Recently I was backstage at a show when a young person in a black dress (We’ll call her X) came into the back with three or four other people who were obviously performing in the show. These people began to get their faces on and I noticed that while X was helping one person another performer from the same group was assisting one of their troupe in putting on lipstick. When completed the performer who had been being helped turned to X and said something along the lines of “how does it look?” That’s a pretty normal question to hear in green rooms I find, most of us like to check things out with our dressers or fellow performers to get a second opinion (nothing wrong with that) However, if you are the one being asked you generally know that there are appropriate commentaries to make – even if you despise someone’s look it really isn’t about your taste in face is it? They are asking you for an opinion and most older performers have learned to look past their own taste and focus on the technical side of things. How will it read on stage? Are the lines too light? Too heavy?  How dark is the contour – in a stage setting will it add or detract from the face? And if you have some critique you try to frame it gently, to advise or query the reason for. After all, even if you are there for every one of their rehearsals you don’t know the feeling they are trying to create and never bloody mind the fact that you are not them and can’t ever really know what they are thinking

What you VERY rarely hear backstage is someone telling someone else “That’s not drag. It looks terrible. It’s wrong.”

But that was precisely what came out of X’s mouth when asked for an opinion about the lips worn by this other troupe member. Please note dear readers – I do not know the preferred genders of any of the individuals involved, nor as I so succinctly stated above, do I think I know everything about them, their performance, their outside relationship or any of the rest of it. Perhaps that’s what is bugging me so goddamn much about this incident….When is it alright to turn to someone and say “That’s wrong” or “You look like a lipstick lesbo” or “You’re not doing drag right”….is there really a right way to “do” drag? Is there ever a time it’s ok to say such things to a performer? As far as I could tell the only thing that (eventually) got changed on the lips was to add lipliner which, to be totally damn truthful is NOT something that every queen uses! So does that mean that every queen that doesn’t wear it is wrong in the world of X? Was it really even about the bloody lipliner? What the HELL possessed X to think that turning around and trashing someone was drag anyway? Because really if someone trashed me like that I would have a pretty low starting opinion of them.

I’m still trying to sort out why this incident bugged the shit out of me so badly but by golly it’s still eating away at me three days later. Maybe it’s because I recently had a run in with someone who, while having a ton to teach me and my obviously needing the lessons she could teach still took the time to not tear me down too hard. Oh I got read alright, but I got read in a way that didn’t  feel like an attack, rather it drove me to want to learn and grow more than ever. Maybe it’s because that night, sitting in that dressing room, helping fellow performers where needed, I truly felt confident in my look and in my skills and I feared someone trying to tear them down. Or maybe because I believe that drag is about a community and I am tired of seeing bullshit tear it apart.

I am tired of hearing queens (and kings) talking out their privileged asses about things that, for some of us are  no joking matter. Of course the fairness in my soul tells me that for all I know the performer tossing around the word “jew” or the person wielding the word “tranny” like it was the last adverb on earth may well be Jewish, or trans*, or even just someone who has had that word used on them so many times their only form of coping is to use it in a bid to reclaim it, but at the same time I think there has to be a sense of who’s in the room with you, a check of how they are reacting to what you’re saying. And this goes for me too, I am certainly not immune to foot mouth syndrome and I know damn well that the world is changing so fast I have never felt like I have done enough learning about other walks of the road or sensitive issues that one should stay away from.  And I know I say things sometimes that need to be corrected or educated. Hell, go ahead and educate, that’s why I’m here!

But I think, education or not, trashing someone’s drag is never ok. Using words that have a long history of being used in a pejorative manner without caution or care is never ok. So too, assuming you know the whole story about an incident  is a not ok thing. As is playing the role of PC police, which I devoutedly hope I have managed to convey I am NOT trying to be. For myself, now that I have gotten the incident out on “paper” I am going to hope it floats out of my mind, and that you, my amazing readers, have some feedback that helps me learn and grow around these things. However, on the whole, I think of it like this: with  all the attacks and threats and sticky situations we as queer people find ourselves in, this was a minor thing that while needing to be addressed, is a fortunately solvable problem that did not involve bleeding, human rights violations or assault. I’d call that a good thing

It certainly did make me wonder about what the hell was going on in that green room that night though.

Much Love,

Mama Leada

Quote  —  Posted: 05/01/2013 by erichblayde in Drag Queen
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Hello again dear readers! I thought that I should probably sit down and tell you a little about what is happening in the life of ye olde unmuffled mind. Since I moved back to Vancouver a lot has happened. At first it was the usual work work work, life life life routine, but in early March I made a decision that, although it seemed trifling at first, changed everything. I chose to re-enter the drag world and compete in the Mr/Miss Cobalt drag competition. At first I thought it would be an interesting sojourn from my daily life and nothing more., but from the moment I stepped on the stage I had a feeling this was going to be different.

It wasn’t until my elimination in the second week that I realized how different things really were. I had forgotten how much I loved performing and I started to realize that having taken a near three year hiatus had changed me as a performer. I felt stronger in myself and more powerful in my stage persona. On the night of my elimination I found that, while I felt sadness at not continuing on, something new was already brewing inside of me, something that made the competition pale in comparison.

I found my heart again.

Really I hadn’t even known I’d lost it. Or perhaps I never truly had a full grasp of it until that moment but in the weeks that followed I found my previous interests slipping away little by little to reveal a new dimension in my personality that I hadn’t known was there. The weeks since the competition have been filled with challenges that at times have felt completely overwhelming, but as I moce through them I am struck by this feeling that lingers just below the surface. A feeling that I have found a stage to my journey I never thought possible and a feeling of becoming more and more aware of things I wasn’t before.

With all that said dear readers it is now time to tell you I will be officially closing down the muttered musings blog within two weeks in favor of a blog hosted on my new website leadastray.net46.net (coming soon) As I am also beginning to travel later in the spring to do a series of drag shows in Canada and in the southern US posts to the new blog may be spotty (what else is new?) but I encourage you to sign up and follow me there to see where this next evolution will take me.

I also encourage you to follow your dreams…no matter how much adversity you encounter. Because you are worth it!

Quote  —  Posted: 04/30/2013 by erichblayde in Drag Queen

Hello again dear readers! I have had a few instances in the last few days of people telling me how I have inspired them in some form or fashion so today I would like to talk a little about where I get my inspiration to continue breathing each day (and before you ask, yes I do understand the meaning of the words “autonomic nerve function”). All joking aside life can be hard some days, nothing we do to prepare ourselves for the daily grind can ever fully take away the difficulties we face, and sooner or later we all find ourselves looking for inspiration.

And sometimes we find it looking for us.

“Say what you mean and mean what you say, because the words that you choose matter. When you use gay in a perjorative way the effect that it has on the gay kid in the room or the kid with gay relatives is that being gay is less than, or inferior to, and our bar cannot be that a day you just get through life, or just get through school and don’t get harassed, qualifies as a good day”
– Ash Beckham

I found this gem in a video of a gay speaker series a friend of mine posted to Facebook. The entire five minute speech was rife with inspiration, laughter and strength, all the things I didn’t even know I needed in the moment but that hit me like a warm blanket thrown over my shoulders as I sat there and watched. The speaker, Ash Beckham displayed a fantastic grasp of the topic (using the phrase “that’s so gay” in a perjorative manner), and also managed to tailor the presentation to be meaningful to an audience of people who are already aware that using the phrase is a bad thing. Surprisingly despite the self admission that the speech might be “preaching to the Boulder gay choir” Ash Beckham managed to make the topic interesting, uplifting and relevant, providing hope to the gay hearts in the room and challenging everyone to “be the change you wish to see”. The most touching moment for me was when Ash described an experience in a gym where a trainer ribbed another trainer using the phrase “that’s so gay” Ash admitted that despite having no response, “I did my best Gary Colman but that was about it”, the moment in the gym “inspired this, talking to 850 people instead of one”. What hope, what honesty, what a bloody inspiration!

“By transcending societal views of beauty, I believe that I can focus more on my actions. My attitude and thoughts and actions have more value in them than my body because I recognize that this body is just going to become ash in the end, so why fuss about it?”
– Balpreet Kaur

This beautiful quote and the stunning story behind it gobsmacked me in late September during another facebook perusal. For those of you who haven’t heard of Balpreet Kaur let me give you a fast low down. Balpreet Kaur is a university student in the central United States. Ms Kaur is a devout Sikh and as such does not cut her hair or modify her body in any way, which is something to note because Ms Kaur has a rather substantial amount of facial hair which, by the tennents of her religion she does not trim or hide in any way. One day a fellow university student took a picture of Ms Kaur without her knowledge and posted it to the online site Reddit with a caption along the lines of “wtf?” In the photograph Ms Kaur is wearing sweatpants and a t shirt as well as a traditional turban (both sexes in the Sikh faith wear or at least can wear turbans however there are differences in the method of wrapping) and looks somewhat androgyneous in presentation what with her natural growth of hair. The abuse piled in and was spotted some days later by a classmate of Ms Kaur’s who informed her at once. What happened next shocked the world. Balpreet Kaur responded, not in anger or condemnation, but with an eloquent educational post on the reasons for her appearance, the basics of the Sikh faith and a stunningly sincere apology for having caused the picture taker confusion. What no one could have expected was the response she received. The original poster replied with an apology of his own in which he openly discussed his poor conduct and talked about how Ms Kaur’s handling of the situation and her educational comments had caused him to begin to learn about her culture and how horrified he was at his own behavior. It was a redemption story for the ages and continues to inspire me today.

“If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings – nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And – which is more – you’ll be a Man, my son!”
– Rudyard Kipling

This old stand-by was taught to me by my mother many years ago and continues to be a favorite. It continuously reminds me that despite the value in remaining open and accessible to others, one must be ultimately true to themselves. I also used it in my recent stint as a human library book as an ending to my talks on avoiding the apathy in your heart and truly living life. The response it received from my readers was tremendous, those who had never heard it before were stunned by the powerful message contained in Kipling’s simple prose, those who had heard it before, began grinning upon recognizing it and treated it as an old friend. But the amazing thing to me was that everyone who heard it reacted in some way. Not because of the context in which it was read to them but on the basis of the words themselves

“The longest road you can travel is the road from your head to your heart”
– Chinese Proverb

This piece of advice was actually told to me by one of my readers at the human library during a truly inspirational 20 minute session in which we discussed all matter of ideas and philosophies relating to the ideal of living with your heart. The amazing thing is, this gem came from a woman who barely spoke the english language and actually had to search the quote up on her phone and have it translate it to english for me. It was a truly multi-cultural moment in my life and to this day I carry the memory of that conversation, and that one woman’s determination to engage the world and engage in learning, despite the fact that the part of the world where she lives speaks a different language. We both had to work very hard to communicate with each other, but I’ll tell you what, never before has an effort been so damn worth it.

“We are graduating members from the class of ‘we made it’ Not the faded echoes of voices crying out ‘names will never hurt me'”
– Shane Koyczan

While participating in the Occupy Nanaimo movement as a first aid attendant and security person I had the pleasant surprise of turning around one day and finding Shane Koyczan himself standing behind me. I have found inspiration in his works, and have been performing his pieces in my drag shows ever since my dad introduced me to his poetry a few years back. Somewhat startled I found myself being introduced to the man and, as per my usual forthright communication style, promptly thanked him for not only inspiring the hell out of me but also for providing me some of the best material one could have for a drag show. The response to this sentence was nothing short of epic. I got bear hugged. Best moment ever.

“You, me, this city, this country, we will always have a choice.When you stand up to be counted, tell the world, THIS IS MY VOICE. There are many like it, but this one is mine.”
– Shane Koyczan

This quote has always inspired me for obvious reasons, but it gained a whole new meaning for me on August 18 2012 when I finally got the chance to stand up and be counted as a drag queen doing a Pride show. For years I have performed as a queen and have had my share of lumps for doing so because I am a transgendered man. But I kept at it and finally I received my chance to bring home New West Pride as the after-party entertainer. It was a simple three song line up consisting of Natalie Cole’s “Everlasting Love” Heather Small’s “Proud” and Shane Koyczan’s “This Is My Voice” Despite its simplicity however, it was a line up chosen to take the audience on a journey and by the time I reached this line, I could see that my wonderful audience had truly opened their hearts and gone on that journey I had planned for them. I was lucky enough to have been allowed to have Vancouver’s piece of the iconic World Pride Flag on the stage with me that night held by two amazing leaders of Vancouver’s gay community. I will never forget the feeling in my heart when I knelt to start this song and felt my wonderful drag queen friend Mimi, (who is the only queen ever to have opened her arms to me, despite having just met me that morning and come down after her own long day in drag to help me dress and to stand on stage with me neverminding my being the freaky trans queen), wrap the flag around my shoulders. I heard the gasps, saw the audience straining forward, totally with me. As the song ended with this quote I saw tears, open hearts, a community united in a moment, and I knew then, that moment would stay with me, would carry me through the darkest times.

All these moments, all these quotes are what I remember when I am writing to you dear readers. These moments in time carry my soul through every trial, every worry and bring it out the other side stronger than I ever thought possible. And no, that’s not me being melodramatic, that’s the truth of it. The beautiful thing however, is that we ALL have these moments, we just have to slow down enough to see them, seize them and preserve them in our hearts.

Quote  —  Posted: 03/09/2013 by erichblayde in Hope
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**Author’s Note**  This is the first time the author has actually come out and publicly talked about the circumstances surrounding his first coming out experience many years ago. Despite having over a decade of positive experiences to bolster his self-esteem the author still finds that the scars left by the incidents described in this blog are as newly healed wounds and asks all readers to be respectful in their comments and discussions on this post. The trauma of teenage bullying does fade with time, but it leaves a very palpable reminder upon the hearts of its victims

“We are graduating members from the class of ‘we made it’ Not the faded echoes of voices crying out ‘names will never hurt me'”

- Shane Koyczan

I remember the day it happened. I was walking down a high school hallway to where my friends and I would spend lunches in the hall behind the caf. I could feel there was something going on. People were whispering, laughing, a few even looked afraid. And it all seemed to be following me down the hallway. Much accustomed to bullying and bullshit by this point (I was a roughish looking 15-year-old tomboy who had never figured out the niceties of “femininity”) I continued on undaunted. Whatever crap they had concocted this time would be the same as all the rest – a few days of annoyance and then it would go away. When I walked into the back hall however, the truth hit me in the accusing stares of my once loyal comrades. I knew instantaneously what had happened

Like it or not my closet door had just been opened.

I still remember that moment like it was yesterday, my friends puzzled and hurt at what they viewed as my betrayal of them, my peers laughing as I calmly walked back through the caf, whispers of “dyke” and “lesbo” following me down the hallway. I was shocked, scared, pissed off, utterly lost and oddly relieved. I was out! Over the next few hours I began to work through what had happened and to assess the damage. Dear god in heaven someone had seen myself and my girlfriend having a romantic walk. There were pictures. What was I going to do now? The afternoon went by in a hailstorm of jeers, laughter, and people practically climbing the walls to get away from me while the teachers looked away and pretended to ignore the whole debacle. As the days passed the storm around me raged on unabated. My family was informed by a concerned teacher who thought they should “do something” to fix whatever was wrong with me. The torment continued, at school and now at home too. My “friends” wouldn’t talk to me, my guardians repeatedly told me it was a sickness, my girlfriend was receiving the same treatment in the halls as I was and wouldn’t look at me or return my calls. I pondered leaving school, denying it and finally began thinking of suicide as a viable option. I wasn’t sleeping and barely eating, life was miserable as hell 24 – 7 so why the fuck not kill myself?

I figured out why not the next day.

Walking down the hall that morning a largish boy from the grade above suddenly threw me against a locker and pushed himself tight against me. Grinning he told me that all I needed was a good fuck by a “real man” and I’d stop trying to be the man in bed.

Something broke inside of me in that moment.

Over the years I have heard stories from other victims of repeated gaybashings that describe similar moments happening to others. Some responded by lashing out, finally defending themselves physically, others describe the sensation as a sudden and complete acquiescence to the will of their tormentors, and some, some of those victims responded with headstones because they felt it too much to bear. For me, I remained quiet – on the outside at least. The idiot who was taunting me eventually just let go, apparently having a dyke lost in thought pinned to the lockers wasn’t quite the reaction he had anticipated.

Little did he know, the reaction hadn’t happened yet.

That night I walked over to my girlfriends house and explained to her rather befuddled parents that I didn’t care if they hated me for who I was or what I did in the privacy of my own bedroom, but they should not berate their child for my having led her astray. Their rather bemused reaction served only to fuel the newborn fire building within me. “Why on earth would we hate you or Nessa? You kids are just fine by me. We all have choices to make and we support both of you in this one” her mother explained patiently while her father covered his grin. “I only wish she’d felt like she could tell us”. Somewhat in shock I stammered my thanks and proceeded up the stairs in a daze, half expecting her father to come after me with a ball bat. Talking with Ness only confused me further, she explained that she had been trying to give me space because she knew I was getting crap at home as well as school and she felt guilty that her parents were so supportive while my family just yelled a lot. Stunned to the core I felt the final pieces click into place.

I knew what I had to do.

The next day I showed up late to school, arriving right at the start of lunch. The stares hit me like a million watt bulb and the shocked whispers hissed in my ears. Ignoring the sudden silence caused by my arrival, I walked calmly to my locker and tossed my bag in. Catching sight of myself in the mirror on the door I grinned and ran my hand through the fresh buzz cut I had just gotten that morning. Taking off my jacket I adjusted my new white t-shirt and straightened my Levis. “Call me a dyke now” I thought, “at least I look the part.” Turning I caught sight of the asshole from the day before and knew what I had planned so carefully the evening before was a now or never moment. Taking a deep breath I headed right for him, making myself look as menacing as I could “You!” I shouted continuing forward quickly “I got something to say to you, you stupid fuck” Not slowing down I barreled right into him, he had obviously been caught completely off guard by my sudden bravado because I managed to knock him down despite his outweighing me by quite a lot. Snarling I dove on him jamming my knee onto his chest and shaking him hard by the collar “Next time you come near me I’ll hand you your dick on a plate you fucking piece of crap!” I yelled. Rising, I kicked him hard in the balls and whirled around. Stunned faces surrounded me, everyone was too shocked even to move. Panting with fear and exertion I growled crankily at the faces “What’s wrong?” I asked “Haven’t you idiots seen a dyke before?” Suddenly realizing their rather precarious position everyone had somewhere to go in a hurry. As they walked away I looked back at my persecutor writhing on the floor and knew that what I had done was right. I was a dyke, and I wasn’t about to hide it any longer.

Sometimes you just have to own it.

As I type this I find myself lost in the irony that at this very moment I am once again closeted in one particular portion of my life. And funnily enough that closet is my workplace, located in the very same city that I went to high-school in (and was finally outed in) those many years ago. A lot has changed since those early years, I have grown older, wiser (I hope), more patient and more aware. I have grown stronger in myself and my sexuality, so strong in fact that the closet I now inhabit feels more like a friend than the prison it once did. Yes, hiding in plain sight can be difficult some days, but it is a fact that, if I did not want to hide, I could very well come out. I am strong enough to weather that storm, but I choose to avoid it and focus my energies on things that truly matter.

Like writing this blog for all the “us’s” out there.

And having said that, I speak now to all those who are trapped in closets that feel like prisons. I speak now to all those who are out of the closet by their own will or someone else’s ignorance and are finding the world to be a rather inhospitable place. I speak now to those who struggle just to survive each day in the face of what feels like insurmountable odds levied against them by nothing more than what body parts attract them. I’m here to tell you that, while it does not get magically better, if you work at it, it can and will get there. It takes time, things may even get worse for a while to be totally honest, but in the end, the effort you put out IS worth it! One day you who are struggling so valiantly now will also look back and see that it all had a purpose, that it all meant something. If only you give yourself the chance.

I promise you too will see that surviving was the right thing to do.

So please my friends, hold on. Do not take your life as so many have done, do what you have to in order to survive. Know that I and all those who have walked this road before you are here with open arms. We are just an email away, and we know well what horrors you are facing. We also know that, like us you have the strength to survive, to flourish.

 

Like us, you too can become a member of the graduating class of “we made it”

Quote  —  Posted: 03/01/2013 by erichblayde in Coming Out
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Hello dear readers :) Lately my life has been a whirlwind of rally planning, human library performances, manifesting, working, yelling about racism, political campaigning and….well, going to places I never thought I’d be going again.

Face first, right back into a big ol closet.

You see dear readers ye olde Unmuffled Mind took a spot cooking at a little pub in a fine redneck section of the outlying districts and, once installed in said job, quickly realized (no doubt thanks to the country music on the radio, and the good ‘ol boy attitudes running around the kitchen) that this was probably not the best place to burst into flame (besides, me in full colour would make the fires rising from the stoves look so plain by comparison).

So here I am, a faceless good ‘ol boy cooking away shoulder to shoulder with the type of folks that would probably run the hell away (or fire me) if they knew who (and what) I am. The only saving grace I have is that I did spend many years on a working horse farm when I was growing up. I know these type of men (I used to want to be them back before I fully began to explore my rainbow of presentations) I have worked with them, studied them, tried to emulate them…I know what they think is good and what is unacceptable. I can spout their style of values and emulate behaviors they find comforting while avoiding words or actions that might either upset them or give away my secrets.

And truth be told I don’t mind it much of the time. It’s a fact of life, just as it has been a fact of life since I first came out some 17 years ago (Holy Hannah has it been that long? Dear me where did the time get to?) For the most part, flying under the radar is an easy thing for me, especially considering my background in psychology (and my obsessive habit of people watching). But oh there are days, days where it chafes to no end. Days where I just want to let my inner queen out to raise a little hell for one shining moment (and then run like hell no doubt). There is nothing wrong with not announcing to the world that there is a giant set of rainbow wings hiding under your t-shirt but some days it feels almost like I am part of the (in my opinion) apathetic masses of gays that go through life not speaking up, not educating people about LGBT people.

In short I feel like a collaborator in every gay bashing that happens.

Now I know that is a ridiculous thing to say because obviously I am not that, but I really do feel with all my heart that it is the duty of each and every queer to try to educate those who do not know about the queer lifestyle (specifically those whose ignorance manifests in extremely negative fashions). And being in this closet really limits my ability to do that in many ways (though I have managed to convey my absolute ok-ness with “the gays”). It’s an odd place to be, this closet of mine, but perhaps it will teach me a lesson or two about cultural invisibilities and surviving with only the voices in your head for company.

Until then…**sounds of muffled madonna rumbling through louvred doors**…You can’t see me

Quote  —  Posted: 02/10/2013 by erichblayde in A Different Outlook, Acceptance, Gay Pride
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Ok. Seriously.

STOP THE RIDE I WANT TO GET OFF!

Yesterday morning I woke up (as one tends to do in the beginning of their day) and did my usual first-thing-in-the-morning facebook perusing, coffee drinking, cigarette smoking study of my universe as I see it.

Now there are coffee stains on my carpet dammit.

“Why drop your coffee?” You may be well asking this as those who know me know that coffee is a precious, life giving substance to me and is protected far more than the blood in my veins (seriously, I cut myself all the time and dont care, but I panic when I knock over my coffee) . Well darlings it dropped because I see something I have given my entire life to, threatened by a putrid, stinking mire of racism in a dress. It dropped because I never expected to see that it was homosexuals suborning racial and cultural stereotyping, nevermind falling all over themselves to defend/justify it. It dropped because a group of gay people who were more than willing to drive 8 hours out of their way to help their neighbors fight for gay rights didn’t bat an eyelash (pun fully intended) at booking a white man from Texas to tromp around the stage of an honored gay establishment in a house dress and black face make up, making cracks about having 19 children and other disgusting racial stereotypes.

It’s called a blackface act, and it’s plain disgusting.

When I first started doing drag as a king in Nanaimo years ago, drag was a revered art form. The queens were the ones that were always there for anyone with a cause and enough gumption to stand up for it. I was a scrawny teenage lesbian just beginning to explore the vast reaches of my world and my gender and those queens took me in no questions asked. They nurtured my wild and crazy ideas (though they had no problem barking at me if they had to), they sheltered me through the worst of the hurt and they taught me about the rules of the gay road. I would most likely have drank myself to death or committed suicide if it wasn’t for their eyelash batting parentage of the young ball of gender confusion I was. They held my hand, patted me on the ass, worried about me when I pulled a no show and eventually let me into their world and on to their stages.

And let me tell you, being on those stages was a treat.

Back then drag was drag of a different sort. You had your camp queens, your divas, your working queens and your kings (somehow we always lumped the kings together despite them having as many variations as the girls.) You had an order to your shows (the divas always went last and brought down the house) and no queen, EVER had to apologize for what she did in her numbers, because there were clearly defined lines, and if you didn’t follow them you weren’t likely to be welcome back in that bar (in either boy or girl drag) for a good long while.

Although I was happy being the little king among all the queens, as I began to transition I began to see myself and my art in a different light. I began to see in myself the desire and potential to be up there in the lights, not with a goatee and a pair of trousers, but with an up do and shimmering makeup. I made the mistake of voicing that opinion at an after show dinner one night in Vancouver and was shocked at the viciousness of the reactions I received. “Drop it” was a favorite, as was “not fucking likely” and one or two “go to hell, I wouldn’t even talk to you if you showed up like that” I thought perhaps I had best drop it (gee, wonder what would have given me that idea?). So I did, and I continued on as a king as best I knew how. My community was too precious to me to risk on a whim, so I continued performing as a male, moved to Vancouver and tried to put the whole thing out of my head.

But one day I saw a king go too far.

On a little stage in Vancouver I watched someone who normally performed as a king come out, his face painted black, wearing a dress, and begin to birth babies while flipping pancakes on a grill, repeatedly stepping on the multitude of stuffed cats strewn around the stage and guzzling cheap cola. The audience ate up every second of it, with the majority of them yelling and cheering him on. I didn’t even know what the hell to do until I found myself racing to the stage with a host of other drag artists and forming a human wall to stop the performance. I felt sick to my stomach looking into the eyes of this person and knowing that they truly felt this type of “show” was drag. It was the first blackface act to come to Vancouver’s stages and it rocked me in a way I hadn’t thought possible. To me the cheapness of the scene not only degraded all the other acts in the show but the audience as well. I dropped my number for the night right there and then because performing after that abomination felt like I would be suborning racist stereotypes and making it “ok”

And trust me, blackface is never ok.

In the months that followed my first look at blackface, I found myself missing the drag ideals I was raised on to a point I never thought possible. Finally I resolved that no matter the cost I would do what I had always known I should, I would begin to perform as a drag queen and I would make sure to always, ALWAYS embody the rules and ideals that carried me through my youth. The first time I tried dressing queen, I went out to a mostly heterosexual fetish night to test the waters and found that, as usual, everyone loves a queen. Having been “brought up” on stages and in back rooms, I had a fairly good idea of what to do in a dress and it all went swimingly.

Until we went to the gay bar for a night cap.

The venom started spewing from the moment the first person recognized me and it didn’t stop until well into the next day. I was agog at the vitriol spewing from the mouths of those I considered family and could not fathom how the manner in which I went pee had anything to do with how well I could do drag. I was a man in a dress and I was just like them. Wasn’t I? They certainly didn’t seem to agree. My first shows went well, I chose safe venues, performed to classic music I knew everyone loved, and yet there was always that chorus in the background, bitching about me, calling me a freak, gay voices raised in anger, denying me my freedom for no valid reasoning. But I kept on, I ignored the hatred leveled against me and continued to perform what I wanted, how I wanted. I addressed those who spoke against me in the most loving manner I could, tried my best to educate them about what I did and how it was no different from any other queen.

And slowly…ever so damn slowly, I carved myself a place as Vancouver’s first FtM transgender drag queen. It took years and years of work, and more patience than I knew I possessed, but as years passed more trans drag emerged, more voices joined my own and the liberation of drag continued. Unfortunately, so did its decline. The drag queens of my youth were replaced by younger models that, while still fabulash as all hell, most held neither the emanation of power, nor embodied the sense of community strength that queens of yesteryear did. Drag became a moneymaker and the new avant garde policy was “no cash, no lash”. Ostensibly this was to cover the costs of drag essentials, but I have my own feelings about that (Bloody greedy I tell you, drag is a love for an art that often takes all your extra money. If you don’t have that much money, learn to frigging sew)

Despite my parting of the ways with the ideals of the new drag culture, I consider the girls of today just as much a part of my family as my drag mothers from the early years. Why? Because being a man in a dress isn’t easy. Because being good at it is even harder. It takes commitment. It takes a love of and understanding of both yourself and your community. It takes a lot of hard worked hours and more than a few panic attacks and last minute adjustments.

It is a craft.

And it’s a craft I have dedicated my life to learning, my heart to fighting for, and my time to proliferating. To read yesterday that a well respected gay bar in Portland had tried to book one of the most line-crossingly offensive, most racist, blackface acts and not only booked it but then tried to defend it as “comedy” and “art” when people freaked out and got highly offended?!

That hurt.

And to see that this was being billed as a drag act? That was the line right there. I don’t care if you are a man in a dress. Blackface is NOT drag it is a disgrace. And it has no place in the gay community. I mean really, we get marriage rights and suddenly we’re all “equal”? We get one tiny victory and we’re all suddenly better than and thus able to tromp all over the “lower” classes? And to do this we nominate a white dude from Texas who does the tromping under the label of “drag”?! Get a hold of yourselves! Stop thinking that just because the years have moved by that the ideals of yesterday are no longer valid. Stop thinking that because we have “equality” in fewer than 20 percent of the world that the battle has been won and we can now turn to dividing up our newly won “community”. Stop tearing into each other because of simple word usage choices. Stop disparaging your compatriots because they’re wearing armani not d&g. Stop thinking that because you spend all your hours in gyms and barbers and tanning studios that you are better than and can therefore look down upon. Stop forgetting your roots.

Love each other. Love yourself. Or don’t. But for gods sake STOP this petty foolishness!

And you can start with taking a good look at drag, it’s history and its place in this community. Drag isn’t a dress and some lip movements, it’s so much more than that. It’s being able to make that dress and those lip movements cross lines of gender, socio-economic statuses, culture and many more. Drag is being able to make that dress and those lip movements encompass the hearts of your entire audience, to bring them all home to the roots of their varying communities in the space of three minutes. Drag is timeless art poured forth from your heart.

And this queen is more than willing to defend it from the likes of black face artists and anyone else that wants to tarnish it.

 

Quote  —  Posted: 02/09/2013 by erichblayde in Drag Queen, Racism, Transition
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

My bed called. It misses me.

Maybe that’s because I seem to have developed a habit of not sleeping in it every night of the week as per my usual norm. Maybe that’s because, since moving back to the city I have had the pleasure of meeting a wonderful individual that I enjoy spending time with.

And sometimes that time occurs at, well, not my house.

Now I know some of you are staring at your computer screens in shock right now wondering if my cheese has totally slipped off my cracker, but in reality I am not the tremendously popular fag that people seem to think I am, hell I couldn’t play one on TV if you pointed a gun at my head (and before you ask, yes, I have acted before, so that’s not where I am going with that). In reality I am an emotionally cold, physically lonely little man who sits at home alone wondering why the world has rejected me so totally…..ok ok, maybe THAT’S going a little toooo far the other way….But I think you get my point. I’m not one to just hand out the goods willy nilly, and, as a trans fag I am DEFINITELY not the one whose “milkshake brings all the boys to the yard” (nor does my anything else :P). And I’m pretty ok with that, I’d rather settle for being my authentic self and having fewer relationships because of it than being a fake ass poser and getting lots of tail.

But suddenly I am eating cake and having it too.

I’m not saying that’s never happened before, but the reality is that, owing to some things and stuff from the way back I have a little bit of a hard time trusting people in a sexual context. Not to say I can’t, or haven’t ever, but it is rather difficult. I realized this after the breakup of one of my monogamous relationships some four years in the distant past and accepted that maybe I needed to try something different. So most (there are always exceptions) of my physical relationships in the time between then and now were focused (in a sexual sense) on the other persons pleasure, and my enjoying them enjoying themselves. Whatever the particular relationships were, they were not about mutual gratification, physical equality, or spending the night wrapped in eachothers arms. In reality most of them were “friends with benefits” that, while lasting months or even years, were simply a series of gatherings in which a few hours were spent together after which I (or they), went home.

Enter new relationship.

Suddenly there’s someone in my life that touches me, I mean really touches me. Without fear, or hesitation. Without trepidation or that sneaking sense that they’re just doing it to make you happy. Suddenly there’s just touch. Kisses, body rubs, snuggles and more, and its all given freely, in concert, with both parties sharing equally in the pleasure. Suddenly there’s fun playful moments filled with laughter and teasing, moments of gentleness laying wrapped around eachother. Suddenly there’s more than just two of us but a whole conflagration of gender, roles, and ideals combining together to create the frighteningly amazing thing this is.

Kinda scares the hell out of me actually.

We’ve both been clear with the other that its a “no-strings” see-what-happens kinda deal, with each of us still being a whole and independent person (holy communication batman!) But in the end, there is a connection, one that leaves my bed empty some nights and more full than usual on others. In the end, there’s a joy about the physical that I had almost forgotten existed. In the end, there’s a red light district fag somewhere deep inside me that emerges when they are near to me. In the end, no matter what it is or how long it lasts, its pretty fantabulous in a weak-kneed, when-can-I-see-them-again kinda way.

So I’m sorry dear bed. You’ll just have to get used to it.

Cheerio Darlings,

E