Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada
May 18
Life is good for the most part. If only I could win the damned lottery.


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DECEMBER 18, 2009 7:38AM

I Was A Childhood Drag Queen

Rate: 17 Flag

When I think back, I believe it was at a very early age that I realized I was different from other little girls. I didn’t like dolls, I preferred cars and trucks and dirt (my mother said I was the grubbiest kid in the neighborhood). I wanted all my brother’s hand me downs, which I did get for play clothes. The jeans (I think I even had a pair of Osh Koshes), the T-shirts. All suitable for a unisex child at play.


At first I was not cognizant of what the heck I wore (although I did like a little sailor suit - military lapels, you know). But then came the realization that not everyone dressed the same. Boys wore better clothes. I wasn’t a boy.


My mother sewed well, and unfortunately thought making little girl frou-frou clothes was just what I wanted. I didn’t. I hated birthday parties – why? Because I had to wear something with a crinoline. I even remember the torture of going to Sunday school at  the age of 6 and wearing a brown velvet ‘bonnet’. Yes, bonnet. My mother thought it made me look cute. I felt so disgraced. I looked more like Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm out to kill her favorite chicken.


Fortunately at school we wore uniforms, which despite the skirt felt more comfortable than patent leather shoes and white gloves. At least we got to wear a tie and blazer and oxford shoes.


There were terrible tantrums about wearing my mother’s carefully made dresses. She must have been hurt and puzzled, but I had no way to tell her that they humiliated me. I wasn’t even sure why myself. I didn’t want to sit with my legs together, I wanted to play like my brother. I loved the feel of pants on my legs. I simply did not feel feminine enough to wear even the simplest of dresses without shame. It felt so unnatural. I was forced into drag.


I didn’t want to be a boy. But I wanted the freedom of dress and all that implied. Once I remember my brother in his 12 year old's ‘suit’ still being able to go out and toss the football with our male cousins. I sat and watched from the front step. I began to cry. No one could understand why, and my father lifted me comfortingly into the house, unable to know what set me off. Being a girl meant not having fun. Not being a part of the ruckus. Being left to watch, not do. Those knees glued together, and god forbid the sight of those white cotton panties (I always hated that word – why did my brother wear ‘underwear’?).I know I was the anomaly. Most little girls, enjoyed their own privileges by staying more with the adults, and feeling special in their floofy dresses. I don’t criticize them, I just didn’t understand them.


By the time I was able to say ‘NO!’ and not just tantrum, it became the battle of my life to get my mother to stop putting me in empire line dresses made of liberty cotton. If a dress was involved, I became rude, defiant, and generally a monster. I still have a picture my mother took of us in Montreal in front of the Queen Elizabeth Hotel on vacation. I was wearing a liberty cotton dress with…an empire waistline tied with a bow. My brother and father, smiling for the camera but I was stepping towards the camera (my mother) with a jutting out chin, and the eyes of a storm.


I never truly escaped the dress issue until I went away to boarding school at the age of 13. Again, more uniforms for all occasions. Nothing fruity. By the time I graduated and was headed for college, my mother had little say in what I wore. Thank god for dress pants.


I don’t even own a dress now, and haven’t for 25 years. There are too many options out there for women my age who wish to look dressy, but not wear a cocktail dress.


I do, however, still shudder when a little girl in a pink dress and patent leather shoes passes by.

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I can relate to mother sewed too. My own feelings and experience paid off for my daughter. I never made her wear dresses or anything girlie, and she did prefer not to... can you scan and post that photo of you defiant in your undesirable dress?
This made me think of Brad and Angelina's daughter, Shiloh. Have you seen the photos of her dressed in clothes that look like they previously belonged to her big brothers? She is so angelic looking and I love that her parents don't force her wear foofy dresses.
It's sad that a small girl is made to wear these cloths, and not really know why she hates them. I bet you're Mom wanted a little Shirley Temple, when you were really one of the "Our Gang" crew, I'm glad you are now able to be yourself. Is your Mother still alive? I wonder what she says now. Great Post!
Leonde Delmare - you know I just might be able to find that picture - but it might take some time. It would make you laugh

mammore - no I haven't caught the pictures of Shiloh, but darn it - good for them!

Scanner - you are so right about Shirley Temple. I even had curls.
I remember those clothes. Crinolines. Sigh. We got new white gloves, patent leather shoes and frilly underwear for Easter every year. And had to wear slips always. Slips.
Oh, Kathy yes - the slips. I forgot about them. Awful. Adding to the shame knowing all this girly stuff was not only on the outside but on underneath too. Ah, not so much the good old days.
I made my daughter some dresses (never with crinolines, though). She wore them. But the dolls! The dolls I carefully saved for my daughter. The Shirley Temple and Dionne Quint dolls of my mother and aunt. The leather jointed doll that was my grandmother's? Did the only female child, grandchild, niece of all these women who saved their best dolls for the next generation appreciate dolls?

She was even offered my sister-in-law (who thought she'd never have a girl) heirloom dollhouse.

Nope, my daughter has no interest in dolls.
Malusinka - it's hard to tell I guess what kids will appreciate. I do sympathize with your daughter AND you. But - as a non-doll lover - she at least was honest about it. Give her a firetruck for Christmas even if she is now an adult.
At least your happy to be a woman. My little boy, from three years old on, has stated more than once, he wishes he was a girl. THAT concerns me.
I wouldn't be concerned. You may have 'something' to deal with or it may pass. I hope you don't shove GI Joes at him, or make him play hockey if he doesn't want to. I'm sure you wouldn't. The male and female brains ARE different, and sometimes the body doesn't match the brain. Again, it may be a passing phase. I have seen this in other children who are made miserable by parents trying to change the 'interests' of a child with a gender issue. I'm sure you wouldn't do that either.
I remember those frou-frou dresses. UGH. So scratchy and uncomfortable, and restrictive. The year I was in first grade was the first year our school district allowed girls to wear pants, and I insisted on nothing else from then on. Great post, and I too am curious about your picture at the Queen Elizabeth hotel!
Dustbowldiva- the memories aren't pleasant are they. I swear I'll try to dig up that picture. I have them all over the house in different places so it may be a long dig.
i can also relate. i was a tomboy and wanted to be playing with my older brothers. my mom made me wear dreses but finally relented when it didn't slow me down. she made me wear my brothers old blue jeans under the dresses!
Even though I can't seem to find that picture, it is SO emblazoned in my mind I could almost draw it for you all. Am still looking.
I completely understand. My mom liked making me matching skirt/vest combos that I hated. I loved my jeans and t-shirts. I could run and play and climb trees. I only wore those awful outfits that my mom made on Mother's Day or Easter, just to be nice. When I reached my teen years, I finally told her that I didn't like wearing dresses/skirts.

I've found that I like my feminity since then, but still feel more comfortable in jeans than skirts.
Yay MC! First, for striking a blow for little girls everywhere and second for the EP, which is much deserved.
Gwendolyn - yet another poor girl lost in crinolines. I'm glad you had your jean time though and stuck up for yourself when it was time.

B1 - Thank you for dropping by and the congrats. Indeed another blow for girly kind!
Unbifurcated garments should be worn by the sex with unbifurcated genitalia.

While there might be nothing sexier to me than a woman in a gown, I don't really understand why kilts aren't a more socially acceptable garment.
I must admit - I love a man in a kilt. I come from Nova Scotia and Scottish is the predominant ancestry. Every summer a flurry of kilts come out and even the oddest looking of men, carry an air of dignity.
If you change your mind, you can borrow one of my dresses. Some of them are really quite chic.
John, somehow I think your dresses would be made just to bring out the color of those gorgeous sunglasses. I would simply look dull in them compared to you.
I love pink and patent leather. But I could still deck you if you looked at me the wrong way. If that makes you feel any better about those colours and textures. :-)
Dewey, pink will never be a color I can get over. Patent leather worn properly can make one look at another in a wrong way. I will stand out of arm's reach.
Oh this brought back memories. My mother sewed too, but tried (badly) to make fashionable clothes for my junior high self. I just wanted clothes from the shops like all the other girls had--the fashion jeans (too expensive!), the right brand of tennis shoes (too expensive!) and the perfect ski jacket (too expensive!). Instead I got the JC Penney bargain bin, and my mother's home-made efforts.

Those involved a trip to the fabric store to argue. The fabrics I picked were always, you guessed it, too expensive. Instead I got what was on sale, which was always hideous. Then we headed into "I made it, so you wear it."

I envied my brother so much. My mom never attempted to make boys clothes. He was spared this whole argument.

In retrospect, I wish my mom had taken all her energy to save money through sewing and applied it to curtains and slipcovers. It would have saved a lot of heartache.
I keep checking back to see if you found the photo...hope you are having a good day...PM me if you find the photo and post!
Leonde - I will indeed PM you re the pic. I DID find one of me at my primary graduation wearing more crinoline than suitable for 4 little girls though. Unfortunately the scanner woman in the family has her office closed. May post that just to SHOW you. Will still keep looking for the cranky one.
I think chances are that, whatever your mother wants you to wear; you'll want to wear the opposite. I had a mother who wanted me in "practical" clothes (which, to her, meant pants) on all but the most formal occasions. I hated wearing pants. I didn't, neccessarily, want to wear fancy skirts and dresses all the time, but I did want to wear some sort of skirt or dress, pretty much every day. Sometimes I won those battles. Other times, she did, and I would spend those days feeling ugly.
As an adult, I have even more aversion to pants than I did as a child. I grew up to be a woman with ample thighs and booty, so have never found a pair of pants that was even slightly flattering. These days, I own a single pair of pants (stretch denim jeans) and wear them only on days when there's deep snow or sub-zero temperature. On ordinary days I wear long, thick skirts (denim, for instance) with high boots and leg-warmers. That's my answer to the frequent question, "How can you wear a skirt when it's cold?" I know what sort to wear (and what to wear with them) so I won't be cold.
I'd like the Shirley Temple doll, a few of them if I could, right now.

Hello Ebay!!


Rated because well, I'M STILL A DRAG QUEEN!!!


Oops, I meant, good story. Made me laugh and cry!!
Great post! There is such a vast range of sensibilities between the strictly masculine and the strictly feminine. We ignore them in favor of an unimaginative binary arrangement.
I had my tomboy phases(digging dirt and playing tag with the boys til 5th grade), but I was generally the opposite. I was raised by a single dad and all I wanted to do was sew and make things pretty and frilly. Then I went to a uniform only school til I was fourteen...then I bought everything pink and flowery and sparkly. I wore high heels everywhere from prom to the grocery store. I'm pretty sure I even had a faux-fur lined bolero that I sewed pink sequins on... God, I'm disgusting.
I used to cry and wail when being made to wear a dress as a child. In my case, I turned out to be gay. My favorite clothes are jeans and a turtleneck, or suit and tie...xox
Great post madcelt!
But you kinda got it reversed. Drag queens *love* to get dressed up.
My mom would tell you I was a misplaced drag queen at an early age.
My sister and I were the tomboy terrors of our neighborhood. (If my cousin, who I know lurks around reading here, will tell you , we really were tomboy terrors.) Anyway, whenever mom took us to the theater in D.C. or out to a good restaurant, I was extremely willing to switch into my drag clothes. Loved, loved, LOVED my dress clothes. My mom sewed very well and so nothing itched or fit ill. She made beautiful things. Petticoats? Bring em on! I still have a thing about tutus. (shut up Dr. Spudman!) I rarely wear high fem get-out but when I do I feel exactly like I'm in drag. And I have always loved the contradiction. It feels spy-like!
My fav outfit of all time? My 501s, a crisply starched white dress shirt, pearl earrings, black cowboy boots. My power outfit.
Yes, I have an inner Tina Turner and I know how to work her.
Sorry this is so long!
You bring out great memories!
Thank you all for your comments. It's CLEAR many of us had 'clothes issues' of varying sorts. I think people assume you stick a potato sack on a kid and they couldn't care less. WE know differently!
Flashback: My daughter says, NO! I am not going to wear a dress! I say, okay, you can stay in your room until you put this dress on (I hope I didn't say, young lady, but I might have). I return to check on her progress every 30 minutes or so. Each time I check she is sitting there grimly. After 4 hours, I think to myself, this is not a battle I am going to win.

She and I found a truce that she would wear a dress twice a year, but she always got to pick it. Always it was the most plain dress you could imagine... I shouldn't have forced it in the first place. (And if you look back to my Must be Santa post, you'll see she does wear a dress now and then.)

Anyhow--I wish for you the coolest dress pants EVER!
Thank you SO much mypsyche. I think I really like your daughter. And I finally do have cool dress pants.
Hard to be a kid and hard to be a parent. I would have loved your mother's hand made clothes but had to wear brown, lace up, boys shoes . Good thing we grow up and get to wear what we want.
Indeed, Rosie- I'd have been happy to pass on my mother's clothes to you - way too happy. We could have had a good trade.
Oh my gosh. Too bad we weren't brother and sister. We could have lived the big switcheroo! I kid you not, you could take that entire blog/essay as written change the word "dress" to "suit" etc for similar relevant one word changes and you would have my story of growing up completely and accurately covered! In fact, I'm forty something and I do not own one single suit, but my spare bedroom and bath look like the dressing and costume rooms for the Riviera Casino's showgirls! Oh and oh my, I cannot get enough of EVERYTHING PINK, especially patent and pearlescent.