My father’s ancestors came to the Colonies from England as indentured servants. My mother’s people were among the last wave of Irish Catholic immigrants to give up on potatoes and shoot for the American dream instead. My dad was an Army drill sergeant before becoming a school janitor. My mom was a stay-at-home Catholic housewife who loved religious materials and hated cooking. It wasn’t the glamorous life. Mom populated her jewelry box with creations from Avon while I lusted after historic reproductions. Even worse, while the age of disco was in full swing, I revealed a teen preference for antique clothing and the color black. It didn’t go over well. My genealogical studies have never turned up an honorific title that didn’t result from marriage or military service. Nonetheless, I was a freak show princess trapped in a lower middle class, suburban blue-collar world.
American mythos assures us that we’re a nation of rugged individualists with no love for royalty and its pretense. Yet we still create aristocracies of sorts. Although the super wholesome Miss America Pageant doesn’t draw as many viewers as it once did, we still idolize the glamorous wealthy, including rock, movie, television, and even porn stars. If we can’t be the beautiful people, at least we can live vicariously through them even if only from a distance. One of the things that I like about the various alt sex communities is that those who inhabit them get to live more closely to those they live vicariously through.
My Oregon Leather 2004 “sash husband” Andy Mangels (http://www.andymangels.com) and I recently carried the American and leather pride flags during the opening ceremonies for Portland, Oregon’s gay court (http://www.rosecourt.org) Coronation. Along with the board of Blackout Leather Productions (http://www.blackoutleather.com), we presented the exiting emperor and empress with leather roses on barbed wire stems and festively attired, custom-made teddy bears. I wore gothic-sleeved black velvet with a revealing neckline while Andy was dignified in his Black Watch military tartan kilt, white dress shirt, and Prince Charlie jacket. We weren’t alone in paying our respects to the departing monarchs. Also in attendance was an amazing collection of court royals from throughout the United States and Canada, each formally announced, some performing, and all bidding a fond adieu to the exquisite Portland duo that had spent the previous year collaborating on fundraisers and multi-community events.
What this translates into in laymen’s terms is an evening populated by an amazing assemblage of elegant, exotic, and sometimes campily attired men, butch and femme females — and drag queens weighed down with rhinestone tiaras atop mountains of hair, with yet more rhinestones dripping from their necks, throats, and wrists. Liberace would have felt drab and underdressed, although he’d probably have made a dynamite emperor had he only been able to admit he was gay.
Now this is the kind of royalty I can live with: volunteer oriented, replaced annually, rich with humor, more than a little over the top, gloriously tasteless, and absolutely fun to be around. Had my ancestors known that these light-hearted monarchies awaited their descendants, perhaps they’d have gotten on those ships earlier. Or at least invested in the rhinestone business.
– Originally published in Playtime Magazine –