Reflections on Drag Queen Story time
There is a note on my laptop, it’s written on a small piece of paper. The paper is mint green with a floral border, and has two fluffy kittens, one wearing a very pretty red bow. It comes from a small note pad, with a magnetic clasp. The words are written in a light blue sharpie pen, the smell of the pen fumes long dissipated. The note reminds me: “Tell Your Truth”.
It should be the easiest thing in the world to tell my truth, but the thing is, there are consequences. There are always consequences.
Today’s truth is that before I left for work this morning, I took a moment to stand on the sheep skin run in my bedroom, and weep for a little bit.
This weeping has been building up for I while, as is often the case for me, and like a node in an electronic neural network, some limit has been exceeded, and the tears were flowing.
I stood in my room weeping, but not unhappy, weeping because of all of the years that I didn’t tell my truth, because the consequences were too much for me to face.
I’ve never been particularly good at conforming, or even very interested in it, and I can often be found somewhere marching to the beat of some internal drum. Presently, the most obvious manifestation of my nonconformity is my gender presentation. But earlier in my life, in a world decades ago, when attitudes were different, I lied about my sexuality. This is such a common experience for people in our communities that we have a phrase to describe it: being “in the closet”.
There’s another layer to all of this, which isn’t visible to the casual observer, which is my ability to see and synthesize connections and meaning from events, and to hold a conceptualization of ideas and relationships in a non-verbal model in my mind, made of shapes that collide, and connect and rub up against each other. The silver lining to this ability is my work in high-tech industries, the downside is a nagging loneliness, and a tendency to second guess and conclusions I make about the world. The thing that keeps me using my mind-scape in this way, is that more often that not, my conclusions prove to be correct.
So with these gifts I’ve carved out a niche for myself in social media, and in my local community. Both as an entertainer, and technician. My most recent achievement has been a series of “Rainbow Story Time” events in public libraries in three of the four cities in the region I live. The second time I did a rainbow story time, in the children section of the Wellington Public Library, we concluded the event with a recording of Kermit the Frog singing rainbow connection. I sat in the front of a sea of children’s faces, from little babies, to toddlers, to big kids. I sat there is a massive pink shock of a wig, a batik pink muumuu, and pretty pink kitten-heeded suede heels, with bows that were edged with brass decorations, a face painted to heaven, and stacked false eyelashes. I sat there, and I felt tears well up inside of me.
“I never dreamt that I would be, the creature that I always meant to be”
— Being Boring, The Petshop Boys (1990)
I’m going to save myself $100 on counseling, and tell you that this is undoubtably tied up with me turning 40 in August.
40 is often seen as a time of midlife crisis, but for me, it is marking (maybe by coincidence) the beginning of me living more authentically, more honestly, and more insightfully, that at any point on the timeline that stretches back to my conception.
I’d like to claim credit for the seeming feat of self actualization, write a book called “the REAL secret”, and start a book tour of the western seaboard of the USA. But the truth is far more prosaic. I’ve been born at a time that gender variance, and homosexuality, are legal and somewhat accepted in the culture that I live it. I didn’t personally make that change. Again, by luck, the 2008 global financial crisis sunk my small business, and I found myself working in the financial sector, where I have found campaigns like “bring your whole self to work”, meaning that I can drop the pretense of masculinity at work all the way to wearing lipstick and complicated jewelry on the floor.
I didn’t really appreciate, until I stopped doing it, what a constant energy drain it was to keep up the façade of maleness at work for years and years and years. It’s energy I’m not getting back, and it’s an effort I can’t invoice anyone for. At the time, my payoff was not being unemployed. There are always consequences to telling the truth you see.
I had an idea that this piece of writing would be a huge emotional catharsis for me, I even purchased a pocked pack of tissues. I no longer fear tears, now that I’m no longer masquerading male, there’s no longer any worry about appearing un-manly in my emotions. But I’m concluding this piece quite dry eyes, and quite grateful, that things have gotten better, and easier for me over the last 40 years. And that I am poised to begin the second act of my life, with all the optimism of a denizen of a Syd Mead painting, excited for new horizons*
* Until climate change really messes everything up, and then I’m tucking my cat under my arm, and heading for the hills.