JOEY JAY

Backstage at  Stacy’s @ Melrose  getting ready to perform at  The Queer Agenda .

Backstage at Stacy’s @ Melrose getting ready to perform at The Queer Agenda.

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If we’re going to look at my sexuality on the surface, I am gay.

It really is quite a spectrum. I’m gay which means I am sexually attracted to the same gender, but this can be so different for everyone. There is no right or wrong. No black or White. The rainbow really is perfect. I think I grew up at the perfect time to be gay. Even though the political climate right now is very divisive and bringing out the worst in some, right now I think the gay community is still kind of trending! You’re looking at Target billboards with kids wearing their unicorn backpacks to school showing no fear. Little boys that are becoming makeup superstars on YouTube are being asked to walk at Fashion Week in New York City. There’s a whole shift in corporate power that’s beautiful to witness. So, by being gay and unapologetically out and proud, I think you’re a walking political statement. When I’m out in public, I want others to see me comfortable in my own skin. I want them to know that if they can see that I am doing ok, they can flourish as well. It took me a long time to be comfortable with myself. The battle is definitely far from over but I can say that I am proud of the man I have grown into.

There are those gender norms like masculinity and femininity.

Growing up, I’ve always been feminine. I’ve always been self-conscious about that, especially my voice. It was one and still is one of my biggest insecurities. The first “ah-ha” moment I had was in Las Vegas, and I met this guy – this couple – they were so nice, and Australian! We were talking about something, I don’t remember what but they stopped me… “Like gay? You don’t sound gay! You sound American!”

I thought “Holy shit - if I move to Australia, that stigma is gone. I don’t sound feminine anymore?” I then learned the concept of perception. I realized if you are self-conscious and you show that you’re self-conscious, the perception of others amplifies. So, if I either get over how I sound, or get into it! 

People tell me that they like my drag. If I keep owning all of my insecurities, I might be able to come around! Being comfortable with myself is a really recent development within the last couple years. I think drag is what did it. Drag is extreme. If you think about it, it’s like a “no-no.” You’re pushing the envelope as far as you can possibly go. You’re not just a gay man anymore - you’re dressing up as the opposite sex, tucking your penis between our legs, and getting paid to do it.

I don’t know why I started drag to be honest.

I am a dancer. I have helped lots of queens in the past, but doing drag has definitely been a new adventure. When I’m dating someone, I am very open about it and I tell them right away. “What do you do for a living?” is such a common question. When asked that in the beginning, I’ll respond, “Oh, I work for an educational software company and I do drag, professionally.” Their response then decides if a date is worth exploring. If they are completely taken aback, that is completely fine. It isn’t very common. Just like not everyone prefers mustard on their hot dog. If they start to ask me questions regarding how long I have been doing drag, what made me want to give it a try, that’s usually a great start. Then, if that turns into “Where do you perform?” “Do you have fun when you perform?” I know that another encounter may be in the books. If someone is completely turned off by the idea or has something negative to say, live your life, sir! I just saved fifty dollars on a dinner date with a dead end.

Backstage at  Stacy’s @ Melrose  getting ready to perform at  The Queer Agenda .

Backstage at Stacy’s @ Melrose getting ready to perform at The Queer Agenda.

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I grew up really, really lucky. My mother- she was the fag hag of her millennium!

I grew up with a single mom. She had me at a young age and is currently lives with a panic disorder, amongst other things. She cannot work a normal full-time job. Living with her disability she still somehow raised me to put myself in a political limelight and represent my entire community to seek acceptance. She did a good job. I remember coming out around 17-18 years old. We all knew. I was the only one left who wasn’t ready. Shortly after I finally pulled the Band-Aid off, realizing there was really no blood (which I am so thankful for), some friends and I went to a local gay bar on an 18+ night and I met this drag queen… but not just any drag queen. This queen was older, overweight, a deep scratchy voice, dirty on a mic, reminded me of Ursula.

While at home one night, the conversation somehow came up with my mom and I was telling her about my encounter, which already says a lot about the relationship I share with my mother.

“I met this queen, Mom. She was blonde, scary, big, and said some pretty scary things to me while I was at the bar.” My mom then replies, “Oh, Bradley?!” “Bradley used to babysit you!

Shook.

“Yeah! We used to be roommates back in college!”

Holy shit. I think that fully explained why my mom raised me how she did. All my unanswered questions were now solved. Growing up without a father figure, I was really self-conscious of what I was missing. I recently saw a post on Facebook that said, “What did your dad teach you growing up?” It was a meme and simply commented, “That women can do everything.”

With this amazing mother, I knew I could be whatever I wanted to be as long as I was fully committed. I had to work. I cant just half-assedly try things and then quit when I wanted the rest. I had babysitters who were gay and my mom had friends who identified as transgender. Growing up I knew that I was exposed to a different world than my peers. We all have different lives and if it works for them, it works for me! We’re not in their house! Whatever Pete and Steve are doing down the street, doesn’t apply to me. So I became a rebel. If you tell me I can’t do it, Bitch move! Im going to fuckin’ do it. But I know I have to do it in a way where it is unlock-able. Im going to piss you off, but you can’t come for it. I want it to be as polished as possible. My drag has gotten better, the quality has gotten better, makeup more precise, but I am always learning and growing.

I would wear wigs- but I’ll be honest, it’s not my thing.

Wigs are uncomfortable, hot, I don’t feel good wearing them. One day I bleached my hair a silver blonde. I looked in the mirror and said to myself, “Oh my I am totally doing P!nk this Friday.” I rocked my own hair and I loved it. Let me tell you did I get an earful! You what? I fucking loved it. I got so much shit for it, but I made so much money that evening. I am surrounded by beautiful queens, all about drag values and traditions. A conservative queen, if you will! Then boom, here’s an entertainer making the same amount of money, getting the same applause, and dare I say it… “WIGGLESS.” Yes this could be seen as putting less work in, which that opinion is valid. But I don’t like being told what I can and cant do. I would look into that mirror and I would see, Annie Lennox, Twiggy, Pink… the list goes on. If you think about all of them, they became famous because they were breaking rules! They did it in a way that I admire. They broke boundaries, shattered them to pieces, but in a way where it could not be clock-able*. Now look what where they are and what they became. Inspiration to a young boy in a cat suit ready to defend my art. The reason that I don’t like the term, “Wig-less Wonder?” It implies that it’s missing something. Look at it. Nothing is missing.  

Through Self-Discovery… I find myself having moments where I should know better.

When it comes to judging someone, whether judging a book by its cover or coming up with just anything predetermined based on what I see in front of me, I think that drag is helping me so much with eliminating that… but I am only human. I think that drag has helped me to be really accepting of a lot of different kinds of people. There’s so many different types of drag. I think that all drag is valid because it’s an art form. If your drag is different, some people will say, “You’re not really doing drag…” “You’re not good at drag…”

Those are real perceptions. I think it is most visible when comparing pageant style to alternative elements. People feel the need to be categorized. I try to do everything. If you’re a girl who doesn’t pad, has a beard, doesn’t wear a wig (for example), and you decided to run for a pageant, don’t tell me that you’re not going to learn anything! Now don’t change your integrity, but try new things.

Backstage at  Stacy’s @ Melrose  getting ready to perform at  The Queer Agenda .

Backstage at Stacy’s @ Melrose getting ready to perform at The Queer Agenda.

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One of the lowest points in my journey happened when I used to live in Milwaukee.

I lived in Milwaukee for six years, and it was six years too long. I never enjoyed my time there. I had a very hard job that was very demanding and definitely a lifestyle over anything else. I grew this animosity towards my city very quickly. I though the people were not trust worthy, there was always drama, and I couldn’t leave. I was trapped. Milwaukee has a smaller community than Phoenix, and with the combination of everything, I was incredibly negative near the end of that chapter. I decided to do me with no fucks. I dod what I wanted, how I wanted to, and let me say that didn’t get me anywhere. It wasn’t until I moved to Phoenix that I felt like I was starting to belong.

I moved here for a job, to teach ballroom dance. After a few months, an old knee injury came back. I couldn’t teach any longer because of it and still am nursing it back to what it was once. I was convinced that I was going to move into ballroom studio ownership and things just weren’t working out. Things were taking a lot longer that I thought and next think you know, I was doing the same shit that I didn’t want to do and needed to call it quits. I said, “You know what? I am going to make myself a priority. I’m not going to do this any longer. Im going to do what I need to do and take care myself. Now I would for a software company and I love it.”

It wasn’t until I moved here that I look back and realize how upset I was. I was seeking the wrong things to make up for my unhappiness. I know I wanted to leave, but I couldn’t leave. I felt stuck. I started doing drugs, went out too often, I’d sleep in, miss work. I was lost. Finally I saw an opportunity and I snatched it. I had to get creative, but I somehow molded my escape plan which led me to Phoenix. The city opened its arms to me. These people that Ive never met before are genuinely excited to see me. They say “Hello…”  - genuinely! I wasn’t even planning drag out here. I had to realize that Milwaukee was not responsible for my problems and I needed to take charge of my life and responsibility for my actions… but I still needed to go. 

Being a feminine, gay man allowed me to grow a thick skin. It’s kind of like a sink or swim mentality…

I would keep it [drag] a secret in the beginning. Being on an app is like driving. You’re protected by a shield where you can really say how you feel without fear of confrontation. Social apps are very much a thing in the gay community. If I would log on, I would not mention drag. One day I decided, screw it, i’ll just put a link to my Instagram. Well that opened the floodgates for sure. “I wanna have sex with you, but unfortunately you’re a tranny who should be dead.”  “Tranny trash.” “Not into fems or drags, get off here.” I never mentioned that I did drag in my bio, just the small Instagram icon at the bottom. Imagine if I hadn’t had put that link up. How many dates would I have had to undergo before realizing this is not going to go over well. Do I really have to come out of the closet, again?! I quickly learned that this was the best way to filter out the bad ones. I left it there. Some save money from quitting smoking, and I save money by leaving my Instagram on Grindr. Ive been told that I’m an attractive guy. I am in shape, Im kind. I don’t date often because I know my worth, and why just let anyone in. I am now incredibly open about drag. It’s not really going anywhere right now and it’s a big part of my life. 

Some queens hate those cis gay men who are “ignorant” to feel how we feel. Who ask to get their makeup done, or for a drag mom, rather that the, “Hey what up” looking for… other things. I disagree with them. Now you have a new breed of gays who have never been into drag, but because of RuPaul’s Drag Race, they became inspired! These big muscle men are finally getting in touch with their feminine side. They’re putting on heels and taking boomerangs at parties. We call it “living their best life” haha..! Now they are asking me questions and some of them are even getting into drag themselves! Why not embrace this. Embrace the muscle tank tops and the gym who ask you what lip shade to get. Ten years ago, I would have had a black eye. Today, we are posing for a photo. 

My advice to anyone questioning the “norms” us don’t bottle anything up. OPEN Up the lid and spill it!

I grew up with a very accepting family who has embraced me, who loves me, and while you can’t control who your parents are, you can control who your chosen family is! Find someone that you can talk to, who can understand you – it can make life so much easier! You’re not meant to do it all by yourself, it takes a village. Share your truth, respect other people’s truths and have respect for everybody. I was so insecure about my drag and my femininity and dating… and then recently there’s people that come up to me asking me, “What’s my next costume?” “Hey, you should perform to this song!” “Would it be weird if I came to the show with my friends?” I met people who were fans of me for being me. WOW! I never would have met these people or felt so good in my skin without embracing my imperfections. Are they imperfections though? That is subjective. Not to be cliché, but RuPaul always says, “If you can’t love yourself, how in the hell you gonna love anybody else.” And it is so true! Now that I’m embracing myself, my femininity, and my drag, I have met the coolest people! I’m a lot less self-conscious, I’m happy. I sleep better at night, and if they’re like “Oh, you do drag? No… I’m not really into that.” I just say “Thanks for your honesty! You do you boo. And you know if you come back and decide you want to get to know me, cool! We’ll have a ball!

*Clock-able; clock: to call out someone's flaws, to uncover or reveal the truth in a situation. (Definition by Urban Dictionary)

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