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Sherri Wright spent sixty-six years of her life as a man but in 2005 was approved for a loan for 15,000 dollars. Six months later she was on a flight to Bangkok, Thailand for her corrective surgery.

PHOTOS TESS FREEMAN

ven at the age of five, Sherri Wright knew she was in the wrong body. Her feminine mind didn’t fit her masculine figure. She would try on her sister’s dresses, feeling comfortable yet guilty. Growing up in the 1940s and 50s, she never knew where to go or who to turn to for support. But then in 1974, a friend introduced Wright to square dancing. For decades, Wright had been searching for her religion, and she found it on the parquet. The dance floor became a safe space where she could shed her insecurities as a woman trapped inside a man’s body and enjoy a social life. Despite the happiness dancing brought, Wright was still uncomfortable. She worked as a welder and industrial mechanic for thirtyfive years and knew she couldn’t transition to womanhood in the middle of her career. She had seen other transgender friends go through the expensive surgery just to end up on the streets because they couldn’t return to their regular jobs and support themselves. Following her retirement, Wright flew to Bangkok, Thailand for the corrective surgery and peace of mind she had hoped for ever since she was a five-year-old boy trying on her sister’s dresses. On January 26, 2006, the day she now calls her second birthday, Wright became a woman. She was sixty-six years old. “It’s been a lifetime of transitioning,” she says. Wright joined the Single Trees Dance Club in Springfield, Oregon as a confused man in slacks. Now, she do-si-dos every week as a confident woman, her billowy skirt swirling with every turn.

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RIGHT: Each year, square dancing clubs from across the state hold a winter festival and summer festival. With the high cost of gas Wright can’t afford to travel long distance, but keeps a few outfits in her car for old times sake.BOTTOM: Wright shops at St. Vincent De Paul in order to find cheap miscellaneous parts that she can later use for home improvement or in one of her many projects.

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LEFT: Sherri Wright now lives in Veneta, Oregon, with her dog Molly. She spends most of her days doing yard work and working on welding projects. BOTTOM: Wright grew up in the 40’s and 50’s where there was little support for transgenders. “I could have been very easily gone the wrong way if it hadn’t been for square dancing,” Wright says. “It turned my life around.”

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Wright grew up in the 40’s and 50’s where there was little support for transgenders. “I could have been very easily gone the wrong way if it hadn’t been for square dancing,” Wright says. “It turned my life around.”

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RIGHT: “I didn’t know what was wrong with me, but I couldn’t leave my sister’s dresses alone,” says Wright. BOTTOM: Wright is one of the most enthusiastic dancers on the floor. “When I get out there I just forget about everything and I just float. I am 71 and I out-dance everybody,” she says.

Dancers organize into squares of eight people at the beginning of each dance. The Single Trees Square Dance Club introduced a rule where a person could not leave a dance square after they had joined in order to erase any hostility towards Wright.

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Just One of the Girls  

This is a piece I designed for Flux Magazine

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