By Hollis Taylor
New Years Eve I performed at a venue, as a favor for my “Drag Grandmother”, that was new to me. I am not familiar with the area, much less the bar itself. This is my Grandmother’s, Whitley, sort of home bar – she’s a regular there. Because she is a regular she knows the bar tender, owner, and so forth. This experience lead me to a completely unexpected New Year’s Eve, but frankly it was enlightening and exhilarating.
A common discussion I have with people is about ageism. I find that many young people dismiss older people as not knowing anything, in that, they miss so much wisdom. They might not be as wild as young people or living on the edge, but its likely they have in the past. Just because they don’t know about modern stuff doesn’t mean they know nothing, it just means they know about things from their younger days. Also, at times, some older folks are not open to younger ones ideas or youthful energy – although many support and are happy to see it in action. I have always honored and respected my elders from the simple point of view that they have lived through more experiences than me and have gained some insight from those experiences. It’s particularly interesting to me when I find older people with similar interests as mine, in this case it was drag and the GLBT community as a whole.
This time I got to spend some more time with Whitley and that in itself is an experience. She has many years of drag in her past and she continues to do it. She has a way with the crowd that I truly appreciate and I hope to continue to watch her interactions while finding inspiration to grow my own performances. Now I marvel at her ability to make people smile and have a good time, I want to bring the same energy to the stage. I strive to be like her in that way. Plus her costuming is just amazing and fabulous!
Then I got to meet the other queens whom I certainly enjoyed connecting with. I connected with a “retired” drag King of sorts, she is now in her 60’s. I met her partner who was also equally interesting and had been involved in drag as well. Conversations with the owner of the bar whom is now 81 years old. He has owned a queer bar for many years. These conversations remind us that these elders that we tend to overlook are the ones that carved the way for us. They made the space to be queer. They were drag kings before there was a name for it. They were gay when you could die for it or go to jail for it! They were queens before all these pageants and so forth. The history of our queer culture is out there and I am afraid the young are gonna miss it.
I know…you are busy living your very full life. But don’t miss an opportunity to hear the wisdom that is in your face. I looked many older folks in the eyes last night and found their souls. Listening and feeling their memories with them is like watching a movie about their life, and we can learn so much. I believe that this access to wisdom helps us evolve more fully and totally, leading us to the evolution of humankind. Passionate wisdom in action last night and I was right there to see it with my own eyes. What an amazing group of queers, I am enlightened by the experience. I am so grateful!