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Let there be (she)

Matt Bays Let there be she music video
youtube @howtofindandkeepagayman

Discover the powerful journey of a former minister, finding acceptance in drag culture and learning how love and understanding can create positive change.

Love often requires that we walk in someone else’s shoes…or in this case, their heels.

The first drag show I attended was in Louisville, Kentucky. The queens were larger than life, loud, and some of the most beautiful women I’d ever seen. It was a spectacle that, at the time, I couldn’t grasp or appreciate. I was uncomfortable standing among the lip-synching and lashes, the wigs, death drops, roaring beat, rhinestones, and realness. I did not understand this form of entertainment. But, deep down inside, I was captivated by their ability to let themselves BE themselves.

Especially when, for so many years, this was my greatest weakness. I was a minister in conservative churches for 27 years, spending most of that time as a closeted gay man.

When I came out at the age of 46, drag culture showed me it was okay to live as my authentic self. It holds a special place in my heart. So, when drag queens recently came under fire, it broke my heart.

Then it enraged me.

The churches I worked in and attended condemned the LGBTQ+ community. While I had always been more progressive in my faith experience, I never fought back against the voices of condemnation. I was afraid of losing my job. I was careful not to rock the boat but detested the judgment and negativity toward the people I loved. But I continued keeping my cards close to my chest. It is a regret I’ve needed to make peace with. An amend to the LGBTQ+ community - and myself.

As conservative news media and political groups began focusing their agenda on drag queens and drag culture, I couldn’t stop thinking about all those days when I kept my mouth shut. When I hadn’t stood up for what I believed.

Now is the time.

Drag queens have been falsely accused of being pedophiles and freaks, sexualizing and grooming children. They’ve become a lightning rod for conservative political unrest and bigotry. Their rights as performers - as human beings - have been threatened.

What can I do? How can I help? These were the questions that were keeping me up at night.

I’m not a drag queen; I’m a writer and musician. But I had an idea.

I began writing an anthem song. Then, with the help of a friend, I recorded the song. Following the recording, I reached for the stars - I contacted RuPaul’s Drag Race star Blair St. Clair, asking them if they would be interested in participating in a music video.

“Tell me more,” Blair said. And so, I told them my plan. “I’m in. Where and when? I’m there.”

I didn’t know a thing about getting into drag. I bought things I’d never bought before: a gown, jewelry, hip pads, a strapless bra, platform heels, and tucking panties. I wanted to reshape myself - a former conservative church minister - into a drag queen.

And Blair showed up for me.

At the video shoot, they taught me how to walk in heels and showed me how to move. Blair assured me I was doing a good job. By listening, I learned. By watching, I gained new insight into their world.

Through this experience, I realized our drag queens are intricately creative beings with intensity, passion, empathy, and love. When I needed Blair, they came through for me, and I was doing what I could to come through for them, too.

This is what love looks like: Show up, even when you don’t know how. Expand your view by educating yourself on drag culture and the lives of the performers themselves. And if this is difficult for you, know it’s supposed to be.

We make ourselves uncomfortable because this is what allyship looks like.

When I put on that dress, wig, makeup, and platform heels, I initially didn’t feel energized. I felt awkward and uncomfortable because I didn’t know what I was doing. But being uncomfortable is one hundred percent survivable.

I am a part of a marginalized community, and within my marginalized community are marginalized communities. Seeing the humanity within our queens and kings will create empathy, which always leads to action.

I am still not good at walking in heels. But I keep trying.

This is how it works. This is how we change: ourselves first, and then the world.

Matt Bays is a speaker, life coach and author celebrated for his debut LGBTQ memoir,Leather & Lace. With his compelling podcast,How to Find (& Keep) a Gay Man, he extends his passion for empowering gay men who desire connection. Once a closeted minister, Matt’s unique perspective inspires authenticity and courage. Like and follow on Instagram@mattbayswriter. Matt lives in Cincinnati with his husband Chris.

Voices is dedicated to featuring a wide range of inspiring personal stories and impactful opinions from the LGBTQ+ community and its allies. Visit out.com/submit to learn more about submission guidelines. We welcome your thoughts and feedback on any of our stories. Email us at voices@equalpride.com. Views expressed in Voices stories are those of the guest writers, columnists and editors, and do not directly represent the views of Out or our parent company, equalpride.

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