I met her one random day while working in mid-town Manhattan. We had quite a few mutual friends, yet never had the chance to meet face to face. I had seen her performing at all the gay ‘hipster’ parties, but other than the casual “hello”, we did not know each other personally.
A few of my friends had been trying to pull together a group of eight to share a beach house for the summer on Fire Island. I had been friends with most of the guys for a few years. The group was your standard group of young gay men living in the city. One was in fashion, another was a talent agent, designers, stylists, etc. You know, your stereotypical gay New Yorker types.
She was different though. She was a professional who worked at Teen Vogue, but very different from the rest of our housemates.
The day we met for the first time, she popped into my office to drop off her check for the summer share. She was the last person to pay and with her check our house was complete.
When she entered my office, I didn’t really know what to make of her. I was pretty conservative at the time and she was extremely flamboyant. She was gorgeous; a flawless specimen to be exact. She was Latin American and had quite an interesting background. She was originally born in Southern California and spent most of her life out west. She was a child actor and made quite a name for herself on a popular children’s television program. When she graduated high school she moved to Manhattan to attend college. She immediately made a name for herself in the gay scene and performed at most of the popular parties in Chelsea, Greenwich Village and the like. She would get dressed up in dramatic costume and would lip sync to a song that matched her outfit. I’d often find her in wigs, sequins, feathers and make-up. She would get on stage and work the crowd as only she knew how.
It wasn’t until we shared the house on Fire Island that we would become friends. I had always been curious about her and others like her. I didn’t really understand. Even though I am gay, I could not understand what it meant to be a drag queen. I had always seen people like her on TV; your random talk shows and whatnot, but never knew one personally. I was always a little confused and somewhat afraid of this type of person. Not because I was bad, but because I didn’t really understand. I took our relationship as an opportunity to see who she was in order to get a better understanding of a world I knew little about.
She was an extremely effeminate man and always had been. She viewed drag as a way to express herself both creatively and socially. This didn’t mean she wanted to become a woman, but it meant that she loved the stage, notoriety and being the center of attention.
Over the next couple of years, I got to know her extremely well. I found out that this stage sensation was one of the most kind and gentile people I had ever met. She was a true friend to me when I needed it most.
Being raised in a small town in the south, drag was quite the taboo topic. But you know what, she showed me something different. She showed me that she was a person who was misunderstood. While we were so different, we could relate on that level. For the next two years, I spent a lot of my time with her. She exposed me to a world I would never have known otherwise.
At the end of the day, it didn’t matter what she wore, or who she felt comfortable being that night. What mattered was that we were friends.
When I came out, most of my friends didn’t understand, but all of them opened their hearts and minds to a new world the same way I did with her. I was able to learn from this experience that if you choose to turn your head you could potentially miss out on something great. If I would have continued being afraid of the unknown, I may never have met such a wonderful friend.
We weren’t friends because we were similar. We were friends because we cared for one another. We were friends that shared stories. We were friends that talked on the phone. We were friends that helped each other in times of need. Our differences were irrelevant. Our friendship changed my life and I wish that everyone would be able to have a life changing friendship like she and I had.
Derick Simmons is a thirtysomething gay man living in Washington, DC. With roots in southern VA, he has endured challenges growing up gay in a straight world. Check out his blog Gay Man Straight World and follow him on Twitter @DerickSimmons or Facebook.
After a night at a drag show in Omaha, Nebraska, Marine Ryan Langenegger and his two gay friends (one in drag) were having a late night snack at a local bar. But before long, the 3 were verbally assaulted and followed outside the establishment. Lagenegger, who identifies as straight, then told the strangers he and his [...]October 31, 2013
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