So first came the hiking. Next up? A social life.
The thing about spending the better part of a decade struggling with emotional PTSD, depression, and anxiety is that it can be very hard to keep hold of friends. Your energy to maintain social bonds is low, you have no desire to go out…in the end, people eventually withdraw from your life and should you ever emerge from the pit, you have no idea how to reach out and renew contact.
After a while, in my immediate circle, I had two close friends plus their husbands/partners, a handful of work acquaintances and a couple of Faire friends I saw annually. I had friends online, but locally, I was severely isolated. Which was fine for a while. I needed to rebuild a lot, emotionally. I wanted to be at home, for the most part, spending a lot of time in my head and otherwise making few mental and emotional demands on myself.
I danced. I noodled around on my autoharp. I did some yoga. I wrote some books. I studied languages. I drank a lot of wine and ate many bags of Doritos. I went to my first Pride parade and got whacked in the face by a set of plastic beads flung at me by a drag queen. I accidentally started a book club for queer folks. I somehow fell into a trivia team that competes at a gay sports bar on Tuesdays.
When 2018 rolled around, I looked at my life, startled at how queer it suddenly seemed after so many years of inertia. And then I thought, “Hm. But, could be gayer.”
It was, once. In Green Bay and San Antonio I frequented gay bars, Rocky Horror screenings, and the occasional drag show. Sure, I was in total stuff-it-way-way-waaaaaaayyyyy-down-deep denial about just how much I was actually into girls, preferring instead to just say I loved gay bars because the music choices were better, and I liked drag and Rocky Horror because I was a theater kid, of course. But I was still drawn to the community even as I wrestled with figuring my own self out. My subconscious knew where I belonged, with whom I belonged, even as I fought it.
And then, well, a lot happened between 2004 and 2008, and then I was a hurt, confused hot freakin’ mess of a struggling human for a very long time after that. I had to put so much into my own survival that reaching out to the queer community in Dallas just went on the back burner. Maybe it would have helped me a lot if I had reached out sooner, I don’t know. I can’t think about that now, there’s no point to it.
So! By this year I had a bunch of new queer friends, and I would like to point out right now that anyone who says it is unrealistic to have books or TV shows with lots of queer folks being little queer found families – those people are full of utter and complete horseshit. I was a hermit for most of the last ten freakin’ years and I still managed to gather a circle of queer friends around myself without even really trying. Gay up your media, you cowards. Do it. We are shiny rainbow magnets of fun and glitter and drama, and sometimes we have disposable income.
Wait. Where was I?
Anyway, I thought, well, I could do more, right? Like my trivia team, for example. I wasn’t going every week to the pub quizzes, and when I did go, I didn’t join the gang for drinks or karaoke afterward. I could start doing that, right? I mean, I liked them, and they had fun, and they kept inviting me, so maybe I should take them up on the invitation?
And the book club, by now a gang of queer women and non-binary femmes…besides our monthly meetings, we occasionally went to see plays at the local comedy theater, what if we did more fun things? Like…hung out? Exchanged phone numbers and had a group chat and interacted directly instead of through MeetUp?
Was there anything else I could do that would give me an excuse to wander over to Dallas’ Gayborhood more often?
Enter, to my surprise, RuPaul’s Drag Race.
I knew about it, of course I did. I was in high school when RuPaul crashed into the mainstream consciousness with a blonde-bombshell-bewigged bang. She was on the radio, she was in movies, she was selling lipstick, she was everywhere. So I was not entirely ignorant of the Drag Race phenomenon, I just didn’t watch it.
And then this year, as I surfed through my Instagram Explore page, I saw a video from the first episode of the All Stars 3 season. A one minute clip of a drag queen named BenDeLaCreme doing an absolutely hysterical comedy burlesque routine that involved a whole stack of bejeweled bras and some wildly misplaced, increasingly improbable tassels. I laughed until I was wheezing.
That this particular drag queen is the one that finally drew me into watching Drag Race is no surprise to anyone who knows me; after all, my default Faire stage persona was that of a zany dingbat with a propensity for zingers and a pair of ten-gallon jugs heaving their way out of her bodice! So of course I, the former singing bawdy wench, was going to like the clever, wacky burlesque drag queen. Plus Ben’s open about their struggles with depression and how creating art helps them manage it, something to which I, you know, can relate.
I went all in for Drag Race then. Bought a season pass on Amazon and started following drag queens on social media. Found out about viewing parties and started going to them once Season 10 started to air – we have a local drag queen named Asia O’Hara on the show this season, and she hosts the viewing parties here. I started making casual acquaintance with people who recognized me week to week at the parties because of my penchant for wearing inappropriately adorable fish-themed dresses (oh, look it up).
I went and saw Trixie Mattel (hello? she plays autoharp and is extremely sarcastic, so of course I like her) just last night, which was an experience.
Yeah, she’s much prettier than me. And whose boobs got transplanted into my dress, exactly? They look like platypus pups wrestling for dominance, jesus tapdancing christ. I swear to god I was wearing a push-up bra. And I do have a neck, I do.
Anyhow. Point: how to make my life gayer? Get back into watching drag. Nothing is more quintessentially queer. I have an absolutely bananas social life now. One night not long ago I stopped in the middle of the main drag in the Gayborhood and wondered aloud, “How many times have I been on this street just this week?”
(it was a lot. like a lot a lot.)
I still have a lot of emotional PTSD hangover – I still wonder if people really like me, or just good-naturedly tolerate me. I live in perpetual fear of gaslighting. I have a not-unreasonable terror of staying close to all these new people I like so much because what if I fuck up and drop back out of society again? I mean, I am a person with anxiety and nothing cures that, so it’s having a field day.
But I’m having fun. I have a life. An actual out of the house, talk to people, get up on stage and sing kind of life. And that helps counter the anxiety. Because life, as I have had hammered home the last few years, is short. It is so short, it’s too short. I spent so much of mine being afraid and hurt and timid and awkward and thinking I was incapable of doing anything but getting by. I am glad that even though it is a struggle, even though it is not a cure for the anxiety and depression…I have wrenched a colorful, lively life for myself out of the wreckage. I travel, I hike, I study languages, I do karaoke, I have friends. I am a person again after a long, long time of not being sure I was worthy of taking up space. It is, to be frank, fucking fantastic.
2018 has become the year that I finally re-learned how to live rather than simply exist. Life is no longer a series of events that continues to happen at me. I make things happen, I craft the life I want – not entirely without fear, but without letting fear be the driving factor in any decisions I make. It’s my life, and if I am being honest, it’s the first time I’ve felt like it is all mine, that for the first time I actually know who I am as a human being.
And that’s right about when the gender question hit me smack in the face.
More on that later.