Close to a year ago I moved to the Philadelphia area, leaving behind my college life in Boston. On a mid-summer evening around that time, I was walking in Center City Philadelphia wearing jeans and a tee shirt (a nautical Jean-Paul Gautier piece to be precise) when someone walked past me and loudly muttered “Faggot.”
It took me a second to register the passerby’s statement, but before I even had a second to digest the morbid moment, two guys in a sedan drove past, also throwing “Faggot” at me. Their words dripped in hate and hit me like a ton of bricks.
I hadn’t really experienced this kind of out-right homophobia since I was in high school (In Boston, everything’s more under the surface). I was stunned, scared and terribly sad. In the middle of Center City? Really? Is this just the beginning of another repressive year?
Aw Hell no.
“So what do I do,” I thought to myself. And then I manifested the gayest year of my life.
To be honest, I struggled with being gay in college. I’m flamboyant and effeminate. Loving that part of myself was difficult. I dug my head into books and theory to make sense of all that I was and could be. I fell in love with gender outlaws and revolutionaries, artists and critics who transformed our contemporary understanding of bullshit binaries. And all of these people and things helped, but I still felt shame. Sad and sucky shame. It was only once I graduated that the true revolution, the one within, could take place.
In October, having been far too fed up with staying away from dresses and drag for fear of hurting others, I finally got my shit together and grabbed a wig, some makeup and a pair of heels. Witnessing the final transformation reminded me of the scene in Gypsy when Louise looks into the mirror and sees herself as Gypsy Rose Lee. Only it wasn’t, “Mama... I’m pretty!” It was, “Damn... I’m hott.” Needless to say it was amazing.
Soon after, I found myself cast in a dance opera in which I performed in drag and had my first-stage kiss with a man. And I was getting paid to do it! (Is that legal??) During that time, I also started to make friends with an array of awe-inspiring queer people. These new friends were defying gender norms and teaching me that seeing change in the world means being that change.
This led me to performing in a queer night club act with a group of hyper-fierce queens I admire immensely.
Then I produced a queer dance theatre fantasia with (literally) the help of a village.
And two nights ago, I stood on stage next to my friend, mentor and sister-brother, Annie Witch-Way, as Av’ry Witch-Way, my new gender-queer drag persona, in a night of queer experimental performance that I co-organized. I danced, I sang, I twerked and it was magic.
I feel proud of myself for being brave. Really proud. And I feel lucky. Lucky to have friends who love being unique and love me for being so, too. And I feel blessed. Blessed to have community. Qommunity. Absolutely blessed. This is the kind of bravery, love and pride we need to spread round in the world. Lord knows our family overseas needs all that they can get. Yes, I can still grow and change, but I'm on my path, and it's fabulous, a little scary and terribly beautiful.
It wasn’t until later that evening that I pieced together the significance of the event, this year and my gay growth.
My sisters and I were walking along Broad Street in Philadelphia, still in full drag, when we decided to pause for a photo shoot. As we made a move to walk forth, a black car full of men drove past us. They peaked their little heads out of the windows and yelled “Faggots!!!”
This time I quickly registered what was happening. I shot them a huge smile, yelled “HEEEEEYYYYYY!!!” and did a little twerk walk. #shameless.