Drag me to Truth
My wife said it would make me feel better. Turns out she was right. As usual.
I had been sick, I don't even remember with what. It was 2011. I was newly hired at my job, a freshly minted PhD with an incredibly rare and precious tenure-track job. I was still married, had been for about three years by then. The feelings inside me were started to surge by then. The alienation. The frustration and anger. The disassociation. When we made love, I felt like I was floating outside my body. A puppet of compulsory heterosexuality. Someone I did not know. I never meant to hurt her or anybody else. But I was disappearing.
So laying there on the couch of our apartment, she put on RuPaul's Drag Race on the computer. It was still on Logo then, free on their website with frequent commercials. It was season two, from the previous year. I threw myself into what I saw. Gay men, acting fiercely, performing an amazing art I had only ever heard of. They were funny. They moved their bodies in amazing ways. They shared their pain. They responded to their challenges. Some found victory and some found defeat.
I must have binged that show as much as I could. I could not stop watching it. I pained when Pandora Boxx was eliminated. I loathed Tyra's personality. I curdled in joy at Raven and Jujubee. I took sides in their arguments and rivalries. I played favorites. I was thoroughly lost in its glorious excesses. Artificial reality. Edited within an inch of its life.
But the experience it was sketching was true. Men learning to be their authentic selves through this imposture. This mirror distortion of gender performance. Drag is not meant to be reality either, but the twisting threads of experience that cling to it were absolutely true.
These men's stories stuck with me. They informed me of a world outside what I knew. Where the gayness inside me was all right, open, and free. Bent in a thousand lovely directions and set free. Their tongues spoke in a cant that touched secret stirrings within my heart. The diversity of their achievement and their struggle taught me that there are a million ways to be queer, and that no one can say any of those ways are wrong.
I always say coming out is not like flicking on a light switch. I was still stuck in a habitual place for many more years. I was loyal to her. I wanted to protect her and keep her safe. Don't think I am trying to make myself any kind of hero here — I failed her in a thousand ways. I failed myself as well.
Eventually she left and that was the way it had to be. I could see no other way. I didn't want to sneak. And I didn't want to lie. If I was going to be out — it would be fully out and proud. It would take a lot longer to be able to speak my truth.
And RuPaul was on every year after. As the show I grew, I grew. Every day a little closer. I could taste those words as they filled my mouth. Me. My truth. Until it rolled off the tongue...