When I was ten years old my mother got a new friend at work, his name was Jerry. They had met while working on computer systems and my mom was kinda interested in dating him because they got along so well. He had invited my mother & I to come over to his house on the weekend to swim in his pool and play some cards. When we got to Jerry’s house we were surprised to find it in a beautiful housing complex, which were few and far between in the middle of Florida. We didn’t find out until later in the day that Jerry was not only gay, but a drag queen. Being only ten, I didn’t know what a drag queen was. Jerry explained to me that it was like “playing Barbie with life-size boys”. It sounded unbelievable and wonderful to me.
That October in Florida there was a celebration the night before Halloween called “Guavaween“. It was a mix of Halloween and Mardi Gras. People partied in the streets, there were parades and everyone went in elaborate costumes. I was too young to go, but Jerry had invited my mother & I to come to his house and hang out while he and his two friends, Chris & David, got ready. I was about to help dress my first drag queen.
Jerry was going dressed as a lounge singer in a slinky black dress. David was going as a sexy nurse by the name of Blanche (Golden Girls was very popular at the time), while Chris was the most stunning of all.
Chris was a female impersonator for a living, so he did drag professionally. At the time his most popular impersonation was as Whoopi Goldberg as Guinan in Star Trek: The Next Generation. Growing up Geek, I knew who that was and instantly became a fan of Chris’. I thought he was one of the most beautiful men I’d ever seen. I sat on Jerry’s bed and watched as Chris got dressed. As he brought out different appliances to attach to his body I asked him what they were and why he needed them. I got a valuable lesson in what it takes to make a woman from a man. He had molded breasts made of rubber that stuck to his chest with spirit gum. He has a pair of underwear that had molded hips and tush on them. The rest was simply make-up and costuming. He taught me about the contours of the human face and how to apply make-up to show off your best features. I learned in one day what most little girls take a lifetime to discover.
I also learned the gruesome side of drag. David was a hairy queen and he wanted real cleavage. He wouldn’t let us shave him, but insisted that we used duct tape instead of medical tape to create cleavage from his hairy chest. Well, after a night of drinking, partying and sweating David’s tape had become part of him in the worst way. I watched as David bit down on a tennis ball as my mother held his arms and Jerry slowly pulled the tape from David. I knew something was wrong when he began to cry. It turned out that the duct tape had become infused with his body hair and was ripping skin off. It was horrifying to watch, but I learned that medical tape is always the better option if you need to make cleavage.
This first introduction into the world of drag queens helped shape me as a person. At the age of 19 I became best friends with a drag queen by the name of Alexandra Chase. At the age of 20 I performed in and won my first drag competition. At the age of 28 I became the muralist for a local gay bar, painting a 9′ X 11′ wall across from the dance floor of animal half-breeds in the bar and on the dance floor. At the age of 34 I now watch RuPaul‘s Drag Race with my 6 month old son because he likes the bright colors and Sharon Needles’ happy personality. I know that my son will grow up with an understanding of beauty that most people don’t understand. And why wouldn’t he, when he has a drag queen for a godparent.