Queens of the Realm (or Part II: The Coronation)

Ushering in a new monarchy at the United Court of Austin.

The Widow Norton, Empress I José, couldn't have clocked in at more than 3'3" ( perhaps 4'3"), yet still managed to tower high above the realm over which she presides. And the realm over which she presides is stocked with 9' tall glamazons (not counting hair). Imagine Danny Devito channeling Harvey Fierstein while convincingly playing the part of your Aunt Gertie … and you're halfway there. Needless to say, the founding Mama of the International Court System leaves quite an impression.

Cindy and I rushed in just a few minutes too late to accept in person our award from the United Court of Austin (see last blog post). By the time we got there, Stephen had already accepted on our behalf, and we proceeded to catch up on who's who. He grabbed us, called Seabrook over, and gathered a gaggle of queens for the pic that you see in this week's "After a Fashion."

When photographer Seabrook arranged all of the queens the way he wanted and squatted down in his cargo shorts to shoot us, before anyone could say, "Cheese," José squawked, "Nice crotch. I bet he works well on his knees."

Thus, the tone was set for the evening.

A Night at Studio 54 was chock full of no fewer than 4 congloms of Village People, an equal number of lipsyncs to "Knock on Wood," and even a human disco ball. And did we mention hair? Hair out to there.

Our host, Empress Mona littleMore, aka Marc Alexander (imagine Joe Sears as Pearl but for real) was gracious beyond belief, sending his partner Rona Bare-It to welcome and care for us when he took ill and had to sit out the first half of the show. Courts from across the country (and beyond) sent dignitaries to witness the changing of the guard here in Austin. The coronation event exists as much to honor the reign of the outgiong rulers, as it is to welcome the new, as the new Queen will have the entire year to show her stuff.

In turn, outgoing Empress Simone Riviera and Emperor Jake Stone spent the evening honoring the court system and singling out individuals who made their reign a success – brothers, sisters, mothers. For those moments, the fairytale was very real, very much wrapped in the love of community and kin. Official orders of business mingled with happy family reunions amidst and between flurries of musical numbers and dance routines.

The night was a stunning testimonial to queer ingenuity, ingénues, and creative spunk. The long litany of queens and the heritage they express are as important as any political movement or group struggling for acceptance and survival. The court system is queer royalty, a culture created to validate queer lives, under the clever guise of fundraising for local charities… which they do, in spades.

During the tearful reveal of the new empress, the Sterling Silver, Black Diamond, Lone Star Stiletto Empress XV, Jaycie Berringer, I couldn't help but notice how this particular "man-made" society reflects on our society at-large. It also struck me that a culture like the United Court is the larger manifestation of a truism in queer life: that we get to pick our own families.

And in this time of political upheaval over something as simple as the need to validate and declare our love (ummm, gay marriage), the similarities became crystal clear.

In his brilliant reflection on his own nuptials, My Big Fat Straight Wedding, commentator Andrew Sullivan gets to the heart of where we are as a culture in 2008:

And our families instantly and for the first time since our early childhood became not just institutions in which we were included, but institutions that we too owned and perpetuated.

God save the queens!

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Event, United Court, Coronation, Jaycie, Simone Riviera, Mona littleMore, Saffire Trinity, drag, drag queens, Empress

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