A Rainbow at the Center of the Known Universe
Featuring drag queens Heavy Cream and Cindi Television
I wanted to get some photos of this crosswalk as soon as I heard about it. I messaged a few drag queens(I happen to know quite a few), I charged some batteries, and I went downtown. I found a parking spot right by Starbucks, miraculously.
Now, drag queens are legendary creatures.They are legendary for being somewhat late to almost everything. Also miraculously, it was I who was late. I’d not checked my phone, it was 5:30, and unbeknownst to me, they had told me 5. So I had some time to kill. I ran into a familiar face or two.
As I stepped out of the car, I spotted a person I’ve been somewhat concerned about recently, an ex-drag queen named Carlos, a black man who lost use his legs some 4 years ago, and is just getting back in his feet, literally and figuratively. I met him on the night I married Pawel, just a month ago. He told us all about his life, his fabulous performances, and I became quite interested in his story and wellbeing. I told him why I’d come downtown, and he told me about his new apartment. He declined to having his portrait taken.
Tom Miller calls this area ‘the center of the known universe’. It’s kind of true. History seems to happen down here quite a lot. Think of the Hippodrome: A historical theater which was once a courthouse and further back, a bank. I’ve been in the vault. How many punk rock bands played the porch at Maude’s in the 80’s? I don’t know. I was just a kid. I saw Michelle Obama give a speech when Barack Obama was running for office the first time. This is how I feel about downtown. I feel the history and I see what we’re doing here today and I feel good about the direction our little town is moving towards.
And Carlos? With tears in his eyes he tells me how it touches him. How far we’ve come through history to be here. Not too far from here, at the end of one of these rainbow crosswalks, and in the grand scheme of things not too long ago, people of color were hung from trees or gallows for simply being black. And it was just six years ago that same sex marriage was legalized. We’re not as far away from history as it seems. We’re living it.
So I think of these streets, and that old building where trials were held, where rich white men left their money. I remember what it felt like to be 20 and for my love to be ‘illegal’ and to hear some lady tell us that her husband might change that if we were to vote him into office. I think of Kitty LaTush(now Kit Witchcock) smashing a TV on those same bricks in nothing but underwear, 150 onlookers gathered around Maude’s small stage, Brianna Summers lip synching to nearly no music at all, in broad daylight and in full geish, all of this for the sake of art and performance and change and liberation but most of all for the sake of expression!
We’ve all seen the comments and posts on social media. “They let those perverts have a rainbow”, or the just-barely-tolerant “It’s god’s rainbow, from the the flood”. Sometimes it seems like we’re past this, but we may never be. We're living history, it's not behind us because we're in it, right now.
At its core though, what it really means? It’s just a very simple, beautiful message written on those old bricks, and it’s for everyone: ‘It’s okay to be who you are, to live and love the way you were born to’.
I love you all! Whoever’s reading this! I’m gay! My husband is gay! Today was National Coming Out Day! Keep loving, stay strong! Take care of each other.
Many thanks to Heavy Cream and Cindi Television! And of course, Granny.