No Cha Cha Heels for Christmas but Fetcho says “It Gets Better”
To finish off the year, SFGN would not be complete without a word from Ray Fetcho (aka Tiny Tina). Fetcho, as you recall, fell into a misfortune 30 years in the making when he was suddenly dismissed from his employment taking good care of the elderly. The reason for Fetcho’s dismissal was rooted in an exaggerated arrest record from 1976 – the result of a police raid on a popular gay nightclub, The Copa.
When The Copa was raided during a “wet jockey shorts contest” in ’76, it was against the backdrop of an extreme campaign to criminalize homosexuality in Anita Bryant’s Florida – an era which is hopefully a little different from today’s Sunshine State. After all, you can see worse things than wet jockey shorts on prime-time television now.
At least that must be the way most people saw it when Attorneys Russell Cormican and Norm Kent (SFGN’s Publisher) secured a speedy exemption from the State of Florida’s Board of Nursing which would have allowed Fetcho to return to work.
Then, in early June of 2010, it began to appear that Fetcho’s bad luck was only getting started. As one door opened, another slammed shut and Fetcho’s diabetes gave way to major surgery whereupon his left leg was amputated below the knee.
It was at this juncture that many members of our community, including but not limited to SFGN, Kent & Cormican, The Manor Nightclub, Robert Trout and Nikki Adams were all expressing concern. Trout, for example, noted that Fetcho fell into a category where he could not receive Medicare. Medicare recipients must be age 65 upon retirement or be legally married to someone who is.
Eventually, a benefit was thrown and many tidings of encouragement were offered. That was back in June. “But I am not one to live in the past,” says Fetcho, “I live in the now.”
It seems that his stage presence has been retired for the time being but Fetcho has not given up on the moniker. He expresses his gratitude for all the support and encouragement he has been given and signs all of his correspondence with “Love Ya, Tiny Tina”.
“I don’t really foresee any performances in the near future, but I am able to walk with my new leg and getting better every day. I also had my car converted so I can drive using a left-side gas pedal.”
Fetcho relies for now on Social Security Disability but has not given up on the idea of nursing. “I may work at it part-time in the future,” he says. “I am under the doctor’s care myself. My general health is doing well and my mental health offers some bad days but not enough for me to worry about them.”
When he refers to his mental health, Fetcho is talking mostly about the turbulent angst that comes from suddenly not being able to utilize a limb. “I can go to the mall and I do some volunteer work with kids but I have to sit down a lot quicker. I have to re-learn everything just to function at 50% of the old me. I hope this New Year will bring me up to 75%.”
Recalling the past but not living in it, Fetcho indicates that Florida is, in fact, different than it was in 1976. “You know back then, gay life was difficult. As a female impersonator, I had to apply for an Identification that clearly stated my gender and I was forced by law to wear at least 3 items of male gender-specific attire at all times,” he laments.
“It’s ok to be gay now. It wasn’t before. Today we have not just gay bars, but gay cities and gay politicians. We can be honest with each other today. If there’s a way to sum it all up, I’d have to go with that phrase… It Gets Better.”