Give it to me straight: Life is a real drag
by Colleen Crinklaw-Bailey
Sexuality, gender: it’s a lot more fluid than simply “straight” and “gay.” It’s the mask we wear to the world, the walls we put up and the image we care so much about that is the real Drag — and when we put it on, we are fabulous.
It’s almost funny to me when I think about it – if I had stayed married, this December I would have celebrated my tenth wedding anniversary. I was married far too young — at age 18 — to my first boyfriend — stupid. We slowly grew apart as we grew up, and after 5 years we were both ready to call it quits. Our divorce was final shortly after our sixth anniversary, and the day before my 25th birthday. I rang in the new year with friends, and ended up at Mad Myrna’s for the third time in my life at last call.
A few days later, I ventured into the bar again, this time by myself. I don’t know what made me do it, but something within me said that it was time to get out of bed with my movies and my cats and start figuring out what to do with my life now that I was single. I ended up watching the drag show, meeting a couple of people, and singing karaoke with them after. I felt comfortable there, like no one was judging me on my failed marriage or inability to follow fashion trends. Before long, it became my regular hangout, and as my confidence grew I began to discover the fabulous woman inside who had been smothered for the entirety of my marriage.
I was talking to my mom one night and told her I was thinking about auditioning for the drag show at the gay bar. Her reaction was more confused than anything else — “How can you be in a drag show? You’re not a gay man.” I explained to her that there was more to the drag show than just drag queens — there were singers, dancers, drag kings occasionally, and that the audience was a pretty decent blend of straight people and gay people. She supported me, as she does in all my endeavors, no matter how off the wall, but I’m sure inside she was doing the math:
Youngest daughter marries first boyfriend. Youngest daughter divorces first boyfriend. Youngest daughter starts hanging out at gay bar. Youngest daughter wants to be in a drag show in a gay bar. Youngest daughter is probably gay.
The discovery of my sexuality was a long process. I never questioned things before — I was married, to a man, and that meant I was straight. But the more I spent time in the gay community, the more I realized that sexuality is far more fluid than that. Identity is far more fluid than that. I’ve gone on dates with girls to find that I wasn’t into them — not because they are women, but because I knew they weren’t right for me. The ideals of gender and sexuality that I grew up with began to melt together into a sort of tie-died mess of things that was confusing and exciting, all at the same time.
I watched a friend transform from a young, scared, confused lesbian into a strong man who takes charge of his life. I watched another friend paint a beard on for the first time and discover her creative side as a drag king. I discovered myself when I painted my face with glitter and hit the stage lights in a packed house. I lived with a drag queen and saw the person behind the makeup in a way no one else ever will.
Sexuality, identity, and the way we pursue our happiness are fluid concepts that melt into each other. It is the mask we wear to the world, the walls we put up and the image we care so much about that is the real Drag. We are all drag queens and drag kings, playing our parts for a million little stages.
And we are fabulous.