Halloween's a Drag

For some, the season's frights come in wigs and pumps

There are vague memories – just a blur – of tromping around in my mother’s pumps. What was I, 3?

As a high school junior, I was partial to eyeliner. So was any cool boy circa 1986 who favored Adam Ant over Van Halen.

Yet for reasons beyond my understanding, drag gives me the willies. I avoid the High Heel Race. I’ve passed on Miss Adams Morgan. And if I’ve never seen you in drag, there’s no need to show me the photos.

Could this be dragphobia? If so, what’s the root cause?

When I explore this aversion, I’m returned to a moment during a college relationship. I was in my early 20s. This particular man was in his late 30s. Despite the nearly two-decade age difference, I thought he was smokin’ hot. A lot of people did. He was buff, ethnically Italian. He had an affluence that gave him a polished sort of fashion sense. An altogether great package. With a great house, great car, great dog.

Then there was the day I saw the ”before” photo. My man looked good, but not without quite a bit of surgical help. Good for him. But I never saw him the same way again. I would feel unsteady, as though his appearance was a hallucination.

That same feeling accompanies my seeing friends in drag, be it live or in two dimensions.

Oddly, I don’t feel the same sort of discomfort around people I’ve only known in drag. Also in college, I briefly dated a guy whose real name I cannot recall. I’ll never forget his stage name, however: Porsche Cocaine. After a show, going back to his place, the drag never really ended because he never wore a wig. He would always perform as some androgynous diva – Annie Lennox was routine – leaving his short blond locks alone. Then again, his ”housemate” Della Cocaine, was full-on wigs. I’d spend hours at a bar with Della, enthralled as she slurred her worldly wisdom. But when I once saw Della at the far end of a grocery store aisle dressed little different than any other Richmond redneck, I fled.

If someone suggests a night out at Ziegfeld’s/Secrets, I’m up for it. But I’m going to spend a lot more time stuffing bills into socks than into manicured hands.

I would like to know what disturbs me about gender-bending, particularly as it’s such an integral part of the gay experience. Maybe not as much so for the girls as the guys, but the drag kings are certainly no slouches. One might get the idea that I have some sort of problem with non-binary gender expression, but that’s not it. I encourage all gender expression. Is that what drag is? If so, I’m all for it – as long as I don’t have to do it.

It’s taken me long enough to construct my identity as male. It’s taken me years to realize that what it means to be ”a man” – a simple, yet very loaded term – is exactly what I am.

Internalized homophobia is common, and maybe that sense of identity has been the root of mine: Take whatever affirming adjectives you identify with masculinity – protective, fearless, rational, calm, etc. – and go nuts. At the end of the day, though, you’re gay and you really just want to fuck straight guys and wear a dress. Somehow, that’s what I internalized. But I don’t have a fetish for straight guys (though there’s no denying some gay fellers do), and I don’t want to wear a dress.

Whether my aversion to drag is some psychological oppression, or a statement of liberation that I am what I am no matter the peer pressure to don pumps, Halloween is not wasted on me. It is scary.

But to all my buddies constructing breasts this year, Happy Halloween. Whether it’s treats or tricks you’re after, I genuinely hope you get your fill.

Follow Will O'Bryan on Twitter @wobryan.

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