I Call Her “Mother”

_A mother is the truest friend we have, when trials heavy and sudden fall upon us; when adversity takes the place of prosperity; when friends desert us; when trouble thickens around us, still will she cling to us, an.png

My Mother is a 6’7’’ statuesque, African-American blonde woman who is an Emmy-winner television host and award-winning singer, model and actress.

Now, for those of you who know me and my family: you are probably confused on a few things when it comes to that statement. Firstly, my mom was short with dark hair and my mom is currently in her eternal rest.  

My Mother is RuPaul and today we’re going to talk about how important it is for so many queer people to have a person that they can call “Mother”.

Some background: I have been watching Drag Race since Season 4 (which was around the time the dinosaurs still roamed). And back then, I was a high school student and still fairly in the closet. Any time I tried to discuss such a nuanced topic I was told that I was either just confused or seeking attention. So my enjoyment of Drag Race was mostly for the drama, extravagant costumes and the music.

And in the years since Season 4, my opinions on the show have shifted. And those shifts have also been related to some of my feelings with the LGBT community, my own personal identity and how Mama Ru herself has softened in her age.

Now, some history on RuPaul Charles. Mama Ru did not spring forth from the cleavage of Michelle Visage in the early 2000s. RuPaul made her name as a model, performer and entertainer in the 1980s and 1990s. For a while, you probably saw her everywhere but you’d likely never attach the majestic woman to the equally handsome man. Many likely didn’t even know that Ru was biologically male for many of those early years and many just never questioned the unnaturally tall beautiful model. In the 1990s and 2000s, RuPaul could be seen as a guest on many television shows: she was even on Sabrina the Teenage Witch, for heaven’s sake.

RuPaul started her drag Hunger Games in 2009 and the show did…fine? It was fine. Not many got to see the mythical first season and things didn’t really pick up until Seasons 2 and 3. All the while, RuPaul the person was just that: she had stopped a few of her cameo appearances and while she was still making music: her biggest role was as host to the show. She didn’t have much of a public presence and didn’t weigh in on the political matters pertaining the LGBT community. She had an empire to build.

This seemed to shift around Season 4: a season that famously had a challenge that centered around the theme of “Hope Floats” in honor of the brave LGBT members we lost during the Stonewall Riots. During that episode, many of the older drag queens took their time to explain to the younger queens that drag isn’t just about going on the Internets and looking fish: it is political and was not always socially accepted. It was moving hearing Latrice Royale and Chad Michaels discuss drag herstory to younger queens who only saw the art of drag as a means to celebrity.

And from Season 4 on: Ru only got more political. Her music has always been a jab at current politics and policies and when marriage equality passed in 2015: she and the show celebrated. But the show continued to face issues that mirrored the LGBT community.  While per season, at least one queen came out as a trans woman: the show didn’t really know how to handle a trans woman who still is a drag queen or what that line even is between gender identity and playing a woman for tips. Ru famously stayed quiet on such matters for years and we didn’t get an open and proud trans woman as a queen until Peppermint in Season 9.

But the transformation hit around the time of the Pulse Massacre. In 2016: a domestic terrorist took aim at a pinnacle of the Florida LGBT community and many lives were tragically lost. There was the RuPaul that many of us have come to know: vocal, angry and an advocate for LGBT people of all ages, races and creeds. Famously, during an awards show, RuPaul came on stage to discuss the shooting and said proudly “Don’t f*ck with my family.” It’s a moment that still brings a tear to my eyes watching the proud figure we always needed take shape. She gave a platform to queens to tell their stories: most seasons now feature new queens and older ones because the younger girls seem to have all forgotten their herstory. She brings together mostly diverse types of queens, though they do often skew towards her own tastes: she favors dancers, models and the occasional comedy queen.

Drag has been inherently political for as long as there has been drag and RuPaul is very aware of that. So she has now been spending her time using her voice and platform to build up queens, queers and other members of the LGBT family while also being very careful with how and who she supports. She quickly shunned Willam Belli after he was outed as a bit of a transphobe and was quick to disregard PhiPhi O’Hara after her bullying and diva behavior: but she did accept PhiPhi back into her loving arms after the drama queen PhiPhi pulled queens together for several benefit shows.

And over time, around the start of Season 5-6, we started seeing a change in Ru herself. She started referring to herself as “Mother” more and more. Now, for drag queens, you often do have a drag mother. Your Drag Mother is the person who teaches you how to tuck, gets you gigs and makes sure no one steals your tips. This role is not one to be taken lightly, think of it like a Gay Fairy Godmother. For so many LGBT folks, family is not always just the one you were born into. Family often means the people that add value to your life and it is often times a family that you choose. Which is why it’s so important to have someone public facing, ideal and supportive. In her…older age, Mama Ru is supportive, kind, loving but still unafraid to tell it like it is. It’s inspiring to have someone like that to look up to at any age: someone willing to tell you to love yourself because they know how hard that can be.

And it is because of that, I am proud to call Ru “mother”.

 

At the Intersection of Fish and Fab

 

“And now, I'm just trying to change the world, one sequin at a time.” ― Lady Gaga.jpgThis may be a surprise to literally no one but I love drag culture. And while I have my issues with the LGBT community and even my issues with RuPaul’s Drag Race, I am proud to call Ru “Mother” and I love the roots and history behind what drag is today. I love the steps between Tandi Dupree and Sasha Velour. I love that when faced with a mainstream culture that would not yield that so many LGBTQ folks just built their own culture. And while drag culture has been influential it has only recently been mainstream. All of that mainstream limelight has now become an influence to so many other creators. So today I want to talk about cosplay, fashion and how I connect to being a better cosplayer and person through drag, music and high art.

I love fashion. Clearly. I cosplay. You don’t get into cosplay and not want all eyes on you. And that being said I also do love fashion in general. It’s no wonder that Paradise Kiss is one of the few shojo animes I can tolerate. I love watching a good garment come together. I love the styling and the efforts people have to do so an outfit comes together. I’ve been watching a lot of Marco Marco shows online. Marco Marco is a designer who specializes in men’s underwear and leggings but that also extends to conceptual dresses and avant-garde body pieces. If you’ve never seen a Marco Marco show, you should. Like seriously, it’s all on Youtube. Just watch one. I’ll wait.

Are you done? Awesome, back to the show. I love the way that Marco Marco plays with gender, body shape and uses elements so foundational to the LGBT culture like voguing and ballroom couture as parts of his show. The way music plays into every show and every look is pivotal. But you already know that since you watched at least one show now, right?

But let’s take a step back. Let’s go back to a simpler time. Let’s go back to the 70s. Voguing in the drag community is a dance style. Depending on who you ask Madonna did it first but most drag mothers will say she took it from the drag scene. And it’s exactly what you think it is. It’s serving fierce looks and fierce dancing mostly with your hands and arms but a good Vogue routine should be a full body experience. Think disco ParaPara. And being able to pull a look together that you could lip sync and serve face to was vitol and influenced drag culture for decades. Things didn’t get impractical until the Club Kid era in the 80s-90s. And that has continued even now. We’ve seen mainstream fashion take cues from drag and LGBT icons like Grace Jones and RuPaul. We’ve seen fashion shows become pop culture spectacles again as opposed to these haughty affairs for the upper crust. The way music plays into fashion is huge for me and as a kid who grew up with things like DanceDance Revolution and ParaPara where your clothing can actually impact your score. ParaPara is what got me to always end in a pose when it comes to cosplay and having to remember that your gender affects your score in ParaPara links it back to music, fashion and form. There’s nothing like cosplaying while dancing and having your friends cheer you on or egg you on so you either graciously succeed or comedically fail.

Fashion’s a tricky subject for a girl like me. At my smallest I was still plus-sized and I did my best to dress my body and dress to my tastes which is always something in between sailing in Martha’s Vineyard and prep who probably took your boyfriend in sophomore year to androgynous vaguely edgy but somehow still preppy bog creature. My style has evolved some from high school to college to young professional. But drag has always inspired me. Playing with shape and proportion. And despite how plain my exterior can be, I do have a serious passion for fashion. I love Project Runway and shows like it but more importantly my heart always comes back to RuPaul’s Drag Race.  The way big girls dress themselves and the way the majority of these biological men can use the power of clothing and makeup to transform into women that are not gonna lie prettier than me.

Needless to say, I watch a lot of Drag Race when I’m working on costumes. It’s good background noise and the beats of the music and the sounds of men as women fighting over who wore it well. And all the while RuPaul’s encouraging words keep me steadily sewing and painting within the lines when required. And when I have to sit down and think about it, I am so inspired by these fashionistas and trendsetters when I work on my costumes. I want to be a better makeup artist because I can see what Kim Chi can do. I want to style and put pieces together because I know Latrice Royale can style her body so well. I want to conquer my anxiety and perfectionism because I know Katya can and did get over hers. I look up to Violet Chacki and Raja for how well they can serve face and I think about that every time I overdraw my highlight line or don’t go far enough with my eye shadow.

We all have plenty of different inspirations and drag and fashion happen to be two of mine. I work hard to be a better cosplayer because I know Mother Ru would want me to. RuPaul is like my patron saint of fashion, a statuette of her sits on my mantle that I have to provide offerings of thread, lace, ribbon and glittered candles. Drag motivates me to try dyeing fabric and painting my nails even though I’m wearing gloves. Drag motivates me to be more aware of my accessories in and out of cosplay. And when you look good, you feel good. And when you feel good, you let that light show to the rest of the world.

 

Pride vs. Performance

 

pexels-photo-211882.jpegI didn’t know how to write this post. I didn’t know if I ever wanted to really write this post. But let’s do it. Let’s talk about LGBT Pride and how 2017 has been one of performance for the LGBT community and those allied with them.

I’ve been vocal about my support of LGBT causes and those affiliated with them. But that doesn’t mean that I don’t take umbrage with the way the current American LGBT community behaves. Bisexual erasure is still a huge problem, current SJWs tend to be belligerent when they should be empathetic, and there is still a very problematic vision of what being “gay in America” looks like. But gender and identity questions aside, the pride community despite its flaws does its best to support each other at least in pockets. In pockets, the LGBT community can be loving, supportive, revolutionary. It was on the shoulders of community that Stonewall revolutionized how queer people were treated and it was in the shoulders of community that RuPaul helped shape the world we live in now. In these pockets of community, despite the pain of the less than ideal bunch, we grew and got better.

2015 had a landmark choice in the Supreme Court that paved the way for marriage equality all across this great nation. But that didn’t remove homophobia and transphobia. Shortly after were a string a “bathroom bills” and other flat out awful practices and legal nonsense. But yet the LGBT community  persisted. Strides were made. Idols created. Role models shaped.

And then Trump somehow won the presidency.

With him and his gaggle of GOP goons he could stand to turn on its head all the progress we have made so far. With him, “traditional” views returned to the collective consciousness all the while queer people are even more transparent than ever. So now despite many of the LGBT community already being out and already bring proud now we have to be even more so. I know more than one person who while “out and proud” still don’t participate heavily in pride activities because of some of the hypocrisies within the community.  But now the enemy is at the gate. Hell, he’s inside the gate. The wall has been breeched. The Vandals are inside the walls.

Bob the Drag Queen said it the best: now we have to be even more out and even more proud. Now we no longer have the luxury of hiding in our respectively gay homes. Now we must take to the streets draped in rainbow and clad in glitter to fight the menace that has breached the our inner sanctum. But what about those that who didn’t want to leave their hidden queer residences? Do we have to stand up, too?

Apparently so.

Recently, I took to wearing my LGBT pride shirts out and about. I’m proud to be part of this community. I’m proud of the allies. I’m proud the individuals, but I personally do take issue with some of the concerns listed above. But sometimes extraordinary circumstances require extraordinary support. It feels a little bit like the post-9/11 world. Remember how aggressively patriotic we had to be as Americans? Remember how important it was to be an American? Remember how violently any detractors were treated?

So if this is our Second Stonewall, I will fight at the barricades with you. But know that I am aware of the flaws in this barricade. Know that I am concerned about the hypocrisy. Know that my protest is not in compliance. Know that my support is not blanket. I am here for those who need a voice, but that will not silence my own.

Happy Pride, everyone.

 

Thoughts and Musings on RuPaul’s Drag Race

-We're all Born Naked and the Rest is Drag.-RuPaul.pngIt’s no secret that I love RuPaul’s Drag Race. It’s no secret that I love pride communities, the LGBTQ family and the pageantry and pain that goes alongside being a drag queen. So with season 9 just around the corner (or already going depending on quickly my chubby fingers finish this post up), here’s some of the thoughts I have after 9 seasons of Drag Race, 2 seasons of Drag Race: All-Stars and drag culture in general. Now, these opinions are mine and I welcome constructive conversation down in the comments.

  • I love that RuPaul has built an empire on blonde wigs and raising one arm up in the air.
  • Teaching and learning Drag Lingo is absolutely hilarious.
    • Listening to your friends use it casually in conversation is also great.
      • Lookin’ at you, Carlos. Askin’ me about the tea.
  • Apparently, I pull off a mean Alaska impression.
  • Can we just say that Katya was robbed during All-Stars Season 2?
    • Speaking of Katya, I’d like to think I’m the Katya Zamo of cosplay.
      • Mostly riddled with anxiety but still looking pretty okay.
  • Can we all just say that Raven has been robbed twice?
  • ALSO can we just say that making Raven and JuJu Bee sing against each other to Dancing On my Own was the purest show of evil?
    • My heart still isn’t fully mended from that.
  • Latrice Royale is wonderful and really should have won some kind of crown. I don’t think she was best of her season but someone deserves to give her a crown of some kind.
    • LARGE AND IN CHARGE, DAMMIT. GIVE HER A CROWN.
  • I get just as  angry as Latrice did when the girls of her season for WHATEVER reason didn’t know their herstory.
    • Real talk, I was talking to some other members of the pride community and some young lass asked “What was Stonewall all about?” and I just about spilled my drink.
  • I really want to know what happened to Ginger Minj and her husband in between her season and the most recent season of All-Stars…
    • Her new beau is cute but like…there’s a story there. I want to know that story.
  • Willam is a strange conglomeration of regret and bad choices but like…he looks good.
    • Real talk, if you ever want to see me feel very conflicted about a person Willam is fascinating. He does things FOR attention so you know what you’re getting but also, you can see this is a person who somewhere deep down inside is in pain and probably needs a lot of love and support.
  • RELATED TANGENT: how does one gender a drag queen?
    • He when dressed and as a male and she as a female?
      • But yet Ru is still called Mama even when in a bespoke suit…
  • Also let’s go over a few things that drag ISN’T:
    • Drag is not cosplay.
    • Drag is not just a man in a dress.
    • Drag is not just doing fierce makeup.
    • Drag is pads and nails and wigs and discomfort and beauty.
    • IF YOU’RE NOT WEARING NAILS, YOU AREN’T DOING DRAG.
      • Moral of the story is: Drag is an Art.
  • I’m always a little struck by the misogyny that the gay community still struggles with.
    • Like really, listen to the way these men talk about women sometimes.
  • Cosplay still isn’t drag.
  • The divide between older drag queens and younger queens reminds me so much of the divide between new cosplayers and old cosplayers (like me).
    • Oh my gosh, I made this whole outfit myself! No, you didn’t. You got it off J-List. That’s cool, girl. No tea, no shade. Just accept the truth.
  • Why did no one tell me that Chad Michaels and Morgan McMichaels (drag mom and daughter) are the same damn age?
  • I’m surprised by how many of these drag queens have last names.
    • Looking at you, Pearl Liason.
  • I do love and hate the divide between comedy queens and pageant girls.
  • I still don’t think I understand Sharon Needles. I’m just gonna say it.
  • I also still hate Phi Phi O’Hara.
    • There is nothing quite like watching me downward spiral into hatred when being confronted with how awful of a human being or rotted out tree monster Phi Phi O’Hara is.
  • If Coco Montrese can forgive Alyssa and vice versa, I can learn to be more forgiving.
  • Every time Alyssa does a Death Drop, Redbull does give someone wings.
    • But Redbull does give you back rolls.
  • Does Violet eat? Such a tiny waist. Tiny corset…is she okay? Someone give her a burger.
  • Watching this show genuinely makes me want to be a better cosplayer, person and artist.
  • I want to know who my drag mom would be. Who would drag adopt me?
    • Latrice, please adopt me. Or Katya.
  • Please don’t ask me who my favorite queen is…it’s Chad Michaels or Katya.
  • I still don’t get Bianca Del Rio…she’s so mean.
    • Please don’t tell her I said that. She will hunt me down like an animal and read me to filth.
  • Snatch Game is magical and I have no idea who I would be…
    • Except for the instances where it’s damn near offensive…
      • LOOKIN’ AT YOU TRIXIE MATTEL. TRYIN’ TO BE ANNE FRANK FOR SNATCH GAME.
  • RuPaul’s music is very catchy…too catchy….
    • If you have to ask me a favorite RuPaul song…The Beginning is really really good.
  • I am curious about the fine line between reading and just being a terrible human being.
  • I am also disappointed with how staged the show has been recently.
    • If I wanted a staged reality show, I’d watch something Kardashian or America’s Next Top Model.
  • Favorite Season? Season 4, probably. Or Season 7. Don’t make me choose.
  • I’m a little curious about the nature of the terrible horrible f*g word. Because when Willam uses it, he’s fine but if someone else uses it, they’re using hate speech. I think it’s hate speech either way.
    • I’m seriously curious about this. It’s sort of like the n-word. That if someone who is WHITE says it, it’s hate speech. If two black people say it to each other, it’s fine.
  • I would love to see a Drag King version of Drag Race but I do admit that most biological women who are dressing as men are doing to express gender identity and not just for fun and remember: cosplay is not drag.
  • I am also angry that these men in dresses look better than I do on most days and that’s a strange feeling to have as a real human person.

I love any show that makes me want to create. That makes me want to be more. That makes me want to be a better person, creator and queen. The messages can be empowering, self-satisfying and at the same time narcissistic and toxic. But isn’t that any community? Isn’t that any fandom? The LGBT community has come so far and drag has been pivotal to that growth. But the community does still have a long way to go and we will continue to make progress. Let’s move forward together and make herstory.