[Originally published on May 6, 2014 by the UAF Sun Star. Republished with permission.]
In the moments before the most recent campus drag show, I was terrified. Two hours earlier, I had tried to get a ride to campus and been turned down by a taxi driver. He must have thought I was playing a joke on him because he kept asking if it was all just a joke. I wasn’t joking; I wanted a ride. When I assured him it wasn’t and that I just to get to a drag show, he laughed at me, said he didn’t give rides to trannies, and drove off.
In that moment, I realized how vulnerable I was. My friend, who had agreed to give me a ride that night, had gotten a back injury and was unable to come. The taxi man had driven off and although he really hadn’t done anything to me, I couldn’t shake the sick, scared feeling I had from our encounter. To top it all off, I was supposed to be performing “It Gets Better” by Rebecca Drysdale. It’s one thing to say it gets better, but it’s a completely other thing entirely to tell yourself when no one is watching and you’re sitting in your room in full-clown drag.
A friend who was going to the show texted me back and said she could swing by and pick me up. I didn’t tell her about the taxi driver because she is the kind of person that would have found him and forced an apology out of him. I didn’t want that. I wanted to not be affected by what he had said.
I got to the show late, and was unable to really enjoy any other performances because I just felt sick and all I wanted to do was scrub my face and go back to being the boy that I am the rest of the time when I’m not in Miss Euphoria. While performing, I just sat down at one point, thinking about the hypocrisy of telling everyone “it gets better.”
I went home immediately after the performance. As I was scrubbing the lady off my face, I couldn’t help but think about how privileged I was to be able to wash the thing that caused so much bigotry from people, when so many others can’t.
The feeling of terror returned as I walked out of the CTC building and heard a woman say “Oh, you’re the tranny from the Sun Star!” She didn’t mean it rude, in fact she was incredibly friendly in the remarks that followed, but waiting for that moment when I realized she wasn’t going to recoil in disgust or throw something, felt like an eternity.
Then it hit me (a thought, not her giant fist): let’s stop saying it gets better and just make it better. With all the devastating things that have been happening around campus, let’s help create a world that doesn’t make us say one thing and feel something completely different. I’m not saying police the language because I do not think that should happen. I’m saying find a way to practice kindness.
I’ve gotten a few questions from scared freshmen who are returning to their families in less than a week and want to know how to act (after coming out in one case, or learning to be more accepting in another). To them, and to all of you, I would suggest living your life openly. Beat the terror of existing as you want to, by embracing it. I promise you that it will not be easy but it’s so much better than thinking you’re alone in this world. By allowing the open dialogue with others you might get a lot of negativity but you will also get good things as well. Sure there will be times when people are so cruel that it might seem crippling but you also expose yourself to such amazing kindness: internally and externally. Even today, I still get mean comments from people about being a drag queen, but I also get so much more feedback from people about how much they’ve enjoyed the different perspective. Practice kindness and live openly, it can be so liberating (not to mention healthy)!
Stop trying to convince yourself it gets better. It doesn’t get better BUT IT CAN GET EUPHORIC!