By Hollis Taylor
I read a book several years back called “Gender Outlaw” by Kate Bornstein. I remember reading the book while riding a bus to a job I was working at. It was a hard year for me, I left the adult industry and had held 5 different jobs in one year until finally deciding to go back to the medical field as a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA). This current job I wore men’s business clothes since it was a sales job, it was a good job for me because it helped me decide about my values and the kind of work I will and won’t do. Anyway that year I also continued to question my gender, which is what lead me to the book “Gender Outlaw”. What I read really had me thinking….one piece I remember so distinctly.
There is a portion of the book in which she talks about drag. She talks about how a lot of trans people end up in drag at some point…she was saying that it makes it okay for us to crossdress, it publicly removes the gender roles for all to see and be entertained by. Doing Drag is not just about entertaining an audience, its about being a Gender outlaw. She was saying that Drag is like the jester that made fun of the king, and he didn’t know it. Drag is mostly entertaining because it pushes the boundaries of gender for all of us….its different for all of us, just like gender is.
I remember putting the book away and thinking about drag and how it pushed boundaries for gender. As I thought about my own experiences with Drag Queens and crossdressers through my life – I remember always being fascinated with it, more than anyone else. As a young girl my mother had some interesting friends and one memory sticks out. I remember a man, a father of some friends, my mother’s friend, a married heterosexual man. We were all staying at our summer place for the summer and it was a special night to get dressed up and go to the boardwalk in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware. He wore a dress, heels, and a wig. His children laughed it off as if it was normal. My mother implied it was just for entertainment value and we all piled into the van together. I ran off with my friends at some point but at no time was I embarrassed, instead I was more impressed that he did look like a woman! So the adults looked like three women walking a bunch of kids through the boardwalk. The kids didn’t talk about it, even though I tried. I did at some point have a moment with him when he showed me how he made himself look like he had boobs. I told him I thought he looked good and he was happy to show me all about getting dressed up.
I thought about my first Drag Queen friend, a Cher look alike. She was a waitress at the restaurant with me. When I seen her I only knew it was her because I had listened so contently to her descriptions of putting on her make up, as we rolled silverware. She did indeed look just like Cher. She was so gentle with me. She said to me once, “Maybe someday you will do it.” I often would just get all red faced and say “Nah I doubt it.” I was a mother, a wife, and straight and simply 20. I was so busy with everything else I didn’t have the head space to think about my gender, orientation, or expression. Frankly, I was barely surviving. But I knew one thing – I was fascinated with anyone that bent gender, gay or straight or whatever… There were other queens later down the road that would suggest I would do something like what they were doing – as the years went by my response was more like “Nah I will be a fucking porn star forever.” Then I would entertain the thought of entertaining porn – ha ha!
So when I placed that book down and allowed my thoughts to take me away I thought to myself, “Ya know I could do Drag, but as a Drag King.” I had all sorts of thoughts about it but I really hadn’t seen many kings so I wasn’t sure about much of anything. I could imagine as a king performing with queens and being the gentlemen many of them needed, if only just for an hour or two. Lots of other things happened that I didn’t expect and continue to happen. I still haven’t totally developed the persona of Izzy Ahee – but I am certainly working on it. Izzy Ahee ended up having very little boundaries as far as what I will perform, which has brought me to some great places. It did in the adult industry as well. Also, the bond that Arial and I experience is profound. It has increased our communication and added spice to our interactions of all sorts. We create together, we build Izzy Ahee together. We totally enjoy the entire experience of drag, as a couple. I perform, she builds my costume, we pick the songs and dream up the performance. I practice and memorize lyrics and develop dance choreography. There is a lot of creative love for drag that goes into a simple 5 minute performance.
Drag has lead me to friends and a way to be a supportive citizen of the gay community as a whole. The heart in drag is always fascinating to me. There seems to be a kinship among us all, we are all here for a reason. An unconditional love for everyone and mindful behavior is valued. Drag is not perfect and some of us might have moments of arrogance, depression, and other not so pretty behaviors – but we recognize that it comes from living in our broken culture. Drag is the first community in which I was introduced to the idea of communal support, it planted the idea that even if I was shunned by my blood family I could find a family in a community. Somehow I knew that was going to happen, maybe it was just simply gut. Glad I reached out to one of my favorite Drag Queens when it was time for me to leave my husband.
Now here I am, so many years later just entering the Drag community. Challenging my values on how mindful I am in something I am actually good at. I love music, heart and soul, I think that shows when I do drag. Love for drag also adds another layer to my performance. I think when a performers heart is deep into the performance, regardless of the type of performance, it raises the entertainment value. I am learning so much about myself and growing so much. I feel like a tree you just fed with a bunch of compost from all your cooking in the middle of the summer. New branches, new leaves, create – create, practice, be active, be social, be kind, be compassionate, make people smile. Drag, its this dryad’s compost. *smile*