Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Lessons From Drag Queens

I love drag shows.  I love drag queens.  I love anyone with a in-your-face this is who I am if you don't like it go stuff it attitude, particularly if said individual is also covered in glitter at the time.

My first exposure to drag queens was when I lived in Key West, and like many things, that first impression has stuck as the "proper" one.  In Key West drag queens came in all sizes and shapes, but all were over 6 feet tall in their shoes.  They all had choreographed routines they knew to the letter, fabulous hair, clothes, platform heels, and perfectly applied makeup, including extremely glittery lips.  When I was dating,my favorite New Boyfriend Test was a trip to the 801 bar.  If he couldn't hang with drag queens, he wasn't the one for me.  I also loved the role reversal of straight boys being sexually harassed by drunk men, but that's a separate story.

I had the good fortune of obtaining a drag queen roommate in Key West, who explained many of the mysteries of Drag to me.  Beverly explained the range of boob choices, why platform heels were a must, where to buy the best corsets, and how to pick a proper wig.  They only thing she refused to tell me was how to tuck. (If you don't know what I am talking about here, you'll have to do some googling on your own.)

I saw my next Drag Show in Chicago, and I was let down.  Many of the girls had condescending, scornful attitudes and breast implants.  They were unapproachable, unfriendly, and somewhat alien.  They made me miss my Key West girls tremendously.

Fast forward to this past weekend, when I had the rare fortune of attending a drag show in western Pennsylvania. These girls were amateur.  They had cheap clothes, bad wigs, and no one had a heel over 3 inches, but they were impeccably made up.  They were queen-sized girls - by that I mean the large, curvy variety, ranging in size from a pleasantly curvy size 8 to one whose thighs were larger than my waist.  And they did cartwheels.

These girls lip-synced their hearts out, dancing, doing splits, and, yes, doing cartwheels, some of them one handed.  Now, I am in reasonably good shape, and on the rare occasion that I do a cartwheel (in the grass, not a tile dance floor) it hurts.  It hurts my wrist bones. It jars all my joints when I land.  I don't think I could ever possibly consider doing one in heels of any height. You had to give these girls mad props.

Now, as I have mentioned before, I was raised by lesbians. (someone once pointed out that this phrasing is similar to "raised by wolves" but I like it.) I have some experience -- ok, a lot of experience -- with public ridicule.  I know what it is like to be called Lezzie for years on end and having rocks (ok, one rock) thrown through your window.  I know what it is like to be singled out due to sexuality, even though it was not my own. It made me want to curl into a ball and hide in the bushes, hoping to be swallowed up by the earth.  It did not make me want to do cartwheels or fiercely defy everyone who said I wasn't good enough.  I only wish I could have the courage of a drag queen.

Lessons learned:
Be yourself and be LOUD.
If you are not society's ideal of beauty, still know that YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL.
When people oppress you and say you are not right, not proper, not acceptable, DO CARTWHEELS.

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