I didn’t know it at the time but the way I grew up, and the area I grew up in, was very gender split. If you were a boy then you did things like play sports and if you were a girl then you did things like dance classes. Even the Physical Education classes in my school were gender biased and made sure the boys played certain sports (Rugby, Baseball and Basketball) while the girls did other activities (Hockey, Dance and Softball). At the time this was what I thought the world expected of me. To be the rugby playing manly man that they were expecting. My dad played rugby. My brothers all played football. I was sent to numerous sports clubs to try and give me something I could do.
I knew what I wanted to be at the time but I didn’t know there was a word for it, all I knew is that society around me wouldn’t have accepted it. I knew at the age of thirteen that I was gay and that it was just another aspect of me that society wouldn’t like.
I retreated into the media to try and find solace in the portrayals of LGBT people on screens and magazines. This was not a clever idea and pushed me to the brink of near suicide in my post-University years. This was because the media didn’t portray gay men in a positive light. Not only were they barely seen but they were also promiscuous and bitchy and they appeared as very slender or buff models. This isn’t what an overweight teenager going through an identity crisis needs to believe all gay men to be like.
At University this was reinforced with a rather bad experience with the LGBT society who really personified the idea of the bitchy and two-faced gay stereotype that had shaped my teenage years. This perception was now ingrained in my head and I knew I didn’t want to be gay.
The problem was that I knew being gay wasn’t a choice and so it was who I was doomed to live as for the rest of my life.
I spent a long time feeling not good enough. I wasn’t any of the gay stereotypes and so I didn’t feel like I belonged alongside the LGBT community. My upbringing, the society I grew up in, had made me feel like an outsider. I didn’t fit in with macho-straight guys but I had been conditioned to believe that a man shouldn’t do effeminate things and that whenever I was in front of people I shouldn’t display these qualities. Every limp wrist, hand on hip or hair-flick was picked up on and shamed to the point of me hiding possibly ninety percent of myself.
I like staying up late. At night, when everybody else was asleep, I could be my headphones on and lip-sync into the mirror as much as I wanted. I could be as sassy as I wanted, I could flip my hair and shake my hips as much as I wanted because nobody wasn’t going to disturb me. By daylight I would go back to being your normal mild-mannered, quiet, “butter wouldn’t melt” type of guy.
Even when I accepted that I was gay and came out to my friends and family, I still wasn’t me. I was still this cardboard cut-out of a person that society had forced me into believing was what people wanted me to be. When I look back on this I think how my friends would say that I didn’t hide it very well, that I was still a little bit effeminate, but trust me, there was a whole boat-load that you weren’t seeing. There was diva beneath the surface that I held down for so long it became painful.
Then I was introduced to RuPaul.
My friend, in early 2016, introduced me to RuPaul’s Drag Race and I was hooked. The colours, the lights, the fabulousness, the dresses, the hair. Everything. It was spectacular.
This was what I was needing. I needed Drag Race. I needed RuPaul and I needed his girls because they were the personification of everything I had been trying to stuff down deep inside me. And they were doing it on television. In heels. And these girls didn’t have a single ounce of shame about what they were doing, it was glorious. But not only this, the show also portrayed them as people. They weren’t the butts of jokes or the sex-selling face of a company, they were actual people who just wanted to entertain and look great. Until that day I honestly thought I was the only one with these creative thoughts and that I should keep them quiet or the world would hate me.
And to top it off they lip-synced. Something I had been doing in my mirror since I was a child. These were the people I needed.
I honestly had never felt so passionate about a television show in my life. I wanted to be friends with these girls. I wanted to know who they were and talk to them. They were the most accurate representation of me that I had ever come across and yet I had never put make-up on my face.
I’m still learning. I’m not going to say that now you can see me in Soho with high-heels and a mini-skirt but RuPaul and his girls have honestly changed my perception of society and given me a place to feel like I belong. I can only hope that one day I find a drag-mother to show me how to really bring out the glitter and the sparkles that have been kept beneath the surface for so many years.
Thank you RuPaul. You broke through societies deeply ingrained perception and showed me the reality I needed to see.