To Todd Savage:
I am writing in response to your article "Requiem for a Teenage Cross-Dresser" [May 20]. Thank you so much for writing such an accurate account of the life--and death--of Quona Clark. My friendship with Quona was casual enough so that I heard about her death through hearsay, but long enough that I can reassure you that you captured the whole Quona experience perfectly. Quona really was an exuberant, radiantly obnoxious person.
I met Quona one night in late 1991 through a mutual friend. Quona was wearing a white shirt and black overalls, and she had extensions. She spoke in a man's voice at first, but later on that night she used the sexy woman's voice on me and blew my heterosexual mind. I was 18 at the time--she must have been 17--I can remember thinking how strange she was.
I ran into her again in the 1992 spring semester at Truman College. Her extensions were gone, and she dressed like a boy. I went up to her and said, "Hey, aren't you Quona?" After reminding her who I was, she remembered that crazy night and we talked awhile.
After that second meeting, we would hang out between classes. I was taking all of my classes on the third floor, and Quona was taking a general drawing class. She and I would bullshit all the time, and then ride the trains and go out for coffee. She was very loud, and I was often embarrassed by her. I can remember getting pissed off at her for telling me I wasn't putting my powder on my face the right way. She said, "You are supposed to pat it on, you don't smear it!" I just gave her a look like, hey! who's the real girl here?! But there really was something about Quona that forced you to submit to her hilarity.
At the time we were hanging out, I was assistant editor of the Truman Word. Quona knew about that, and she told me that Horizons was looking for an editor. I told her that I wasn't gay, but she said it didn't matter, so I went with her to Horizons on a few Wednesdays, and assistant-edited one of the Horizons newsletters. It was like a doubled-edged sword. I was not gay, but was volunteering for this position where the usual heterosexual indifference did not suffice. I think I actually said something to the other editors to the effect of, "I'm not gay, but I can sympathize." I don't think I even realized how shitty that must have sounded.
Anyway, I kind of blew off the Horizons assistant editor volunteer job to finish up a rather difficult semester at Truman, and after that I didn't see much of Quona anymore. She came on so goddamned strong that I could see her one day of a week and have my fill of her for two weeks. The last I heard of her was that she was bludgeoned to death in a hotel room.
The shock of learning that Quona actually died of pneumonia was a relief to me; for a long, long time I thought she left this world in terrible pain when in fact she was very sick. It's fucking tragic that such a young person should die, but even more tragic that she should die believing that nothing was wrong with her health. Maybe that kind of oblivion is comforting, but to me it is disturbing.
The wonder of your article is that it takes the reader in, tells them all about this young, almost unreal person who just seemed to mystify everyone, and then you wrap it up with the very real end of her life.
I can recall many things about Quona, and I know that a lot of other people do as well. Thanks to you, hordes of people who never got to know Quona the person have read about her, and have gotten a taste of the true, fabulous Quona. Perhaps the other readers have also gleaned from your article the overall message that I did: the incredible urgency of life.
Diane K. Stojentin