Douglas native Larry “Sissy” Goodwin gained national renown for his stubborn individuality. The Vietnam veteran, former rodeo cowboy, former aircraft mechanic and Casper College professor liked to wear women’s clothing. His style tended toward pastel blouses, frilly petticoats and feminine purses.
Such fashion preferences littered his life with challenges — Goodwin was kicked out of restaurants, called ugly names and beaten up over the years. Despite that, he persevered, usually with a bow in his hair and Vickie, his wife of 51 years, at his side.
Along the way, he gained fans around the state for his dogged determination to be himself, becoming a bit of a Wyoming celebrity.
Goodwin passed away on March 7 after succumbing to stage-four brain cancer. In the wake of his death, friends, neighbors and fans across the state have celebrated a man described as one in a million.
“The guy was a true hero,” said photographer Mike Vanata, who interviewed and shot portraits of Goodwin after meeting him in 2017. “Sissy believed in the natural truth of who he was. We should all hold that as an example to ourselves.”
Vickie Goodwin said that most people focus their admiration on her late-husband’s refusal to blend in for the sake of being accepted.
“So many people have said, ‘you know, he changed my life,’” she said.
That was just one of his remarkable traits, she pointed out. He was a loving husband, a devoted father, a thoughtful neighbor and selfless friend. He shoveled elderly neighbors’ sidewalks, listened to his students at Casper College and had many friends.
Larry James Goodwin was born in 1946 in Douglas. He started secretly dressing in girls clothes when he was young, and began wearing skirts and blouses in public in the early ‘70s. He told Vickie about his preference when they were engaged. He recounted later that while it wasn’t easy news for her, she accepted him.
In a Storycorp interview from 2015, Vickie said to him, “I love the person that I have become because of you.”
“You didn’t know you was marrying a fashion horse did you?” he asked.
“I didn’t know that I was marrying someone who was going to take up two-thirds of the closet,” she responded.
When he was a student at the University of Wyoming in the early ‘70s, a woman called him a “sissy” one day as an epithet. He later recounted that he thought that was pretty appropriate, and embraced it. The nickname stuck.
After serving in Vietnam and working as an aircraft mechanic, Goodwin, who enjoyed golf and grilling, went on to teach science at Casper College. His students once wore pink hair ribbons and shirts in a show of support.
It wasn’t the only time Wyomingites rallied around Goodwin.
In 2017, Goodwin made headlines after comments by U.S. Sen. Mike Enzi sparked outrage.
During a conversation in Greybull, Enzi was recorded as saying, “I know a guy that wears a tutu and goes to the bars on Friday night and is always surprised that he gets in fights. Well, he kind of asks for it a little bit. That’s the way he winds up with that kind of problem.”
In response to the outcry that ensued, Enzi said he wasn’t specifically talking about Goodwin, but called him to apologize nonetheless.
That incident prompted groups throughout the state to create fundraisers, parties and events known collectively as “Live and Let Tutu” in support of diversity. The Goodwins were guests of honor at the Laramie event.
Vickie Goodwin says dealing with the response to Sissy’s appearance wasn’t always easy for either of them.
“There were negatives, and sometimes you tend to think about the negatives,” she said. But the wave of love and support that has flooded in from all kinds of people during his sickness and passing, she said, outweighs those. “It’s been amazing.”
She is planning a celebration of his “wild, wacky” life on July 2 in Casper.