The first time I did drag was the Friday before Halloween, 2016. For those who don’t know — doing drag is a fucking nightmare. The time I spent in preparation was probably a greater amount of time than I’ve dedicated to any one event like… ever. I had all my supplies ready: makeup, costume, duct tape, heels, wig, corset, etc. I was ready to be drop dead gorgeous.
The inspiration for my costume came from Violet Chachki. I love her sexy, timeless burlesque look because it feels like such a badass female caricature. I also wanted to cinch my waist to see how much I could look like Violet. If you watch Rupaul’s Drag Race, you know as well as I do that Violet practically invented cinching to the gawwwwds.
The most memorable part of getting into drag was tucking. ‘Tucking’ is, essentially, hiding your penis so that you can further create the illusion of a woman. To be honest, I was quite shocked at how weird the process was. First, I had to lift my balls back up into my abdomen area, which was the strangest thing. It’s a matter of finding the open canal your balls descended from during puberty, and sticking them back up there. Then I had to pull my penis back between my buttcheeks and tape it all in place using duct tape. If you think tucking would hurt, you’re not wrong.
Now that I had an illusion of a pussy (as it’s referred to in drag lingo), I was ready to put on my costume. I slipped into the thong, the tights, the garters, and I had a friend help me with the corset. My friends were proud of me, we took a couple of pictures, and then headed to the party together.
Walking down the street gave me an eerie feeling; I didn’t expect people to stare so much— especially since it was Halloween— but we all know the reality of our heteronormative, gender-policing society!!! In all the excitement and support from my friends, I had forgotten that the world outside was not as safe as the inside of my friend’s apartment. Nonetheless, I tried not to be deterred by the stares as I made my way down the uneven sidewalk, although inside I was transitioning from feeling sexy and confident to nervous and scared.
When we arrived at the party, my emotions hit me like a fucking wall. I suddenly realized that most of the people inside weren’t queer. Then I realized most of them weren’t even allies… and that most of them were drunk. Then I realized I didn’t feel safe. I stopped dead in my tracks and looked my best friend, John, in the eyes.
“I can’t do it.”
I felt defeated and desperate. My friends were so proud of me and excited for the people at the party to see me— I felt like I was letting them down. John tried to talk me into staying, but I couldn’t shake the fear that something bad might happen. I was worried someone would say something that would break down the work I’d put in over the past few years in being confident about my body. After all, I was mostly naked.
John kept encouraging me, and half because I wanted to be strong for my friends, half because I didn’t know a way out of the situation, I followed him into the house where the party was happening. The first room we had to go through was a party for a different group of people, so I didn’t know any of them. As I made my way through the group of strangers, I could feel all their eyes on me. I glanced back nervously and accidentally made eye-contact with a guy who was trying to make his way past me. When I did, he quickly turned away. A group of guys looked me up and down. Some even snickered and pointed.
I found the closest wall and stood against it. I felt more vulnerable than I’d ever felt in my life. Here I was, half naked, cross-dressing, wearing makeup, and with my ass hanging out in front of a bunch of drunk college dudes and girls I didn’t know, being inspected and laughed at. I wanted nothing more than to just be a fly on the wall. I wanted the exact opposite of everything I had prepared for–looking sexy, making a statement, creating an illusion… Now I just wanted to be unnoticed. That’s what would have made me feel safe.
I started tearing up. My breathing became shallow and I gasped for air. I couldn’t get enough, my corset was too tight. I had to leave. I had to go home.
Luckily, I have extremely supportive friends, so with their encouragement, I was able to change my costume, return to the party, and spend time with people I cared about.
My first time in drag was an experience I had never imagined. It was scary, a bit humiliating, and not empowering in the way I was hoping it to be. Nonetheless, I’m very grateful for all the lessons this event taught me.
For one, it made me realize my privilege as a cis-person. As a cis-person, I’m very lucky I don’t have to face that fear to the same extent as others in my community, such as trans women, who sadly make up 72% of the victims of violent hate crimes against queer people. I also realized through this event that I really enjoy drag. However, I need to be a lot more conscientious of where I choose to participate, because it isn’t always safe. I am now painfully aware that our society is still a long way away from accepting non-heteronormative and non-binary expressions of gender. Being policed on my gender performance by people who stared and pointed at me, snickered, and made me feel unwelcome despite knowing nothing about me was something I had never experienced before. Moving on from this event, I feel all the more passionate about advocating for those in my community whose lives are troubled by these sorts of fears daily.
Additionally, through this experience, I’ve learned to appreciate drag queens, gender queer individuals, two-spirited individuals, and all other types of gender nonconforming expressions all the more because of how much bravery it takes. As I continue to try to figure out how I want to express my gender, I’m constantly reminded of how strong, resilient, and badass my community of queers is. My community is one of the most important aspects of my life, and being a writer for this magazine is just one way of giving back to those who continue to inspire me by just being authentically, unapologetically true to themselves.