The first time I wore makeup, I was in college. Several of us were in the student union on the USAO campus in Chickasha, Oklahoma, studying for finals. I say studying, which is a joke; I was cramming and praying. It was late, and since most of us were art majors, intellectual progress slipped out the door and down the street.
A couple of the girls got out their makeup and started putting lipstick and eyeliner on me and my buddy David Goodrich. We didn't think anything about it. Dave and I pushed most of the known boundaries, all in the name of art all the time. We sat and laughed as others in the student union watched like bystanders at a zoo. The food counter was closed, so Dave and I decided to run to the store and get chips and salsa. Walking around in a central Oklahoma grocery store late at night and wearing makeup was more of a dare than I realized then. We had already broken norms by having our ears pierced a few months before; even my mom said I looked gay. Laughable right? Because if I looked gay wearing one tiny stud earring, I looked gay without it. The woman gave us the hairy eyeball at the checkout stand and rang us up. Everyone stared, but we didn't care. We were happy, having fun, and not harming a soul.
After graduating college, my friends Barry and Scott threw fantastic Halloween parties in Dallas, Texas. I went to those parties for several years. The whole place was decorated, and their garage housed a superb dance space with loud music playing all night long. We partied like heathens and fell in love over and over again. Life was fine. One of those years, I brought a dress, high heels I bummed from a co-worker, and a wig. As soon as I started to put my "costume" on, the same girl, Annette, who put lipstick on me in college, did my makeup. I had shaved my legs and pits and turned out quite stunning in my black skirt and high heels. Without knowing the words for it, I was in drag.
Several years ago, my sister-in-law asked me and our friend Joe to run the Warriors Dash with her. It was August in Kansas City and dangerously hot. What better to wear than a delicate little sundress my wife lent me? My ensemble included a matching head scarf and a pearl necklace. No high heels this time; I was sporting my best running shoes. I came to go fast in style. The race was a blast. Lots of obstacles to climb, woods to run through, and the final one hundred yards included a fire pit to hurdle and a mud pit covered in barbed wire to crawl through. Sadly the dress and headscarf were ruined, but the pearls cleaned up nicely.
I went to an EDM festival with my brother in Oklahoma City just a few years ago. You guessed it. I picked out another dress. Nicely fitted and covered in a lovely flower print, I finished the look with a comfortable pair of oxblood cowboy boots. We had a blast. Walking into the location, the crew at the gates paid little attention to me. There were too many mostly naked women passing by. Inside the venue, I headed to the stage to party with my brother and enjoyed the day. I can't tell you how many compliments I got on that outfit. Men and women, they all loved it. I'm not surprised. It was nicely fitted and flattered my figure. I felt spectacular.
I'm coming out with this on purpose. To support my LGBT friends and family. Full on, without hesitation. As a straight, white male, I feel entirely compelled to dare society to take a breath and think.
See something you don't understand? Consider your options. You can let social media tell you how to think and act, or you can follow the teachings of many cultural leaders alive today and in the past. Love your neighbor as you love yourself. You may discover a part of yourself you did not know existed, the part that is willing to live expansively, authentically, and without fear.
This is all our LGBT friends are asking for. To be allowed to live their lives from the heart. To move freely without threat. To express themselves like any other artist, fully and with freedom and pride. It's not that hard when love is our go-to response.
If you need to understand more about this part of our culture, call a friend that you trust. No pressure, no judgment. You deserve to be at peace, no matter what your neighbor runs the Warrior Dash in.