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Valda Prout was born in 1935 in Boston. She was named Mallory at birth, and her life has been a long, eventful and colorful dance between the male identity she was assigned at birth, and the female identity that is her truth.

Still living as Mallory, Valda went through Boston public schools, attended the New England Conservatory of Music for two years, and then got a job in the mail room at Harvard Law School’s Langdell Hall, the largest academic law library in the world. At 24, she grew tired of Boston’s gay scene and moved to New York. There, Valda worked in the stockroom at Gimbels and in the records department at Doubleday. In 1975, she went to beauty school, then worked as a hair stylist at various salons. During these years, she was Mallory by day, and Valda by night. In her words, “Mallory supported Valda – not the other way around.”

In the late 1980s, Valda felt she had gotten too old for the Big Apple. She decided to move to Washington DC because it was a predominantly black city – what some black folks called Chocolate City – with lots of cultural activities and a vibrant social life. Around this time, she met a three-year-old boy named Byron. Valda adopted Byron, and for the next 15 years, she lived as Mallory, because she didn’t want to “confuse” her son or cause him any trouble at school. At the same time, she was always very clear with Byron about her true nature – that on the inside, his ‘father’ was a woman.

Valda officially retired as a hairdresser in 1996. And in the early 2000s, after Byron graduated from high school, Valda was free to live entirely as Valda.

Today, Valda lives in a small apartment just north of Logan Circle in Washington DC, a short walk from the African American Civil War Memorial, which honors the more than 200,000 black soldiers who fought for the Union in the Civil War. She stays busy attending transgender meetings, visiting with her large group of friends, and staying in touch with her two nieces. It’s hard to imagine a better way to spend two hours than listening to her stories, which she peppers with expressions like ‘I’m going to tell you truthfully’, ‘You hear what I said?’, and ‘Oh, I digress’. 

Valda told us she is glad to have lived this long, and hopes to live a bit longer. She also said, “The most beautiful gift is death.” If you’re looking for a woman at peace with herself, stop by Valda’s place.
Mason Funk: [00:00:00] All right. Start off, Valda. Tell me your name.
Valda Prout: My name is Valda and you should call me Valda, Darling of the Gods. A friend of mine gave me that title, Darling of the Gods.
Mason Funk: How do you spell that?
Valda Prout: Valda is spelled V-A-L-D-A.
Mason Funk: What's your last name?
Valda Prout: Prout, P-R-O-U-T.
Mason Funk: All right. Why don't you tell me about where you were born and when.
Valda Prout: [00:00:30] I was born February the 17th, 1935 at Beth Israel Hospital in Brooklyn, Massachusetts. I'm the third child of my mother. My mother had 5 kids, Alan, Wendell, myself, [Arnell], and Dorothy, my baby sister. My father ... Oh, my mother, first my mother was Dorothy Mallory. That's her maiden name.
Valda Prout: [00:01:00] My father was George Prout, George L. Prout. My mother was 16 and he was 21 when they got married in 19 I think it was 24. Their first child was born in 1935. Wendell was born in 1933. I was born in 1935. My brother was born in 1936 and my sister was born in 1938. She was the last child my mother ever had.
Valda Prout: [00:01:30] I always thought I was the oldest child because I never met my 2 brothers, Alan and Wendell because they died before I could have a sense of what was going on around me because I always thought I was the oldest, but I'm not. I'm the third child. I always felt like a girl. Ever since I could remember I felt that. My sister ... I shouldn't talk. She's dead now, so I can talk. She wanted the boys' toys,
Valda Prout: [00:02:00] so I'd tell my sister what I wanted and I would tell, get a girl. We used to switch the toys like that. My brother, he was the straight one, Arnell. He was very straight. Now, my mother and father separated when I was very young. I don't remember the separation or nothing, but my father snatched us and we were gone for 5 years. Didn't tell my mother where they took, whatnot.
Valda Prout: [00:02:30] That changed trajectory of our lives. I wouldn't call it a kidnap. I don't know. I don't know because I don't remember it. All I know, my father took us to this woman and saying this was our mother. I was about maybe 4 because my recollection of things were going around me when I was 5. That was in 1940 when I was 5 years old.
Valda Prout: [00:03:00] When the woman died ... Her name was Edith. They wanted me to wear these white flowers on Mother's Day and I refused to wear them because I don't know. I didn't want to wear white flowers because I didn't know my mother being alive or what. I didn't know. I knew something was wrong. I couldn't explain it at all. I couldn't explain it at all. One day, after Edith died,
Valda Prout: [00:03:30] and we went to Buffalo, New York and he put us in an orphanage. I remember that. I'm going to tell you truthfully. I hope I don't cry because it's very ... I love my father very, very much because he was the only parent I really knew. My father worked for the New York Central. They're called Amtrak, but in those days, it was called New York Central, the train.
Valda Prout: [00:04:00] He was a conduct ... Wait a minute. No, he was a porter first, but him being black West Indian, he had a beautiful command of English. What they did, he could speak and he was very fluent how he talked and everything else, so they promoted him to conductor. His route was from Washington, DC to Boston.
Valda Prout: [00:04:30] That was his route. He could go no further than DC in those days because if black people had a hard time, it was segregation and all that. See, my father was not born in the South. He was born in Providence, Rhode Island, so he didn't like all that. He was very proud. West Indian men are very proud. They're very proud people.
Valda Prout: [00:05:00] What happened was my father's girlfriend at the time ... My father was like a rolling stone, so I can say that. Men and even though he was married and my mother and father never divorced until later, he had a girlfriend named Rose and Rose went to Boston with him. She found out my mother was alive. I remember them arguing and everything else and whatnot,
Valda Prout: [00:05:30] but I didn't know what was going on. I remember her taking my clothes off the line and putting them in a suitcase, put us on a train and going to Boston. I didn't have any idea what was going on. All I know I was going to Boston with my brother and my sister. We lived at 902, not 902, 890 Albany Street. He left us at the door. My mother wasn't there.
Valda Prout: [00:06:00] My mother was in Providence visiting her sister. My cousin, my mother's cousin told him to get us because they couldn't find my mother. They said to, "Go get those kids and bring them up to my house," so the next day my mother came and I saw my mother for the first time. Oh, she was the most beautiful woman I ever seen. She was dark, beautiful.
Valda Prout: [00:06:30] That's the first woman I ever fell in love with, her, my mother. To this day, I still love her very dearly. The funny thing about that, my mother always wanted a girl because she had all boys and Dotty was the last girl, but Dotty was a boy, too, my sister, and I love her dearly. I was always a girl.
Valda Prout: [00:07:00] I always was a girl and I wanted to be like my mother. I'm more like my mother to this day. Then was in the projects. We lived in the projects. Now, my mother didn't have a lot of money or anything like that. I didn't consider myself poor because my mother was good. Only thing I'm going to tell you, my mother didn't know how to cook at the time because her mother was alive then, so my grandma did all the cooking. From the time 1947
Valda Prout: [00:07:30] until my grandma died in '51, my mother did not cook. Her mother cooked, but when her mother died and my mother had to cook. I remember the Thanksgiving that was a white ... Who ever seen a white turkey, white gravy? We're at the table and we looked at that turkey and we all started to cry, even my mother cried. Mom said, "What's wrong?" "I missed that granny," no, Nana.
Valda Prout: [00:08:00] Her name was Nana. My mother started crying, too, next thing, but my mother, something happened. She learned how to cook. My mother, before she passed away, she was the best cook you ever. Getting back to me, I went to an all ... In grammar school, most of the kids were white. There was blacks there in the projects. There was no, what you call it? The only segregation ... I wouldn't even call it segregation. It was the project.
Valda Prout: [00:08:30] There was the black project and the white project, but we all went to school together, the Dearborn School. I graduated from there in 1951. Then I went to Commerce High School. I'm going to say this to you and I purposefully did this. I didn't want to go to the black school. I did not. I went to Commerce High School that was predominantly white. Was only about 6 blacks in that school. I'm glad I went there.
Valda Prout: [00:09:00] Go back, even I went to camp, I went to the all-white camps. I remember, I'm going to tell you this, I always liked to be around white people. I'm going to be honest with you. You want to be truthful, I'm going to be truthful. I always wanted to be around white people. That's when I was very young. One time, I went to this camp called Agassiz Village in Maine and I had a wonderful time. I learned about Paul Robeson,
Valda Prout: [00:09:30] the singer, because he used to play all the music and all that kind of stuff. I learned how to eat lobster and clams and all that and corn. They used to have these pits where they put the leaves and stuff and the stone and heat it up and it came up like that. I had a good time. One time, this ... I'm going to say this. This called me a nigger. I was shocked.
Valda Prout: [00:10:00] I was so shocked. I bit his earlobe off. I did. I did and spit it out. I remember that he called me nigger. They were going to expel me from the camp. When I told them what he said to me, they didn't. Now, that's another part where I'm talking because I used to love ... I'm going to be honest with you. I used to love white men.
Valda Prout: [00:10:30] I had a white boyfriend, but I wasn't doing nothing. I didn't have sex. I wasn't doing anything. I just was in love with him. In school, there was this Polish guy in school. I'm jumping around now because there's so much there. We went to the movies together and we used to put our knees together and I just touch him and stuff like that, but nothing ever happened. I didn't have none of that.
Valda Prout: [00:11:00] When I graduated from high school, I went to New Conservatory for 2 years. I studied voice there. The thing was, I had to take piano, harmony, and all that kind of stuff and I wasn't good at that, so I quit. I quit after 2 years.
Valda Prout: [00:11:30] Then my best friend Ralph and Virgil, we lived in the projects at that time. I think I was about 19 at the time. We're downtown and whatnot and we saw all these gay people. We didn't know each other was gay. We found we were gay.
Valda Prout: [00:12:00] There was 2 gay bars in Boston called Punch Bowl and Jacques. The Punch Bowl was all the much more the elegant gays. They wore suits and stuff. The Jacques was more I don't like to say the word. I called it down-to-earth whites and whatnot. There weren't that many blacks there.
Valda Prout: [00:12:30] They were more earthy than the Punch Bowl. They used to have drag shows there. Now, I had no tinges. I never wore a dress then. Then what happened was I had to work and so I got a job at Harvard University working in the mail room. That was a turning point in my life working in that mail room
Valda Prout: [00:13:00] because there, I'm not going to give out his name because I never did, was a professor there. I'm not going to give his name out because he was not the famous professor like Roscoe Pound and Archibald Cox. They were there when I was there. Also, Ted Kennedy was a student there when I was there. That was in 1957. This professor,
Valda Prout: [00:13:30] he used to talk to me, used to see me, whatnot. I picked him up. We used to go the Coop in the Square. He would buy these [inaudible] frappes, sodas, and things like that and talk and talk. I got to start to liking him. He used to tell me how nice looking I was. I never thought I was a good-looking child because kids used to tell big lips and big nose and all that kind of stuff.
Valda Prout: [00:14:00] He made me feel beautiful, very handsome. That's what I'm going to say the word. On the weekends, I'm going to tell you he took me to Provincetown. I saw Mae Bonds there with all the gays where these were all mostly white then. There was a few blacks there. That's when I got interested in the arts. He took me ... Now, we never had sex or anything like that.
Valda Prout: [00:14:30] I don't know what ... I can't explain that era. I'm going to tell I was innocent one time, very innocent. I wasn't like I am today, uh-uh. I tied that part. He gave me the most beautiful gift that I have to this day. He took me to New York and I saw my first play. The play was West Side Story. I can tell you the cast, Carol Lawrence, [Richard Colley],
Valda Prout: [00:15:00] whatever Colley, the one who he passed away, Chita Rivera, and at the Winter Garden. When I saw that play, it looked like a movie, but live people. It was fascinating and I loved it. I saw Jamaica with Carol Lawrence, Ricardo Montalban, Josephine Premice, and Ossie Davis.
Valda Prout: [00:15:30] I saw that one in Boston. I also saw the Plymouth Rock. He took me there. He exposed me to a whole lot, reading and books and things like that. It was wonderful. Then what happened was I fell in love with this white guy. His name was Robby. I don't know if he's living or not. I couldn't care less.
Valda Prout: [00:16:00] He treated me nice. I fell in love with him, dearly fell in love with him. We went together for about a year and then we weren't living together or anything like that. He used to take me out and things like that. Then I started seeing him less and less and less. I couldn't figure out why I couldn't ... He fell in love with this guy named Otis, beautiful black guy, good-looking and everything else.
Valda Prout: [00:16:30] I was very upset. The circles there were very small, so anywhere you go, then I see them hugging and carrying on. I couldn't take it any longer, so I decided ... Oh, let me go back. My show business life. There was these Christmas twins and Bob Destiny.
Valda Prout: [00:17:00] I did a show in Maine called Summer Stock and a show called Tropicana. I was the Indian chief, the chief. I had this little turban thing on and this little small, little thing. I was the last one to go offstage, so I used to go behind a suitcase and things. We'd have those trunks and start changing my costume like that.
Valda Prout: [00:17:30] The girl said, "Mallory?" I said, "What?" She said, "We know what you got. Come and stop hiding. Stop hiding yourself." I didn't pay her no mind. I was still going and just putting on my little thing. This time, they got tired of me. I was the last one coming. They took me ... I didn't realize girls were so strong. They took me and held my hand out. The more I struggled, the more they were stronger. They took me, they stripped me butt naked, so they had no problem looking.
Valda Prout: [00:18:00] That's when I said, "Oh, God." Then when I changed, I would change with the rest of the girls. Going back what I was saying, I digress and I hate that. Oh, Robby. What happened was ... Oh, they also in the show, they did a scene in the show South Pacific. They were in that. The movie, the big movie, they were in that. All right. Now, go back to Robby.
Valda Prout: [00:18:30] Our circle was too small and I decided I couldn't take it any longer. I wanted to get out of Boston. My mother's sister-in-law, they lived in New Jersey, so I told my mother I wanted to go with them and go to New York. I only had $2 in my pocket, just $2. I didn't tell my mother that because if I had told her I had $2, she wouldn't have let me go.
Valda Prout: [00:19:00] They left me off at the George Washington Bridge and I took the subway. At that time, the subway was 15 cents. I went down all the way to the Village. Somebody up there likes me. I met a friend of mine who was from Boston. Now here I am, no place to go, but my mother did give me a number of a cousin who lived in Harlem. I didn't use it yet,
Valda Prout: [00:19:30] so what happened was I told my friends that I was here and had no place to stay. They told me I could hustle. I didn't know nothing about that. I didn't know anything about that. I went to this bar and there was this guy. I didn't know how to ask for money. I didn't know how to do none of that. The guy wanted to go to bed with me.
Valda Prout: [00:20:00] We went to the room and I was sitting there scared to death because I'd never done nothing like that before. Oh, I digress. Oh, I digress. I'm going to have to go back to Robby. I'll get to that.
Mason Funk: Okay.
Valda Prout: The reason why I left,
Valda Prout: [00:20:30] I was at another party. I met this fellow named Lionel King. I don't know if he's dead. I don't care. He changed my whole sexual life, Lionel King did because he was tall. Another one, that's why I like these tall men. Dark, oh, God. I ain't going to go through no details because you can figure out for yourself. He put something on me, child,
Valda Prout: [00:21:00] I never, never, never had. It was like the first time Heaven. I never had crack. When people say you had your first high, you always want to repeat it. That man did something to me, child, to this day, he was the wonder. You know the 7 Wonders? He was wonderful, wonderful. I never went back. You know what I'm talking about.
Valda Prout: [00:21:30] Once you go black, you never go back. I'm going to tell you when I was in Boston, when I lived in Boston, I did have sex with a lot of white men. They were Irish. A lot of them were Irish and whatnot. I got to tell you at Harvard University ... I'm going back. I'll remember what I just said with New York, but I got to go back. When I was working in the mail room with this Irish guy,
Valda Prout: [00:22:00] he was cute as he could be. We was at the urinal and I was in charge of the mail room. I had a urge to touch him and I did. We came back and I asked him to do something, he wouldn't do nothing. Someone said, "Mallory, he's doing it because he's going to try to blackmail you." I think to myself he's trying to blackmail.
Valda Prout: [00:22:30] See, if he knows, he's going to ... I thought oh, oh, this can't do. I took him and I said, "Listen here. I don't give a damn what I did. You have to prove it." I said, "Now, you get to work and do your job or you're out of here. Now, you say you can say what you want, but you say it, I'm going to deny it to the hilt." You know what I mean? "Now, you have to make a choice." I had no problem with him again.
Valda Prout: [00:23:00] I had him years later. Now going back to New York. I told him, I said, "Listen, I never did this before." I said, "I'm hungry. I just came in the city," and I said, "I haven't ever done this," I told. One thing about he took me downstairs,
Valda Prout: [00:23:30] bought me a meal, paid my room for a week, and I didn't have to do nothing. You understand? I'm not lying to you. This is the truth. I would tell you if I did. I didn't do nothing. After almost the end of the week, I called my mother's cousin up and she said the magic word, come stay with her. That's what I did in Harlem. Then she lived on 125th Street, no, no, 145th Street and stayed with her until I got my first job at Gimbels in New York.
Valda Prout: [00:24:00] Then the same group that when I met and who was with me, they took me to a party on 64th Street called the Woodrow something. I forgot. I can't think of the name. Was a hotel there and I went into the room, child, and it was all these men and beautiful girls and women there.
Valda Prout: [00:24:30] I said, "This is nice, all the men." This beautiful girl came up to me and said, "Hello, there." I looked. I heard her. I said, "She don't sound like no woman." She was in drag. In those days, we called it drags. I didn't know the word transgender.
Mason Funk: Just [inaudible].
Valda Prout: Excuse me, excuse me. Turn ...
Kate Kunath: Okay.
Valda Prout: [00:25:00] Oh, okay. I went to New York in 1959 and I went to this party in 1960. I went to the party and I saw all these beautiful women and then men. They were Latin. What you call the word we use, Latinos, whatnot. They were gorgeous, gorgeous. What I liked about them, they weren't white. They weren't black. They were in between,
Valda Prout: [00:25:30] like a mulatto, so it was best of both worlds. I'm going to tell you something about that. Okay. Oh, getting back to what I was saying. I saw this woman say, "Hello there." I said oh, these were drag queens, but they had gorgeous men there and no one would dance with me because I wasn't dressed in no dress. I went there for about a month and the weekends.
Valda Prout: [00:26:00] Everything was done on the weekend. I said to, "How come nobody dance with?" "Because you're not wearing a dress." I said, "If I have to wear a dress, I don't need nobody to dance with me." That's what came out of my mouth. Halloween was around the corner, so I decided that I was going to dress up for Halloween. I got this ponytail that made a beehive for me. I cut the shoes because my feet were too big for the shoe. I cut the back made mule.
Valda Prout: [00:26:30] In those days, they called them mules. For breasts, I had nylons stuffed, tucked in there and a pencil skirt and whatnot. I looked terrible, but this Spanish guy danced with me. In those days, we did the Twist. This was 1960. After that, child, I went to La Belse to get wigs. Oh, I moved out. I didn't live in Harlem.
Valda Prout: [00:27:00] I moved out into the hotel. That's what happened. I moved out in '60. I got a La Belse wig and I got makeup. Like I said, there was chestnut. Only makeup that you could get was chestnut brown and nut brown. What you did, you mixed them to get the color you want. That's what you had to do and that's what I did. They used to have ball. They had 2 balls,
Valda Prout: [00:27:30] a Black Ball and a White Ball. I went to both of them. Phil Black, that was the Black Ball in Harlem and in Manhattan, there was a White Ball. If you Google it up, you'll find that. I had a wonderful time and that's when I met a lot of the white drag queens. I learned a lot from them, the makeup. In fact, all the girls did because the white girls did better makeup than the blacks.
Valda Prout: [00:28:00] The blacks wanted to be real. They were into that real thing. They wanted to be as natural to get by the cops because if the cops saw you and you was in drag, they arrest you. The safe place you didn't get arrested in Harlem they didn't do that, but in Manhattan, they did. Once I moved out, I didn't want to live in Harlem. I moved down to the Village.
Valda Prout: [00:28:30] See, going back to the professor, he opened up a world to me that Harlem and all that could not do. I wanted to open my mind more culturally. I knew the black culture, so that had no problem. I like all the black music, but I wanted opera. I wanted the books and things like that, something. I wasn't a full transgender person yet
Valda Prout: [00:29:00] until ... Oh, God. Let me go back. I don't want to come across like I'm better than anybody. I'm trying to explain how I evolved. I lived on the East Side of, not the West Side of the Village, but the East Village. There, you could be yourself. They had the drag queens and all that, gay. Most are not gay, nd whatnot.
Valda Prout: [00:29:30] but gay people. The West Side was more the money, where the West Side was more bohemian. That's what I was attracted to. I had a very nice apartment there, I remember, when I left my mother's cousin a I always, if I wanted to party, I'd get in that cab, take the Roosevelt Drive, and go to Harlem because
Valda Prout: [00:30:00] most of the girls were from DC, Washington. That's how I got here years later. They all came to New York at the same time I did, you know what I mean? They worked the streets. I'm going to tell you they did and whatnot, but I couldn't do that. Not that I think I'm better than anybody. I was scared to ask for money. I didn't know how to do that.
Valda Prout: [00:30:30] I did it maybe once or twice, but I didn't like it. Let me say this to you and I'm going to be honest with you when I say it. White men always been attracted to me, but I had a lot of white guys that I was attracted to, too. The older ones,
Valda Prout: [00:31:00] I couldn't do that for money. I have to like you. If you want to give me something fine, but I'm not going to sell myself for that, you know what I mean? It's not because I don't like white. I like white people. You know what I'm trying to say? I'm going to be honest with you. I'm going to say to you I found out that once ... I'm not talking about now. I'm talking about in those days.
Valda Prout: [00:31:30] When you lay out with a white guy and after they finish having sex with you, you're nothing and I felt that. You understand what I'm trying to say? I felt that. I said to myself uh-uh. You don't do that to me. You don't do that to me. I'm something. I'm somebody. I'm not trash because you put your sperm and whatnot, all that. Some blacks do it, too. I'm not saying it's exclusively, but I tell you,
Valda Prout: [00:32:00] I cussed the black guy out. How dare you. You know what I'm trying to say? I decided that I was not going to do that unless I'm really attracted to you. The thing is, that then, when I started hanging with the washer in Harlem, they were more into black guys. You know what I mean? The best lovers, the best lovers is Latin. Those Puerto Rican, they don't just mess with you.
Valda Prout: [00:32:30] They make love to the body. Blacks and whites don't do that. They don't make love. They just do their thing, but Latin people and one thing about Latin, they will take you to their mother's house if they like you. They take you anywhere if they like you. You understand? Blacks and whites don't do that. You're hidden.
Valda Prout: [00:33:00] One thing, I didn't care one way or the other as long as I had you. I don't care you didn't take me to mother. I don't want to meet your mother anyway. The Latin had a ... Those Puerto Ricans were different. That's how I learned about the what you call it, the banana. They have a banana and this pork called something or other. They had good food. The food was delicious. I met the family, everything. This went on for years, for years.
Valda Prout: [00:33:30] Now I'm going to have to go back now my transition. My first doctor was Dr. Risch. He was giving out hormone pills, purple pills and whatnot. I started taking my own hormone. I still got these here. These things are over 40-something years old. I started developing breasts and things like that.
Valda Prout: [00:34:00] As time went on, I started looking better and better and better. That's when I got ... Oh, God, I wish that phone didn't ring. I understand it distracts you. What I wanted to say is that these queens today ...
Mason Funk: Let me interrupt you for a second. I have a question about the doctor you went to.
Valda Prout: [00:34:30] Okay. Dr. Risch, okay.
Mason Funk: What caused you to go to the doctor?
Valda Prout: Because I wanted to be feminine, more real. I didn't want to wear false breasts and things like. I wanted to have my own breasts and things like that, thank you, and all that and maybe more feminine. I felt I always wanted to be a woman. I did, but I'm so glad I didn't do it. I'm going to tell you why. It's very expensive to have electrolysis. I could pay my rent.
Valda Prout: [00:35:00] I can buy my food, but all that was extra. I had no $1000 to do that. In those days, I didn't mind shaving because I didn't use no razor. I used the depilatory and it took everything off. You could rub against my skin and you don't feel nothing. I did that for years. As you get older, that changes because if I used to use a razor, I usually get bumps. I didn't like that.
Valda Prout: [00:35:30] The German hormones were the ones that got me really feminized, whatnot. I did that for years, but I had to have a doctor give me injections for that. Another thing, too ...
Mason Funk: Let me ask you this. What years in your life, what years when you ...
Valda Prout: Okay. I started taking hormones from '65 up to this day.
Valda Prout: [00:36:00] I don't take as many hormones now because it takes away your sex life a little bit. I'm going to tell you this. I found being transgender doesn't mean you have to have a vagina because I know a lot of transgender don't have the change. You got to be happy what you are about.
Valda Prout: [00:36:30] If you can't accept yourself, how can people accept you? You know what I'm trying to say? I had to learn to accept who I am because ... Oh, going back to the white queen that had the sex change. She didn't do it because she wanted to be accepted. She didn't tell me this. This was over the year. I'm going to tell you what I did, what I'm saying. She got the sex change. She was very attractive.
Mason Funk: [00:37:00] Who is this you're talking about?
Valda Prout: I can't think of her name. She was very nice to me. She used to have a little French poodle. She liked to be around black queens. You know what I mean? She was very, very nice. She was very, very nice. What happened was she started giving things away. She gave Gigi her poodle. Not telling nobody what she do. She's like, "Oh, you like that? You take it. Oh, you like that, you take that."
Valda Prout: [00:37:30] She was ready to leave this world. What she did she put on her full face makeup. I didn't see this. They told me when they found her. She put on her makeup, had this negligee on, took some pills, and killed herself. You know what I'm saying? I said to myself I would never, never have a sex change for somebody. I would have it if I wanted it because I'm the one have to live with it.
Valda Prout: [00:38:00] What happened was ... Now, these stories are not my stories. I'm going to tell you why I didn't want the change. This girl, transgender, was beautiful. She was black. She had a wonderful husband. In those days, you couldn't marry. She had a boyfriend that loved her dearly, but she always wanted the change. He liked her the way she was,
Valda Prout: [00:38:30] but she had to have the change. She did have the change and she lost him. You understand? I decided now, do I really want that, to have that and somebody leave me? You know what I'm trying to say? Another thing I learned, too, with this. I don't know about today.
Valda Prout: [00:39:00] You have to live a lie for the rest of your life. I got a friend of mine who's in Germany. She just called me recently. Her husband still don't know that she's a sex change. Now, she's with this man she's at 14 years and he doesn't know. Now, she called me because he has cancer, whatnot. I don't want to give out her name because I don't know how they think of that. I said, "What you going to do?
Valda Prout: [00:39:30] You never told?" I said, "I could not live a lie like that and not tell the person because you're going to find out when you go. Everybody going to know your story, so why do you want to waste all those years hiding and not being your authentic self? You understand?" Another thing, some men love that.
Valda Prout: [00:40:00] They want all this and that, so you have to pick the right guy who can accept that. You understand? They like it. You know what I mean? Don't say I'm a man. I'm a transgender. There are women who like women. There's transgender who go with women. What's the difference? They cut it off and they still want to be with women,
Valda Prout: [00:40:30] so what's the difference? You know what I'm trying to say? I like to be a woman, but I like to be with a man with that because some men like that. You understand what I'm trying to say? Why should I wake up while they're trying to be because when I'm lonely, what the hell I'm going to do? That's what I'm trying to say. You got to live your authentic life.
Valda Prout: [00:41:00] Another thing, you pay all this money on being beautiful, looking real, baby, you're going to get old and it ain't going to help you. All that money is gone. You're still old woman. Look like you got a pinched nose. You look like an old woman with a pinched nose. Then they're not happy in their old age. I am happy being 81. I like it.
Valda Prout: [00:41:30] I'm not like I used to look. I accept that. You got to accept that. Everything, the stomach, all that, you got to accept all that. That comes with the territory if you want to live long enough. You understand what I'm trying to say? If you want to live long enough, you got to deal with all that because it's all going to change. What you going to do? You can't rely on your looks anymore, so you got to build up some kind of character to be like yourself, like who you are and surround yourself with friends who are going to accept you regardless.
Valda Prout: [00:42:00] I learned that. I'm so glad I didn't learn it too late. You know what I was trying to say? I'm very happy. Then on top of that, I'm going to say this to you and I'm going to ... When my mother passed away, and when it come to that love thing, my mother was 85 when she passed and I was 59 years old. She was in Ohio. I had a child.
Valda Prout: [00:42:30] My ex-boyfriend left a child with me who I adopted. I gave up my dresses and all that for 15 years to raise him because I didn't want to confuse him. I never lied to him. He's 30. He'll be 31 next month, in October. I never lied to him because the reason why you got to be true, but I did it when he was young so there would be no surprises. You can't hide nothing from children.
Valda Prout: [00:43:00] It's how you approach the issue. He always respected me. He always respected me. I never embarrassed him with his friends. I remember one time I took him to school and these 2 boys called me a faggot in front of him. It wasn't so bad that they called me a fag. They called me a faggot in front of him. I could've cussed the kids out, but I didn't do that. I took the kids by the shirt
Valda Prout: [00:43:30] and marched them to the principal and dropped them. I said, "They called me a faggot." I said, "They don't know me." I didn't cuss and do all because that's one thing about DC. They cuss you out in a minute. You don't get no results when you're cussing people out. You have to have little finesse about yourself to get above the crowd. They brought the parents in the next day and we discussed it. I never had a issue again.
Valda Prout: [00:44:00] It's not what you do. It's how you do it, how you approach a room. You're gay, you're gay, but oh, you don't do all that. You have some finesse about yourself. Have a little class. There's nothing wrong with being classy, nothing. Oh, he's not real. No, you want people to accept you, so you got to be nice. I'm not a ghetto queen. No, I've never been that. I'm a middle class bitch.
Valda Prout: [00:44:30] I always been that. I can be nasty when I want to be, but I found if you're nice, you get more done. Like I said, I learned from you all, the white, and I learned from the black. There's a lot of negativity. I'm not self-absorb, oh, pity. I'm not pity, pity, pity. I find that white people, they go like I used to go to transgender meetings.
Valda Prout: [00:45:00] I couldn't identify with what they were saying because all their issues was family issues and things like that. My people got issues of how to go out and make a living, how to get out there, be accepted. Those their issues. You know what I'm trying to say? They got money and there is not one that looked that good to me anyway. See, some of those girls do not put money on looks. They put their money in education. I'm talking about the whites. Education, that's to get you through.
Valda Prout: [00:45:30] The money will come, so people accept you with that money. All that money you put on yourself looking to look beautiful and no money ain't going to put you through. Am I right or wrong? You know I'm right. Ain't going to put you through. You've got to have money. How you think ... What's that Jenner, Carly Jenner, if she didn't have no money, they wouldn't accept her. She still hasn't changed that damn voice of hers,
Valda Prout: [00:46:00] but she's Bruce Jenner, Carly Jenner, and they like her. Don't get me wrong. I like her because she's in her truth. That takes guts to do that. It takes guts and I respect her for doing that. If I had that kind of money, I'd been out long ago like that.
Mason Funk: If you had that kind of money, what would you do?
Valda Prout: I would tweak here, tweak there, but I would enjoy ... You know what I feel that kind of money? I'm going to be honest with you. I have a fabulous place.
Valda Prout: [00:46:30] Have somebody clean it up for me. I would go everywhere. I'd make sure I had a lover that accept me as I am with everything. You got to be a little freaky. That's what I like. Now, the one I got now, he's not, but I don't care.
Kate Kunath: You don't care?
Valda Prout: Because he don't need to be freaky. He got enough to be. He don't have to be. I'm trying to be nice. I don't want to be too [inaudible].
Mason Funk: [00:47:00] You go there. If you want too, you go there.
Valda Prout: No, honey, he is heavy. He is heavy. Now, everything would change, but that thing will stay the same. I just put the lights dimmer and enjoy him while he's there, but he's got to go home because ... Now, one time, I usually want him around for 24 hours. Like I said, he was the only music that make me dance.
Valda Prout: [00:47:30] Ooh, I said run up to him like crazy. I don't do that no more. I found out if you just open him and let him go, they come back. Don't run after them. They'll come back if they like you. He told me one time, he said and I said ... One day, this is about a year ago, he said, "I don't like to do this, but I do it for you." I said, "Oh, really, after 20-some years? Really? Oh, really?" I said, "Oh, yes, darling. Do it.
Valda Prout: [00:48:00] I don't care if you do it for ... Do it." See, I'm not afraid of him going because I'm me and I'm going to be by myself anyway, so if he's there, but when he come back, I'm going to enjoy. I told him, I'm going to say this to you ... Can I say this vulgar word I'm going to say on this tape on there? I told him,
Valda Prout: [00:48:30] "If you're not giving up no dick, don't knock on my door." I'll repeat it. "If you're not giving up no dick, don't knock on my door. You're not coming here to be sitting and go out leave me hot and horny and all that kind of stuff. Now, if you don't want to be bothered with me, fine, go. Don't come back. If you got a issue, don't come back, but you knock on that door, you know what you got to do, so ain't nothing I said you can work out." "I know," he said, "I know what I got to do."
Valda Prout: [00:49:00] I said, "All right. That's all. That's all. No problem." I'm being honest.
Mason Funk: Let me ask you a question. Totally changing topics for this one.
Valda Prout: I hope that wasn't too much.
Mason Funk: No, it was not too much.
Valda Prout: Are you sure?
Mason Funk: I want you to tell me because you told me some stuff before we were shooting, tell me about some of the people you saw in concert over your years.
Valda Prout: [00:49:30] Oh, okay. The first time, in 1957, my first Broadway play was West Side Story. There was Carol Lawrence. His name was Colley, oh, God. He died of AIDS. He was a singer. Ken, Keith, began with a K. Ken, something like that, you look it up, and Chita Rivera. That was the major stars.
Valda Prout: [00:50:00] Then Jamaica was Lena Horne, Ricardo Montalban, Josephine Premice, and Ossie Davis, those there. Then I saw Redhead, no it wasn't, Charity, no, no, no, I saw Redhead, Redhead with Gwen Verdon. I don't know the other star. Then I saw Suzie Wong. I forgot her name.
Valda Prout: [00:50:30] Oh, I saw Dreamgirls with the original cast. Okay. Josephine Baker, I saw her 3 times. Oh, that woman was fabulous. She was in her 60s then. I remember ladies and gentlemen, Josephine Baker and it was dark. They didn't put her right away. All of a sudden, this light came and there she was, looking like that, slimmed down. Oh, God. We applauded and everything else.
Valda Prout: [00:51:00] Then Marlene Dietrich. I seen Peggy Lee, Eartha Kitt. I never seen Lena Horne in person. I'm talking about singing by herself. On the stage I did. Oh, and I saw her whenever she worked ... Oh, I forgot to tell you I used to work for Doubleday on 5th Avenue.
Mason Funk: What did you do for them?
Valda Prout: I worked in the record store, the record department, so it let me have all this.
Valda Prout: [00:51:30] That was another education, my classical music and all that. I was very disappointed when I saw Zsa Zsa Gabor. She had a book because she wrote a book or something. I remember her makeup was terrible. I looked at her. I also saw Diana Ross. Diana Ross another one don't photograph well. She looks better in person. I missed Diahann Carroll. I didn't see ... She was at the store, but I missed her. I've seen a lot of people.
Mason Funk: [00:52:00] Tell me about the 2 times you saw Tina Turner.
Valda Prout: Oh. It was a little place, Mark Place.
Mason Funk: Just start by saying, "I saw Tina Turner."
Valda Prout: I saw Tina Turner at called St. Mark's Place. It was a little bar. She was on the stage and they had the big television. I don't think there was television in those days. It was like a monitor, whatnot. She looked like she had muscles,
Valda Prout: [00:52:30] but when you looked at her in person, you didn't see it. She was beautiful, but up there, she was a little masculine. Eartha Kitt's the same way. I saw Eartha Kitt in person. She is a beautiful woman, but she don't photograph beautiful. That's another one I was very surprised. Now Lena Horne, she's not a tall woman. I saw Lena 3 times. I saw her once on the stage and twice in the bookstore. She's very quiet.
Valda Prout: [00:53:00] She don't come out like, "I'm Lena Horne." She don't do that. In fact, she went to the retainers to get the books, the retainer books. That's where she went. Oh, another thing, too. I met Miss Pearl Bailey. Now, she was a hoot. She had a cookbook out they gave her. She was signing autographs and I said, "Miss Bailey, can I take your mink?" "Honey, this is not mink. This is sable."
Valda Prout: [00:53:30] In there, she had PB, Pearl Bailey, monogrammed in her coat. I saw her at Doubleday and I saw her at the mall years later when she was doing the 4th of July thing. Her personality is just the way she is. She doesn't change her personality. That's it. That's okay.
Mason Funk: What about you talked about Marlene Dietrich. What was so special about her?
Valda Prout: [00:54:00] Marlene Dietrich, like I said, she was old at that time, but honey, she was pinched, beautiful makeup, was flawless. She had this pink light, like the pink light, and she was in white. She stood there. She didn't move and she would (singing). She dragged this fox there and then she just with the curtain,
Valda Prout: [00:54:30] that the thing about her I like, when she did the curtain. Just little things she did, just little things I like. You pick it up. These girls today, they got to do all the ... They didn't have to do that. You had talent, pure talent. See, these women had years of experience behind them. You understand? The other thing I don't like, that's with the presidency today.
Valda Prout: [00:55:00] In my day, you had to work your way up become that. You had to go through the work as a congressman, senator, something like that. It took years, so you know your party. You was the leadership, but Tammany, Tammany Hall. I'm talking about Tammany in Boston. See, Boston,
Valda Prout: [00:55:30] people picked those you know what. I'm talking about local and then they ... Boston was like Mayor Curley in Boston. He was a mayor. He went to jail and came back and whatnot, but Tammany Hall, they used to call them. Those are the thing that that's why I learned politics, too. These people are coming from nowhere like Trump, who don't have no experience about running the government.
Valda Prout: [00:56:00] See, another thing, too, I'm going to tell you this. I'm going to be honest with you. We're all in the same boat, black, white, whatever. We got to be careful about this racial thing. You have to look at the big picture, not the media because the Hispanic group is coming, all people of color, and I ain't talking about black, is going to be a majority eventually.
Valda Prout: [00:56:30] Not in my lifetime, maybe not in yours. It's going to happen. You cannot push back the tides. You cannot push it back. You got to accept it if you want to save this country because it's going to happen. In fact, I never thought I'd live to see a black president. I never thought I'd see a woman run. Hillary's going to ... I'm going to put it on camera. Hillary's going to get it. Now, I'm going to tell you this. I'm going to be honest with you. I like Hillary, but she has some issues.
Valda Prout: [00:57:00] The thing is, yes, she got issues. They all got issues. The most important thing, especially Millennium, that Supreme Court. That Supreme Court could last for 40 years if you're not careful how you vote because presidents come and go, but the Supreme Court stays there. If you let that thing go, your rights as a gay person be out the window.
Valda Prout: [00:57:30] My rights as a black and transgender be out the window because you can reverse things. Think about that when you're voting. You understand? Yes, she could be called crooked Hillary. I'd rather save the boat than sink with it because she has experience. Now, if she's a fool that messes up because she want to go a second term, she better do something right. Am I right or wrong?
Mason Funk: [00:58:00] Preach.
Valda Prout: That's what I say. In my head, I'm this and that, but unless they're political and I'm going to tell you this. I don't like it too to the right. I don't like it to the left. I'm in the middle because you got to have ... I'm not saying get rid of the conservatives. No, you need them. We need each other, a balance.
Mason Funk: [00:58:30] What have you learned ... You mentioned several times that you've taken the best from the white culture and the best from the black culture. What are the best things that you've taken?
Valda Prout: Okay. The things I learned from the whites is education, living well, and an open mind, the ones I've known. Not the bigots because you got bigots. They accept me who I am. They don't look at looks when it comes to color.
Valda Prout: [00:59:00] Either they like you or they don't. Blacks are like they are afraid to have a good time, but their worst enemy is themselves. Okay. Let me say this, how I look at it. You all complain. If something is not right, you want it done right, right there. This entitlement you all have, entitlement. I notice that. Now, this gentrification, they can come in here and be well.
Valda Prout: [00:59:30] They come in here and live well. If I go in their territory, oh. You know what I'm trying to say? That's a different story. That's what I call entitlement. Blacks don't give up capital to pass it on to do that because money's the biggest level. It's getting there. It's getting there. It's going to take some time. It's got to get there, but blacks because the middle class is getting larger.
Valda Prout: [01:00:00] You know what I mean, but one who complains the most is the white middle class. I understand that because your reason why ... The only reason I can understand are white lower middle class voter because the only thing they got ... I ain't talking the ones that got money. I'm talking about the ones who ain't got no money. They'll still vote that way.
Valda Prout: [01:00:30] The only they got going for them is white skin. When they vote, they hurting themselves because the ones who are running the country, it's rich people, the ones that got money, Rockefeller, all those people. What happened was ... I'm going to tell you this, though, like the unions. The worst thing they could do is break down those unions because when I was growing up when it was all white, the unions were very strong.
Valda Prout: [01:01:00] When they accepted people of color in it, it started to break down. See, that's what I see. You know what I'm trying to say? See, the Southern belt, don't they realize they lost the war? I'm talking about the Civil War. They still haven't forgotten it.Now, I never been to the South. This is furthest south I've been, but I heard that the South is beautiful. They say it's a beautiful place to live,
Valda Prout: [01:01:30] but I don't want to go there, not yet, because I couldn't take somebody telling me, not to somebody treat me like that. I'm not comfortable. Here, I like. You understand? If I go to the South, I would be very careful. I don't want to be uncomfortable. I heard New Orleans and Georgia, I heard a lot of people, friend who went to New York went to Georgia to live there doing quite well,
Valda Prout: [01:02:00] from Boston went there, living, bought homes and things like that because it's changing. There's people don't want to let go. They want like the good old days. When I look at the good old days, I look at segregation. I look at this and that. What's the good old days? I'm going to tell you this though. The way they treated Obama, I'm talking the Republicans did,
Valda Prout: [01:02:30] I have never, never in my lifetime seen the disrespect that they had for Obama. They would never done that to George Bush, all the Republicans, nobody. That's the presidency. You may not like the man, but respect the institution that he represents. You understand what I'm trying to say?
Valda Prout: [01:03:00] I'm going to tell you the only Republican I voted for, guess who I voted for, I voted for Republican is go back some years.
Mason Funk: Richard Nixon.
Valda Prout: No, Eisenhower.
Mason Funk: I was going to say Eisenhower. That was my next guess.
Valda Prout: That's the only one I ever voted for. I voted for Kennedy because the reason why I met Kennedy. He came to Harvard. I didn't know personally, I'm talking about. I saw him out in the crowd. He had this reddish hair,
Valda Prout: [01:03:30] handsome in person, handsome. He was a senator at the time. He wasn't even running. He was a senator.
Mason Funk: Let me interrupt for a second to ask you a question because I don't want to forget. Tell me more about your son and the part about you not dressing up when he was little.
Valda Prout: Oh, that one they call his son. He always told me
Valda Prout: [01:04:00] that he had this child in New York and he was going to see him. I said to him, I said, "Brian," I said, "Don't you bring that child here." That's what I told. I said that to him. He was gone about 3 weeks and then he called me, said, "I'm coming. I got a surprise for you." I said, "I hope it's not that child." That's what I said, too. Next thing, there he was, little Byron, like that. Cutest little thing.
Valda Prout: [01:04:30] He was in diapers. I'll never forget it. That's all he had on, just a diaper. It was the summertime. He had just on the diaper. I said, "Let me go and get some diapers for him, some Pampers." No, no, he didn't have diaper. He had Pampers on. That's right. He had Pampers, so I went to go to get some Pampers. When I found how much those things cost, I said, "Oh, no. I ain't going to pay that much for no doggone Pampers,"
Valda Prout: [01:05:00] so I bought some diapers for him. I toilet trained him. He was only supposed to be there for 2 weeks. Two weeks went into a month and then Brian went to jail and I had him almost 6 months. I said, "Oh, my God." What happened was his grandmother lived in Virginia. Brian and the mother, not the baby's mother,
Valda Prout: [01:05:30] the baby's mother's in New York. They didn't get along, so I told Mary, I said, "Mary ... " I didn't know her. I forgot her last name, but I called her Mary. We've become good friends since then, but she couldn't stand me at the time. When she saw her grandson, how well I kept him, she helped me get papers for. The first papers were a letter from the mother saying she ...
Valda Prout: [01:06:00] Had to be notarized and everything else that I had this child in custody, so I could get something for the doctors, things like that. I did that, but then he went back to his mother. Then again about 6 months later, he came back to me. That's when I got him permanently. His father went to jail. His father was in and out of jail, all that kind of stuff.
Valda Prout: [01:06:30] Every time he wanted something, he wanted to take the child from me because at that time, I got attached to him. I got tired. I said, "Here I go again". I just said, "This can't do," so I went and got myself a lawyer. I got a lawyer and I explained my situation. She took my case. I still got the adoption papers up there. She helped me. It took some time.
Valda Prout: [01:07:00] When he got out of jail, I wanted him to get a lawyer. I found out where he lived. I sent him some letter. He said, "Mallory?" I said, "What?" "The lawyer, that bitch, is trying to get my child." I said, "Brian, read the papers thoroughly and call me back." Twenty minutes later,
Valda Prout: [01:07:30] "You mother." He saw my name on it. I said, "I'll see you in court." We went to court. Then he told the judge ... We saw the mediator. No, it wasn't a judge. It was mediation, his lawyer and my lawyer. He said, "Yeah, he wears a dress and all that kind of stuff." My lawyer said, "Just calm, don't say nothing, Mallory. Don't say nothing." She was telling me not to say nothing.
Valda Prout: [01:08:00] I said nothing because he was just putting me down like I wear dresses, things like that. To make a long story short, I won the case. You understand? I'm going to tell you, everything changed. It's like that's why I don't want to get married. Once you sign on the line, you're hooked. You know what I mean? Everything changed when I signed those papers. That was my child. You understand? I couldn't get rid of him or nothing like that or nothing.
Valda Prout: [01:08:30] What I did because one day he asked, "So who's that picture?" I said, "Byron, that's me." He said, "No, that's a lady." I said, "That's me, Byron." I showed him whatnot. I took him one time, he was about 4, I went to a party and I was Valda. I said, "Don't you call me uncle. You call me Auntie Valda. You call me Auntie Valda now." He said, "Okay." I'll never forget. All through the day he called me Auntie Valda. "Auntie Valda."
Valda Prout: [01:09:00] That was the last time he ever saw me in drags. That's the last time because I did not want to confuse him. I couldn't go to school looking like that. You know what I'm trying to say? I have to respect it. That's why he respects me to this day. He's not perfect. I'm going to tell you like it is. He ain't perfect, but I'm going to tell I can talk about him, but nobody else better talk about him. I still love him, but I don't like things he does. You understand? I'd rather let him go, let him live his life.
Valda Prout: [01:09:30] If he comes back, he does. If he doesn't, I still go on. That's how I look at that. I can't get rid of him because he still I'm his ex-wife. I was because I took care of his child. He was a bastard.
Mason Funk: Tell me again the story of your mom, the story that ends with her saying you were beautiful. You were beautiful [crosstalk].
Valda Prout: [01:10:00] No, what happened, I'm going to tell you that, go back to that. I had planned for this ball for months.
Mason Funk: Tell me what year this is roughly.
Valda Prout: Huh?
Mason Funk: What year, how old are you, roughly?
Valda Prout: I think I was 30. Yeah, had to be 1960, 1965, 1965. I was 30. She decides she's going to come and visit me.
Mason Funk: Tell me who.
Valda Prout: [01:10:30] My mother, she decided she was going to come and visit me. I said, "Mom," I said, "I got some plans. I'm going to a ball." She said, "Well, I want to go." I said, "But I'm not going to be me. I'm going to be somebody else." She still wanted to go, so I told her it was an evening gown affair. I told her what to wear, what to get, everything like that. I told her I'd meet her at Port Authority. Was on a Saturday. That Friday,
Valda Prout: [01:11:00] I picked her up in Port Authority. Saturday, I was getting dressed. She had a beautiful ... In those days, she had a satin, long skirt with a bugle beads top. Look, she looked nice, whatnot. I was getting dressed and everything. She'd give me a look or be looking. I'd be getting myself together. I put the wig on.
Valda Prout: [01:11:30] "Oh, that looks nice," I think. I said, "Now, mom." Oh, I also had a mink stole, a nice mink stole and I gave it to her to wear. I said, "Now, mom, I'm going to tell you now, don't you call me Mallory because I'm not going to answer you. I'm Valda." I said, "I'll answer to that, but you call me Mallory, I'm not going to say a word to you," like that. Said, "Okay." We had a beautiful time. My mother had to buy no drinks, no nothing. They treated her beautifully. They were all around her and went, "Oh, you got a ... " My mother was beautiful.
Valda Prout: [01:12:00] Even in her 60s, she looked good. She was young-looking. Then after that, we got in a cab and we got back. That Sunday, I took her to the Port Authority. We took the train then. Then I told her, "When you get home, call me." I said to her, I said, "Okay?" About 3 or 4 hours later, she called. "Oh, Mallory? I had a wonderful time and your friends were so nice to me.
Valda Prout: [01:12:30] Valda was beautiful, but I like Mallory better." That's what she said to me. I said to myself when I'm with her, I would be her son, not Valda, her son, totally, totally. I'd be her son, but when in my territory, I'm Valda. I had to separate that. You know what I'm trying to say because I'm going to tell you this.
Valda Prout: [01:13:00] The mistake that transgenders make, everybody's not going to agree with you what you are. You understand? That's okay because you still be yourself. You understand? You have respect for yourself, but also, respect your mother. You understand? That's your mother. I have never thrown anything down people's throat about this. I'm going to tell you about my brother.
Valda Prout: [01:13:30] My brother could not stand Valda. He told me don't ever come to his house looking like that. He told me that in my face. I said, "Arnell, you look to where I would never do that, no your house. I know you, but when you're in my house, I'm going to be me. I'm not going to disrespect you. If I felt this firmly, I'm not going to be in your house in the first place." You understand? That's my family. You understand?
Valda Prout: [01:14:00] You have to make some kind of adjustment unless you totally want them out of your life. I wasn't ready for that. You understand? I'm glad I didn't do that because before my brother died, he told me things we had to go through about me being gay. I never knew it. We were kids. We had all that and we all was forgiven. I'm so glad I did that before he died.
Valda Prout: [01:14:30] I'll be all right in a minute. My mother, when she was in Ohio and she was on her deathbed, I had problem paying the rent and had Byron. Byron was about 8 or 7 at the time. I had $300 and I didn't want to let go. I didn't know if I was going to be evicted or what because my rent was going up.
Valda Prout: [01:15:00] I was behind the rent and my mother didn't know and her dying. My sister called me and said, "Mallory," she said, "mother's asking for you." I told her, I said, "Oh, God." My friend who I love and can't stand, we've been friends for a long time. This was before computers. He got on the phone and got a airline ticket for both of us for $89 round trip on Southwest, but we had to go to Baltimore to get on the flight.
Valda Prout: [01:15:30] He drove me up. He drove us, Byron and I, there to Baltimore and got on that flight. My niece and my sister were there at the airport to pick me up. We drove straight to the hospital, Cleveland Hospital and they drew my sister to this room. My mother was all hooked up to the wire and she was sleeping. She opened her eyes and saw me and smiled.
Valda Prout: [01:16:00] She closed them again. I stayed there and she opened again and smiled again. The next day, she was gone. That's when I knew she loved me. She waited for me before she passed on. After she died, child, my whole life changed for the better, for the better. My rent was paid. I got money for my rent. I got a better job.
Valda Prout: [01:16:30] I've never been late for my rent since and that's been 20-something years ago. I can say I'm very blessed. Not rich, blessed. I get what I want. I pay my bills. I buy things with my credit card. I buy things I don't need. I buy it, but long as I pay for it. I told my niece when she comes in here honey, she knows where ... I tell her, "Everything you get, you take it.
Valda Prout: [01:17:00] I don't care what you do with it." You know what I mean because I'm going to live well because you don't have to have a lot of money. Like I said, you can't take it with you. You never seen a hearse with luggage on top, so what the hell are you going to do with it? These people all this money, whatnot ... That's why I like Gates and all that. They give money away. You know what I mean? That's nice. Some of them are not giving nothing to their children. They're going to earn their own money. They get a little something, but not everything. You got to earn what you got.
Valda Prout: [01:17:30] Let me tell you, hitting the numbers in the lottery, that's a blessing and a curse at the same time because I may have liked it, but I wouldn't let nobody I got it. I wouldn't let because you know who your friends are. At least I know my friends. When you get that kind of money, you'd be cuckoo. You understand?
Mason Funk: Yeah. One sec. Kate, I always give Kate time to ask some questions, too.
Valda Prout: [01:18:00] Go ahead.
Mason Funk: Kate?
Kate Kunath: How long were you in New York for?
Valda Prout: Okay. Okay. I'll give you the date and you can figure it out. I went to New York in 1959 and left in 1986.
Kate Kunath: Can you tell us a little about being at Stonewall and how ...
Valda Prout: Oh, yes. Okay. Yeah, that's important, yeah.
Kate Kunath: What it was like being there [crosstalk]?
Valda Prout: [01:18:30] Oh, the Stonewall was dingy and old-looking. It had tables. There was a jukebox. There was no like they have today. You put your nickel in there and you played the ... Who I remember the most that stands out is the Bee Gees and that guy (singing). You ever heard that song he sang? Oh, I loved. I still love.
Valda Prout: [01:19:00] He died just about a few years ago, but I still love that song. I loved the Bee Gees. That's before they were very popular for the Saturday Night Fever. I liked them before that. What I like about it, you could sit at the table and you have conversation and drink whatever you want to drink. You could hear the people talking.
Valda Prout: [01:19:30] When the disco came out, you couldn't hear no talking all the continuous music. You don't have the communication that you have when it's quiet and you're talking to somebody like you're talking to me now like that, eye contact. Today, there's no eye contact. That's what they do. You know what I'm talking about. It's sad. I don't ...
Mason Funk: Tell us more about the Stonewall though. What was it like? You said you weren't there for the [inaudible]?
Valda Prout: [01:20:00] No. I used to go to Stonewall all the time because ... Oh, the negative part about the Stonewall, the raids. That's what I didn't like. During the raid, you put yourself on the wall and you got to show your ID and all that kind of stuff. That was all so often until people kept ... It was demeaning.
Kate Kunath: Tell me about that.
Valda Prout: [01:20:30] You stand the wall. You have to stand the wall. You can't get out and then show your ID and whatnot. If you cuss them out, they'll put you in jail, so you say nothing. It's just demeaning. They never took me to jail for that. I just shut up. Oh, I tell you about something about a cop in Boston. I'm going to tell you that. It was nice. It was nice. We could talk because I was there, I think, from '60s to the '70s.
Valda Prout: [01:21:00] I didn't go all the time because I was partying hard. I didn't need to come down there. I'm going to tell you about why I have a dislike ... I don't dislike cop because I have a cousin who's a cop and she told me the stuff that she have to go through. She's black and it's not good. You understand? This institution's not good. I was in Boston. I was heading downstairs at the Park Square in Boston.
Kate Kunath: What year is this?
Valda Prout: [01:21:30] That had to be 1956 or '57. The cop arrested me and put me not in the paddy wagon, but in the back seat of the car.
Mason Funk: What did they arrest you for?
Valda Prout: It was loitering, something like that. I go straight into ... He got in the back seat with me. You understand? I thought that was kind of strange. He told me to give him a blowjob.
Valda Prout: [01:22:00] I looked at him, I said, "What?" I said, "Let me tell you something." I'm going to tell you, I said, "If you make me suck that dick, I'm going to bite it off and you're going to have to explain to the judge how your dick got into my mouth." That's what I told him. He said, "Get the fuck out of my car."
Valda Prout: [01:22:30] That's what I told him. I said, "I would bite that thing down." I said to him, "And you have to explain to the judge how your dick got into my mouth." He told me, "Get the fuck out the car."
Mason Funk: Weren't you afraid of what he might do?
Valda Prout: I was young. Listen, let me tell you something. I've been around you all about rights. You are the people you know your rights. That came off on me, too, got on me. I thought I was almost white. I wanted the same rights as you got.
Valda Prout: [01:23:00] You understand what I'm trying to say? I didn't never consider myself a second-class citizen because you ain't going to do that. I'm talking not you personally. They would never do that to you. You understand? He was not going to do it to me because you all speak up. That's what I learned. Speak up and I've never been a yes man. I'm still not that.
Valda Prout: [01:23:30] I would get a lawyer in a minute if something goes down in here that I don't like because they complain and don't do nothing.
Mason Funk: Who's they?
Valda Prout: Black people. Some, not all, not all. I have to clean that up, but those who are within that mentality. Especially Southerners, they're like that. Northern people don't play. If you're born in Boston, they don't play. They're different.
Valda Prout: [01:24:00] That's what I'm talking about. I'm going to tell you that I love DC. I love the black people. They're very nice. I'm going to tell it like it is. I wouldn't ever put it another way. They are nice because they are good people here, but the church messes them up.
Mason Funk: How so?
Valda Prout: The Black Church.
Mason Funk: Why?
Valda Prout: Because they speak that and most of the homosexuals live in the church. They're all in the choir and all that kind of stuff, but the preachers.
Valda Prout: [01:24:30] That's why I don't go to church. Now, the only church I like is this one over here, the Catholic St. Augustine. They accept everybody. The only reason why they do that because the church is predominantly white. They're white. They're open-minded. Now, it's going to change. It's going to change eventually. It's going to change because I've seen gay reverends, too. There are some churches are black that accepts blacks here, too.
Valda Prout: [01:25:00] I'm talking about the old fashioned ones, the big ones. I'm not saying that all ... They all got issues, white, black, they all got issues. Like I said before, see, if we have integrated long ago, you wouldn't have these issues today. There would not. I'm going to tell you, I went to a party and my niece, my biracial niece,
Valda Prout: [01:25:30] her daughter graduated from a college. She's going to go on get her master. I went to Ohio. That party was 50-50. She got a white boyfriend. There she is over here. There she is over there. Oh, his father was there and his stepmother was there. He look a little bit like you, the father. They were very, very nice.
Valda Prout: [01:26:00] There was about 50-50 white and 50-50 black. It was very well in Ohio, Republican town. I was surprised to see all that because my niece is colorblind because like you said, she's got a white father and black mother, but my niece, she likes black men. She's never like the color. When you look at her, she looks like she's Latino.
Valda Prout: [01:26:30] I'm going to tell you this, she don't take no mess. She don't even take it from me.
Mason Funk: I have 2 more questions for you to finish up because we're going to have to finish up. If you're talking to a young person who's about to come out, whether it's gay or lesbian or trans or bisexual, who's about to take the leap out of the closet, what advice do you give that person?
Valda Prout: [01:27:00] Don't dwell on the past. If you want to be accepted, you have to accept yourself, who you are. You're not going to make everybody like you, but the most important thing is to like who you are. That will go a long way because you can't change people's minds. You know what I'm trying to say, to like you, you can't change that. You have to. It took me a long time to learn that, too, because you do worry about who people think of you because we all do. I don't care who you are.
Valda Prout: [01:27:30] It comes to a point in your life that you have to start liking who you are to live, to be comfortable in your skin and to accept who you are. It's not easy. It's not a easy task. I'm not saying I could say it, but it takes a constant working on yourself. I haven't got like this overnight because nobody was more insecure than me. You understand what I'm trying to say?
Valda Prout: [01:28:00] It took my niece ... My niece always knew. I trained her when she was little about that. She's very comfortable around gay and her children are, too. The thing is see, the reason why people like me because I don't lie to them. I am what I am. You understand? I like me and that's important. That's the key. You got to like who you are regardless, with the pussy, without it.
Mason Funk: [01:28:30] What gives you hope for the future?
Valda Prout: The young people because the only sad thing, they don't know the history, black or white. They don't know the history because if you don't know your history, you're going to repeat it. We are living in dangerous times right now. This election, if she's just a one-term person, it's very important, very important because I don't think I'll live to see her do a second.
Valda Prout: [01:29:00] I don't know. I'm not saying a doomsday. I'm just saying I don't know. I hope to live a long time, but the Supreme Court is not going to matter to me. You know what I'm trying to say? You, who are going to live a long life, you know what I'm talking, that's going to be very important to you. If you don't get out there and vote and convince the other people, think about the Supreme Court. Oh, I don't like Hillary.
Valda Prout: [01:29:30] I don't like this. She could be the biggest liar in the world, but Trump, he lies, too. They all lie. It's how you lie. You understand?
Valda Prout: Those emails, damn emails. I don't put nothing on that dumb thing that going to bite me in the back later. Be careful what you put on tweet, whatever you call that damn thing. Be careful because it's come up and bite your ass. You can't put everything you feel on that. That's what I say. Be careful what you put on tweet, Twitter. That's all.
Mason Funk: [01:30:00] Okay.
Valda Prout: Am I right or wrong?
Mason Funk: You're right, right as rain.
Valda Prout: That's all.
Mason Funk: All right. We have to stop.
Valda Prout: That's good. I'm tired of talking.
Mason Funk: Yup. You talked up a storm, though.
Valda Prout: Did I say anything useful for you? I hope so.
Mason Funk: I have one more question. Give me a real short answer why is it important to you to tell your story?
Valda Prout: [01:30:30] I think to help somebody else that it's not easy to go through your life, that this soon will pass. Most important when you're young won't give a damn when you're old. You understand because when you're young, you want everybody to like you. You want to be accepted. I'm going to say this. You're going to take this out. The most beautiful gift is death. You hear what I said?
Valda Prout: [01:31:00] All that mess is going to die out. The people don't like you, they're going to be gone. You understand? Your beauty's going to fade and what you got left is you. Now you got a choice to go with them or live and be comfortable in your old age. Put things around you that you can remember. You know what I mean? You got lovers, put them up there and say, "I used to ... Oh, he was so nice." Actually, I got pictures of all my lovers.
Valda Prout: [01:31:30] I look at oh, he was fine. He was this. I got one here that he was ... Who was that? Oh, wait a minute. Oh, I don't see it over here. I don't see it. I don't see it. Okay. It's too late now. Oh, let me show you this before you go. Oh, no. Pass that book over there.
Mason Funk: This book right here?
Valda Prout: No.
Mason Funk: This one?
Valda Prout: That one, yeah. Mm-hmm (affirmative). What I'm trying to do, this is my whole life. Oh, God.
Mason Funk: [01:32:00] Oh, wow. Wow. Oh, my gosh.
Valda Prout: When I look at those pictures, I say, "I lived." There's this picture called Auntie Mame.
Mason Funk: Just tell us and talk about it.
Valda Prout: In Auntie Mame, Miss Gooch. She was a plain Jane and they dressed her up. She went to a party and she said to Auntie, "I live." I lived.
Valda Prout: [01:32:30] I had some nice men in my life and I'm at the age now I got just one man. He's the last of the Mohicans. He'll be 54 Monday. I had the best of him. I'm talking about his youth. Now, he's a middle-aged man. I still like him. I'm going to tell you, I would never look at a man in their 40s or 50s.
Valda Prout: [01:33:00] They had to be 20 and 30. Now here I'm laying out with one and I laid up with him when he was 20, 30, 40, and 50. Four more years hell be 60. If he's around, I'll still be laying out with him. Now, you told me I'd be laying out with an old man, child, I'd say, "You're out of your mind."
Mason Funk: All right.
Valda Prout: [01:33:30] Because we like youth. We like them young. We like them like that, but see, it comes to a time you have to say, "No, you can't do that no more," because I don't want to look like a Mae West because when Mae West got old, child, she was old. She still had that ... Oh, there's a lady on TV, New York. I forgot her name. She's in her 90. She's a old lady. She was fabulous. I saw her on documentary.
Valda Prout: [01:34:00] She was fabulous, big jewelry. That's what I want to do, big, outlandish stuff when I get ... If I live to my 90, I'm going to be outlandish. That's what I want to do. When I go to the balls and things like that, I just want to look big as ... That's what I want to do.
Kate Kunath: Do you still like to dress up and go out?
Valda Prout: Listen, I don't dress up unless I got somewhere to go, somewhere to go. If I'm going to a meeting or ball like that, that's what I do.
Valda Prout: [01:34:30] I do that because that's Valda, but this is a lot of work. Then another thing too, I'm not satisfied with what I look like today, I mean now, because I don't feel ... When I knew I was looking good, I knew it. I was very happy with it. Now, since I'm 81, I just, but I did this because the reason why because your friend met Valda. He didn't meet Mallory.
Valda Prout: [01:35:00] He met Valda, so that's what I did. When you leave, I'm taking this off and be myself.

Interviewed by: Mason Funk
Camera: Kate Kunath
Date: August 06, 2016
Location: Home of Valda Prout, Washington, D.C.