It’s clear that onstage is where Jessica Dimon feels most comfortable. On a recent Friday night, she struts through Northside’s Club Nonta, lip-synching to a Ke$ha/P!nk/ Katy Perry mix, pausing to snatch dollars from admirers lining the periphery of her performance area. She rocks a tight, black bedazzled jumpsuit that skims one shoulder, and big blonde and caramel-colored barrel curls spill out of the top of her head.
At this show everyone’s addressed as “bitches” and commanded to make noise for the other drag queens on the night’s lineup. Although she’ll share the stage with the other girls, this is her show, and honey, you’ll know it by night’s end.
Rewind three days and Dimon’s in jeans, a fitted halter and thick, dark-framed glasses. Her hair: blonde, shoulder length, tousled; nails: long, fuchsia. Spoken softly but at a fast pace she divulges personal and family history like it’s anyone’s business.
If you didn’t know any better, you’d probably guess you were having a conversation with a biologically born woman, not the transgender 28-year-old who has become one of Cincinnati’s most beloved drag queens.
Because she loves to cook, take care of family, dress up and “feel pretty,” Dimon considers herself an old-fashioned girly girl. But because she wants it all — to balance a family, a job and a hot career in entertainment — and has found a way to have it all, she encapsulates the increasing complexity of modern women.
“When I first came out, I knew there was something [still] different about me,” says Dimon. “I knew I wasn’t just a typical gay boy.”
From the start she began dressing in drag, going out to clubs and receiving lots of attention, which sparked something: “I never got hit on as a boy, ever. When I was a girl I would get all kinds of attention from guys, and even from women. So immediately I knew what made me more happy.”
Yet from the time she was 18 until she was 27, she went back and forth between genders three times. In 2008, Dimon began her female transition. Hormones, laser hair removal and breast implants followed, thus ushering her into permanent life as a woman. Except for one detail: her penis, which she loves and is keeping.
“Most transgender people I know don’t like [their penis] and they want to get it cut off. I never had that thought; I just knew that I identified as a female,” says Dimon. “That’s the most crazy thing about me: Most people think I want to have that surgery [vaginoplasty], but I probably will never have it.”
Not only is Dimon an in-demand entertainer with a regular weekly show at Nonta and a passionate and loyal following, she’s also a working wife and mother.
Tradition plays a major part in Dimon’s domestic routine. Most of her week is dedicated to her boyfriend of eight and a half years — which translates to being married in the gay world, she says — and his 12-year-old son. At least three nights a week she cooks big, Southernstyle dinners for the three of them, and on any given weeknight, when she’s not waiting tables in Newport, they can all be found walking their dogs, eating dessert and watching TV. Perhaps it’s because she began helping raise this child when he was 3 that she demands he have a normal life, but perhaps it’s also because growing up her own life was anything but.
Home life for Jesse, as she was known, was stricken with poverty and included a father who was in and out of prison. One of three siblings raised by a single mother, Dimon experienced situations bound to leave an impression on a kid: eating at a soup kitchen; pretending to find bugs in food at restaurants to get free meals; and on one occasion standing in front of a Kroger panhandling for Christmas dinner money.
Yet it was her mother’s strife that has made her a role model in Dimon’s eyes. “My mom is my hero,” she says. “I watched her struggle and have to do certain things to make sure we were happy, and as a kid you don’t realize that’s what’s really going on.”
Dimon’s aim as an entertainer is to provide guidance to young people struggling with their own sexuality or gender identity. Being in the limelight is an excellent vehicle for this type of outreach, and tenacious self-promotion via social networking has certainly put her there.
She tried to maintain a video blog to field questions about resources for transsexuals, which are hard to come by, she says, but gave it up after she had answered the same question — how to hide facial hair — over and again. (Answer: laser hair removal and hormones to soften the skin.) Helpfulness is her intent, however.
Maybe a confused teenager will see her on TV someday and come to terms with himself because of her story, she muses. “To somehow answer a question for him, so that he doesn’t commit suicide or go through depression. If I could just change one person like that, I would be happy.”
So it comes as no surprise that in March Dimon auditioned for season 12 of CBS’ reality TV show Big Brother. Although she coyly revealed that she can’t say whether she’s heard about results, we’ll find out in June if she’s been chosen as a house guest. But she’s no stranger to reality TV, having also placed as a cast finalist in the first season of RuPaul’s Drag Race, the Logo Network’s search for “America’s next drag superstar.”
“Big Brother’s main question was why do I want to be [on the show],” Dimon says. “My answer was something I thought the casting director wouldn’t forget: I am a stepmother, a girlfriend of eight-and-a-half years. I am not an escort or a drug user. I don’t drink or smoke. I am something different, something America needs [in order] to show that transsexuals are normal too. We’re not just ladies of the night.”
Fortunately, the nights are kind to Dimon. Everyone at Nonta appears to be there for her during the drag show, which she rewards with shout outs and photo ops.
She’s been getting ready for this night for at least three hours, but she’s spent the last two years getting ready for this point in her life. That said, she doesn’t take any of it too seriously. The “Networking” field on her Myspace page says it best: “LOL I AM A DRAGQUEEN.”
Find out where Jessica Dimon is performing next at facebook.com/JESSICADIMON.