You don’t have to be a man in a dress to be a drag queen.
For the last four years, I’ve stood side by side with some of the most talented drag professionals in the business, giggling over dirty jokes and cocktails as we prepare for our weekly drag show. Despite, or perhaps because of, my female genitalia, my sisters in drag accept me lovingly into their circle, sharing tips, sharing costumes, and, if the size is right, even sharing shoes in order to lift each other up into the array of hot stage lights to perform to an eager crowd that is often standing-room only. It’s the truest form of sisterhood and female camaraderie I’ve ever found in my life – and most of them are dudes.
Our little show, the biggest of its kind in Alaska, features drag queens (men impersonating females), drag kings (women impersonating men), a couple transgendered performers who are making the slow and often heart wrenching transition to the gender they should have been born with, a few gay performers who sing live, and myself – the show’s only genetic female drag queen. I also sing live. I’m not the first “real lady” drag queen our variety show has seen. The way was paved for me by our previous show hostess, a ballsy singer with a “don’t fuck with me” attitude and a shoe collection to die for.
I found myself alone at Mad Myrna’s, Alaska’s biggest gay cabaret and nightclub, exactly two weeks after my divorce was finalized. I had married my first boyfriend after an impossibly trite high school romance at the much-too-young age of 18, filled with the sort of hopeful nonsense that love is all you need. After 6 years, it turned out we both needed much more than that, and called it quits.
After I left my husband, I moved in with a crazy (in a good way) broad I’d found looking for a roommate on Craigslist. We were at least 20 years apart in age, and her dog desperately wanted to be friends with my two cats, who spent most of their time moping in bed with me while I tortured myself with romantic comedies.
But Alaska is a weird place, and if you don’t get out of your house in the wintertime, you can go legitimately insane. With only 2 or 3 shreds of self-esteem to my name, I wasn’t ready to go into straight bars and face rejection and judgment from men who couldn’t possibly be attracted to a 25 year-old, overweight divorcee, but I did somehow find the strength to put on my favorite jeans, a pair of heels, a low-cut black shirt, and head to the gay bar. Alone. On a Friday. What the hell?
I’d never been to a drag show before. I knew what a drag queen was, obviously, but I’d never seen what happens after the dude looks like a lady. There was so much energy, talent, charisma, and glitter on that stage, and I was completely hypnotized. Having been a bit of a theater geek my entire life, I coveted the spotlight. I wanted to be up there, glamorous and beautiful. I wanted people to cheer for me. I wanted that applause.
I wanted to be a drag queen.