Sometimes it really does take a village. Of course when Hillary Clinton appropriated the proverb for her 1996 book title, she was referring to society’s shared responsibility in raising children. But for gay kids arriving in Toronto with a bag full of fractured childhoods and bruised spirits, our LGBT village can offer its own version of nurturing and guidance.
“Growing up in a small town is a bit different for a little gay boy,” says Xtacy Love, one of our city’s up-and-coming young drag artists. “I think that’s why I feel so strongly about sharing an anti-bullying message now that I have somewhat of a voice.”
It’s a voice that almost didn’t get heard. Love remembers being quite apprehensive about making her drag premiere in Hamilton several years ago, despite the support and encouragement from her mom and other family and friends. She’d done a bit of drag in a local play, but this was her first foray as a full-on drag queen.
“I was going in completely blind,” she says. “But it turned into a great opportunity for me to perfect my craft and build somewhat of a fan base.”
It also gave her a chance to see what life could be like in a community that would have embraced her purple-shirt-wearing childhood self. “Things are so different for me now. I feel like sometimes our community can be seen as knocking each other down, but we really do come together. It really does get better.”
This message of hope and encouragement is one that Love plans to take with her to the 2016 National Showgirl at Large competition in Springfield, Missouri. Each contestant brings their own cause to the program, and Love’s will be support for anti-bullying initiatives.
“For me it’s important because the suicide rate is so disgustingly high and it’s avoidable to some degree,” she says. “Certainly there are some people suffering from mental illness, but there’s so much bullying and unnecessary fighting, with people believing that suicide’s their only resort. I just really want to talk about that on a national platform.”
Love will be the only queen representing Canada at the event, and hopes to repeat fellow Canuck Farra N Hyte’s 2015 victory. It’s an ambitious goal — and an expensive one.
“The reality is that doing a national pageant costs thousands of dollars,” says Love, who confesses some embarrassment in reaching out to the community for financial support. She initially tried to shoulder all the costs herself, but with traveling expenses, accommodations and materials for the performance, this proved beyond reach.
To that end a friend has launched a fundraising page for Love’s National Showgirl campaign on the popular social media site Gofundme, where supporters can donate as little or as much as they can afford.
“I hate even having to put that out there,” Love says. “But I’m so grateful for the opportunity. I’ll try to do Canada proud.”