I wanted to be a drag queen when I was nine. I watched The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert and that was it. I craved that chameleonic power, that wit, that bravado, that strength stemming from vulnerability. I connected with something and I didn’t care if it wasn’t possible, I just wanted it. Even earlier, I watched The Rocky Horror Picture Show when I was little peeking through my bedroom door left ajar, unbeknownst to my Mum watching it on the couch. I was mesmerised. Sure, I was too young to really understand it, but I saw genderfuck, I saw monstrous desire, I saw the power of pleasure and I was pulled towards it like a magnet. Without the words to even describe what I was feeling, it was seared into my brain and I am left with the mark to this day.
Then teachers, parents and the everyday interfered with the imaginative wisdom of childhood gut reactions and gradually pummelled my dreams of becoming a glorious genderfuck monster into the dirt of the playground. Though I continued with theatre and dance at every possible turn, more and more I came to understand that it was all temporary until I became an adult with a grown up job. I went to University, stopped performing and resigned myself to the lofty idea of working in a Politics or Gender Studies think tank. Ahh the naïveté of being a student and thinking Gender Studies jobs grow on trees in a country that was axing Arts subjects with wild abandon. Bless my cotton socks.
However, that pull within my gut never dissipated. I would watch drag king shows at King Victoria, or the avant-garde burlesque cabaret gods of Finucane & Smith’s Burlesque Hour and Glory Box and feel something stirring, feel the heat of envy and admiration flush my cheeks. My restlessness eventually pulled me back to performing and training on the side as I trudged through my first graduate job. And so the split between desire and duty began. I poured all my energy and resources into creating performance work, whilst dismissing my efforts and convincing myself and others that a ‘real’ job was just around the corner, that I would do my post grad degree next year. Always next year. Each year the cognitive dissonance created by that split increased and the more lost I felt.
By the time I reached 30 and the Age of Giving Less Fucks it dawned on me that I had unwittingly started a small business that was growing as I did and yet the entire time I had been endlessly beating myself up for not accomplishing anything. As soon as I realised that all these actions had been speaking far louder than my empty words, I gave in. I let the fantasy of who I was supposed to become shatter, and started to finally give myself some credit. Credit for creating, building skills and for being my own roadie, PA, social media manager, copy writer, glue-gun costumier, and website manager. That ‘real’ job had been there all along, it just wasn’t the one brimming with respect and financial stability.
Finally I allowed myself gratitude and begrudging respect towards that stubborn, weird little kid who knew what they wanted to do and somehow steered me in that direction, even though I put up a fight and pretended I didn’t notice. I couldn’t help but laugh that my own kid version of “I wanna be an astronaut! I wanna be a Lego Scientist!” had come true. I had wanted to be a drag queen and a genderfuck monster with the allure of Dr Frank N. Furter, draped in the armour of sequins, fantasy, and the transformative power of sexual freedom and vulnerability. Somehow I had brought this desire to life and evolved into a glamdrogynous shapeshifter, part drag queen, part drag king, part something else entirely. The reality of that childhood dream is far more hard work, financial instability and sleep deprivation than the fantasy might suggest. But deep inside that kid is jumping for joy, and hey, sequins can pay the rent right?!
The more I let go of ‘grown up’ expectations, the bigger my ambitions become, the more honest and challenging my work is, the freer I feel, the more I learn about myself. Less and less do I fear that I’m not adult enough, that my degree was in vain, or the worst, that my family will never respect my career choices (because, ha! they won’t, and who cares? All hail the Age of Giving Less Fucks). Those fears are now replaced with my fierce motivation to turn my fantastical grand plans into reality, and the insomnia-inducing fears that I won’t be able to pull them off. But there is a fire in my gut that propels me forward, even when it’s one step forward and two steps back. Like a weird, little drag-loving kid dressed in a genderfuck monster onesie, dragging me by the hand one stubborn glittery step at a time. And they can’t be ignored, dismissed or silenced any more, by myself, or anyone else. Thank fuck for that.