5 Early Thoughts on my Research Project

This topic fits well, like a comfortable new coat. It’s warm and fuzzy and just right. BUT being me I know I have to analyze why, so here are some musings.

1. I am a Libra. I do not check my horoscope daily and have never had a star chart done, but over the years Libra definitions have been close to describing me to a T. I crave balance and seek justice in everything which often causes trouble for me, because things are not always balanced and just. My friend ETL brought it to my attention that as a Libra I would be drawn to drag queens because, in her words, “Drag queens…have the whole anima/animus deal down”. In my thoughts they’re playing both sides of the field beautifully.

2. It looks fun! I may uncover some dark sides, but at least on the surface drag looks like a party every night. Yes, it’s a job and needs to be taken seriously as a form of self-expression. And YES it feels like it will be a celebration. Whether that celebration is a declaration of flying one’s freak flag to say I AM HERE or an escape from the hopelessness of wondering if it will ever get better or both I want to embrace that celebration.

3. Dress up. As a teenager and new adult I was involved in theater and loved the hair, make up, and costume preparation that went into being on stage. Halloween was my favorite holiday. Drag looks like it is dress up on uppers! Eyeliner, spandex, and wigs…oh my YES! WIGS! I can hardly wait to transform, pick a drag name, and strut my stuff. I want to play dress up with the big girls!

4. About that freak flag I was 14 when I had a heart transplant, 23 when I lost my sister to the same genetic disease I have, and 25 when I started having trouble walking only to end up needing a wheelchair. My freak flag is wide and billowing. I have for decades been other than whatever “normal” is. I feel this might be one of the best sororities for me to explore.

5. Why not? I spent a good part of my early life doubting myself. So much never occurred to me to try until women and men ahead of me suggested I might try it, e.g.: write my memoir, use a surrogate to have our baby, start a multi-media project based on my chest scar. Asking why makes me tired. Asking why not only ever conjures up one response, no reason.

I am looking forward to this journey. I can not go into this with no preconceived notions, because I am human. That being said my mind is wide open and I hope you’ll join me on the journey through it.     


My (Fabulous) Research Proposal

I have wanted to attend a drag show for years. Every time I mention this to someone I get one of three distinct reactions. One is excited surprise usually with something like, “Me, too! Take me with you!” Second, I might get a brow furrowed with suspicion without a comment. Third, most often from the straight guys, I get a confused surprised face along with, “Oh, really? Why?”

Why is complicated to answer. It’s a melting pot of multiplicity. I find drag queens beautiful and intriguing. They are at once an exaggerated ideal of womanhood and guys wearing women’s clothes. I have marveled at the grand dame of drag RuPaul since 1995 when I was 20 and she sang “Don’t Go Breakin’ My Heart” with Elton John. That hair, those clothes, and most of all the make up was all perfection and yet slightly askew on that 6′ 4″ frame. I marveled as I said, but from afar. There was no one who ever followed through to go with me to a drag show and I soon forgot about the whole idea, until recently.

In late December a friend of mine I recently reconnected with posted on Facebook that he was going to see a drag show. That old longing was back. I joined the event page and talked to him about meeting up to see the show in Philadelphia. We were set. I posted a comment on the site asking about wheelchair accessibility and the promoter for FAUX REAL Productions responded to let them know when I would be there, so they could help me out. Later that week I posted a question on the event page asking if it was for 21 and up only because a friend wanted to bring her 18 year old daughter. The promoter responded again that it was 21 and up only. But this time he came back with another comment, “Aren’t you Teddy and Christena’s daughter?” Well I am, so naturally I responded yes. Come to find out he and his mom are regulars at my family’s diner! (Yeah Greek girl’s family owns a diner. Hahaha! You’ve seen the movie, right?)

Fast forward to my first class for Core 2 and the professor says to pick a topic that has always made us curious but that we know nothing about. I scribbled drag queens excitedly in my notebook. Was this kismet or what? Absolute serendipity! I have never written anything like this and am anxious to get started.

My first thought was that I needed to write a hard hitting feature article, but that is not me. I toyed with the idea of a play, but that is on the back burner until I see what I collect in my research encounters. What with “Kinky Boots” doing so well on Broadway, what could I write better than that in a few weeks? Now I am leaning toward a fun creative non-fiction piece entitled something like, “The Straight Girl’s Guide to Becoming a Queen”. I want to dive wig first into the drag party, learn the lingo, and be transformed in order to find out what goes into these mesmerizing illusions. I am comfortable with creative non-fiction as my first piece ever published is in this genre. I have written several pieces that eventually will be part of my memoir which falls under CNF. This genre lends itself flexibly to this idea because it allows me to write the facts, but with an irreverent, celebratory, or emotional slant than a more journalistic piece. To simply report the facts I gather is not as interesting to me as a writer or reader as what my full experience including emotions and personal reflections will be in delving into this topic.

I hope to begin my research at my first show on February 15th, the fateful Facebook event, at Voyeur’s Nightclub in Philadelphia. Entering into what many in the LGBTQ community refer to as the “gay-borhood” and its culture is completely new to me. I am a strong supporter of equal rights for all, but do not have many LGBTQ people who are close to me. Researching this aspect of what is usually interpreted as mostly appreciated by homosexuals or part only of that subculture is going to be an adventure. I have always felt a kind of “otherness” because I had a heart transplant at 14 and then became differently abled in my twenties and so I think that mindset has prepared me for this. However, I think my world view can be stretched and will endure some calisthenics over the next several weeks.

One local publication that may be interested in my final piece is Philadelphia Stories. They accept creative non-fiction pieces and are familiar with my work. The magazine also holds a readership in the area where I will be researching my topic in Philadelphia and the Delaware Valley including Atlantic City.

LGBT Weekly calls itself “America’s First Cable News Affiliated LGBT Media Company” and has a weekly paper and digital publication. Further research will need to be done to see if they exclusively publish their own in-house writers or might consider outside submissions. In the end, my piece may not be “newsworthy” enough for such a publication either because of content, tone, or genre, but it is one I will tuck into my paper files.

An international publication that may be interested in this piece is HuffPost Gay Voices. They publish a wide range of articles of interest to this community. The possibility of publication in this forum for me would be a bridging of the gap, or at least a friendly shout out and wave from the other bank, between heterosexual and homosexual people.

Finding a home for what I produce this semester in one of the above publications or another will introduce my work to a larger readership, beyond my own friends.

My strongest archive will definitely be the living archive as I intend to interview many queens and the people who love them. Electronic archives have already come into play with video performances and a documentary that have been recommended to me. Experiential archive will be key as well since the sight and sound aspect are the performers and show itself.

I am assured that this topic will sustain me over the next 15 weeks. Ever since our first class I have been binge watching RuPaul’s Drag Race and daydreaming about what I might wear to that first show. I just can’t wait to be Queen!