Drag queens taught me how to be a better woman and a better human being

Veronica came to America as a teenager in the early 1990s. Her family had been flocking to the United States for several years, until it was her turn to make the trip.

Months after our first meeting, we sat on my bed eating steak while she told me about her life “at home” and why she left. It was difficult economically and socially. And it didn’t help that she was a “little gay boy,” surrounded by devout Catholics who just couldn’t understand why she wasn’t like any of her older macho brothers.

She liked to feel unencumbered, so she threw the dice when she arrived in New York at 17, about the same age as I was when I first moved to Manhattan. We both began to look for the same thing: a place to feel free, to feel as if we could be ourselves walking down the street.

Our origins were different, but our motives for coming to New York were almost identical.

Veronica was in the bathroom of my apartment the first time we met because she joined my then-boyfriend’s sister for a night in town.

In fact, my boyfriend’s sister – let’s call her Betty – only recently revealed to me that she was transsexual a few weeks before.

It happened suddenly while she was putting on lipstick and waiting for me to pack up so we could go eat.

“You know I’m not born a woman, do you?” She asked me from the clear blue sky.

I did not know that.

It never occurred to me that this was an opportunity.

I was a smart young man, but I was also a very young man, and many of the nuances of life were just beginning to unfold.

“Really?” I asked.

And I admit, I shudder to go back to that, but I looked in her face for clues, something to show me who she was.

But I just saw Betty. Beautiful, elegant Betty.

I was genuinely shocked, mostly because my boyfriend at the time had never mentioned this to me about his sister, and we had all spent so much time together. I wasn’t angry at all, I was just amazed, because something I thought I understood, I didn’t really understand at all.

As for her, Betty told me it was her job, not mine, but she “came out” to me only because she was worried that I would find out details about her past at some point and maybe it would make ours worse. her friendship or worse, she worried, my relationship with her brother.

My mother raised me to be kind and to accept that this world is full of people who are different from me and that their differences do not make them inferior. What makes people inferior, she would say, is when they treat others like shit.

Of course, I had no intention of treating Betty like shit. I liked Betty. Betty was my friend. I wasn’t interested in much else at all, because Betty treated me very well.

At this point in my life, I was extremely ignorant of people who were not binary or gender queer. I was a member of the Gay-Straight Alliance in high school, and a handful of my best friends who came were gay, but what I didn’t know could fill a few books while I met Betty.

All I really knew for sure at that moment was that I didn’t like it when people were cruel to others because of their sexual orientation or expression. It seemed really mean to judge someone for something they had no choice but to decide.

So when my eyes drank Veronica for the first time, my brain immediately tried to fill in the gaps of my own ignorance. Was he like Betty? Was she transsexual? Why did Betty wear these big wigs and dress like that? I loved this wig. Betty has to wear these wigs.

I knew I liked Veronica right away because I liked and admired her confidence. I liked the way she looked carefully and effortlessly at the same time. I liked how unrestrained she was as she talked about her life. I liked that she was funny and really smart, and I really liked how she made me feel as she gasped at my very long, curly hair.

“Women would kill for it, you know.” They were going to kill for that hair and those eyebrows, ”she said, running her fingers through my curls. “Are you afraid?”

During our friendship I learned more about Veronica’s life, her horrors and difficulties. I learned too much about her victories and triumphs.

She taught me a lot, such as how to open a bottle of champagne with a machete and that gays are not a monolith. Understanding this deepened my understanding of human beings in general.

The very existence of Veronica evoked an awareness in me at 19, which still shapes much of my thinking today at 36: Almost every human being is just here, trying to do the best he can to live comfortably in his own skin, and many of us just pretend until we succeed.

As a child, I was very annoyed. I allowed this to creep in as a young man, a teenager, and even as an old woman. As I cried for my mother in elementary school and began to shake all the things I really hated about myself, my mother looked me in the eye and said, “Brandy, you have the whole world teasing you, don’t do it to them. work for them. ”

Bless my mother – she tried, she gave me all the reasons in the world to have a head as big as a weather balloon. But the combination of my own experience and stubborn self-doubt simply could not shake off my low self-esteem. Still, she knew how to make me feel better, and although I didn’t believe all the things she would say about my appearance, I knew she meant them and loved me. And it made me feel better.

So, after leaving my dear mother in the District of Columbia and heading to New York, Veronica was the first person I met that made me feel good about myself, really. Veronica, a gay man and a dear queen, made me feel alive, excited and more confident in my own femininity. Veronica could not be prejudiced. She was not my mother. But he certainly sounded like her sometimes.

The years went by and I got more involved in drag culture, while Betty and Veronica took me to shows or bars or just to go out with my friends. Veronica was dragging me out of my apartment when things got worse between me and my boyfriend and giving me wise advice over a late night’s coffee. Without Veronica’s help, I don’t know if I would have the courage to break free and start another chapter of my life.

For a while, after I left New York, we tried to cope. We were both busy and lost touch. I think of Veronica often, especially when I’m on a drag show or having weird fun.

And I was thinking about her, especially last year, when America’s worst factions released this awful “Don’t say gay” nonsense.

I’m glad Veronica exists. I’m glad Veronica was out and proud. I am grateful to all the LGBT + people who talk and say, “I am me and I am proud of me.”

The gay community has given me so much in my life and as a zigger woman I often feel lost how to return the favor. I am an imperfect ally, I am sure of that, but I also know that I love this community so much and will defend it fiercely because it is full of wonderful human beings who are so often sources of strength and courage and above all creativity and compassion.

So, maybe you’re reading this and you’re gay. You may have heard it a hundred times in the last two weeks, as this is the month of pride.

But please let me just repeat: I am glad that you exist this month and all the months. I want you to exist.

The world needs you.

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