It's not often you get to see a lineup of fierce, sassy, hip-shaking confident drag queens in our fair towns. It's rarer still that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered teens in the Midcoast get such visible support in the form of an all-ages, all-gender, all-orientations community event.
Dreamed up and organized by Julia McClure, owner of Sweets and Meats in Rockland, the inaugural Drag Show’s performers came as far as New York, New Hampshire and Maine. They drove all night specifically to perform at The Pearl in Rockland on Aug. 19 as a fundraiser for the teens of the Rockland group Out! As I Want To Be. Sponsored by Rheal Day Spa, Limerock Inn, The Pearl, Tradewinds, and Michael Good, the show started with an outside auction in the afternoon, leading up to dinner and a show. As the gurls strut down the pier prior to the show, the message was loud and clear to the teens: "We are HERE for you."
Out! As I Want To Be OUT! (outmaine.org) is an organization for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered, and queer young people, ages 14 to 22, and their friends, from Midcoast Maine and its offshore islands. It seeks to provide affirmation of young people in their quest for identity and support for young people who may feel isolated and alienated as they struggle to understand and accept their sexuality.
'Get your act together girl, we're going to Rockland.'
While teens under 18 were not permitted to attend the show, that didn't matter to some of the younger kids.
"I love Out!," said Valerie, a 15 year-old. "I can't go in, but I got a ride just to be here because I love that this is happening. I think this is about awesome drag queens entertaining the crowd, just getting them riled up and bringing the party. Giving a good time, giving a good show. This is fun! It shows that we're a fun organization, that we are accepting of people."
Another OUT! teen member, Tyler, who donated his artwork to the auction said: "I donated my art because I love Out! As I Want To Be. It's a fabulous place for people to go and feel comfortable to be themselves. While drawing, I feel comfortable doing what I'm good at, so I figured I'd donate this [Adam Lambert] piece to them. It was actually for school project last year. I had to draw my idol, and well, he is my idol."
Unlike Valerie, Tyler had seen two drag shows in his life and was looking forward to seeing the show.
"I'm just expecting the raunchiest fun," he said, laughing.
The Drag Show featured four hilarious acts hosted by performer Isis Vermouth, who does shows mostly in Albany, N.Y. This wasn't some wink-and-a-nod 1950s song and dance act by the incomparable Edie, another drag performer who has entertained the Midcoast in recent years. No, this was Rated R, honeys. When one act featured a performer sashaying about with a blow-up plastic penis hat and another act simulated an onstage birth with a plastic baby doll as part of the comedy, this was clearly a show for people who weren’t easily offended.
Despite the shock value, the show felt inclusive and played well to a packed audience. Valencia! from Manchester, N.H., holding a martini after her act, said: "I am a drag super-stahhhhh... in my own little community. Joan Crawford in Mommie Dearest inspired my act."
Asked how Maine's audience stacked up to her previous acts in New Hampshire, she said: "Actually, tonight's audience was really great. I'm surprised that they dug what I did. I thought the crowd was going to be like 'awwww what the...' but it was great."
Joey Star, the only Mainer of the drag queen performers, said: "I met a couple of the other performers who are here tonight. We all stay in touch by email or Facebook. And at 2:30 a.m. last night, they called me and said, 'Get your act together girl, we're going to Rockland.' So in 20 minutes, I packed my bags, my wigs, my outfits and at 3 a.m., they picked me up. So here we are."
Originally from Portland, Joey said she had never actually been to Rockland before.
"It's very peaceful, very homey," she said. "I've also performed in Bangor, but I love doing things in Maine, because I feel that Maine doesn't get enough LGBT exposure."
Like Valencia!, Joey was pleased with the audience's response at The Pearl.
"This event was amazing," she said. "The audience was responsive and engaged. I like to inspire people. The people I reach are very important to me. I would be nothing without them."
Asked how the show affected the teens they were here to support, she said: "I understand what they're going through. I was 16 once. Overweight. I dropped out of high school because I was being bullied. I know it's a struggle. I wanted to be here tonight, because I want them to be confident in who they are. I know who I am. I'm very confident who I am. I'm Joey Star; I'm a drag queen, makeup artist, singer, song writer. You can say whatever you want about me."
To teenagers struggling with identity, drag queens are like warriors in bustiers. They are grown ups who’ve suffered the same slings and arrows and weathered the same emotional injuries, but now, they are wearing their wigs, heels and jeggings in public with a fierce sense of self. Too often, LGBT kids are the ones who are the most bullied, harassed, picked on and misunderstood, particularly in small towns. So for a LGBT teen, who daily has to find the courage to go to school or to even walk around alone, there nothing more inspiring to see a drag show performer elicit cheers and smiles from an audience. The drag performer is the one in control here. If there is going to be a gender-bending perception from the audience, the drag performer is going to “own” it, not be at the mercy of it. This is one show the kids will never forget.
McClure and Out! As I Want To Be are talking about potentially bringing back the Drag Show in the spring. Stay tuned and get your dollar bills ready.