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Julianna hits Hillcrest once again

This past weekend, I learned that I am a classy girl; which is definitely a step up from being a trashy boy.

My old alter-ego Julianna came back to life Saturday night, re-styled, grown-up and ready to party. Her dress was a bit longer than they used to be and her face and hairstyle were a bit more Coco Peru than the old Hedwig style, but for the first time since 2003, I dressed up in drag.

Nelson Garcia, a fellow member of The Center’s newly formed Young Professionals Council, and Rich’s Nightclub, hosted “Diva’s Reunion” as a benefit for The Center. The evening included a mini bar-crawl which ended up at Rich’s, complete with a red carpet photo area for the divas to capture their fabulousness (and in some cases, to capture the train wreck).

At least 80 of us dressed up and the outfits definitely ran the gamut. Some impersonated well-known divas like Our Lady of Gaga and Laura Croft Tomb Raider, while others were just absolutely beautiful messes.

Returning to the world of drag was certainly an interesting experience. I received everything from cat calls, to nasty homo/transphobic remarks, to sex offers (from some really sleazy looking men). Being in drag is definitely a way to get attention and I certainly received plenty.

It’s also a very freeing experience. Besides the fact that I was wearing a dress and having different kinds of breezes shooting up to my crotch area, drag gave me the opportunity to come out of the shell that defines me and be someone different.

Certainly, I’m no shy person when I’m out and about (anyone who has seen me host SDPIX’s WET contest at Bourbon Street can attest to that) but as Julianna, I can be sassy, flirty and femme-fabulous in a totally different way.

The reactions of my friends varied.

It was interesting to see some of my closest friends be “weirded-out” by me as Julianna. Before heading out to Rich’s, I had dinner with one of my closest friends, who just couldn’t look at me while we ate. He loves drag queens, has many friends who do drag, and attends shows regularly, but seeing me in “full-face” and a dress was just bizarre to him. I felt a little hurt by this, but knew he supported me and this was a big deal to him, so being the sweet-girl I am, I just batted my eyelashes and told him everything would be ok.

The most interesting part of the experience was actually before it all started.

First, I went to Payless to buy “big-girl” shoes. Size 12 women’s shoes are not always the most flattering, but I was able to find some fairly cute selections there. While I have never been afraid to be “out there,” for some reason I was a bit embarrassed about trying on women’s shoes in Payless.

Of course, the aisle I was in was the one aisle the clerk would not leave. There were six other he had could have been organizing shoe boxes in, but he would not leave. I hate to say this, but I picked a pair of men’s shoes off the rack to have with me while I tried on the heels. This almost felt like my days of being a gay closeted teenager and going to Obelisk bookstore and buying a "Rolling Stone" along with my “XY Magazine,” so I could hide the gay magazine underneath.

I finally picked out my shoes and when I checked out, I asked for a gift receipt so he would think it was a gift. Next, I went to H&M to purchase a dress. I guessed my size because I didn’t want to try it on, and bought it. Afterwards, I went down to Old Navy (with H&M bag in hand) and picked out a couple of items that I knew I wouldn’t buy and headed for the fitting rooms. Here, I actually tried on my H&M dress to make sure it fit before I left the mall. It worked, so I checked myself out of the Old Navy dressing room and went home.

Just before the evening began, I headed over to Bacchus House Bar in my boy clothes to meet up with my good drag friend, Regina Styles. She was in the middle of hosting a benefit show there, so in between numbers she did my makeup backstage. She also put my freshly styled wig on and I was ready to go.

It was quite an experience crossing University Avenue in North Park wearing a cute wig, full face make-up, and then a button down boy shirt, skater shorts and flip-flops. I got some pretty nasty remarks crossing the street and they got to see my middle finger.

The evening itself was incredible and I had such a great time strutting my stuff on the dance floor, hitting boys on the butt with my clutch purse (clutches were an amazing invention - I so want to carry one all the time), and seeing all of my friends in their 'creations.'

At Rich’s, all of the dressed-up queens were asked to walk the runway at midnight, but I chose to stand across the dance floor on a platform and just watch. Standing next to me was a beautiful transgender woman who was also enjoying the spectacle. When the runway show started she asked me why I wasn’t up there on the runway with everyone else. I told her I just preferred to watch.

At the conclusion of the show, she tapped me on the shoulder and said (in a most glamorous voice), “Young lady, I’m actually glad you didn’t go on the runway. You are certainly a different class of woman.”

While I don’t really know what she meant by that, I’m taking it as a compliment. Thanks mystery lady!

Today, my feet hurt, my armpits are stinging (I am the stupid one who tried to “Nair” my pits), my eyes still have a bit of black around them and my legs are hairless. But what I do have are some amazing memories, cute photos, a new found appreciation for my friends who do drag regularly, and a fabulous new outlook on life!

I don’t know if Julianna will be coming out again anytime soon, but as soon as she’s ready, she’ll be fierce!

Ben Cartwright is SDGLN's Higher Education & Nonprofit Liaison and has been a campus and community activist in San Diego for over 10-years. His community involvement began as a student at SDSU and from there he launched into a number of other community activities. He has written for a number of local publications including Update, Hillquest, and GLT. Cartwright won the Lambda Archive's 2007 "Community Hero Award"; 2008 Nicky Award for "Outstanding Community Activist"; and a 2009 Nicky Award for "Outstanding Writer/Columnist".