Bitten By the Competitive Drag Bug

The boys and I were exuberant after our first couple of Open Drag nights. It felt good to have an audience, even if at times it was only us. The bar is really not our scene. We don’t really drink. Also, we had been socially isolating ourselves for so long that we didn’t know how we would handle our anxiety of meeting and mixing with new people. Max might have had the easiest time. Several people either remembered him or his dad, and people automatically loved him. Alex, with the mask of LyKra, coaxed out his inner life coach and was able to make authentic connections. Often, Alex and Max got to stay together before and during the show. Max became the dutiful drag husband and helped LyKra switch into different outfits between numbers.

I often had to wait out in the bar alone, with occasional visits from Max. I didn’t know who to talk to and hid behind my phone waiting for the show to start. Once it did, I hid behind the phone’s camera. I felt like I had an important job to do. Still, it was often lonely. After the show, we would pack up and vacate like a well-oiled machine and go back to the boys’ house to watch the video.

Shortly after we started going out to do drag, Alex told me that he did something. A local drag queen told him about a drag competition in a neighboring town. It would run only four weeks and require one modeling look and one performance number. There was also a possibility of doing a lip sync battle, but that would be determined by the luck of the draw. The cost was $15. The bar would also have a $3 cover for non-performers to get in. It started a week from next Tuesday, and he said yes.

The next hurdle was finding costumes, coming up with routines, and getting supplies on a very limited budget. The boys and I went out to a local swimming hole and floated while we went through ideas. Alex’s mind was constantly racing while Max and I added thoughts when we had them. The boys were going to visit Alex’s family in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan that weekend. It was possible that his mother might help purchase some supplies, maybe even teach him to sew.

For three days, we looked through concepts for each themed night. We needed three looks for each night: a modeling/presentation look, a performance look, and a battle look. We looked up songs, researched fashion and makeup. By the time the boys were packed for their trip, Alex had a complete game plan written on his phone with reference images.

When the boys returned, it was time to clean out the drag room, and go to town building costumes with the new fabric Alex’s mom bought him. Sometimes an issue would come up like Alex’s power cord to his laptop went dead, and I gave him mine. Then his computer touch pad died, and I was able to lend him a Bluetooth mouse. I got into the doctor and was prescribed anxiety medication which helped tremendously. As I got to know my co-workers, I began to relax and find my pace at work. We were making it work.

The first Tuesday of competition, I was super excited. I went to bed early the night before in anticipation of a long night of drag. When I got to the boy’s house, I was floored by the costumes and preparation. Alex and Max had been working tons of hours piecing everything together. I tried to lay down for a nap while Alex put on his face, and we all shared a bite to eat before we took off for the new bar. None of us had ever been there, but it was located only a couple of miles away from where I worked. We got there super early and tried to drive around to kill some time. I showed the boys where I worked, and we became a little more familiar with the area.

Eventually, we got to the bar and set up shop. (I go into detail about the first night of competition in my Orlando post.) My head swirled in all the great drag that night. There were performances from four seasoned queens and one seasoned drag king, plus six contestants. At the end of the night, LyKra came in second place for the night. We were thrilled and had a great time.

As soon as we got home, I hopped into my car and drove to my house. By the time my head hit the pillow and the alarm went off, I only got two hours of sleep. The next morning, I made sure to have a good breakfast, packed a decent lunch, and slammed a 5 Hour Energy. I was worried that my ass would drag at work, but I felt pumped and energetic. Being a part of that drag night, hanging out with my best friends doing what we love, just fed my fire. When I got home, my sister had made dinner. I ate with my family, took a shower, and went to bed early. When Thursday rolled around, I was ready to do another drag night with the boys.

As our world was expanding, our relationships began to grow. Sometimes that can lead to experiencing conflict. Our first host of Open Drag night lasted about 3 or four weeks before some drama occurred that pushed her out. We would hear bits and pieces of it, but Alex, Max, and I wanted to stay as far away from it as possible. The drag pageant at Pride kicked up hurt feelings and rumors of bullying, and you would hear different sides and never really know where the truth lay. In the transition, I felt a lot of anxiety. You don’t want to offend anyone; you just wanted to put on good drag.

At the second night of the drag battle in the neighboring town, the boys had gone to extra lengths to make everything perfect. It was RuPaul night. Alex owns a RuPaul doll that was given to him in my backyard one year at a little drag princess birthday party we had for him. He duplicated RuPaul’s doll dress for the modeling portion of the night. The music chosen was RuPaul’s “Supermodel” interspersed with catch phrases and interaction between RuPaul and Trixie Mattel because his makeup was a take on RuPaul in Trixie’s makeup. This correlated with the second look which would be LyKra as Trixie Mattel lip syncing to “I’m a Barbie Girl” with Pineal (a purple puppet Max constructed) doing the male voice. It was perfect!

Prepared, we arrived to the bar in great anticipation of the night’s competition. According to the rules, the previous winner got to choose the order that the contestants came out in. Listening to the comments from the previous week, and having come in second place, LyKra was chosen to go last. At first, I thought no problem. The grading system worked with each judge being given a number from 1-6 for each portion of the competition. The judges could only give each number out once, and they had to make that selection without seeing the performances that would come next. Hence, being last in the lineup could be a huge hindrance. I stayed positive, thinking that the judges would rely on the results from last week to leave something left for LyKra.

The competition got started and the 5 queens and 1 king went through their paces. Some contestants did great with the theme. One did a fantastic recreation of a classic Sharon Needles’ look from RuPaul’s Drag Race. Her long crooked nails, which were actually octopus tentacles, ice blue eyes, and wig were dead on. The competition was fierce! LyKra was a vision when she came out. She matched the orange leotard and red and orange ruffled skit on the doll perfectly. She was the only one to attempt actually looking like the queen herself. The audience roared with appreciation as she perfectly modeled the outfit she made from scratch with her own hands. I thought for sure that if she lost any points for being last, the judges would save her some for the second half. I was optimistic.

During the second half, some of the contestants lost their way with the theme. When asked why one queen thought performing to Lady Gaga’s “Applause” tied into the RuPaul theme, the only thing she could offer was that drag queens like applause. The drag king who danced like a gogo boy in the first half, turned into a bioqueen (a biological girl who does drag as a girl – now I know what I am called). She came out to “Dude Looks Like a Lady” which was entertaining. Two judges told her that they gave her 6’s, and I began to sweat bullets. At about this time, one of the other drag queen’s husbands told me that they had a puppet number for their performance. My heart sank. As the other contestants performed, all I could think about was the upcoming battle of the puppets.

Of course, that queen was directly before LyKra in the lineup. She came out with a puppet that mocked the drag queen host and threw down fantastic shade at all the judges, just like the puppet challenges featured in every season of Drag Race. She did a great job, which made me feel even sicker.

When LyKra came out, the puppet had instantly lost its charm. LyKra embodied Trixie perfectly in a sparkly pick dress, big pink hair with a bow, and the unmistakable Trixie makeup. As good and as funny as the number was, the judges all said that they had given all their numbers to the other queens. One judge commented, “it is clear that you deserve all 5’s and 6’s, but all I have to give you are 1’s and 2’s.”

My heart broke. I instantly busted outside while the judges took to the stage to give the contestants time to change for the lip sync battle. I knew how much Alex and Max had put into this. It made me sick to think that LyKra got last place only because she was put last in the lineup. The points had nothing to do with the contestant’s effort, costumes, modeling, or performance. Inside, the boys equally felt beaten down. By the announcement of the night’s points totals, LyKra came in next to last for the night and next to last overall. In one night, she had gone from second place to nearly last.

The ride home was difficult. I cried. The boys crunched the numbers and there was no way LyKra would be able to win. Alex tried to put a bright spin to it. At least it motivated him to make the costumes and gain some experience. There was no motivation left to put as much effort in to the coming weeks. I just couldn’t see how any of it was fair. I didn’t sleep and went to work trying all day to keep myself from crying. The boys stayed up all night trying to decompress and reassess the situation.

We really didn’t have much time to sulk. Besides doing another open drag night on Thursday, LyKra had been asked to an Orlando benefit show at each bar that weekend. I offered to give a piece of art to the silent auction at our home bar. It felt good to do it, but I didn’t realize how short I would be on time.

On Thursday, we dragged. On Friday, I made one painting and threw it out of the house and down the backyard. I made two little paintings and hemmed and hawed about whether they were worthy enough before taking them down to the bar where they were received with open arms. I got my hair done and went to WalMart to look at makeup and clothes and slipped in a pile of fish water.

I limped over to the boys’ house where Alex set me up with some medicine and an ice pack, while he finished getting ready. I went to LyKra’s first outing less than a week after my hysterectomy, I would be damned if I was going to miss her first real show. We were tired, but we endured. The fundraiser on Friday raised over $2800 for the Pulse Victims GoFundMe account. Both of my paintings sold. I was had a few new buddies to hang out with and watch the show, and LyKra gave one of the best live performances ever. (Trust me, when I can I will share a link.) She was dressed in a blue sparkly dress that resembled Britany Spears’ flight attendant uniform for the music video “Toxic.” The performance was a mash up of Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep” and Britany’s “Toxic.” The audience LOVED it!

At the benefit, there was a great blend of old and young drag queens. One hadn’t put on a dress in over ten years. It felt like a sisterhood that once you get in, you are a part of the tribe forever. In less than six weeks, LyKra had entered that tribe. More experienced queens embraced her into the fold, put the word out that they would protect her, and offered her several more opportunities to shine. The love felt real.

Drag has always had the ability to take over one’s life. As we went to another benefit on Saturday night, the boys and I were both dragging (pun intended). The bar where drag wars takes place had 17 queens in the lineup. It was nice to see completely new queens and kings and appreciate their artistry, but by the end of the night we were wiped out.

By the third week of the Drag Wars, the boys were over it. Why put in all that effort if it wouldn’t affect the scores? Alex’s brother and his friends had been planning on going to this show for a month, so we sucked it up. The theme was “Trap Queen.” Apparently, a ‘trap queen’ is a woman who attempts to trap a guy into a relationship with her, an extension of a gold digger that is maybe a little trashier.

Before we even got to the bar, three contestants decided not to perform. That left only three girls. The winner of the previous week got to set the order. LyKra was chosen to go last again. There were also some changes made to the scoring, the audience got to vote for the queen they liked when they entered the bar, and they had all three queens come out at the end of the modeling round so the judges could tweak their score if they wanted to.

For the modeling, two of the contestants had some creative takes. One was dressed as a Venus fly trap from Little Shop of Horrors, and the other was literally a mouse in a trap. LyKra came out dressed in a “Straight Up from the UP (Upper Peninsula of Michigan)” leotard, with a pink plaid bustle that tied around the front like a flannel shirt, a long pink braid with a blue bandana headband, gold painted beer can earrings, and a gold “Yooper” ring that stretched across her fingers. People lost it!

For the performance, LyKra performed Tinache’s “All Hands on Deck” in an outfit that incorporated a skirt made from a pleather type fabric on top of windshield reflectors from the dollar store. She was so good that several audience members came forward to offer her tips. The judges also loved it.

I felt good about her chances as the final scores were tallied. LyKra came in first, but was chosen to go in a lip sync battle of Iggy Azaela’s “Work” with the contestant that came in third place. If she lost, she would lose all of her points.

As the music began, LyKra became possessed. Her lips moved seamlessly with the lyrics as she radiated the charisma, uniqueness, nerve, and talent that she needed to. At times, the other contestant would catch herself looking at LyKra just to see what she would do next. As the audience got to pick the winner, LyKra got the loudest ovation…cementing her win.

When the overall competition scores were tallied, LyKra came in second place overall and only two points away from the leader. She had the most audience members vote for her, and that had closed the gap. It was exciting. It felt validating. She could win this thing!

We were ready for the fourth and final night. The theme was “Africa.” As preparations were being made, there was a dialogue amongst the contest creator and the contestants about the points. She wanted to give the contestants who hadn’t shown up some points, which didn’t sit well with the girls who did participate. There was a feeling of not being heard, and an emphasis on “shade” and game play, that just didn’t sit well.

LyKra was in a position to win the whole contest no matter what was thrown at her, but this new wrinkle started to make Alex think. If LyKra did win, she would be obligated to judge other battles with the same rules, as well as participate in a final cycle of the competition for an overall title. Knowing the work, the heartbreak, the pressure that came up during these last three weeks, was it even worth it?

A lot of drag queens do pageants and contests just to get a place to perform, sometimes a chance to get paid. Can you be a great drag queen if you don’t hold a title? Is the only place you can be a drag queen or perform as one in a bar?

Drag for us had been a creative outlet at the boy’s house. It helped me heal after my cancer surgeries and through my chemo and radiation treatments. Our green screen could transport us anywhere. We didn’t have to subject ourselves to shade or pressure ourselves to fit in someone else’s box. The competition did motivate us to buy new supplies, create new routines, meet new people, get good feedback, and gave us an audience. It also made us overwhelmed, overworked, self-conscious, bitterly disappointed, and gut wrenchingly anxious.

Alex knew that this competitive environment was getting a little toxic. Even though he could win it, he decided that it wasn’t worth it. It was time to not continue to perpetuate this negativity. He spoke up about how the judging system and allocation of points was affecting him and his fellow competitors in hopes that doing so would make a difference. He decided to leave the competition which started a dialogue that looked like it might impact the system for future cycles. His fellow competitors expressed appreciation, and others weren’t as happy, but the relief from releasing the pressure and burden of the contest was glorious.

So finally, the itch to compete has worn off, and we have made a pact to forgo drag competitions for a while. We now have breathing room to do our living room drag again, and LyKra still hosts Open Drag night at a bar only minutes from the house. The hope is that we can make that space more welcoming and inviting to those trying to dabble in drag. It would be great to just make the whole experience a place that is safe and open to expression and creativity. That is the goal.

Gearing Up for Drag

It was a Thursday morning. I had just awoke and stumbled into the bathroom with my phone. On Facebook, I saw a small advertisement for an Open Drag Night at our local gay bar. No cover. Doors open at 8 pm. Sign up at 9 pm. The first night was tonight. I immediately sent it to Alex. We have been doing drag for four years. LyKra had only stepped out of the house for a handful of occasions. First, as a hostess for a Beyonce sing-a-long party at the Alamo Drafthouse. Second, for her first pageant at the Lamplighter, a small run down bar that many presume to be haunted. She won the crown and was asked to perform at her third gig at a regular bar in Coldwater on a winter’s Sunday night with a handful of other queens. All of these outings were successful, but nearly 3 years ago. LyKra was well received, but a hit to our income, concerns about stamina, and a small amount of social phobia kept us in front of the comfortable green screen we called home.

I never imagined that Alex would bite. We had talked about doing more drag locally, but it costs a lot of money to put together outfits, time to develop numbers, and effort to get everything in place. Fears and good common sense to the side, Alex did take the bait. After conferring with Max, it was decided. LyKra was going to perform at our local gay bar for the first time.

First, we needed some supplies. Two pairs of tights, purple glue stick, eye liner, and duct tape. Second, we needed an act. Fortunately, we have done tons of drag at the house. We reviewed the footage. LyKra is a sexy girl with a friendly girl-next-door vibe. We had no idea how many numbers they would let us do. I figured it might be like karaoke. One for sure, possibly a second. No more than three. Alex decided to have three numbers prepared: “Work” by Fifth Harmony; “Creep” by TLC; and a disco mix of “Colors of the Wind” from the movie Pocahontas. The numbers crossed different age brackets, were upbeat, but weren’t so cardio driven that Alex would have a heart attack. We even edited the tracks to keep everything around 2-3 minutes. Third, we had to get costumes.

Anything girly that I have owned in my lifetime has somehow ended up in the drag closet at the boys’ house. Big girl clothing is hard to find and expensive to obtain, but Alex can usually fit into my clothes. Other odds and ends have been added over time: various fabrics, outfits lent to us by other queens, dollar store finds. Nothing really resembled its natural state. Over time, dresses and skirts had been pulled apart and put together in various configurations. When we put together stuff for the camera, you can hide a lot of imperfections. Drag, in public, was a different sort of beast. Besides confronting homophobic or transphobic people who might hurt you just because you dare dress out of your gender type, there was the fear of being clocked (or judged) by other queens. Digging deep, we were able to pull together three looks, with a fourth as back-up.

Once the plan was made, we all got to work. Max organized the food, burned the music on a disk, and grabbed some bags. I pulled the costumes, packed, and laid out the pieces. Alex got to work on his face. We had about three hours.

Alex is bald, but had been growing some facial hair. First, he took a shower and shaved everything. Just like the queens on RuPaul, he glued down his eyebrows. The next step is applying a good base of foundation. When I go to the drug store, foundation can cost between $15-20. If you look at higher end foundation, it can get super pricey. Alex found that he could buy Mehron foundation sticks on Amazon for around $10. They offered full coverage and were affordable. In order to make the illusion of a more feminine face, Alex contours his face with dark and light powders. He then spends a good hour on just the eyes. Watching him put together his face is very fascinating. Although I don’t put makeup on every day, I have learned a lot from watching him. He treats his face like I treat my canvas. From a blank slate, you try to create something beautiful, unique, and inspiring. While you are in the process, it is very meditative when you are in the zone. If you feel time crunched or irritated, you can become easily frustrated and self-defeating. For some reason, everything went pretty smoothly. We were anxious, but it was a good kind of anxious, a productive excitement.

After two and a half hours of make-up application, Max and I helped Alex get into his first costume. Like any big girl, foundation is crucial. Max duct taped Alex’s chest. We helped him put on layers of tights, Spanx like underwear, and a custom made leotard. His first outfit sported the skirt ripped off an old dress of mine that I wore to church on several Easter Sunday’s. While dressing, we would have to stop several time to blot sweat from Alex’s brow. Just getting into the clothes was a workout. The crowning glory was a pair of sky high shiny black heels in male size 15.

Before we knew it, we were on our way to the bar. It was sunny but cool. I was holding Alex’s wig while he sat in the passenger seat trying to cool down. His bald head, painted face, and dressed up body was a sight. We all held our breath as we watched the people in the cars around us for their reaction. I didn’t really see anyone pay him any attention.

We pulled into the parking lot of the bar. It was nearly empty except for a couple of cars. Supposedly the doors had been open for the last hour. My heart sank a little. Was this a bad idea? Would Alex get mad at me for talking him in to doing a performance for no one? I tried to stay positive.

We got out; Alex put on his wig; and we walked to the door. A young guy checked our IDs. Alex, now LyKra, stood nearly 7 feet in his heels. We were cleared to enter, and walked through the nearly abandoned bar. At 9 pm, LyKra introduced herself to Mistress of Ceremonies, Caj Mone (after Cash Money). Caj was a tall black girl from Grand Rapids. She had been doing drag for six years and was asked to start up a local drag night by the bar’s owner. Alex asked if there were any other girls, and there was only one. She was a young girl, just 20. Her name was Aaliyah. Her grandmother and father were coming to see her for the first time in drag that night.

The ladies were given an old dance floor room to set up in. Costumes and make-up were already out. We took up a corner table with good light. Alex tried to make himself comfortable. I went to the bar to get us a drink. I brought back a pitcher of watermelon flavored long island. Alex had already started to chat with the other girls. Although I knew he was nervous talking to other queens, his background as a coach kicked in. I could tell that they liked him and it was going to be all right.

Max and I were kicked out of the dressing room so the girls could get prepared. We stepped out onto the patio for a smoke. A few people trickled in. Max is the son of a local gay icon of sorts. His father was the DJ for decades at an old gay bar that burned down several years ago. Gay people in the city of a certain age or older instantly recognize his father, and by extension, him. Among the handful of people that came out, three of them were drag queens in their own right who came out in their boy clothes to support the first open drag night at the bar. One of them was the drag mother to Caj and Aaliyah. Another was a drag queen who had organized a big drag night for Saturday at a local straight bar with 26 queens, one of them from San Francisco. All of them already knew and loved Max.

By the time the show started, about ten people were sitting in the bar. Caj started the night with Whitney Houston’s “I’m Every Woman.” She danced around in a flowy yellow dress, grabbing dollar bills, hugging and fondling the guys watching. She had a good presence and interacted well with the audience. I took video with Alex’s iPhone while Max tipped. Next, Aaliyah came out in a tight fluorescent cat suit. She looked stunning. Her song was some sort of dark rock song. With her grandmother and father watching for the first time, you wondered if she was just scared to death.

LyKra made it to the stage after the host introduced her as “Spandex.” The song was, “Work from Home,” by Fifth Harmony. Dressed in a short flowered skirt that was cut from my Easter dress and a long sleeved leotard, she looked like the cute girl next door. Although she stands well over 6 feet and weighs nearly 400lbs, she was super graceful on her super high heels. People were taken aback by her beautifully painted face, long curly blonde hair, and her ability to make you think she was the sexiest thing in the room. Immediately, everyone had their dollar bills out to tip her. A smile radiated on my face, finally LyKra had an audience.

Not knowing what we were going to end up with, LyKra was able to do three numbers. She grooved to TLC’s “Creep” in a short red and black sequined dress, and added a little Broadway with a disco mixed version of “Colors of the Wind” in a skirt that looked somewhat Native American, strips of patterned fleece, layered, that gave the impression of fringe.

With only two performers besides the host, Caj had both performers come out to do a “Lip Sync for Your Life” battle. Before we knew it, Aaliyah and LyKra were battling it out to Whitney Houston’s “It’s Not Right, But It’s Okay.” LyKra was exhausted but she gave it everything. Dancing on people, dancing against the back wall, dancing on the floor…it was super impressive. Everyone was taking note, including Aaliyah who couldn’t help but keep an eye on her at all times. Just before everyone would have called it for LyKra, Aaliyah did some cartwheels and handsprings in heels and everyone lost it. By the end, Caj said they were both winners, and I couldn’t have agreed more.

Before we left for home, several people talked to the boys including some very prominent queens from the area. There were promises of connections for future shows and even the possibility of joining a local sisterhood. The night couldn’t have been more positive. Exhausted but exhilarated, the boys and I went home with a huge smile on our face and played back the tape over and over again to relive the moment.

Pride and Prejudice

June 26, 2015 was a tremendous day. I finally had enough money to secure car insurance (no small feat when you have been uninsured for 5 months), renew my driver’s license, and my car’s registration. My income had been reduced since the Spring college term ended, and I knew money would be tight. A series of errors in my payroll check for my summer gig at another community college made it even tighter. I knew I was going to have trouble paying. I knew I had to ask for help.

A week or more prior, I woke up one morning and put on my glasses. Unfortunately, they snapped and the left lens came flying on the floor. My father witnessed the aftermath and offered to buy me new glasses on the spot for my birthday. It was generous and was offered without the type of grumbling I am accustomed to dealing with in such matters. As the date of my birthday continued to draw near, and I continued to deal with payroll issues, I realized that I would not be able to pay the Secretary of State.

The boys suggested that I skip the glasses, wear contacts, and ask my father to spend the money on car insurance. It was logical. It was practical. I had an appointment at the optical department at Walmart the next day. All I had to do was tell my Dad and cancel it. When I woke up the next morning, I tried to build the courage to have that conversation for an hour and just couldn’t. I went to the appointment with my father and got glasses.

I felt horrible that I couldn’t do it. I was embarrassed and afraid. Eventually, through conversations with my sister and the boys, I realized that I had to come clean to my father. We had a brief private conversation where I told him that I didn’t want him to perceive that I was just trying to mooch off of him. I felt horrible about asking him for anything, inconveniencing him, but I needed help. Being honest and vulnerable was the only way I was going to get the help I needed. With minimal grumbling, my father helped out with funds.

So, I was sitting at the Secretary of State when the Supreme Court decision on gay marriage was announced. I knew it was coming, but was surprised to see that it actually happened. It was hard to maintain my composure. With so many people around me, did they know? No one talked about it out loud, but I furiously surfed Facebook and news websites for the details. I was so consumed that the hour and a half wait seemed to take only 5 minutes.

I went to hang out with the boys for the day. We were going to celebrate my birthday. I could tell that they were a little off. We didn’t talk about it for a few hours. When it was addressed, it was related to posting a line of the doxology in a comment to my former pastor’s post embracing the same sex marriage ruling. The boys thought it was inauthentic of me to post, “Glory be to God from whom all blessing flow,” because my current religious positioning was less than traditional doctrine. I told them that I thought it was appropriate because it was a very Presbyterian thing to do in response to a big decision, the election or church leaders, offering, etc.

What this started was a catalyst to talk about needing to be open. I have a side of me that was raised Presbyterian. I have a side of me that sees my home church as a second family, but I rarely have talked about this with them. It is like I categorized things in my head, and if I wasn’t in that section…I don’t normally share it. It is not intentional omission. It does sort of feed the concept of being different things to different people. That is where the struggle is real. You build relationships with people at work, at church, at the bar…..but what happens when those people come together? Who knows the real you? I know it is possible to be authentic all the time, but I hadn’t lived my life that way until recently.

The boys also seem to point out that I was more excited by the day’s ruling than they were. I was flying the pride flag, but I didn’t mention that I was also part of the LGTB community. I had thought about posting something earlier in the day, but waited until we would be together to do it. I had even done a draft of what it would be. We shaped the final draft together, talked about the pros and cons to posting it, and eventually I cut and pasted it into a status update. It was the moment that I had fully come out as a lesbian on Facebook.

We went swimming for an hour. We found a way to toss each other up and out of the water several times, sending massive amounts of water out of the pool. It felt great. It felt like a celebration. I felt weightless for a moment in time. When we came back, several people had liked the post and some left sweet comments. I felt a ton of love.

The love continued over the weekend. Several people sent me lovely birthday messages, my father said he was proud of me and loved me, and I even got to go to my favorite pizza pub and eat my cake too. It was a great birthday weekend.

On Monday, I felt like I was riding the wave until the boys shared with me that Max’s sister’s fiancé had posted some anti-gay stuff on his Facebook page. He even added an American flag filter to counter the pride flag filters that people were adding to their profile pictures. Knowing that Max’s sister had talked to Max on the Friday of the Supreme Court ruling, asking if Alex and Max wanted to get married with them on the same day the following week, at the same ceremony, because now they could, they felt compelled to bring it up to her. She immediately said that she couldn’t take sides, brought up a stupid free speech argument, and ignored any discussion with her brother, even though he was hurt. She did have her fiancé take down the post, but he just replaced it with a picture of a flag transposed over a wave at the beach scene. Whatever.

It would have been left there, but the next day she decided to post an article on “Jesus’s Response to the Gays” with a comment that thanked her fiancé for showing her the “real truth.” In the article, it clearly stated that marriage should be between a man and a woman. Alex was compelled to respond, asking if she really thought that his relationship with her brother for the last 14 years was sinful and what was he supposed to do as a gay man in the situation. I took another tactic. I told her that before she decides to start pointing out the sins in others, she might want to look in the mirror. Last time I checked, she had a long laundry list of her own sins that would keep her busy. I also made mention that her value system seem to shift as often as the weather. She was neither better nor worse than anyone else.

Max’s sister replied to the comments from Alex and me. She mentioned that she had only posted the article and wasn’t pointing fingers at anyone. That provoked another response from Alex and I. Alex offered nothing but love and I offered her a “bullshit.” Later that day, a call between her and the boys confirmed that she did think they were sinners and that marriage should be between a man and a woman. She played the victim. Why couldn’t she exercise her right to free speech? Why couldn’t they come to her church and confess their sins? Why were they always trying to put her on the spot and cause drama?

The boys tried to calmly explain that she was the one posting this stuff. Shouldn’t they have a right to tell her, as her brothers, that it was hurting them? Other people read this stuff, and it didn’t reflect well on her. When confronted, all she could spew was her recently acquired opinions that she had been taught or nothing at all. She couldn’t take responsibility for her words or her actions.

While the boys were going back and forth with Max’s sister, I was burning a little. I was glad that I had a chance to voice my opinion to her but it didn’t feel right. Max and Alex deserved better. They have always been “out.” Max’s sister knew this about him. For years, she had been vocal about supporting him. She would share that her brother was gay and that others should be tolerant. Now, all of a sudden, she was singing a different tune.

I contacted some friends privately on Facebook, and asked them to send Alex and Max a love note. They did, and I think it did touch them. I was often included in them, and was really moved by the love and support. I tried to take a nap to forget about it. I tried to get lost in an episode of “So You Think You Can Dance,” but the momentary relief was replaced by a nagging feeling once I left my mind unoccupied.

I texted the boys to see if there was anything else going on. Apparently, she blocked them from her Facebook. She also defriended me. The boys seemed okay. In a way, it gave Alex fuel to proceed with his drag queen career. If he feared that others would throw similar fits, and this was what it was like, than proceed ahead because he knew he could handle any bully. It feels better to live an authentic life instead of caring how others perceived you.

There was a question of whether or not we would attend the wedding. After the initial confrontation, the boys felt like they were going to go so she couldn’t throw it in their faces latter. Now, I am not so sure where they stood. Why would you want to go when she has gone out of her way to make you miserable? For someone who repeatedly plays old tape about how the men in her life keep abandoning her, she really tries to throw a fantastic fit so life follows suit. Why wouldn’t she vow that love is conditional? In order to be worthy of love, you had to fit all the conditions in her world. That is all the love she feels she deserves. Needless to say, we ended up not going.

I thanked the boys for handling the situation with such dignity and class. They confronted her with love, even though she couldn’t handle it. Instead of getting swept up in hurt and disgust, they made peace with the situation and forgave her, knowing that she was fighting her own demons. Less than a week ago, I feared that I might have gotten such a response. Seeing them actually get one, made me feel that I could handle it too, so I need not be afraid. I blocked Max’s sister so I never had to see her words again.

I woke up today hoping that I had finally shaken the bad vibes off. For the most part, I had. What was odd was that she hadn’t deleted my sister as a Facebook “friend.” My sister noticed some alarming things on her news feed. I told her to not show me, but I couldn’t resist. There were six stupid posts inferring that we were “intolerant,” “assholes,” and “judgmental.” I told my sister that she was never to tell me about any of her posts again. I went to my room to get ready for work. When I came out, my sister told me that she had posted some things on her news feed, mostly clips about how the Bible shouldn’t be used to beat people with and that the most important commandment was to love your neighbor. I smiled. It was sweet. My younger sister, one of the most devout people I know, was defending her lesbian sister and her gay sudo brothers. It goes to show that there is more love out there than hate, and siblings can get along….even on Facebook.

Love Wins!

Today is a watershed moment. As little as a decade ago, I didn’t know if I would see this moment in my lifetime. The U.S. Supreme Court upheld what I have always known was true. Gay people are human, and we deserve equal rights as citizens of the United States.

Today marks a new history. Although there are many who still cling to the idea that homosexuality is a mental illness, a new generation of children will grow up never thinking that gay people getting married is an issue. Just maybe, gay won’t be wrong or weird, just normal. Children can grow up and not be ashamed of who they are attracted to. Dating the same sex may be normal; it could be a nonissue.
I don’t know how my life would have been different if this was the case. It took me 36 years and a diagnosis of uterine cancer to finally come to terms with my truth. I still fight feelings of not being worthy. I am still afraid to fully express my sexuality. I know that just holding hands with a girl in public could still provoke negative reactions or physical harm. Even being a gay teacher could cost me my job.

As I celebrate my 38th birthday on this planet, thousands of couples will be able to finally marry those that they love. Loving couples who may have already been married will finally have their unions recognized, and thousands more can at least contemplate the option of getting married to someone.

I am grateful to be given the hope that maybe, just maybe, one day that person will be me.