What Does Ru Paul’s Drag Race Got To Do With My Art Practice?

In a word, courage.

I have been a fan of the show since having discovered it circa 2018. Upon watching the first episode I was hooked being mesmerized by the drama, the artistry of the costumes and make-up, and instantly in love with the contestants. These queens at the top of their game have been through so much. Dealing with inequalities and whatever foolishness bigots threw at them on a day to day basis. And yet, there they were on screen, fabulous warriors fighting for their right to live as they saw fit.

Each time I watch the show I think about the years I spent in Catholic School and remember my classmate, a sweet little boy we’ll call “Halston.” Halston was gay, feminine and flamboyant. He was beaten up emotionally, if not physically, on a regular basis by the other boys. Still, he never stopped acting “like a gay” and being who he was despite the consequences. In grade 6 he wore a bra with a floral pattern underneath his polo shirt uniform to class. When he went to the nurse’s station he’d ask for a Midol to relieve pain claiming it was his time of the month and he had his period. He did other things that made people’s tongues wag and sent him to the principals office.

I very much admired this boy for his spirit. And yet, even if I thought he was treated poorly, I never said anything. I never spoke up against his bullies, I never spoke to him, I never talked about his plight with anyone. I kept quiet because that was what I was taught at home and I too was different in my own way and so desperately wanted to be “normal.” I was a weird, pesky, artsy kid who was convinced she was a puppy and that no one understood, or liked. I knew my parents were ashamed of me and so I learned to be quiet and not give my true opinions on much of anything. I learned to somewhat fit in. I hid my real self all the while resenting world for having to do so. But truth always outs and eventually I found that it takes way more energy to hide than just being who you are despite the consequences. (By the way, I found Halston online via social media a few years ago. He’s married to a man he calls a nickname too sugary to share here and seems happy and content.)

Although I am a CIS female happily partnered with a male for many years, I can identify with the contestants of the show. I know how it feels to be considered less than because I am different, don’t fit into a certain mould, and don’t conform to what family, peers and society think I should say, act and be. It is inspiring to see the queens being who they are despite having the odds stacked against them. And it gives me courage to dig deep, remember who I am and start learning to be myself again, use my voice to express my thoughts and feelings in my own way. And to finally do I want even if what I am and the art I make may be misunderstood and considered odd.

Visual Artist and Art Instructor