When I was a little girl, I was all about the dress-up. I would run around my apartment complex in a pink ballerina costume asking people if they thought I was pretty, and I frequently put on a frilly dress, white gloves, large hat, and lace-trimmed socks and demand to go to the grocery store with my mother. (She loved that, as you can imagine.) But as I got older and more self-conscious, as girls tend to do, dress-up became a far smaller part of my life.
It wasn't until I started reading and thinking about gender that dress-up made a reappearance in my life. Ru-Paul's words, that we're all born naked and the rest is drag, resonated with me and freed me up to experiment just a little bit with my presentation. I've written this summer about feeling fairly androgynous but there have also been other phases, most notably a resurgence of my femmey self a few summers ago. I haven't been feeling particularly girly lately, but when I heard that Genderqueer Chicago was going to be having a drag 1920's party I knew I was going to have to femme myself up in some sort of outrageous fashion. For one thing, I look like a total dweeb in boy drag--think bible salesman--and for another I have a very flapper-esque body type. When else was my lack of boobage going to count in my favor for girl drag? But also, I just kind of wanted to, and for me being an excessively feminine girl is pretty damn subversive feeling.
And so I showed up in perhaps the shortest black dress I've ever owned, my hair curled and pinned on top of my head and sporting heels, two pearl necklaces, and a peacock feather. My friends were all looking incredibly dapper in their suits, fedoras, knickers, and mustaches, and much to my relief and surprise the vast majority of people walking into the rather swanky pretentious under-lit gay bar we were at were decked out in similar fashion. Dress parties are only fun if people really go for it, and I've been to more than my fair share where I did and other people did not; it's gotten to the point where, if I'm invited to a theme event, I often show up in normal clothes with my costume in tow just in case. I will never forget showing up to my first Ugly Christmas Sweater party (in another town, which pretty much obliterated my chances of a change of clothing) wearing a christmas tree turtleneck, red pants, and a vest embroidered with huge Santa faces only to find out that no one else had dressed up. And then there was the early nineties party where I showed up in neon Blossom shorts and a midriff-baring orange plaid halter top tied in front, only to discover that the host had forgotten to inform most of the other guests that it was a theme party at all. I believe both events ended with excessive drunkenness on my part, largely due to embarrassment and the massive discomfort of looking like a total weirdo.
But last night? It was classy. Fedoras abounded, as did vests and ties. I felt like a million dollars, and even though I was nearly the only person there in girl drag I was completely comfortable with that. It felt good to see so many happy costumed queer folk chatting and making new connections and generally taking over the bar we'd booked; all these queers in this blowdried gay male space! It made me so happy. And even though we didn't talk formally about Genderqueer Chicago, it still felt like one of the major underlying layers to the evening. I talked with people about queer barbecues, pronoun choice--I was asked multiple times which pronouns I preferred, and there was a group lean towards y'all as a neutral option--and yes, sometimes even what the group was about and what we hoped to do in the future. We have time and space later for more words and deeper discussions, but as a coming out party this was the bee's knees.