All right. The cat’s out of the bag. I’m a baaaad Southern fag. And you know, I think I’m pretty damned entitled to this particular gripe. Not that it was much of a secret. Back in 2005 and 2006 when we had our two Pride festivals here in Clarksville, rumors spread through the local gay community that “David Shelton doesn’t like drag shows.”

Funny thing, that. Come to think of it, I think I’m the one who started those rumors.

Okay, now that I’ve got every queen south of the Mason Dixon line twisting their way too glossy lips and glaring their overly mascaraed eyes at me, I think I can take a moment to explain my frustration with the phenomena that has become the Southern drag shows. It’s not that the stages are filled with men who look better as women than most women do, or women who I found uncomfortably hot while dressed as men. My complaints certainly don’t center around the pretentious, gaudy makeup or the narcissistic attitude that many of the queens or kings possess with amazing frequency.

I know I’ll get wrapped in the mouth for this, but a typical drag queen’s behavior can best be described… as… well… come on. Let’s face it — they’re Mommie Dearest on speed. Overly campy, overly dramatic, and oh-so-incredibly all about their stage face. And that’s outside of the dressing room and off the stage. And we love them for it.

When I consider the rather disturbing things that queens do with… ah… that part of the body (involving tape), I’m quite frankly impressed with the amount of torture they’re willing to put themselves through — all in the name of the performance.

I’ll probably never get invited to a drag show again. And if I do set foot in one, I’ll likely be dodging stilettos.

Having said all that, you’re probably wondering why I even bring all of this up — well, here it is: the reason that I hate drag shows. It’s simple, really. I’m astonished more people haven’t commented on this before. But why in the hell does Southern gay culture have to revolve around the fucking drag shows? Why is it that the bar is the centerpiece for gay life in the South?

Are we so ashamed of who we are that we have to hide in the shadows and behind layers of makeup just to feel comfortable with who we are? We should be — or so the “religious right” people say. They’ve spent decades in shaming the LGBT population that we’ve accepted that shame. As a result, all we have is a tiny little hub that revolves around a dark, smoky gay bar where men dress up in sequins and pantyhose as they lip sync to any variety of Madonna or Lady Gaga songs our the gazillionth performance of “It’s Raining Men.” Guess what, boys and girls — that’s what the fundies think about when they talk about “the gay lifestyle.”

What is the point of fighting for equality when all we’re going to do is go back to the clubs and dance with our shirt off, and then laugh at the 40-year-old bear who stopped in to ask for directions?

Are we so secluded in our world where we have no choice but to resort to finding men on Grindr or whatever hookup or dating site is out there? Where are the community centers? We had one in Nashville. A bookstore. It closed.

What about gay churches? Well, most gay folks are still okay with getting beat up every Sunday in their “regular” church. Support groups? As if. Seems like everything that’s positive for the LGBT community gets passed over for the latest and greatest club or the better drag shows.

Or… could it be that most of us still don’t live our lives openly because of the outright hate that’s being projected toward us from every corner? Maybe my frustration isn’t with the drag shows as much as it is with a culture that has completely trampled on the rights of the LGBT community at every opportunity. We have politicians that pass law after law. We have TV and home church preachers that condemn us every time they lift a finger. We have gossiping busybodies trying to determine who’s the local faggot couple on the street. All of this is for one, singular purpose: to keep us in our place. For the moment, that “place” happens to be well out of the mainstream and in the back alleys of the drag shows.

I’ve talked to plenty of the straight folk — allies and bigots alike — and they love the drag shows. The allies love it because it’s a lot of fun (and they are, admittedly). The bigots love them because, in the mind of the bigot, they present just how whacked out we are and that we stay in our place, right where they like us.

Those of us who are gay have a moral imperative to speak out, and to live our lives openly. We have an open mandate to be open, honest, and as boring as we really are — because that’s the only way we’re going to prove the bigots wrong at every turn. They say we’re just a bunch of amoral freaks. Let me be clear — we’re not amoral freaks — not even drag queens! Sure they’re different, but they’re goddamn right to do what they do — and have a great time doing it.

When we limit ourselves and our social expression to the drag shows, we limit our conversation with others — leaving those around us to wonder if we really do believe in equality. Because true equality is dull, lame, and flat-out bland. Sure, we want the right to be able to prance and sync to “We Are Family,” but why not have the rights to just stay home with our families too — because when we know we have a stable, loving home to go to, everyone wins.

And maybe we might even go to a drag show.

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