“I Was a Teenage Drag Queen” Part 1

By Robert Joki, who will star in “How the Drag Queen Stole Christmas” on November 30th and December 1st at the Oakland Center for the Arts.

When I first came out of the closet I was wearing a pair of my mother’s shoes.  I tripped over a Bible and found myself in an extremely conservative suburb.  I wanted very much to meet other people like myself but I wasn’t sure how to do so…

I first found out about gay bars from a friend of mine.  Her aunt had a hair-drether who wath verrry into the club thene.  I remember I was shocked that such a place existed in Youngstown…a place where gay people congregated in public?  Who knew?  It was the answer to my problem…my need to be surrounded by people like myself.  There was one obstacle.  I was only 18 and you had to be 21 to even step foot in the bar. 

I wasn’t about to wait three years to get my freak on, so I started doing some research.  I found out from an online buddy that bouncers seldom checked the IDs of drag performers, especially if they hustled by with their arms full of wigs and costumes right as the show was about to begin.  So…I would show up the bar five minutes to showtime dressed in a plastic wig, wearing thrift store drag.  The big man at the door would let me in, I would do a couple of lip sync numbers, and then I would wash off the makeup, put on my boy clothes and enjoy the club scene.  After a few weeks of doing this, I became a familiar face and no one questioned my age.  I also started dating a guy who was fifteen years older than me…and people just assumed I was older.

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