Suddenly I'm This Punk Rock Leftist Rainbow Queen
2003-10-31 - 8:10 a.m.
Last Saturday, here in Austin, a group of men saw a car with a rainbow sticker on it, pulled someone out of the passenger seat, and beat the shit out of him, all the while calling him a faggot. The police aren't calling it a hate crime yet.
Have I ever told those non-Texans out there that Austin is the most queer-positive city in Texas? Because it is. No, seriously, it totally is; I'm not being sarcastic for once. That should give you an indication of just how queer-positive Texas is in general.
I left Texas more than five years ago to get away from all that, to find a place where I could walk down the street hand in hand with my lover and be less afraid (okay, so this requires having a lover, I know, shut up). Ironically, the closest I ever came to a gay bashing was in Philadelphia, the city where I went to feel a little more free.
Now, before I tell the near-bashing story, I need to begin by explaining to anyone who wasn't involved in performing arts at the University of Pennsylvania about a little thing called Bacchanal.
At the end of the year, most fraternities and sororities have formal or semi-formal evenings where everyone gets all dolled-up, finds an appropriate escort, and proceeds to act the catty minx/drunken asshole if those MTV shows are any indication. At Penn, the various performing arts groups were like their own informal fraternities and sororities, especially the all-male ones, who had hazing rituals and lots of gay sex (the hallmark of any legit fraternity). However, rather than aping our lessers and having a performing arts formal, some brilliant people God knows how many years ago decided to create a ritual called Bacchanal, which had three rules that were expected to be followed TO THE LETTER:
1. Wear comfortable shoes.
2. Dress to impress.
3. Cover your ass.
And these rules always WERE followed to the letter. The amount of tits and dicks that were flashed during my Junior year Bacchanal stood as testament to this.
The unfamiliar reader may be wondering about "Dress to impress." The rule was left vague for a reason--we artistes do not enjoy rules, but we do enjoy attention. So the object of the game was to wear something that would attract attention, and ninenty five times out of a hundred this meant a costume. The default intepretation of the rule was "The boys dress like girls and the girls dress like whores."
I never dressed like a girl. Ever. I dressed like a Queen.
My freshman year I was the Queen of Hearts. I didn't participate in the costume contest because three Senior boys from the Glee Club had shown up in matching gowns, and as one of them was my adopted older brother I decided to bow out gracefully. My sophomore year, though, I dressed to win.
I was the Snow Queen, draped in gauzy white fabrics with a flowing white sarong-dress that my lovely assistant Vashti had painted with a blue and silver snowflake. I had on a silver tiara and a white feather boa. My make-up designers drew designs on my face with soft turquoise and lavender eye-shadow, finishing me off with a dusting of glitter. I was absolutely gorgeous, darlings, and I knew it.
Of course, I had to walk over to the meet-up where we'd all hop in cabs to go downtown. I walked out alone into the streets and passed in front of car that was waiting for the light. The man inside did a double take when he saw me and yelled out the window, "What the FUCK?! I OUGHTA RUN YOU DOWN!!!" He punctuated that last statement by revving the engine of his car, in the hopes that I would run, or cry, or scream like the terrified mockery of manhood that he had the audacity to assume I was.
Queens don't scream, motherfucker. Queens don't even flinch. Queens keep walking because the rants of the ignorant do not even merit a response. Queens do not speak to those who are beneath them.
Queens certainly do not let a minor mishap ruin the ball, and when I finally arrived at the club I was as beautiful and carefree as I'd ever been. That night, I was crowned Queen of Bacchanal. I accepted my crown with grace and dignity, and before the end of the night I was in a state of drunken bliss and making out with a boy I'd had a crush on all year long.
I had a better costume when I won the following year (I was Queen of the Jungle, wearing a homemade crown of bird feathers, bromeliads, and butterflies) and I got a lifetime achievement award my Senior year (I was the Queen of Soul, complete with angel wings), but that night--when I stood up to the hatred of the prejudiced, found myself a hot boy, and soaked up the applause of all my friends--just might have been the best night of my life, so far.
That memory keeps getting better, because people have since referred back to seeing me that evening, looking inspiring, unafraid, and absolutely stunning. I keep hearing from people about how I helped them come out, how I, in being so ready to be myself at my most fabulous, showed them that they had nothing to fear. It's very hard to put words around the feeling these remarks give me (although, in certain instances, I've wanted to say "So, I think the best way to thank me for helping you come out is to go make out with me right now, what'ya say?"). The best way to explain it is to ask that you imagine a small sun burning in your heart, round and orange and hot. It shines softly and fills you with warmth, but if you focus on it too much you feel like you're on fire. Hearing that I give people hope and courage simply by being me is the nuclear fuel that keeps that sun going. It keeps me alive.
Now, I originally didn't know what I wanted to do for Halloween. I was thinking about dressing up as Ganesh or Kali, as I have been gorging myself on Indian food and movies lately, but I didn't have the time to make the costume. I eventually decided to just go out without any costume. Then I saw the report on the gay-bashing, and that it happened on the street corner that I walk through every time I go to see Ginger Leigh perform at Cedar Street. I decided I had to go all out, and last night inspiration finally hit.
So tomorrow night I will put on some make-up, turn on the tape deck, and put the wig back on my head (although it's kinda lookin' ratty, so I might just stick with my own hair). I will head out to at least two parties this evening. I will look fabulous, and no one but no one will be able to mistake my sexuality (as if they ever could).
Because this year, from my red headscarf to my purple dress, I am going out as The Queen of the Rainbow.
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