Once Upon a Time, I Was a Celebrity Guest Judge at Moose Jaw Pride Drag Race
Two-and-a-half years ago, I was invited to be a celebrity guest judge at the Moose Jaw Pride Drag Race, which took place on June 3, 2016. I put off writing about it for a number of reasons — my own concerns about being out publicly, what it meant to me to be honoured in such a way, and not knowing how to tell Mx Nillin how affirming it was for them to invite me — and then nine days later on June 12, the Pulse nightclub shooting happened in Orlando. 50 people died and 53 more were injured, and I just couldn’t write about myself, about my own little queer corner of the world after that. My heart was broken for everyone caught up in the webwork of grief, and, as grief can have a way of doing, it unearthed more of my own from all the years of shame and fear when I was younger.
I just let the post about being a judge at Moose Jaw Pride Drag Race slip away under a pile of other draft posts. I didn’t want to forget it, but I didn’t have the words.
Drag Race was a monumental night for me. Beauty and artifice and pre-performance jitters and contagious swagger filled me up. I never knew good medicine waited for me in a room full of half-naked padded up and strapped down drag queens and kings in the back of an old theatre in Moose Jaw, and I didn’t know then how much of it would be ripped back out of me only nine days later.
I felt like I did when I was 12 again, when I was sure, so heart-hollowingly certain, that the god I’d been taught abhorred me, when I stared down an inescapable eternity of spiritual rejection because of my perversion. The world had resurfaced and underscored the childhood anxieties I thought I’d said goodbye to, and I didn’t know if I had answers to heal that kind of sadness again. I questioned if I’d come as far as I thought I had, or if I’d even left those dark places at all.
I was wrong, of course. I’d come plenty far, but old scars can be agitated by new trauma. Things bubble up that you never saw coming. Seven years after a hysterectomy for cancer, a stitch worked its way out through the skin on my left shoulder blade. It was a bizarre, surprise ending to a seven-year trip I didn’t even know was happening inside of me.
No matter how far away Orlando was, the Pulse community was my community, and I loved them all. I didn’t say it out loud, because it felt somehow crass at the time, but that was the honest truth of it. I loved them all, and I didn’t know how to honour all that had gone on after the fear came back.
I’m still afraid sometimes, because this world is full of bizarre, surprise endings, both good and bad, but in some ways I’m less afraid now than ever before. We live in, shall we say, interesting times, and we have work to do.
I’ve looked at this draft post’s photos so many times over the last two-and-a-half years, but I never had any words until today. These aren’t what I wanted to say back then, but here we are.
I’ve come this far.