I am afraid of only two things in this world: Birds and Drag Queens*. I have always been afraid of birds, for well documented reasons. My fear of Drag Queens is slightly more complicated.
In college, my school put on a production of Rocky Horror. I was not in it, being so desperately needed elsewhere to play a ship. The director, in an attempt to drum up local interest, scheduled the cast to open for a local drag show. In an effort to support our esteemed friends and classmates, Gigi and I headed out to the first club to enjoy a “Time Warp” preview.
The club was packed in anticipation of the main event, so we had to split up. At the end of the showcase, I tried to text Gigi so we could gracefully leave without disturbing everyone waiting for the fierceness to begin. Out of nowhere, a six foot plus glamazon appeared and grabbed my phone out of my hands, shoving it into her realistic-looking bosom and strutting back up to the stage. After an admittedly brilliantly lip-synched opening number, I finally convinced her to return my sweet Motorola Razr (pink, obviously). Livid at my insouciance, she yelled at me for wanting to leave and literally chased me out of the club.
This queen was more glamorous than I could ever hope to be. She was also actually a man and could have kicked my ass all the way to Sunday. Terrifying. While I still loved To Wong Fu, Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar; Priscilla, Queen of the Desert; and always cry when Angel dies in Rent, my love was tempered by a lingering phobia. I had been shunned and shamed.
But recently, I looked inside of myself and decided to begin exposure therapy through my latest reality TV obsession, RuPaul’s Drag Race. It’s a show devoted to men who dress up as the women we all wish we could be. I love the silly challenges. I love the make-up and dresses. And I LOVE the aftershow, Untucked, where they all drink cocktails and wait to find out who will go home and fight. (The fights are amazing. Insults like “Go back to Party City where you belong!“, “This is called Drag Race, not Drag Walk.”, and “She was going for ‘Sex and the City’ and it was more like ‘sex in the alley.’ ” inspire me to be a better person.)
The therapy is working. Drag Race has helped demystify a terrifyingly glittery world. These men don’t necessarily fit in at every Starbucks in Ohio. They are people who appreciate fantasy and camp and big hair. They are a lot like me. They can just walk better in heels.
*Drag Queens are (mostly) gay men who dress up as women for entertainment. Transgender individuals feel that they were born as the wrong sex and take the necessary (often painful) steps to take on the identity they feel they are inside. I’m sure there is some overlap, but they are two distinct definitions.