Sissy Goodwin hears the question all the time: Why stay here?
The Air Force veteran, former power plant technician and retired Casper educator feels the most in dresses and knots in his hair.
And gender diversity isn’t exactly accepted in Wyoming, Sissy told her audience. The self-described transvestite and his family have faced harassment, violence and discrimination simply because of the way he dresses.
They considered walking away just to escape the brutality.
But they didn’t. Staying is his family’s way of pushing Wyoming to grow, Sissy said — and a way of making more room for people like him.
“So why do we live in Wyoming?” he asked, pausing for a moment. “I guess we’re just being stubborn.”
Sissy’s style of dress has made him a reluctant celebrity, both in Wyoming and across the country. It would eventually make headlines in outlets like the Washington Post, LA Times, and NPR.
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He and his wife, Vicki, have used the attention on as a platform to advocate for LGBTQ rights. People were drawn to his confidence, his sense of humor and the eloquent way he spoke about the world.
Larry “Sissy” Goodwin passed away in March 2020, after a battle with cancer.
“A Sissy in Wyoming,” a play by Los Angeles writer Gregory Hinton, seeks to delve deeper into Sissy’s life, his journey to self-acceptance, and his wife Vickie, who has supported him throughout. .
Sissy’s story is fundamentally a love story, Hinton said during a Saturday reading of the play at Casper College. A happy one, what’s more.
This is what prompted Hinton to write about him. Hinton, who grew up in Cody, has dedicated her career to writing plays about LGBTQ life in the rural West. Too often, Hinton said these stories didn’t have happy endings.
“A Sissy in Wyoming” is written from Sissy’s point of view.
Speaking to the public, he reflects on everything from his upbringing in rural Wyoming to his decision to start cross-dressing in public in the 1970s, to the resilience he and his family have found in the face of the backlash from the audience.
This resilience is part of the reason he decided to call himself “Sissy”. “Sissy” is a slur intended to demean people who challenge traditional male roles, especially gay and bisexual men and transgender women. Sissy adopted the term as her name in order to reclaim it.
Hinton did not have the chance to meet Sissy before her death.
Instead, the piece is based on more than 20 hours of interviews the American Heritage Center at the University of Wyoming recorded with Vickie. The center curates oral histories of LGBTQ stories for “Out West in the Rockies,” a collection that Hinton helped start in 2015.
It was through these interviews that Hinton was able to capture Sissy’s dry sense of humor, bravery and deepest anxieties, beliefs and aspirations.
Hinton also hosted readings of the play in Cheyenne, Sheridan, Cody, Jackson, Rock Springs, Riverton, and Douglas as part of a tour sponsored by the American Heritage Center, Wyoming Humanities Council, and other organizations in State.
In a chat after Saturday’s reading at Casper, Hinton said he hoped to take “A Sissy In Wyoming” nationwide. When the time is right, he would like it to be performed as a real play.
A 30-year HIV survivor, Hinton knows how often LGBTQ stories are ignored, erased and ignored.
Before the late 1990s, when HIV treatment became widely available, tens of thousands of Americans died from the virus each year, according to data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The majority of them were LGBTQ people.
At the time, few people were interested in preserving their memories. Anything HIV-positive patients left behind — whether love letters, diaries, photographs — was often thrown away, Hinton said.
“We lost a lot of commemoration of our lives during this time because so many of us died,” he said.
Anyone with a story to share is encouraged to get in touch with the American Heritage Center, Leslie Waggener, who recorded Vicki’s oral history, said Saturday.
“If you know anyone you think is someone we should contact, I’m happy to do so,” she said.