KYLE AKA CARMEN MONOXIDE

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Drag made me more comfortable with myself on a lot of levels.

It's given me more confidence to do things that I normally wouldn't have done. You have a different character when you put on drag. It describes different parts of me, but it's still me in the end. Drag has given me more confidence to do things that I normally wouldn't have done. You have a different character when you put on all that stuff, but [my characters] definitely describe different parts of me, but it's still me in the end. Carmen is still Kyle and Kyle is still Carmen. I would say there's definitely a whole different persona that goes along with Carmen. I think there are times where Carmen, bled into Kyle and has allowed Kyle to do things that normally maybe wouldn't have happened. It's a whole different level of confidence.

[My characters] definitely describe different parts of me, but it's still me in the end.

I would say [I'm] mainly gay and queer.

I think that queer to me takes more into account gender more than gay does. Gay feels very close ended to me in a way just because of how it's been used, where as queer is more open ended. Queer to me, I don't really know how to describe it. It just feels good! It just feels right, I don't know it's just, like, me. It's so hard to articulate that [queer]. I just know what it means to me, and it's hard to express what's true for everybody.

My parents are both avid Trump supporters and very conservative and they've always been like that.

They're not religious, so growing up there was never any religion but there were still strong conservative beliefs so it was an interesting mix. They're very supportive of me no matter what. I'll send them [my parents] pictures of me [in drag]. Like I sent [these] pictures to my mom and she was just like, "Oh, you look very pretty." They're very supportive of it, but they've never come to a drag show. My dad actually will listen to RuPaul's podcasts and watch Drag Race. I mean, they've come a long way because I think there is actually a lot of issues with gender that they do understand, and I've tried my darnedest to educate them. I think it's worked pretty well, but I think there's still a lot of room for them to grow.

A high point in my journey is just being in my queer space, being Carmen/Kyle.

When I was 21 or 22 it was so very fulfilling to get everything together to do this thing I've been wanting to do. That part of my journey was my high point, like just getting my first lace-front wig I ordered from somewhere in China and putting it on and looking at myself in the mirror and being like "Oh, wow there we go!" I was very excited about that. The first time I went out in drag was on a Sunday at a gay bar and I remember someone coming up to me and saying "Oh my god you're so beautiful!" That same night I was on the dance floor with my friends and this guy started coming up to me-this is kind of a low point too-and he started trying to reach up my dress trying to cop a feel.

It was interesting how, at first in that moment I was passing as another gender which was an interesting experience, but along with passing there are [negative] things that go with that.

When somebody started sexually harassing me, I was surprised. So it was a low point in a way that made me want to check my privilege. There are people that are feminine that have to deal with that [experience] all the time. So it was [also] a high point for me to realize [that] that's awful. 

I've never had any negative reactions from anyone in a non-LGBTQ space [toward drag]. Like I've gone to restaurants, or wherever, and never had any negative reactions. There is that fear, when you're a 7-foot tall person in a wig going into Denny's or at the gas station. I ask myself if I'm going to get harassed or, you know, there's always that fear of not knowing what's going to happen. You feel like a target, but it's weird that I've only gotten that kind of harassment in my own community. It's taught me that maybe I need to not accept that behavior. If someone reaches up my dress now, I'll slap their hand and say "Don't touch me!" 

No matter what be authentic. 

What can I say without sounding cliche? Always be authentic to yourself- it's so important. No matter what anybody else says, you have to make yourself happy and that's being true to yourself. Don't hide who you are. I think Dr. Seuss says, "Those who matter don't mind and those who mind don't matter" and that's what I have found through my journey.