Celebrating Diversity in Drag

Last night I attended Queen City Pride’s March Dragness because I like a good show. I’d never been to a drag queen gala and if you’ll pardon the cliché, it was f@cking fabulous. The queens were outstanding and lovely to a fault. There was scathingly brilliant humor, incredible dancing, and there was a huge audience of great people who were so obviously comfortable being their nonmainstream selves. It takes a lot of guts to strut your stuff. For some of us, it takes courage just to be who we are and not hide it.

As I shared with friends that I was going, I was surprised and disappointed at how many of them thought it strange that I should want to. All I could think was, “Why wouldn’t I?” When I go to a good restaurant I’m eager to know what the specials are. Maybe there’s a dish I’ve never had before. Maybe there’s something unusual or exciting. Trying new things enriches me, teaches me, and makes me feel more alive.

I went because I expected that it’d be fun and they covered that in spades. I didn’t expect to be inspired. That was a bonus, and a huge one at that.

I walked into a dimly lighted room and my eyes were drawn to Valerie Honeycomb. I’m over six feet tall and compared to most I’m a fairly large person. Valerie makes me look small. I felt like a hopeless ass because I realized I was staring. She was stunning. She was effortlessly graceful. She was every bit a lady and wow, she can dance.

The emcee for the evening was delightful. She wanted to get the crowd warmed up and so she asked, “Where are my lesbians at?” A huge cheer exploded. She yelled out, “Where are my gays at?” Another huge cheer. With a naughty grin she asked, “Where my straight men at?” An assortment of maybe six of us let out a collectively feeble cheer. It left me wondering, “Yeah, where are we at?”

Maybe we’re home watching sports. Maybe we’re home being uncomfortable with our sexuality. I dunno. What I do know is that those who didn’t go missed a helluva show.

I’ve learned that the more comfortable I am with who I am, the less what other people say and think and do has any negative effect on me. I love people and find them endlessly fascinating. Celebrating diversity isn’t simply a concept – it’s something we DO. What I saw last night was a celebration of talent and identity. Perhaps those two things ought to be the same for us all? Wouldn’t the world be grand if we all celebrated who we are and not simply what we do?

We tend to leave such moments for funerals and retirement parties. We wait until someone is leaving to celebrate them. On my office wall is a sign that reads, “Wanna make the world a better place? Treat everyone you meet as though they’re the coolest person ever.”

Of course there are no shortage of people in the world who I don’t care to celebrate, but this has nothing to do with their identity. People I don’t care to celebrate are jerks, mean people, assholes. That’s not their identity; those are labels I lazily use to describe people who exhibit behavior that I don’t like. They’re folks who are not only too afraid to show the world who they really are, they choose to be hurtful to others in the ways that they hide.

Too many of us hide our true selves by playing small. That’s part of what was so inspiring last night. What those performers were doing is the exact opposite of hiding. They are outrageous divas who take pride in who they are and what they do. Perfect combination. Perhaps for some the venue gives them the freedom they need to flaunt (justifiably flaunting). I want to live in a world that provides that same freedom and safety.

Goddess knows we’re far from living in such a world and so we create families, friends, places and kin where we’re free to be our true selves. My thanks to Queen City Pride for creating such a place last night.

Jim LaPierre

About Jim LaPierre

Jim LaPierre LCSW CCS is a Recovery Ally, mental health therapist and addictions counselor. He specializes in assisting people in recovery (whether from drugs, alcohol, trauma, depression, anxiety, or past abuse) overcome obstacles and improve their quality of life. Jim offers a limited amount of online therapy to those with very flexible schedules.