I spent my whole life chameleoning into what other people wanted from me – an obedient Christian girl with no opinions of her own, a quiet straight-A student who caused no trouble, and a submissive girlfriend who reluctantly fulfilled my boyfriend’s small, hairless feminine ideal. Instead of blossoming into myself in my twenties, I felt myself falling farther and farther from who I knew deep inside I wanted to be.
A few years ago, I began making desperate bids for joy, tiny assertions of myself such as cutting my hair short, taking time away from a controlling partner to take dance classes that excited me, and finally wearing clothes that felt right for me. I bought three pairs of Tomboyx shorts, and the soft fabric was perfect for my high sensory needs that I was just beginning to allow myself to accommodate. The style helped me feel euphoric as I gave myself permission to play with masculinity for the first time. I must have taken a hundred pictures of myself wearing them, and despite the dramatic scowls I was pulling in order to look as boyish as possible for the camera, I felt radiant with joy in a way I had never felt while trying to fulfill others’ expectations of me.
These tiny steps led towards bigger steps, and eventually I found queer community, left a toxic relationship, and took my new hometown by storm as I began performing as a drag king and burlesque performer. Several of the numbers I perform focus on queer joy, self-expression, and defiance of gender norms. But every time I am onstage is a celebration of my growing authenticity, confidence, and visibility. It is an ongoing journey as I continue learning how to assert my needs and follow my own unique happiness, and I trust that I will continue to grow and evolve into myself - a magnificent person that I love now more than ever.
Pronouns: he/him onstage, they/he offstage