The one thing about a journey is that while you may have a certain destination in mind, providence has a way of stepping in and setting you on a course you never imagined.
I’m almost certain she never meant to hook up with dudes sporting straw, tin, and a hairy bush on her way to shrinking a witch, all in the name of must-have ruby-red heels. Or even deeper, Saul was simply traveling on a biblical road to Tarsus when he was blinded by a light and informed he would assume the stage name “Paul” and convert gentiles, while Jonah was trying to avoid his journey altogether when a whale swallowed his prophetic behind whole.
Alas, when I packed up my Buick and headed off from Long Island to a small Christian college in rural Arkansas, it never dawned on me that one day I’d be performing comedy dressed in women’s clothes while sharing the name of the world’s greatest harlot. As my silver car pulled into the religious school, I was like one of those heroine chicks from a Disney flick:
Wide-eyed and full of promise before getting my ass handed to me by Ursula the sea monster.
I had decided on a Christian university because, ever since I was young, I had always counted God as my bestie and looked forward to developing our relationship. Also, I’d struggled with reconciling my homosexual feelings with my religious beliefs, and I just knew that going to a Christian school would set me on a path of redemption and allow me to repress my gayness, which surely came from the devil.
I began my studies as a Bible major and proceeded to spend countless hours memorizing ancient Greek in order to increase my ability to study and decipher the nuances of the Holy Scriptures. As I satisfied with my spiritual appetite, I started dating girls in order to repress my sexual desires. Where would I be able to hide my homosexuality better than amidst a group sworn to celibacy until marriage?
It was easy to pretend to myself and everyone around me that giggling with my favorite gal pals meant more than friendship.
However, all of the Bible reading, chapel prayer services, holding hands with girls on hay rides, and Wednesday-night devotionals couldn’t stop the inevitable from eventually slamming into me, literally.
While walking across campus one day, out of nowhere a group of guys physically stood in my way and then pushed me to the ground, yelling, “You are going to hell, faggot!” before they ran off, laughing.
I was mortified.
First, because I was shocked that at a place supposedly full of Christian love and fellowship, such vile hatred was present, and second because although I had tried to escape who I was, I was reminded that no matter how many prayers I offered up, I was still gay. I hung my head low, not because of the shoves administered by a group of thugs, but because I realized that in trying to be someone I was not, I was gay bashing myself in a far worse manner.
Lifting myself off the ground, I found a sense of empowerment knowing that I’d never again treat myself like anything less than the wonderful person God made me to be. I took a hard look inside and around myself and realized that people put conditions on God’s love as if they speak for the Lord himself. By shaking the dirt off my knees, I dusted away my own self-hate.
If God made me, how could I be any less than fabulous?
After graduating from college and making a few pit stops on the road of life, I eventually made my way back to New York, where I wrote a script for a Web series about drag-queen superheroes that was largely based on my experiences at the Christian university. In the series, people are so blinded by their bigotry and hate for each other that the human race is on the verge of annihilation but is spared by the acts of Christ-like drag queens under the auspices of a deity from outer space.
While casting each of the roles, I was frustratingly unable to find the perfect fit to bring two of the main characters to life. As a result, I eventually stepped in to play both parts, without any experience or ambition to perform as a drag queen whatsoever. However, the road often twists hardest when you least expect it, and usually the sharpest turns yield the greatest rewards. By the time I had finished filming the scenes, I had arrived at a destination beyond my wildest dreams and found great power in performing under powder and paint.
In the years since, the development of my drag persona has brought me great artistic and spiritual freedom.
I’m cloaked in the name of vile whoredom—my own tongue-in-cheek reference to the fact that the deeper the scarlet, the greater the cleansing power of God’s love. As a result, every time I cover myself in layers of makeup and glue, I find, oddly, that my soul shines through at its brightest.
My unnatural appearance gives me the ability to be most natural in reminding the people around me to laugh, love, and dream bigger than themselves, because, after all, that is what religion and spirituality are all about.
Originally published on The Huffington Post; Photo Credit: Thomas Evans