By Julie Slowinski
If you know me from Facebook, you know I’m super political – basically a loudmouth liberal – and with recent events, it’s only gotten worse. Not to worry, though, there’ll be no preaching today – I get enough of that on Facebook.
Now, if you’ve been following me here, you’ll know that the pandemic has put the kibosh on my Julie outings (this occurred in the summer of 2020). While things are are beginning to open up, it doesn’t feel quite right yet to be doing non-essential activities. That’s not to say Julie time is non-essential – being able to express is definitely essential – but the activities Julie loves to do (shopping, shows, dancing) are definitely in that non-essential category.
But then, a couple weeks ago, I noticed an event that combined both of my passions – an opportunity for Julie to out in the covid-19 world, while not feeling guilty about being frivolous. The event was organized by some local drag queens and was called The Drag March for Change – basically a BLM march through Boystown in Chicago.
Of course, this was not a slam dunk just yet. Some prep work was definitely needed. I first step was to discuss with my wife. If you’ve been watching the news, attending a protest march is not without risk – personal safety is a concern and if things turn ugly, one could end up getting arrested. We’re both on the same page politically, so she was totally on board, but did ask if she was gonna need to pick me up at the police station. I said, well, that’s why I’m making sure you understand where I’m going – noting that being in lockup in a dress would be at best no fun and at worst, well let’s not talk about at worst.
The next step was to figure out an outfit and pack my suitcase. Not being out to my kids means that I need to get a hotel room or AirBnB to get my Julie on. Normally, packing up all my supplies is a nonissue, but with the pandemic my kids are almost always around. Luckily, the kids were visiting grandma’s house the weekend before so I was able to jump on that opportunity and get packed up early. As a bit of a sidebar, I would very much like to be out to my kids, but wifey doesn’t think it to be a good idea, since they are just about entering their teens. While I’m a bit ambivalent about her concerns, I have to acknowledge that we are in this as a partnership and shouldn’t make any moves until we both agree.
Since the march was in June (Sunday the 14th to be exact), I planned for warm weather and selected a couple of dresses that would be appropriate for the heat as well as expected to be bare legged. However, as the week progressed the weather forecast indicated that that afternoon / evening was gonna be much cooler than expected – mid 60’s. So I needed to reevaluate and find something warmer. I was thinking about a long sleeve top with a wool skirt and black hose – same super cute outfit I had warn back in January. But then, I remembered the glittery dress I had bought the last time I was out – perfect for hanging our with drag queens. It’s knee length, so warmer on that end, but with spaghetti straps, so figured I could just bring along my black cardigan in case I got cold. If you don’t have a black cardigan, you’re wardrobe is definitely incomplete – that girl has been a lifesaver on multiple occasions and super cute.
The next step was to find a place to change. I have a usual hotel that’s several blocks south of Boystown and is usually a good option. However, since the march was going to end on the far north side of Boystown, I thought it would be a long walk back. Then, I remembered the AirBnB I’ve stayed at almost half dozen times – just a couple blocks south of the end of the march. It’s right in the middle of Boystown and just a couple blocks from the train. Of course, the host remembered me and was happy to have me back. Actually, I was the first guest he’s had since the start of the pandemic, so a bit of a first for both of us.
The last issue was to find a mask – the very bland blue mask that boy mode Julie wears for grocery shopping was definitely not gonna cut it – Julie is way more stylish than that boring guy. I also didn’t want to get makeup all over my guy mask. Luckily, at some random gas station in the suburbs, I found a mask with cute daisies. It wasn’t exactly what I was looking for I, but it turned out better than expected. If you’re curious about how much makeup ended up on the mask, it was actually not that much – way less than I expected.
So, the big day finally arrived, and after a morning of guy errands, I was on the train and arrived at the AirBnB by 1:30. The protest meetup time was 4:30, so I had plenty of time to get ready. It’s a good thing, because with the mask I figured I needed to spend some extra time on eye makeup – if that’s all they’re gonna see, then I wanted to make my best effort to make that part to look good. Of course, I lost track of time and ended up having to skip the last step of painting my nails. I probably could have squeezed it in, but I didn’t want to arrive after the march had started. It’s too bad, cuz my natural nails were super long and the black color I had planned would have gone perfect with the dress.
Okay, after few quick selfies in the room, I was finally ready to step out that door. This is usually a non-issue for me, but during the lockdown, thoughts kept creeping into my brain that I might be losing my mojo and would have trouble stepping out that door again. Well, none of that happened, cuz it’s just like riding a bike. Walking down Halsted in my sparkly flats, I was feeling great and ready to take on the world. Got to the meetup point and there were tons of people already there. A lot of young people, but plenty of older folks too. All were very clearly from the LGBT community or allies. But, not as many drag queens as I had expected, which made me a little uncomfortable, “did I over dress for the Drag March??” Being by myself didn’t help my confidence either – everyone else seemed to be with a group of friends. It’s likely that I could have pushed one or two of my friend to join me, but I didn’t want to guilt them into an activity that they might not be comfortable with. I put a call out on my Facebook page and figured who was genuinely interested would have contacted me.
So, I found a quiet spot in the shade to hang out for a bit. I took that opportunity to take off the cardigan and change shoes – yes into the sparkly heels of the pictures. A guy near me was like, “oh those don’t look all that stable for a march.” I replied, “these are actually more comfortable, cuz those flats are new and not broken in yet.” I also noted that the march was not so long and that I’ve walked the length of Boystown in heels before.
Well, after the shoe change, my confidence jumped by 200% – heels are known to do that to this girl. Looking around, I noticed a random group of drag queens and decided to just go over and stand next to them, figuring it’ll at least look like I’m part of their group. They immediately started moving through the crowd toward the front of the march and I was like, “Okay, just follow them”, which put me in a great starting point. While waiting for the march to start, some random lady asked if her daughters could take a picture with them. I almost jumped in the picture, but then thought they might think, who is this person? The crowd was mostly friendly and I struck up a few conversations here and there while waiting for things to start. Many of those conversations focused on those fabulous sparkly shoes.