WHAT A DRAG
BY CAM PARKES
The Rusty Toque | Issue 1 | Creative Nonfiction | July 2011
Gabriel Fillion carefully attaches long, luxurious eyelashes to his own, careful not to blink. His hand is steady, however; he’s done this many times before. Task complete, Fillion settles back with a contented sigh to examine his handiwork.
Staring back from the mirror is an image that you wouldn’t normally associate with a 20- year-old male—and that’s because it no longer is. Luscious locks fall in gentle waves, framing a feminine-looking face. Perfectly-shaped eyebrows perch on top of eyes accentuated by makeup. Lips glisten with lip liner and gloss.
As Fillion finishes touching up his makeup, he unconsciously touches his hair to make sure it’s still tightly pinned in place and adjusts his make-shift breasts to a more comfortable position. That complete, Fillion grabs his coat and heads out the door. Gabriel Fillion has left for the time-being; Jacque-Lean Dickson, Fillion’s alter-ego, has hit the town.
Fillion is a homosexual man who is part of a community of drag queens in London Ontario and a larger international drag queen hierarchy. He participates in shows that involve singing songs (female vocal songs are a must) and raising money for charity.
“As drag queens, we give to charities all the time,” says Fillion. “One-hundred percent of the funds raised during an event go to diverse charities.”
Under the identity of Jacque-Lean Dickson, Fillion, along with other drag queens, sets out to make a statement.
“We want to challenge the social norms,” Fillion says emphatically. “A guy can still be a guy, even in a dress. This is non-conventional hobby that best suits my life philosophy, [which] is to have fun with life.”
For drag queens, their hobby is a fun, envelope-pushing way to make friends, raise money, and shock people, Fillion says. There are, however, people that don’t see it that way. This is where a support system comes in handy, and Fillion certainly isn’t lacking in that department.
For starters, the University of Western Ontario, where Fillion is a student, offers a service called PrideWestern.
“[PrideWestern] aims to create a community on Western’s campus, focused around sexually and gender diverse groups,” says coordinator Jacob MacArthur. “[Our] mission is to help reduce stereotypes, gender norms, and violence towards all minority groups.” MacArthur says that, while PrideWestern does have participants who are drag queens, they don’t have many issues as the drag queen community is typically supportive of its members.
Outside of the PrideWestern programs, Fillion has his friends. His self-proclaimed best friend is Vickie Richard, who is also his biggest fan.
“I can’t tell you how incredibly honoured and privileged I felt when [Fillion] shared Jacque-Lean Dickson’s existence with me,” Richard says. “I know how hard it must have been for him to flirt with an idea [like that], and I can’t even imagine the courage he must have had to embark on that journey on his own before he found companions to go along with him.”
Although being a drag queen is a non-conventional activity, most of the time people are pretty open-minded about it, according to Richard. This includes being treated with courtesy and kindness by shop attendants when Fillion is supplementing Jacque-Lean Dickson’s wardrobe.
There are, however, those who can’t accept something different.
“I see the looks he gets as Jacque-Lean...I hear the whispers and sneers from strangers too caught up in themselves to appreciate drag,” Richard says. “I know the dangers Jacque-Lean may encounter on her own in the streets, and I sometimes fear for her well-being.”
Richard keeps those concerns to herself, however; she is committed to the notion that Fillion can go down any road he wants, whether it’s as himself or Jacque-Lean Dickson.
And Fillion does. He takes everything in stride, whether it’s insults from ignorant strangers or poorly-worded yet well-meaning questions. He does, however, sometimes express sadness about the difficulties of coming out not only as a gay man, but also as a drag queen as well.
But as Richard says, “I know he can handle [this], and if he falters I know he has a solid network of friends that love and cherish him on which he can fall back.”
Fillion is well aware of this, and it contributes to his happy and loving nature. After all, the reason he participates as a drag queen is to have fun with life, he says.
“Don’t limit yourself only because society tells you something is not right, just do it,” Fillion recommends. “Overcome the notion that you must be regular because it robs you of the chance to be extraordinary.”
“I’m a gay man, a drag queen, a student, a gardener, a spiritual being, [and] a diva by nature. But above all, I love life, and live to love.”
CAM PARKES is majoring in MIT and receiving a diploma for broadcast journalism at Fanshawe College. Cam has published in the MITZine and the Western Gazette and is a news-writer at Fanshawe.