Drag me to the keyboard

On the foundation garments of inspiration
One of John McBurney’s polaroids from the Ponderosa. Story at Outinsa.com.

When you wear a gun, you dress for the gun.*

I moved to San Antonio, Texas, in 1988, just before I gave birth to my first daughter. I was a single mom, one month ahead of being a “teen mother,” and there was still plenty of stigma attached to that status for middle-class girls. It was a prison sentence, living in the beige suburbs with my parents, rock-garden yards, and no sidewalks, and it took me two years to find my first escape: Monte Vista, a grand old 1920s and ’30s neighborhood filled with gently dilapidated Italianate and Tudor mini estates. I rented a two-bedroom apartment for $350.

From there it was a short hop into the gay community, first through my downstairs neighbors, and then via the artists Chuck Ramirez (he and/or his boyfriend at the time lived down the street and threw elegant little dinner parties that often ended in a fight) and David Zamora Casas, whom I met when I was a board member for the Esperanza Peace & Justice Center. Shortly thereafter, one of my brothers came out and moved in with me, at which point my familial relationship with all things queer in SA was cemented.

Highlights of our bond include Fiesta Cornyation**, and Out In SA, a magazine for the LGBTQ community that I launched with Euclid Media in 2015. During my tenure as editor, we ran at least one historical article every issue, filling in the holes in the mainstream public record. One of my favorites was a feature on the drag community of the ’60s and ’70s, and a bar just outside the city limits called the Ponderosa. (John McBurney, the star of story, created my wig when I was King Anchovy for Cornyation XLII).

The drag performers I met during these years were a seemingly bottomless well of creativity and inspiration: how to do it from scratch, against the odds, in the face of disapproval and worse. I particularly appreciate that even as society has embraced the art form, the drag queens I know remain iconoclasts willing to use their platform to critique and question our priorities and values. That’s one reason they’re pivotal characters in my novels. The other reason is that they’ve always been there, pushing the boundaries, expanding our humanity, onstage and off.

The hysterically on-point Tencha La Jefa, photographed by Julián Ledezma for Out In SA.

* Maria Margaronis, relating an anecdote in the introduction to Lost Property

** Some day soon I’ll devote an entire post to the irreplaceable Mister Danny Geisler, who was responsible for my long-term Cornyation relationship

Published by elainemwolff

Writer, podcaster and former journalist.

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