Best of Austin 2006 Cover

Crossdress My Heart

Facial hair fascinates me. Not the gross stubble shit that so many poseurs and lazy boys like to pass off as, ooooh, millennial fashionable, but full-on, cultivated, bold-statement facial hair. Once I met a clerk at some big-box computer place on the north side of town. His look, his style, his facial follicle finesse took me aback. "Sir, I must tell you," I stammered. "You have the most fabulous chin chops I have ever seen." It was majestic: blond, flowing locks cascading from what I imagined to be a strong, cleft jaw, a man mane perfectly sculpted into handsome points, easily reaching down past his pocket protector. I was blown away. What was this style god doing working at a chain electronics store? And why did I find this whisker wearer so compelling?

In fact, facial hair has been fascinating me all my life. As a wee lass, my dress-up play involved more fake mustaches and pasted-down forelocks/sideburns than it did high heels and Mama’s gowns. A glance through my kiddie photo album offers evidence in the form of Halloween costumes: 1972, hobo ... with mustache and stubble; 1973, cowboy ... with mustache; 1974, turn-of-the-century pilot ... with mustache. You get the picture.

What did all of this mean? Was it envy? (If it was, the buck stopped there, that’s for sure.) Was it art? (I did love to deface all of those magazine models with interesting variations on Vandykes and muttonchops.) Was it foreshadowing and an attempt to skew my own relationship to gender, gender politics, and identity? (Well, duh.)

My own personal adult facial-hair forays began in earnest here in Austin. I was in a band that sometimes cross-dressed, and I would occasionally dabble in what was eventually to become known as drag-kinging. A few years ago, I accompanied a group of Austin kings to a conference in Columbus, Ohio. A conference of drag kings.

That conference was IDKE, the International Drag King Extravaganza, a weekend excursion into a blur of the gender binary, a women’s weekend loaded with performance art, academic discussions, silliness, and, dare I say, brotherhood. IDKE is now produced by different cities each year, and this year, Austin plays host, Thursday-Sunday, Oct. 19-22 (next week!). www.idkeaustin.com

Drag kings and drag queens are now an Austin staple. What once was a culture thought to be forbidden, dirty, subversive, and indicative of deeper psychological stirrings is now ... well, still all those things, but a helluva lot lighter and a buttload more fun. Austin is lucky. We live in a live-and-let-live town where gender expression is worn proudly by our favorite son (Willie Nel ... oh, wait; we mean Leslie) and, for the most part, accepted by the population at large. (Of course, depending upon what part of town you’re in and when you’re in it, your mileage may vary.)

This year, we decided to thank you for that, Austin. Thank you for letting me be myself. Thank you for letting new friends and cover girls/boys Jamé and Dusty be themselves. Thank you for knowing and loving yourselves enough to be able to do that.

Now, dig into this issue, see what y’all voted as your favorites, and see what we, the "critics" of The Austin Chronicle, wished so dearly to share with you as our favorite things about this beloved town that we call home. Because it’s not only the "Friends of Dorothy" who know that, when it comes to how we feel about Austin, Texas, "There’s no place like home."

Enjoy! – Kate X Messer

Who are the divas behind the curtain of this year’s "BOA"?: Assistant editors Richard Whittaker and Lindsay Meeks, so fabulous, absolutely fabulous. Mr. MCK III, without whom our lives would be meaningless ... Brian, Paul, and Karen, our database/Web queens and king. Our positively di-voon proofreaders – Mark, James, Darcie, Sofia, and Jeremy – and cute-as-a-bug front-desk staffers – Sam, Jenn, Shayna, and Andrea. Of course, those sassy darlings Taylor, Chris, Erin, Dan, Sadie, the editplex, and, most importantly, the interns who make us dance in our cha-cha heels: Frank, Kristin, Lucas, Matt, and Meghan.

Thank you, writers: Belinda Acosta, Nora Ankrum, Roseana Auten, Shawn Badgley, Liz Belile, Wayne Alan Brenner, Lucas Del Pico, Wells Dunbar, Mark Fagan, Robert Faires, Kate Getty, Chris Gray, Anne Harris, Shelley Hiam, Melanie Haupt, Raoul Hernandez, Kristin Hillery, Taylor Holland, Michael King, Eli Kooris, Gerald McLeod, Lindsay Meeks, Kate X Messer, Roxanne Jo Mitchell, Elizabeth Morgan, Margaret Moser, Stephen McMillan Moser, Dan Mottola, Lee Nichols, Matt Patin, Jen Quereau, Frank Rivera, Marc Savlov, Audra Schroeder, Mary Sledd, Amy Smith, Cheryl Smith, Jordan Smith, Cindy Soo, Meghan Ruth Speakerman, Baxter Steakley, R.U. Steinberg, Darcie Stevens, Diana Welch, Richard Whittaker, Kristina Witt, Abe Louise Young.