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Reflections on drag queens.

I traveled the same circuit of many fabulous queens week after week in NYC in the nineties. Lady Bunny’s clutch at Life, backstage in the Kenny Scharfe room at the Tunnel, eeking out the last vestiges of the night cat walking at the Palladium. A sheltered suburban kid plopped down in the village, I was enamored, fascinated really, with the creativity, the style, the catty humor, the air kisses, the community. I glowed when Lady Bunny hooted out to little ole’ me that I looked fierce. Or when Rupaul traced a finger in front of me, then snap snap, a head twitch and drawled an approving “fabulous.” These queens were gods of the nightlife, and I was utterly starstruck. It was a while longer before I saw “Paris is Burning” and read about Stonewall and got a peek into the struggle further deepening my esteem of them.

So when Rupaul headlined Wigstock out on the Piers in broad daylight, the victory was apparent—out of the clubs and into the daylight. Our posse strutted home to Washington Square Park to be confronted by Pennsyltuckians proselytizing, armed with ancient texts, and my voice did not fail me. Ally wasn’t in the lexicon then, but I already was one.

Last evening at Beacon church was a victory. There, the faith leaders came together to host a drag show that was a fabulous, fierce, and an affirming show of love. There, while the sun still streamed in, there, in a house of worship, a multi-generational audience demonstrated what an accepting community is. Together, we celebrated all the colors of the rainbow.

Growing up in deeply red Hunterdon County, it wasn’t until I joined Facebook late in my early thirties that I learned that my “fun, summertime boyfriend” who was hot as hell and never, ever put any moves on me was in fact gay. Hence, the no pressure. It was where I learned that a bunch of the girls who graduated in my year were now married to women. It was where I learned that when I signed a kid I’d known since kindergarten’s yearbook with well wishes for his future and the phrase “I hope you come out of your shell” that I gave him the affirmation to come out. He had finally felt seen. These Hunterdon County kids weren’t indoctrinated by drag shows. They were gay kids in the most conservative corner of the state of New Jersey. I’d wager that the intolerance of Hunterdon County pushed most of them further into the closet, to a place of fear and shame, a dark place that they never should have had to endure. I don’t know the particulars of these kids' journeys out of the closet, but I do know this: having an event like Beacon’s last night and the PRIDE program on the village green would have made it a hell of a lot easier.

I have friends who have shared the damage that faith communities had upon them through an orthodoxy that preached hate and sold conversion therapy. To me, last night’s performance was sacred–– exemplifying that boundless love underwrites faith. It was overwhelming. Trans kids and their families felt safe and knew our love was real and enduring. I don’t know how long they will be buoyed by last evening, but I know this, I was thoroughly reaffirmed in my role as an ally. I am commited to calling out intolerance, to going toe to toe with hate speech, and to voting only for protecting the human rights of those that are marginalized. I hope you will join me in this.

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