personal issues we're gonna feel slighted in some way, or something like that. So, get over it folks! You know? And quit being our own worst enemy. That's my advice for the younger ones coming up today.
Mason Funk: That's good advice. Now I have another question. I have two more questions, then I'm gonna give Natalie a chance to chime in with some questions. My two questions are, you said you took heat during the last Presidential campaign. Why?
Crystal Lynne Little: Because I'm strictly anti-Hillary.
Mason Funk: [01:24:00] So do me a favor, start by telling me what you're talking about. Take my question and weave it in your answer. "I took heat."
Crystal Lynne Little: I took heat during the Congressional Campaign.
Mason Funk: It wasn't Congressional [crosstalk 01:24:09]
Crystal Lynne Little: Presidential Campaign.
Mason Funk: Start over again.
Crystal Lynne Little: [01:24:30] I took heat during the Presidential Campaign because I do not feel comfortable with Hillary Clinton. This woman has a track record that would have you or I in jail for long times. Some of the things that she done when she was Secretary of State, have serious questions about 'em. A lot of the things that she done are treasonous, so I cannot see Hillary Clinton as being President. I trust her as far as I can throw this building that I'm in right now.
Mason Funk: So, how did people react ... so, I'm not, just to be clear, I'm not so much interested in why you don't like Hillary, that's fine. But, what was the reaction?
Crystal Lynne Little: [01:25:30] The reaction was, they were all liberals, democrats, Hillary supporters. Of course, with a lot of my gay community friends, LGBT friends, they saw her as as Godsend to where we would live in Utopia, which I really don't feel with her. She talks a good story. Same with Obama. He talked a good story and never produced a damn thing.
Mason Funk: Do you think there should be room in the queer community for different political opinions?
Crystal Lynne Little: [01:26:00] There should be.
Mason Funk: There should be what?
[01:26:30] There should be room within our community, LGBT community, or any community, for differences of opinion. That's part of our Bill of Rights, Freedom of Speech. Freedom to express yourself with your ideas and your feelings. That's what I spent four years in the Navy for, to defend that. And I still defend that. Just like I'm firmly for the Second Amendment. People say, "Oh, guns this." I believe in guns for an individual, I believe in the Bill of Rights as written, I believe in the Constitution as written. That's why I say, I'm not a Democrat, I'm not a Republican, I am an American and I am going to look at both sides of the story. I've got a free mind, even when it comes to religion. That's why I left the Christian church. I've got a free mind and it's open and it seeks information. So, I'm gonna look at all sides of a story; is my main thing.
Once again, I went against the accepted mind-think, and they can't handle it. You are gone against the program? Yes! I read 1984, I just finished Atlas Shrugged, I read Brave New World. I see it, I see it all. You know? That's what irritated them. I exerted myself and used my own thought processes. But I'll keep doing it 'til the day after I'm dead, damn it! Because that's how I am and I'm not ashamed of it. I'm proud it. It got me through all of these years of uncertainty. It got me through all of the years of bullying and the killing and everything that we had to endure. I won't even say, put up with. What we had to endure to affirm ourselves. But, yes, within our community, we need to be able to think for ourselves, and to have your own opinion, and be able to voice it.
Mason Funk: Great. Good. Thank you for that. You said you follow the Buddha. Tell me how your religious, I don't know if you call it religious faith, or what ... how your religious practice ... how has it affected your life? And make sure to tell me what it is. What are you following?
Crystal Lynne Little: [01:29:30] My belief system, by following the Buddha, is the lifestyle. How you live your life and live a good life. You're not out to screw over somebody, you accept everybody for who they are, what they may be. It's not a biggie to go through life like that. You're just gonna accept everybody, and you live a certain life to where you're not doing harm to anyone else, or anything else, and that's basically it. You know the tenants of Buddhism are really great, just like the original tenants of Christianity was supposed to be great, even with the Muslims. But mankind came along and screwed it all up themselves.
I love this little story. I had said earlier that we had gone to Bangkok, Thailand, when I was 17 years old. Bangkok is a beautiful place. Well, this friend and I, shipmate and I, were touring Bangkok city. We’d met up with this young Thai who was a college student, was wanting to practice his English. So, he became our tour guide, taking us all over. We went to all of the temples; beautiful work!
That evening, his younger brother was gonna be accepted into the Monkhood. Well, it wasn't going to be in new Bangkok, it was going to be over in old Bangkok where they had very little electricity, this was in '61, and the whole town is built up on stilts with wooden walkways and everything. All over. To get from one house to another, you have wooden walkways. So, we went there. You had to go there by boat. We didn't think anything about it. The temple was just a little wooden building that had to go to by walkways and it was dark, just candles and incense, and it was really an enlightening experience for me. I felt so much at ease, so peaceful and everything. It was a nice little ceremony. They guy got his orange robes and all, and I really loved it.
So, after the ceremony we went back by their house, had some refreshments, his parent's house and we had to get a boat back over to new Bangkok. We made it back over there to the ship and it was days later, I realized what we had done. Nobody knew where we were. At that time the Communists were making insurgencies into Thailand and everything. Matter of fact, we couldn't go out on deck going up the river because the Reds used to do target practice at ships. You know? Going up the river. I said, geez! What did you do? Somebody in their right mind would have never even got into that boat and gone over that way.
So, I really felt to myself it was something I was supposed to do. I felt it was in my life path to go over there and do that. When I felt that at ease, I'd never felt that peaceful and at ease in any dadgum Catholic Church in my life and I was raised a Catholic. That was one of my big enlightening experiences really. It has helped guide me through these many years.
Mason Funk: Great. Great! Natalie, what questions might you have?
Natalie Tsui: [01:35:00] Well, I guess my question is ... okay, so, I have a couple. So, the first one is how ... you know, you've been alive for quite awhile, but like, you know, what have you witnessed in terms of like a change in trans rights or trans acceptance in this amount of time?
Crystal Lynne Little: Well, it's a big-
Mason Funk: And answer me, as if I asked.
Crystal Lynne Little: It's a big improvement today, most definitely.
Mason Funk: What is a big improvement? So-
Crystal Lynne Little: [01:35:30] Trans rights, trans acceptance is greatly improved since I was young. And that's going to bring me into another fun story. We have so much more than what we had when I was a youngster. And sometimes I feel everybody's trying to get too impatient in forcing issues. You know? It's gonna happen. Just like everybody's so worried about Trump destroying everything that's been accomplished. He's not gonna destroy ... you know? We're moving on. We've made a lot of progress in my years for sure.
To show you how much acceptance there is today ... Well, of course I was in the Navy and I sailed with all these other guys. Five hundred and something other guys. The ship, my ship, USS Towers, has a reunion every year 'cause she's sunk somewhere off of the California coast now, but they have a reunion every year. So, a few years ago they wanted to have the reunion in Charleston. I'm on Facebook with the organizer, the guy in charge of the operation, I'm on Facebook as Crystal. I told the guy, I said, "Raymond, I really would like to attend the reunion, but you know I live this different life now."
And he came back to me a bit later and said, "Crystal, come." He said, "Come. It's gonna be good." So, I went to Charleston. Don't ride a Greyhound bus that far. God. Anyway ... I went and I was accepted. You know, no big deal. Many of them all made the comment, no matter what, you're our shipmate. So, I was accepted. I'm fixing to head there in another 60 days to San Antonio to the reunion and everybody's saying, look forward to seeing you.
Now I have a friend up outside of Seattle, a guy I used to go on liberty with all the time, and I'm on Facebook with him. He's at the point where he calls me, "Sis." To me, what more can we… Once upon a time, that never would have happened. Because the information's out there. People are now starting to wake up and realize, there is something there. It is what it is, as the saying goes today. It's not a big thing.
Saying that, I caught some idiot woman on Facebook the other day, did a film clip. She's a pediatrician. Been a pediatric doctor for years and she says, it's all a bunch of hooey. There's no such thing as a trans person. It's just somebody that chooses, wakes up one day and chooses to be a woman. It's not in the mind, it's not in the make-up, there's no DNA evidence to show a trans person. You have the male chromosomes or whatever, you have the female chromosomes and that is it. You're locked in, you can't be one or the other, or both.
I said, "Lady, have you lived the experience?" She's strictly against the blockers being used on a lot of the young kids today. Just strictly against subjecting a child to these hormone blockers when they say they're a girl or a boy. Just like that little girl Jazz from a number of years ago. Supportive family. A family should not support a child's young ideas. They're not mature enough yet. You know? Lady! I finally had to get off of it. Here, you're supposed to be a professional medical person, pediatrics, whoopee-do, and you're going to make these unscientific comments and everything about a trans child. You are the problem.
She also said, well even when they've used the blockers, and even when someone has had surgery, they still commit suicide. And I say, yes there's a very easy reasons why they still commit suicide, because if you've transitioned, you've spent all the money on surgery and everything, you're still being subjected to the hate, the oppression, and everything else. That's gonna drive you to saying, is it worth it? And take the jump. That's one of the reasons why I got involved all those years ago. Because I hate that. Not hate, you're not supposed to hate, I totally dislike it, and I wish I could have 10 or 15 minutes with her. We have so much misinformation, but things are a lot better.
Crystal Lynne Little: [01:42:00] And I'm happy to see that because I can sit back and pat myself on the back to say I helped a lot of people along the way. So, now I'm retired supposedly. Another question, dear?
Natalie Tsui: [01:42:30] Yes. I'm always curious, I mean this is kind of cheesy, but I'm always curious about the romantic lives of our subjects and what, if you have any people that you remember fondly upon, or not so fondly upon, that you would like to share with us. And any lessons that might have been gleaned from that romantic experience.
Crystal Lynne Little: You're talking to the wrong one dear. I am, going back to the books, I am asexual.
Mason Funk: Can't tell if you're looking at her or me, but you need to look at me.
Crystal Lynne Little: [01:43:00] Oh, yeah. I am asexual, by the psychiatric term, I find myself asexual. It has no big interest for me. Well, of course when I was married that was no big deal. I've had one really serious love interest, and yes, we’d had sex. But, since then, you know it's not a big deal for me, I have no serious desires or interest. I think it's part of my make-up, it's part of the journey that I chose to follow. I've done quite well. Not having to spend time and energy on trying to pursue someone or have someone pursue me. So, does that kinda answer the question?
Natalie Tsui: Yeah. That's actually great too, because I think, it's about getting representation from all the people ...
Mason Funk: Yeah, it makes space for other people to feel the same way, which is fine.
Crystal Lynne Little: [01:44:00] Yeah. Because I think that's what messes up a lot of people, straight and LGBT, is they feel they have to live up to society's expectations and that means you're out chasing women, or chasing guys all the time and is it really necessary? But, of course, asexuals for years and years fell into the same categories as gays and lesbians because of the psychiatric and the scientific mind-think at the time.
Crystal Lynne Little: [01:45:00] I had a little conference with a bunch of doctors from around New Orleans a number of years ago and I went representing the Community Center and as a trans person. Because it was covering trans issues primarily. The question was asked, and I always love to use this ... what's the deal, how do we define it and everything. I say, “Well, and the way it used to be, you talk to your mama, grandma …”
Back in the early days, especially when I was born in the 40's, they didn't know anything. You get a successful delivery, the doctor pulled you out of the oven, held you up by the feet, took a look at you, "Yep, that's a boy. Yep, that's a girl." Only external, you can't tell anything else. And then, for intersex people, or questionable people, there was in the medical profession, it used to be, if a girl had a clitoris at birth so much longer than the accepted centimeters, then, I don't know. Put her in the other file. If a boy would be born with a shorter penis then what their standards were, well that's questionable also because you had to conform to these standards.
Natalie Tsui: [01:46:30] What's that sound?
Crystal Lynne Little: It's water in the water heater upstairs.
[01:47:00] You know, you can't see inside the brain. How can you mark on a birth certificate one or the other? I don't know how they ever marked the intersex people. Probably with a big question mark or something. But then, with them, it was left up to the parents. Do you want a boy or a girl? Oh, you want a girl, we'll snip this off. You know? Things like that.
You might remember there was a case a number of years ago, where the parents were having the baby circumcised and the doctor must have drank too much the day before. Anyway, he cut off too much. So, you know, the doctor told the parents, ”Well raise him as a girl.” So, the child came up all of those years because he had most of his penis cut off being raised as a girl. But, then the mind came awake. He was a boy! He knew he was a boy. There was big hoorah on this child trying to find himself. Because, yeah you've been raising me as a girl because the doctor screwed up, but I'm really a boy. I want to be out there fishing and playing ball and everything else. So, is it in the mind, or is it in the presentation? I feel it is in the mind.
Years ago, I had read a theory, you know, all embryos are female. They carry all of the female chromosomes and everything. Then as the term progresses, there's changes that comes into the mother's body, different hormones, different things come into play during certain stages. That's when the gender starts developing. But, sometimes, the right stuff is not delivered at the right time, so the embryo, the fetus, kind of gets left in a separate state, you know? That may be how these, our LGBT people come into existence. It's only over more modern times that we're starting to learn all of this.
If you look at earlier cultures, pre-Christian primarily, transgender people, LGBT people in early cultures were accepted and honored. We were healers and doctors. We were tribal leaders and everything, until the Christians came on the scene and started dreaming up all this other stuff.
Crystal Lynne Little: And condemned us.
Crystal Lynne Little: [01:50:30] And that's what we're still fighting. Also, one thing with society is, same going back to marriage ... marriage is intended... is propagation. You have to have the law the government, controlling it so that they can see how many males and females might come into existence. The couple has to be legally married through binding laws and everything. So, the whole reason for marriage is property rights and propagation. Why did everybody want to have a lot of babies? Because the mortality rate was so high. You know? Why were men allowed to have more than one wife? Because a man is ready all year 'round. A woman only certain times of the year. You need more children, especially more male childs for the tribe.
Mason Funk: Hey, I'm sorry to interrupt, but we have to kind of start wrapping things up.
Crystal Lynne Little: Yeah
Mason Funk: Otherwise, we could definitely talk for a lot longer.
Crystal Lynne Little: Oh, God. Yes, we could.
Mason Funk: Right. But we have four short questions to wrap things up. Then we're going to have to wrap up our week and [crosstalk]
Crystal Lynne Little: Head back to California.
Mason Funk: [01:52:00] Yeah exactly. So these are the four questions that I ask everybody at the end of the interview and just looking for a very short simple, this is it. Here's the answer. First question, is if somebody comes to you and says they're thinking about coming out, whatever that means to that person, in very, very simple terms, what would be the single piece of advice you'd give that person?
Crystal Lynne Little: Do it. If you feel comfortable doing it. If this is what you need to live your life, do it.
Mason Funk: [01:52:30] Great. Secondly, what is your hope for the future? A little more complicated, but in simple terms, what is your hope for the future?
Crystal Lynne Little: To see us, the LGBT community, finally accepted as same as anybody else. We're Homo sapiens, every last one of us. There is no reason for the hate and the prejudice against LGBT people. I find most of that stems from religion.
Crystal Lynne Little: [01:53:00] Plain and simple.
Mason Funk: Yeah. Why is it important to you, I know you had mixed feelings about doing this interview. You said, yes, than you said, no, and then you finally agreed to it which I appreciate. Why is it important to you to tell your story?
Crystal Lynne Little: [01:53:30] To get the word out. To show that there is futures, to discourage, or help some youngster get past the idea of, this is the end I might as well go jump off a cliff. You know? Primarily. Like, when somebody told me, "Yeah, Crystal, you say you're retired." Right, you know? I'm still plugging away. That's the main thing. Yes, I've got a story to tell and it does need to be told.
Mason Funk: [01:54:00] Great. Lastly, this project, which is called OUTWORDS, is in simple terms, gathering stories like yours and hopefully hundreds of other people around the country from small towns and big cities, on the coast, in the south, in the north, and trying to collect them into one central repository. What do you see as the value of doing that? If you could mention OUTWORDS in your answer.
Crystal Lynne Little: [01:54:30] Well, OUTWORDS is doing a job that needs to be done, most definitely, because our history is important. Our history deserves to be recorded just as anybody else's. It is very important because for far too long, we have been an oppressed and a downtrodden community of people for some unknown reasons. Why? As we just said, I find a lot of it stems back to religions and the people just totally listening to their preacher mans, you know? And not thinking for themselves.
I've always said religion, is a form of control. It is a form of man and mind control. I'm standing up here on the pulpit, I'm the big guy. I got all this fancy clothes on and everything, you do as I say, not as I do, because I'm smarter than you. That's why back in the Dark Ages, Medieval Times, the churches would not allow we peasants to read or write. Because they could control us. We didn't know how to think, we couldn't think for ourselves, and that they did not want. Matter of fact, I think our former President said something to that effect. People can not know how to take care of themselves. He said that at the U.N. Remember? People need somebody to control them.
Mason Funk: Let's stick with OUTWORDS.
Crystal Lynne Little: [01:56:30] OUTWORDS, you know, they're recording the history that needs to be put to where it's available for everybody. It's easy to write history and then put it in a library somewheres. But, it needs to be available to the public. Matter of fact, they started a big history archives in Tulane University, trying to get everything together.
Mason Funk: Yeah. Great. Is there anything that we haven't covered, that you think, from your story in particular that you feel is important?
Crystal Lynne Little: [01:57:30] I think we've done pretty good. Outside of my story of my best friend that was a social worker, after Katrina. She dropped me also on account of Hillary. After Katrina, 'cause I stayed in New Orleans, I went to work for this little community center, a volunteer at this little community center down in the outskirts in New Orleans, the lower 9th ward. I was handling the desk. This woman was there, started talking with her, she was sitting up front. Well, she was a volunteer social worker and with the Red Cross and everything, and we got to talking, somehow or the other, I told her who I was and all of this, 'cause she was interviewing me for being a project she was working on called Women of NOLA. Those women affected after the storm.
So, anyway, she's saying something and I said, "Well, I want you to know I'm a trans woman. I hope you don't get upset."
She says, "I got two lesbian daughters." Okay! But anyway, what she did was put together this stage performance of all these different women that she interviewed about - they were caregivers, wives, and whatnot - their lives after the storm. How their lives were affected by the storm. So, of course she really loved the story that I told and I ended up in the script. It was a great chance to go for train rides because we would put it on at different universities and all. I got to do a lot of trans outreach with all of these college students, social worker students, which was really a lot of fun. Some of them are still friends with me on Facebook. It was really enjoyable doing it. She's the one that called me one time a BFF. I said, what the hell's a BFF? Supposed to be Best Friend Forever. So, after the Presidential Campaign, I guess forever ended at that time.
I've had a lot of fun doing this really. Because I told her, I said, "Nadine, if you put this together," 'cause I told 'em my story. I said, "That's got to be in the script."
She says, "Oh Crystal, it's gonna be there." So I got to go all over the eastern part of the country and acknowledging and educating people that I am a trans woman.
Crystal Lynne Little: [02:00:30] Let me show you a little card that I had-
Mason Funk: Okay. Let's wrap up here first. So, before you get up.
Crystal Lynne Little: Oh, I'm sorry.
Mason Funk: Let's just wrap up the interview and then you can show me, okay?
Mason Funk: So we're going to do what we call "room tone," which is 30 seconds of just sitting here quietly, we'll call it out.
Natalie Tsui: [02:01:00] Okay. Room tone.
Crystal Lynne Little: That clock is still making a lot-
Mason Funk: That's okay. We still need the 30 seconds.
Natalie Tsui: We still have to do the 30 seconds, so we have to just ...
Mason Funk: Let's start over again.
Mason Funk: It's okay.
Crystal Lynne Little: Sorry.
Mason Funk: It's alright. No worries.
Natalie Tsui: [02:01:30] Take two.
Okay, got it.

Interviewed by: Mason Funk
Camera: Natalie Tsui
Date: July 13, 2017
Location: Home Of Crystal Lynne Little, Bay Saint Louis, MS