Whenever I read the stories of those who came—and came out—before me, I always think my story to be rather unremarkable. The eldest of three children, I was raised on a naval base outside of Seattle. I grew up in an environment of women and children that pined away for macho sailors who had left us in order to perform mysterious and manly duties at sea. This, my mother would later hypothesize, was my “root.” At any rate, I’ve been playing show tunes at the piano since before I could read, so open-mouthed shock is not typically the response I get when I announce, “I’m gay.” Being “obvious,” however, doesn’t necessarily make coming out any easier.
When my father retired from the Navy, our family moved back to the Midwest where real estate was cheap and “family values” abounded. I attended a rural high school, and the abundance of Confederate flags kept me from professing my love for the captain of the wrestling team. Yet no matter how hard I tried, I simply couldn’t suppress my telltale lisp or urges to accessorize.
Although I was too afraid to come out, I was still an obvious target for bullies. I went to bed every night thanking God for the women’s soccer team, because they kept me safe in the hallways.
During my junior year a dear friend committed suicide. Although this was devastating, it ultimately prompted me to re-examine life, and I became determined to live mine to the fullest. I knew this meant that I could no longer hide who I was, not that I was doing a great job… I slowly began to come out to close friends, and they were generally accepting. A few even came out themselves!
I came out to my family during my first Christmas break home from college, having missed the memo about not coming out during the holidays. Anyway, once everyone sobered up and mom stopped begging me to become a priest, they came around.
It has been five years since that Christmas, and I feel so lucky. My family—with the exception of a few loose screws—has completely accepted me and my boyfriend of three years. My social life is thriving, and as I’m planning a career in musical theatre, I don’t exactly lie awake at night worrying about job discrimination. I even recently managed to come out as a drag queen to my own mother! Her only response was, “Well, thank God I’ve finally got someone to will the mink coat to.” So, she’s handling it rather well.
Looking forward, I am reminded that perhaps the most remarkable thing about my coming out was how unremarkable it was. Certainly LGBT folks still suffer discrimination, but things are progressing, and quickly. I recently helped a local high school with their fall musical, and I was astounded at how young kids are coming out these days! Sure, there are still horror stories, but I can’t help but think we’ve come a long way when I’m teaching a 14-year-old how to properly attach false eyelashes so he can proudly show the whole school his interpretation of the character “Mary Sunshine.”
The most important thing I’ve learned since coming out as a big gay drag queen is the value of being yourself, and more importantly, loving yourself. Others will see this and love you for it. If you won’t take my advice, take the advice Judy Garland once gave to a young Liza Minnelli: “Always be a first-rate version of yourself, instead of a second-rate version of somebody else.”
*Editor’s Note: Jake spent a few years in Madison as a voice coach and as his drag personality, Davina DeVille. As Davina, Aebly was voted as a “Madison Favorite” every year in The Isthmus and ruled the roost at Plan B as show director. In Mid-2013, Jake moved to New York where Miss Davina is taking the nightlife by storm!