Volume 78 - Number 24 / NOVEMBER 12 - 18, 2008
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933

Notebook

What a drag! I was an Obama male metrosexual on Halloween

By Kate Walter

Since I’d been howling at the pre-election satire on “Saturday Night Live,” I was inspired to create my own political character. I wanted to get into male drag for Halloween and didn’t have much time for costume shopping. So I threw together a last-minute outfit — gay male metrosexual for Obama. From my closet, I borrowed a crisp, navy blue shirt and sporty, royal blue suit jacket. To set this off, I added a red necktie with blue and white stripes, which I’d bought that afternoon at Housing Works for $5 from a box of newly arrived wares. The wide tie and my Obama lapel button pulled the look together. I could have been a Democratic Convention delegate.

Knotting the tie was challenging, but I had memories from when I helped my younger brother get ready for church. It took a few tries until I made a decent Windsor knot. When I looked into the mirror, I liked how I appeared so far, but I wanted to be more guy looking, so I drew on a moustache and goatee with brown eyeliner pencil. I parted my chin-length hair that usually goes forward, and pushed it to the side and behind my ears. I was starting to look like a dude.

As I was putting on the makeup, I remembered when I was cast to play a hippie guy — a lead role — in a drama competition at my all-women’s Catholic college. I wasn’t even out then. I still had a boyfriend. No wonder I enjoyed being in the acting club. I could safely let my male freak flag fly.

I slipped out of my West Village apartment building into the warm October
night, taking the stairs instead of using the elevator. As I headed up W. 12th St., I immediately noticed how I was walking, taller and straighter, striding l like I owned the sidewalk. My long legs felt longer. As I loped into Abingdon Square Park, which was dazzling with jack-o’-lanterns, I ran into someone from my building. She walked right past me.

The parade was already over, so I headed to the Cubby Hole, the local women’s bar, always festive after the big event. I smiled and nodded at a cute young woman standing outside smoking. I felt powerful and flirty in my new male role.

The place was busy but not wall-to-wall packed. I managed to get a draft beer after waiting five minutes at the bar. Even the way I took out my wallet to pay and threw the tip on the bar seemed different, more manly. Then I squeezed my way toward the back, scanning for friends. As I walked past the mirror, I looked at my reflection. Damn — in that quick hazy glance, I saw a male me.

I found a spot near the jukebox and watched reactions. Other patrons — men and women — were in costumes but no one else was in male drag. Two straight-looking lesbians at the bar looked away as soon as our eyes met. Was I too freaky for them? Even if they’d never been to a drag-king show in the city, wasn’t there a scene about this on “The L Word”? One or two average-looking women smiled, but those most appreciative of my preppie drag wore kinky costumes (crazy lady, sex worker, masked bandit). One woman checking me out had stars tattooed all over her large upper arms.

It was a heady feeling being a guy, almost too much to do anything except ease into the role. I wasn’t sure if I was up for conversation with strangers, so I finished my beer and went back outside to enjoy the evening filled with revelers. I loved swaggering on the sidewalk in a brawny way. I did not have a metrosexual gait. This was my night to walk like a man. After cruising along W. Fourth St. and back along Hudson St., I headed toward my apartment in Westbeth. A friend was outside our building talking.

“Hey Jane, what’s up?” I said. She did a double take but knew my voice.

“Wow — you look fucking great. Good costume. This is our new neighbor Mike,” she nodded to the guy she was with. “He just moved to the eighth floor, same line as you.”

We shook hands. How weird to be meeting a new neighbor for the first time while in drag. Would he know the female me if we ran into each other in the mailroom?

The three of us went into the lobby, got into the elevator, and Jane greeted Lynn, who hopped on at the next floor. She didn’t recognize me, so I said hello.

“Ohmigod, Kate, is that you?” Lynn asked. “Cool costume.”

“Thanks. I’m a gay male for Obama. Don’t forget to vote,” I said as I got off.

 

********

 

At the Election Night party at The L.G.B.T. Center, everyone went wild when Obama won Pennsylvania and Ohio. A huge crowd was packed into a large meeting room watching a big-screen projection while people clustered around smaller sets in the hallways. Beer, wine and champagne flowed. I was back to my normal self-image — soft butch — and felt so happy, I wasn’t even thrown by running into my coldhearted ex who amputated me. She taps my arm for recognition, stands there silently, refusing to say hello. Who can figure?

This was a night to celebrate and look forward, not backward. I believe an African-American president will better grasp my goals as a gay American. We, too, have faced discrimination and still don’t have our civil rights.

The next day we heard gay marriage got voted down in three states. But on Tues., Nov. 4, people at The Center hugged and whooped with joy. When President-elect Obama mentioned “gays and straights” in his acceptance speech, this New York queer felt hopeful, proud to be born in the U.S.A.

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