Gay Trans Man // Denver, CO // Local Drag King – Dustin Schlong
With the infinite possibilities of gender identity and expression, when did you know….
“Back a couple of years ago, I was at a really close friend’s wedding, and it was my first time meeting someone who didn’t identify as a guy, or a girl. I’d never met anyone who was [non-binary], I never really knew that was a thing before. I’ll admit… after a fun night out at the wedding with an open bar, I kind of broke down to a couple of my friends that night… I was like, ‘I don’t think I like identifying as a she…’ And then I kind of squashed the idea for a while because I didn’t really know any resources… I didn’t think there was really any possibility of pursuing anything with that. So I was like, ‘Okay, whatever… carry on…’
Then, two years later I started doing drag, and I started meeting all these people that had all sorts of identities… it was like a whole new thing. And then getting into face, and looking in the mirror and just seeing, like ‘Wow, this is who I am… I feel confident… I’m happy…’ I’ve been surrounded by a bunch of open minded people in the community, that don’t judge you for anything… they just let you live your life.”
On his coming out experience…
“I came out as gay when I was 21… and then I officially came out as trans at 26, to a small group of people. I finally came out to my parents a couple months ago. When I first came out as gay, it was a bigger deal to my parents oddly enough… like my dad kind of hinted at it before I did. My parents go to this resort in Mexico, and party with a variety of different people, and my dad was telling me, ‘Yeah, so there’s a lot of lesbians and drag queens, you’d really like it and fit in…’ I just brushed it off, but I knew what he was hinting at. My didn’t talk to me for a few month, which was really weird because we were always really close. She comes from a really hardcore Mormon background, very traditional…. not into gay. That was a little rough.
More recently, when they came out as trans, I was a little nervous, but we’ve gotten closer over the years… I was like, ‘Okay… maybe I’ll be fine.’ And met up with them to tell them, and they’re just like, ‘Oh, ok cool!’ My mom’s only request was, ‘Just make sure you think about it… you really make sure this is how you are going to identify before you do anything medical…’ It totally makes sense. You’re going to be changing a lot about yourself, so make sure you really want to do that, because there are a lot of things that are about to happen
So, I had that moment, but we haven’t really talked about it since. Then I had my first shot a couple of weeks ago. It’s been crazy. I go to tell my parents, and they’re like, ‘I thought you did that a few months ago?’ I’m seriously getting nervous about this, and you’re like, ‘Okay, cool!’ about it. I’ve been lucky in that sense…”
Biggest fears or concern about coming out…
“I’m surrounded by a lot of people in my life that don’t make it a big deal… I haven’t been given much backlash. I work in the cannabis industry, which I’ve come to find out is really open minded and like super accepting… like, the day I came out, my boss changed everything that he possibly could to my name… and we had this corporate training event, and they gave me a nametag with my dead name on it – because that’s what it’s like in our legal system – and I just looked at my regional manager like, ‘Hey, you got a pen?’ and he ran off to get a pen in less than 30 seconds. I was like, ‘Holy sh*t… these people get it. They’re here for me on it’ I’m really thankful… my work-life is good… my friends are all chill… my family, for the most part besides my extended family… I’ve had a few random people online who always have to sh*t talk, but you can just delete those messages. I’ve got a bunch of crazy drag queens who could chase you down…”
Frustrations within the community…
“For a community that’s supposed to be so open minded and accepting, it’s not really that at all… it’s very divided, especially in the drag world. It’s like people are so willing to throw each other under the bus… It’s so unfortunate to see that people can’t just work together to build each other up, instead of trying to constantly tear each other down. It’s like we already have an entire world after us, we all need each other.”
Favorite part about the community?
“The open mindedness and acceptance… I could go out and run into a group of people I don’t even know and end up having a good conversation with a bunch of random people, and they accept you for who you are. They don’t question anything… they just let you be you. It’s super cool!”
What is something you would tell a younger you? Advice for anyone out there who feels like they can’t come out, or they don’t have a community to be a part of?
“To my younger self… don’t be afraid of being who you are. I grew up in a very straight forward, straight suburbia-land… and everyone’s very judgmental out there you can’t really like express yourself. Never hold back who you are, cut your hair the way you want to, wear what you want to wear, and just be who you are… don’t try to impress other people. It’s not worth it.
To others… There is a lot more LGBTQ everything out there than anyone would ever expect. Just reach out to people, find the resources and you’ll have a community and people will be there for you no matter what.”
Someone one told me, you never ask a transgender person their dead name – What’s your opinion on that?
“I definitely understand why some trans people don’t want to hear their name. For me, it’s not as big of a thing. There are definitely moments where it throws me off, but I’ll talk about it with my friends and not really make a big deal of it… just for me personally. But, everyone’s got a different history, where you don’t really know what type of memories they really hold for someone… For me, I’ve been lucky enough that my life has been overall pretty positive, and I’ haven’t had too many bad things happen. So I don’t really have a negative connotation with that name. I am more open with it than some trans people will be. Which some people might find that as strange, but yeah, it just really depends person to person. I make jokes about it to my friends because my parents decided to name me after a designer… ‘Who did you think I was going to be like?! Look at this!’
When I first started doing drag, I was still going by that name, or introduce myself and people would look at me like, ‘No, that’s not your name… You’re Dustin!’ So I went by that solely in drag…”
On choosing his name…
“For a while I was just going by my drag name… it was kind of like a mask, it felt like. Then I was hanging out with my drag mom, Vivica Galactica, on day and she was like, ‘Okay, what are your favorite things?’ Asking me all things broad questions, and we got on the subject of baseball – I’m a huge baseball fan – then she asked, ‘Okay, favorite baseball players… go!’ Just drilling me… like, ‘Come on, just say words at me!’ As I was going through my all my favorite players, and one of my favorite players that I’ve followed for years on the Rockies, is Nolan Arenado. I just love him. I love who he is. What he stands for. He’s super sweet. He’s not an *sshole, like some people… and I respect him a lot. So, she just looked at me and was like, ‘YEAH! I see it! Yeah, let’s try it out!’ I started going by that… and it felt right.”
What in your life are you most proud of?
“Just that not only have I been able to find myself and how I identify, but between growing up and the way I am now, the confidence I’ve gained… and just getting in front of random people… meeting new people… and just really trying new things in general… My drag has exploded because of the community I’ve been surrounded by… If you were to ask me two years ago if I could get on this stage at Tracks and perform in front of an audience, I’d think you were crazy. So, it’s really cool looking back…”
With the state of the nation and the world in its current state, what’s one thing you would change if you had the power?
“The president… I feel like that’s a pretty generic answer, but that shows how bad he is. The night before I decided to start T, and the next day I woke up and he said all that stuff about defining gender… I was like, ‘Cool, I get the confidence to move forward with this stuff… and you just stomp right over it!’”